Monday, December 31, 2007

Florida Sand

At the Beach

The Beach Scene

A Dirt Parking Lot by the Crick

At the Bottom of the Inter Coastal Waterway

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Happy New Year

May your New Year open

With a dazzling display

Of a (as promised) collection of breathable well wishes. A gathering of Live Oak acorns. Seeds for the future.

A pack of palm fronds, zippered in by Zamia's.

Pebbles in patterns approaching perfection

And a place where your thoughts can float into a world of creative imagination.

Let your New Year be filled with the abundance and generosity of our natural world and a wish that more of mankind would learn to give back to the earth in respect and return.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

In a Southern Garden

Kanapaha Botanical Gardens
Gainesville, Florida December 2007

Walking quietly with few words.

In the shade

In the palm grove

For the Hummingbirds

A rare phenomena

The sound of Sandhill Cranes rose distinctly over the gardens.

In a Southern Garden.

The Interim

In between festivities

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Warm Wishes

A pile of good thoughts to get started.

A dressed living tree to amuse.

One Last Look

Will it look different the next time? Cleaner, more colorful, perkier?

At The Wall.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Silence Of The Fog

A quiet has descended on the forest.
The trees have gone silent.
Blinded by a slow shroud of mist
They can't see to speak.

In a dying Hemlock forest
Not even the groans of decaying limbs are heard.
The winged denizens
Speak for the forest now.
In a multitude of voices.

Always silent lichens
Drink up this thick shroud.

The world turns into blurred lines
In the silence.

The silence of the fog.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Watching Erosion

Just standing there for a brief moment you can literally see pieces of the earth break loose and roll down the cut face of the slope at the top of my drive. It did not move much at all with the rain we had all summer. Now in the thawing cold, pieces of earth that have been lifted by ice fall when their support disappears and leaves them hanging in the air. It is much slower than a landslide, but certainly faster than slow motion. It's living erosion.

Definitely faster than watching bark grow.

Meanwhile anti-erosion forces have been busy placing chinking stones into the wider gaps in the face of the wall.

I may have gone just a bit cold stone crazy. Yesterday after the latest big freeze while placing small stones in the wall's face I swear I thought the wall had moved. Oh Lord! The wall was now hideous and I was ready to knock it down and start over. Good thing it was too cold to do that.

I scoured the dozens of pictures of the wall during construction and looked again this morning. No this wall has not budged an inch. It was just bad lighting. This wall is beautiful.

Yesterday I thought there was an 80% chance that this wall wasn't going any where any time soon even if it had settled just a bit. Today I have that up to 95%. It ain't goin' no where. I think it's a keeper.

The addition of all the smaller stones into the wall is giving it a much richer texture and hopefully a little additional support.

Part of this cold stone crazy is the much closer examination of the wall. On this cold wet muddy slope it was a bit hard to step back and look as it was being built. Plus the rain and snow and wind and warm and cold is washing all the dirt off the stones. There was more soil on many of them than I thought so the gaps were growing in some spots.

I am getting to know my wall.

On this next wall I need to spend more time with each stone and a good stiff brush. I'll also have a level patio floor to stand back and look from.

That remaining 5% of fear is from the unknowing of this cold force, this absence of quantity as some would have it. This soil was smooth and flat not so long ago and now it looks like it is going for a ride.

One nice thing about this cold is that it has been revealing lots of small stones that are good for chinking.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Quiet Moment

Monday, December 17, 2007

Cold Force

There is a power in this cold that is fascinating to watch and to hear. The strong winds are one thing as they roar through, wailing and sighing around the house and causing the trees to clatter and squeak when their branches rub against each other in the wind. As the temperature drops the sounds the trees make change. There is a noticeable change in the timber of their voices.

With next to no wind, barely a breeze, a few of the trees crack loudly as if they are going to split and crash to the ground, but nothing falls. It is just the sound of lumber contorting in the cold. It might be the dead wood standing tall in the Black Locust. That is as close as I can come to pinpointing this sound emanating from high in the tree tops and generated only in the cold. It is a cold sound.

The Rhododendrons take on the most pitiful look. The leaves curl, droop and turn dark. The worst case of over night wilting you can imagine. I marvel at this survival strategy. Notoriously shallow rooted, they wilt when the ground freezes and the liquid water is no longer available to their roots. It is a good thing it warms up enough for them to unfurl their leaves, flush out and turn green between cold spells. I do not know if I would want to look at such a pitiful thing all winter. Note to self: Do not plant Rhododendron in a major winter view plane. Just pitiful.

The real force though, the one to be reckoned with is ice, that frozen water. A real phase shifter, it falls from the sky in a multitude of forms, many I have yet to see. Then it rises back from the ground in an assortment of patterns. In loose soil it rises high carrying a small load aloft. In gravel and firm ground there appears to be no change, but small stones are glued tightly in place in a cold unyielding embrace. It melts and refreezes and takes on a new form.

I have only been lightly dusted twice and I see power in this cold.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

How Long Will it Last?

My crudely stacked stone wall has been thoroughly dissed by two online personas I take to be Landscape Architects as dangerous and unstable. I have previous interaction with them so I have to take their criticisms with a certain amount of respect.


I have to wonder does my former reputation in that forum bring out a dark side in some or have Landscape Architects in general gotten so entwined in codes and laws and lawsuits and high end clients that they have forgotten the fundamental building blocks from which their craft began?

So being a little worried about my wall I wandered off into the ether again to read more about dry stacked stone walls.

From an article in Carolina Home and Garden, “Water always wins,” observes Archambault. “Mortared walls in the ground don’t last as well as dry stacked because of hydrostatic pressure.” Which led me to this beautiful stone mason's site in Asheville North Carolina, The Unturned Stone.

"Dry-stack walls can move with changes in the soil without coming apart, so don't need rigid foundations," from an article in the Seattle Times on building dry stack walls written by Phil Wood another Landscape Architect.

The book I read by David Reed another local Asheville stone mason at Circle of Stone and most of what I found online said a footing for a dry stacked wall was a simple gravel filled trench if a footing was needed at all. My wall has a 4" thick x 12" wide steel reinforced concrete footing with a slight back slope and one of those Landscape Architect personas thought it was "too thin to serve its purpose." He is from the Bay area in California so that may be an understandable view point for him.

Looking close at some of the pictures and the wall itself as it was pointed out by the other Landscape Architect persona who is from New England, the friggin motherland of dry stacked stone walls, there were two spots in the base of the wall on either end that did look a little scary, places were the bottom stones looked recessed and the stones above them were hanging over. But guess what I have tons of pictures of the wall from start to finish.

The second and third stones in the first course on the bottom left are the ones I'm looking at. They are in the same place now (the picture above is from today) as they were in the beginning. It was the same thing on the other side. That is just the nature of a rough rockpodge group of stones that are dry laid, some of them will project out further than the others. What is happening inside is what really matters.

This 18 to 20 inch thick, double stone wide, gravel filled, cement sitting bottom course is the basis of my wall. Each course after it followed the same recipe. Each stone was placed so that its weight pulled it towards the slope and so it felt locked in, resting comfortably and in good contact with the adjoining stones.

There were some flatter stones on this land or someone took the time to split the stones and make them flatter. I suppose I could have done that. Spent a lot more time shaping the stones themselves. Then I could have had a wall that looks more like them fancy store bought stone walls, all nice and rectangular if the stones indeed would have split that way.

But that's not what I got. I got the stones that were here and I let them fit themselves together in a method that has long been used to build walls that last for generations.

It might not look fancy enough or stable enough for internet Landscape Architects. And I don't claim to be a master stone mason. It possibly could all fall down. Last night it rained and it has snowed lightly all day. The ground is moist and it is headed for the teens. This wall and its new almost level back fill is about to be tested with its first big expansion freeze, but Lawdy when is it gonna thaw? This commin' week is lookin' to be brutal cold.

We'll just have to wait and see how long this wall will last.