Sunday, March 18, 2018

Lava Stone Walls

Weather: It’s the time of year when there’s maybe an hour between the time when it gets warm enough to work outside and the winds start. Sunday and Thursday they were the harbingers of storm fronts that came through so low, the moisture in the winds fell on the ground. On Sunday it never quite rained, but water was in the air for hours. On Thursday, we got enough to call it a shower, but it only lasted two minutes. Last rain: 3/15.

What’s blooming in the area: Cranesbill in my drive. Apricots on Friday; they must be the dumbest trees that grow here; they get one warm day, and think it’s spring; instead they’re the first crop failure.

What’s reviving: Alfalfa under dead stems, Apache plume, purple asters, bouncing Bess, smooth brome grass, golden spur columbine, daylilies, Dutch iris, Queen Anne’s lace, tulips at both ends of the garage that get more sun, white yarrow; color is returning to Vinca leaves.

Tasks: I need to clean areas that were ignored for a year or more. I started near the crab apples where I planted alfalfa, thinking I would cut it with a weed eater. That never happened. So now, I’ve been out with loppers cutting last year’s dead stems, and a small floral rake breaking off the older stems and grasses under them. It worked fine on Thursday morning, but then we had just enough moisture to dampen the stems. On Friday, they were much harder to cut.

Animal sightings: Something heavy, probably the ground squirrel, stepped on all the thick plastic posts holding up a grapevine and bent some to the ground. It simply removed others.

Weekly update: I saw the most extraordinary thing last week when I was looking at a Ugandan video on YouTube. In the background was the stone wall shown in the above screen print that could have been built in Española.

Some years ago I started taking pictures of area walls and fences that were built by local farmers and craftsmen. [1] I saw more here than in Santa Fé or Albuquerque where walls were stuccoed over.

One defining characteristic was the exaggeration of the mortar. It was stained red or dark gray and often extended beyond the stones. This was an aesthetic difference that distinguished these walls from ones in other parts of this country or Europe where the tendency was to use as little mortar as possible.

Not everyone here who had a stone wall had one with decorative mortar work. I assumed that meant there were certain masons who had the skill to do such work, and they probably had come here from someplace like Zacatecas. However, I never found pictures of Mexican walls like ours. I suspected that lack of evidence simply meant people didn’t post pictures of their walls on the internet.

There would have been nothing unusual about African slaves being the source for such stonework. They certainly existed in México.

However, Uganda was on the east side of Africa, and most of the Spanish slaves came from Angola and southern Zaïre on the west side. Certainly, some from the central lakes district were taken in raids and moved west, but one wouldn’t think there were enough to be responsible for the local stonework.

The video probably was shot in the Ugandan capital city of Kampala or in Masaka. Both were in the ancestral lands of the Baganda on the western side of Lake Victoria. The area wasn’t much influenced by Europeans until the last half of the nineteenth century, and then the United Kingdom declared sovereignly in 1894. The wall may have been built for an Englishman.

One is left with one of those puzzles one finds more in human than in plant history: the independent development of an idea in two places at two different times.

Notes on photographs:
1. Screen print from "Kumbaya - Jose Mc Ft Juicy Landy." Uploaded to YouTube by tamjoe7 on 18 July 2013. A PVibe Production directed by ORIS.

2. Local wall, 28 February 2016.

3. Local wall, 17 January 2012.

End notes:

1. For more on local walls see index entries on Landscaping Walls.

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