The guy I learned a everything I know about building walls from always says something to the effect of: Learn to build fast, then learn to build nicely.
As a novice, that didn’t make one bit of sense. It seems like trying to learn juggling by just throwing lots of balls fast. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to do everything I always do, but faster. That does not go well.
But the maxim is starting to make more sense – the quickest way to go faster is to eliminate the extras.
- Use fewer tools. My current project is about 3/4 of a mile from the trailhead. I started by dragging out all my fancy schmancy hammers and chisels in a wheelbarrow, and as the month has gone on, I’ve left more and more tools in the van. Today, I built a lot of wall with two hammers:
- Be decisive. I get myself tied up thinking about the next stone, the stone after, the stone on top. Pick a stone, shape a bit if needed, place it, move on.
- Hearting is fun. It’s a nice break to play a quick game of small rock stacking after some intense big rock stacking.
- Rules will be bent and/or broken. Yep, there’s a big, fat, traced stone and a weird triangle stone in that picture up there. Sometimes a stone really locks in and makes sense, but doesn’t abide by all the rules. That stone is a loner, Dottie. A rebel. I’ve tended to abandon prudent, good stone placements to find try and find the one that fits all the rules perfectly.
Now for the less smart stuff – aka the painful, I’m not learning as fast as I’d like to stuff…
- I’m not always careful about how I lift rocks. Some days, I use knees and hips and feel great at the end of the day. Some days, like today, I lock my knees, lift big rocks, and my back is totally worked after eight hours.
- I’m spoiled rotten by typical Colorado weather. It’s usually hot and dry, or warm and dry, or cold and dry. A few straight weeks of drizzle and mud have thrown a muddy wrench into the drizzly works, and I have no damn idea what kind of clothes stand up to rock work and stay warm-ish.
The “learn to build fast” idea makes sense in another important way. It’s not just saying “throw stones together quickly” – but it is saying that efficiency is a good focus for a tyro.
Wall is coming along.