Sunday, December 08, 2013

Stone Walls

Weather: Our lower elevation protected us from some of the cold, snow, and freezing fog that affected Los Alamos and Santa Fé; last snow 12/08/2013; 8:31 hours of daylight today.

What’s still green: Juniper, arborvitae and other evergreens, cholla and other cacti; leaves on Apache plume, roses, fern bushes, Oregon holly, German iris, yuccas, garlic, hollyhocks, winecup mallow, Saint John’s wort, vinca, coral bells, Dutch clover, sweet pea, bouncing Bess, cheat grass.

What’s red: Coral beardtongue leaves.

What’s grey or blue: Four-winged saltbush, snow-in-summer, pinks, golden hairy aster leaves.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, aptenia.

Animal sightings: Small birds wintering in the area.

Weekly update: Coyote fences often are used for utilitarian purposes. When one wishes a boundary marker with status, walls are preferred. Those influenced by Santa Fé erect stucco block walls. Locals build stone walls.

The defining characteristic of the walls is the mortar is emphasized. European-influenced masons tend to value themselves on the invisibility of the glue that holds stones together.

Here it is emphasized by adding a red or dark charcoal powder to the cement.

Even when the mortar is natural, it is emphasized by extending it from the surface of the wall.

Most of the walls are low, usually three to four feet high, with a smooth top.

They’re often too low to be functional barriers against anything except rabbits. Humans, dogs, even chickens, can get over them. Cars tend to come out the worse when they run into them, but a mason usually has to make repairs.

Many have added iron work fences to the tops.

This has become so common, recent walls are built with stone posts to anchor the additions.

When iron isn’t available, some have used wooden posts.

This is less a continuation of the early fur trader’s fort than a re-invention. When a culture confronts similar problems with the same tool kit, it is likely to produce the same solutions.

Photographs: Photographs taken in the area in the past several years.

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