Stone wall project

psalm 163, oil painting by Roger Vincent Jasaitis, copyright 2011,
psalm 163

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out… Robert Frost

Having  recently finished building (well almost) Crane Mountain Cottage (photos on my web sight:, look under related links), it is time to start planning some landscape and garden design. Specifically I have been thinking of building a dry laid (no mortar) stone wall to separate the driveway from what will be the front garden. This is a traditional New England way to build walls. They were a way to use all of the stone left in the soil after the glaciers retreated. Since all of Vermont was agricultural in the past there are thousands of miles of walls across the landscape. If you dig or plow the soil here you can’t help but unearth field stone. The easiest thing for the farmers to do was build walls with all the stone both to delineate property lines and fields and keep in animals.

This method of building walls came over from Europe with the settlers. It is very suitable here with the movement of the ground due to frost. With no mortar used it allows the walls to shift slightly with the seasons. These walls lend a sense of time and  history to the landscape. Since Vermont has substantially reforested over the last century most of the walls are in deep forest now. I call it a hand-wrought landscape. To me it is an aesthetically pleasing juxtaposition of the man-made and natural.

This wall will unite the home site to the surrounding landscape and provide a focal point to the entrance and future garden. Even when newly built they are old and connect us to ancient history.

So here is the plan:

  • wall dimensions-2’x3’x50’=300 cubic feet of stone
  • 15 c.f.= 1 ton of stone
  • 300 c.f./15 c.f.=20 tons of stone
  • average 3 stone per c.f. = 900 stones total
  • @10 per day = 90 days gathering stone
  • design:
  • separate driveway from garden
  • provide design element and focal point

Here are a few links to poetry using stone walls as subject and/or metaphor:

Mending Wall

Dry Stone Wallers


10 thoughts on “Stone wall project

  1. whineandcheersforwine 05/21/2012 / 1:22 pm

    Sounds like you have quite the project planned when reviewing the materials needed. As a recent mortar free wall-layer I can atest to the hard work collecting stones can be. Not only the lugging up a mountain side of said stones but picking through the different size and shapes as you decide how and which to lay. After reading your blog posting I’m still trying to decide if I was walling in or walling out…..Thank you for the poetry links.

  2. Roger 05/21/2012 / 2:05 pm

    I see this wall every time I walk by where it will be. That is part of the challenge of creativity, to bring to fruition what I see in my mind. It is the same process for me whether I am painting or building a wall. I see the wall in psalm 153 every time I walk by where it is. The challenge there was in capturing the spirit in the wall.
    The labor involved can be meditative. There is something in literally “rolling that stone up a hill” 900 times that invites introspection. Plus…I’ll never have to visit a gym.

  3. kristin 05/21/2012 / 3:47 pm

    did you say “mending wall”???

    • Roger 05/21/2012 / 4:43 pm

      No, not me, that was Robert Frost…
      I said building wall…

  4. Hal Marshall 05/21/2012 / 8:03 pm

    Roger really like the poem about Ted building the wall..thanks for sharing

  5. ginger 06/01/2012 / 7:28 pm

    I really enjoyed your poetry links, Roger. Thanks you…

  6. Cindy Adams Coulson 12/26/2012 / 8:24 am

    Sounds like a great project. I’ll get the kids up to help you collect stones 🙂

    • Roger 12/26/2012 / 9:32 am

      Well the stones will be under 18″ of snow after tomorrow, so you’ll have to come in May.

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