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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Operation Pizza Oven

Yesterday I began the long planned project of building a wood fired pizza oven. This is the first stage of the larger project of creating a patio/outdoor entertaining area at the back of the house. The topography is such that I will need to raise the level of the land by building a dry stone retaining wall and, in effect, creating a terraced patio.The foundation of the pizza oven will be well below the frost line.
Day #1;
Excavation and pouring of the foundation/pad.

The names of our young friends, Eli Snow, 3 yrs old, and Olive Snow, 8 months old, are placed into the foundation.
Tomorrow; the stand base.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

To Honor Her Majesty....

There's nothing like a diamond jubilee to bring out the best in the British!
To Her Majesty, I raise my glass, er, my toast!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Andrew Pighill's Live Interview - Martha Stewart Living Radio

This morning at 8:00 am I appeared, or at least my voice did, on a live radio program  called Morning Living, a feature program of Martha Stewart Living Radio, XM Sirius satellite radio. This was quite a surprise and rather spur of the moment, as I received the call from the producer only yesterday afternoon asking if I'd be available to discuss the how-to's of drystone wall building, and if I could send them some information that would enable hosts Betsy Karetnick and Brian Kelsey to ask informed questions. Since we don't subscribe to satellite radio, I have no idea how it sounded. I've been promised a recording of the interview in a few weeks, and, if I'm able to secure the appropriate permissions to include it on this blog, I will do.

Friday, June 1, 2012

heave and hoe: Open Garden Day Still On

heave and hoe: Open Garden Day Still On

Open Garden Day Still On

Open Garden Day, June 2nd, 10:00 am till 4:00 pm

We're watching the weather reports, and, as it stands, we're still on for tomorrow's Open Garden Day. Seventy-two hours ago, the peonies were at their exsquisite best. Nevertheless, the roses and catmint and geraniums, and cottage pinks and poppies are coming into bloom and doing an excellent job of creating a photogenic and memorable garden day. Please join us to enjoy the gardens and also view the astounding work of Micheal Foggs, sculptor and creator of amazing 'faux bois' benches in concrete, crafted in the old 19th century fashion and built to last.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Stonewell Farm Open Garden Day

Stonewell Farm Open Garden Day

Saturday, June 2, 2012 10:00 am – 4:00 pm

(Rain Date, Sunday, June 3rd)


Location: Stonewell Farm

39 Beckwith Road, Killingworth, CT 06419

We will be hosting our yearly Garden Open House on Saturday, June 2nd from 10:00 am till 4:00 pm. The rain date is the following day, Sunday, June 3rd, same hours. As always, admission is free.
This year we have the honor of featuring the work of Michael Fogg, an incredibly talented sculptor and craftsman whose work must be seen to be believed.
Those who have been before, will see some changes. We’ve expanded and combined the Kitchen and Herb garden into one, we’ve added another border or two, moved some shrubs around and have created a fruit garden. We hope you will drop by.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Art of Dry Stone Walls

Andrew Pighills and Susan Allport lecture on the art of sry stone walls
Andrew Pighills and Susan Allport discuss The Art of Dry Stone Walls
Last night I participated in a slide lecture and discussion entitled 'The Art of Dry Stone Walls' at the Bedford Historical Society (Bedford, New York) with co-presenter, Susan Allport, author of Sermons in Stone: The Stone Walls of New England and New York. The Bedford Historical Society is an unusually young, passionate, and dynamic group of preservationists. In its effort to preserve the historic character of the region, in general, and the beautiful town of Bedford in particular, the BHS hosts a yearly, Profiles in Preservation event and Susan and I were invited to share our knowledge and experience with their members and the public.
Susan spoke eloquently and engagingly,sharing her impressive knowledge of the history and development of New England's dry stone walls, or dry stone fences, as they were sometimes called. (I highly recommend her book to anyone interested in learning more about the subject).
I spoke from the craftsman's viewpoint, tracing the tradition of dry stone construction back to my native UK and illustrated the practicalities of dry stone structures as well as the varying regional styles of walls both here in New England and in the UK.
It was a very enjoyable evening, and although Susan and I had not met before, nor had we coordinated with one another regarding the material we planned to cover, our presentations not only complemented one another's, but seemed to merge seamlessly.
I thank all the members and staff of the Bedford Historical Society for the considerable effort and preparation that went into this successful event, it was a pleasure.

For those attendees who expressed an interest in attending a Dry Stone Wall Building workshop, you can check back here at the event page, to learn about the schedule, or e-mail me at the address below and I will send you updates and schedules:

Monday, April 30, 2012

A Successful Dry Stone Wall Building Workshop

Dry stone wall building workshop in Killingworth, CT,
We wrapped up a successful dry stone wall building  workshop at around 4:30, Sunday afternoon, and for those who  could spare a few minutes , capped it with a round of Sam Adams’ Belgian Session brew.  And what an excellent workshop it was! These workshop participants worked really well together; a model of teamwork  and remarkable in their intent on ‘getting-it-right’. Katherine, Larry, Dennis, Ciaran, Dave, and assistant, Jay, were extremely focused on quality over quantity and they should be proud of the results they achieved building a dry stone wall.

Students demonstrate teamwork while learning how to build a dry stone wall.
Comments from Participants:
“Thanks for a great learning experience.  You are a very good instructor, Andrew; your professional experience really helps you explain/demonstrate concepts that will trip up even experienced wall builders.  Three on one, never one on three!  Thanks again!”

“I really enjoyed the two days learning from my mistakes… I was thinking about what, for me, makes the process of laying stone so special…there is a deliberative creativity in choosing the right shape.  And, laying stone on stone, finding the balance and adjusting to find a solid fitting has a meditative aspect. Now, I am delighted to learn about the two separate walls', rising together in measured steps, and with the use of heart stones that are firmly and deliberately packed, are united and made strong enough to last the ages. What  a perfect metaphor for friendship, marriage…any relationship. Really quite lovely!  Thank you.”

Another dry stone wall building workshop is scheduled for Fall 2012, on October 13th and 14th, . Those interested in attending a workshop can contact the Workshop Administrator at

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Inspiration 1.

When asked what inspires me when designing and installing gardens, or designing and building stonework, my answer is invariably along the lines of, “…my surroundings and life experiences”. I have never really considered how unhelpful my stock answer might seem. It occurs to me that, without further explanation, my response must seem  glib and superficial.  To try and rectify that, I’ve put together a couple of posts focusing on my own particular creative process when creating gardens and stonework.  The following is an example from a recent project here in Connecticut.

The project involved the complete redesign of an Essex property which included several different garden areas. As always, we had taken an inventory of the existing plants throughout the garden areas that we were to redesign and recorded a quantity of Lysimachia clethroides (Gooseneck Loosestrife). This is a handsome plant with a vigorously colonizing habit, and though it didn’t fit into the perennial gardens schemes we were designing, I didn’t reject it completely.

One component of the project was to create a pedestrian access leading from a large lawn area down a steep, lightly wooded bank to a river.  To create safe access to the water I built a series of stone steps, bridged by curved and switchbacked, mulched paths and ending with stone steps at the river’s edge. Fifty feet downstream from where the steps meet the river is a dam of some six feet in height.  The moving current  and the rushing sound of falling water attest to the existance of a waterfall, and though the fall cannot be seen, its presence is such an audible feature of the place that I wanted to find a subtle way to reference this in the dry landscape.

In the transitional woodland area, I planted hydrangeas and rhododendrons, limiting the color to a predominantly blue and white scheme. Vinca and pachysandra, salvaged from other garden areas, provided ground cover and erosion control, and, along the edges of the paths I decided to create a series of “ waterfalls” by planting the Lysimachia on the inside curve of each series of steps. The nodding, bending spires of white flowerheads, when seen in colonies, evoke whitecaps or, waterfalls and anyone familiar with this plant knows that  it won’t be long before drifts of blossoms cascade down the bank towards the rushing current.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Upcoming Walling Workshop in Connecticut

Dry Stone Wall Building Workshop
Killingworth , Connecticut

Time:   Saturday, April 28th and Sunday, April 29th, beginning at 9:00 am till 4:00 pm
Place:    Stonewell Farm, 39 Beckwith Rd., Killingworth CT 06419
Tuition: $300.00
Contact:     Michelle Becker

On April 28th and April 29thth 2012, Andrew Pighills, expert stone mason and North American representative of the Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain, will teach a two-day, weekend long workshop on the art of dry stone wall building at Stonewell Farm in Killingworth, CT.

Participants will learn the basic principles of wall building, from establishing foundations, to the methods of dry laid (sometimes called dry-stacked) construction and ‘hearting’ the wall. This hands-on workshop will address not only the structure and principles behind wall building but also the aesthetic considerations of balance and proportion.

As part of Andrew's ongoing commitment to preserve New England’s heritage and promote and cultivate the dry stone wall building skills that will ensure the preservation of our vernacular landscape, the upcoming Dry Stone Walling workshop will be the first in what is planned to be a twice yearly event.

This workshop is open to participants, 18 years of age or older, of all levels of experience, however, the workshop is limited to 16 participants.

Dry stone wall builder, Andrew Pighills, learned his craft as a young apprentice to master craftsmen in his birthplace, the Yorkshire Dales of his native England.

He has thirty years of experience building with stone, both dry and mortared, although dry laid stonework is his preference. Pighills holds an Advanced Craftsman certification with the Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain, of which he is a North American representative, as well as a certificate in Horticulture from the Royal Horticultural Society of Great Britain. His company, English Gardens and Landscaping, specializes in English cottage gardens and natural stonework . In addition to building walls and creating gardens, Andrew’s work includes outdoor kitchens, wine cellars, fire-pits, fireplaces and garden features that include follies and other whimsical structures in stone.

 Andrew's work has been featured in the New York Times, and he has worked with renowned stone artist, Dan Snow, providing assistance with commissioned pieces and co-teaching a number of workshops on the art of dry stone walling throughout New England. Pighills’ work is profiled in the book, “Stone Primer” by Charles McCraven and published by Storey Publishing.