Have you ever admired a stone wall winding through a field in New England? The most common antique structures in New England are its rock walls. Many were built by our European ancestors, but stone masons continue their craft even to this day, adding their personal, artistic touch to their work.
Before stone walls were built, farmers used wooden, zig-zag rail fences to separate their farms. It has been estimated that there are 16,000 miles of stonewalls across the six New England states. Most were built between 1790 and 1820 during an expansion of farmland. The period from 1775 to 1825 was known as the Golden Age of stone wall building when more stone walls were built than at any other time. The walls served as boundary markers as farmers each spring moved them aside. Horses and oxen would drag stones on a wooden skid to the sides of their field. Taller walls served as pens for their farm animals.
Ocean Point Inn has been updating its gardens and rock walls. More photos coming after the “Spring Thaw.”
There are many online videos devoted to the construction of sturdy walls. Here are some helpful hints.
1. Safety – wear long pants, long sleeves, goggles, gloves and steel-toed shoes.
2. Work in an uncluttered workspace.
3. Sort and arrange your rocks in piles:
° Large, flat stones for your base
° Heartstones for filler rocks
° Pinning stones – smaller stone wedges to hold up the face rocks
° Face rock – to show off sides of the walls
° Through stones – long rocks placed sideways to tie face sides together
° Topping rocks – Flat, wide rocks to finish off wall and put weight on top
4. Dig your base 8″-12″ and level off.
5. Keep your course level. Use a string to keep your fence even.
The more time you take to place your stones, the better the outcome will be!