June 15, 2009
Dear Fellow Friends of the Stones,
The International Megalithics Conference (MegaCo/07) was held at Earthwood Building School, near Plattsburgh, NY, on August 7-11, 2007. It was a great success and we all had a blast moving and talking about moving big stones. Click: MegaCo-07 for a detailed illustrated advance article about the conference/workshop, now complete.
I have been unable to edit this website for quite a while. Hopefully, this will change soon and we will be able to put new material on the site, including a few articles from recent issues of Club Meg News, and better picture pages. In the longer term, we hope to give the site a new look, with a layout which will be easier to read and to navigate around.
The stories of both our 2004 and 2005 Megalithics Workshop appear at the end of this Newsletter. Soon, I hope to pull these articles out of the Newsletter so that they will have pages of their own, complete with digital images. I know. I've promised this before, but I find website manipulation to be considerably more difficult than moving big stones.
Incidentally, those who have not yet read the report on the 20-ton winter solstice sunset stone may do so by clicking here: “The Raising of Juliesteyna.” Or click from the top of other pages in this site. There are two pictures at the end of the article, one taken just a minute or so after the stone was erected and the other showing the Winter Solstice alignment. We have now landscaped the area around Juliesteyna, and cleared the winter sunset alignment through the forest.
The Sophia Project. The really big news for 2008-9 is that we have identified a 55-ton stone, presently resting at the Center for Symbolic Studies in New Paltz, NY. The goal for spring of 2010 is to transport the stone, now known as Sophia, about 800 feet to a field where, hopefully, in August or September of 2010, we will demonstrate the transportation and erection of the stone ... by hand! Watch this website and Club Meg News for the latest news. We willl be looking for help on this project, financial help as well as volunteer labor.
Club Meg News, a twice yearly
journal for modern stone circle builders and aficionados, continues to bigger,
better and more colorful. Issue #20 came out today. It is our 10th Anniversary Issue. For information about how to subscribe, please click
on Club Meg News at the top of this page, or any other page.
Doug Kerr and I are looking for articles for Club Meg News # 21, which gets laid out in late November of 2009. If you have anything (letters, stories, pictures, etc.) to contribute, please email me by November 10th at firstname.lastname@example.org Earlier would be better.
Earthwood Building School. Those interested in our work in cordwood masonry house-building, including books, videos and workshops, should go to www.cordwoodmasonry.com By the way, we have an Open House at Earthwood on Saturday, October 3rd, 2009, 10 am - 4 pm. Check out Juliesteyna, the Stone Circle, the Completed Earthwood Trilithon, and all the cordwood and earth-sheltered buildings on campus.
How to get to Earthwood
We are 11 miles NW of Plattsburgh, New York, about an hour’s drive south of Montreal, or 2-1/2 hours north of Albany, NY. From the south – most of you will be coming from the south – get off Interstate 87 at the 2nd Plattsburgh exit, Exit 37. When you get to the light at bottom of the exit ramp, turn left (west) on Route 3. Go one mile to another light at the intersection of State Route 190, also called Military Turnpike. There is a stone-faced bank on your right, a Kinney Drug on your left. Turn right (north) on Route 190. Go 8.5 miles along 190, and when you get to the top of the first hill you’ve seen since leaving Plattsburgh, you will see our Earthwood sign on your right side and the Murtagh Hill Road sign on the left. Turn left onto Murtagh Hill Road and go 1.7 miles up this dirt road until you see a standing stone on the right. Pull in on the right, and park. Call 518-493-7744, if you need directions from other places.
Thanks for visiting today. If you have any questions, or want to tell us about a stone circle that you have built, or know about, please write us at Earthwood, 366 Murtagh Hill Road, West Chazy, NY 12992.Or call (518) 493-7744. Or email us at email@example.com
The articles about our last two Megalithics Workshops complete this edition of the Newsletter. Old news, I know, but watch for new stuff this summer.
Rob Roy, Director
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The August, 2004, Megalithics Workshop: Trials and Successes
(See article below for the sequel, the July, 2005 workshop.)
Our 5-day Megalithics: A Stone Circle Workshop, August 4 - 8, 2004, was a great success on several levels. Once again, Britain's - and perhaps the world's - foremost builder of stone circles, Ivan McBeth, was at Earthwood to co-instruct with me. Jaki, of course, performed her amazing behind-the-scenes stuff - including great vegetarian cooking - to keep everything and everyone running smoothly. (By the way, Ivan has a great new website up and running. Check it out at www.ivanmcbeth.com )
The workshop started with the erection of a new winter solstice sunrise stone of about two tons, just to get the team used to the tools and the teamwork. We even had time to experiment with Gordon Pipes' method of moving large stones across the countryside by "rowing" them with four modest wooden levers. We were amazed that just seven people could not only lift two tons clear of the ground, but advance it forward at the same time. (For more info on this, check out Gordon's Web site: www.stonehengetheanswer.com ) In two afternoons' work, the new winter sunrise stone was standing and packed firmly in place. Ivan noticed that the top of the stone looked like the head of a griffin, the fabled beast, and so "Griffin" it became.
On the third day, we begin to move Stone A of the future Earthwood Trilithon, which will eventually be composed of three lovely 5+-ton stones, already on site. The stones are each just over 11 feet long. About 11 o'clock Sunday morning, the fifth and final day of the workshop, we flipped Stone A into its 36" deep socket hole, and a cheer went up from all present. Then we noticed that the stone had not fully rotated to the flat 36" deep portion of the socket hole. (It had just barely clipped a large stone on its rotational transit.) Exultation turned quickly to doubt. The stone was hung up at an awkward angle, and at the too-shallow east end of the socket hole. Compounding the problem were two very large hard stones that would have to be removed before straightening would be possible.
Jaki and I were discouraged, and held out little hope that the 5.7-ton stone would stand straight before the end of the workshop day. An elbow injury a couple of months earlier prevented me from assisting with the metal bar, although I could still shovel. Well, the stone team just buckled down, led by student Paul Campbell, who attended with his partner Corrina Aldrich. Paul and Corrina had the attitude that "you don't leave until the job is done." Paul, Ivan, and the other students stayed at the two offending subterranean boulders until the stones were either removed or moved out of the way. The laborious job took about 3 hours. Only one person could fit in the hole, and Ivan worked through lunch so as not to waste valuable time. (Thanks, guy!)
Now, with an extended three-foot deep socket hole, we proceeded to experiment with a variety of methods to lever and cajole the stone to a vertical position, and at 4:58 pm, the three smooth faces of Stone A were perfectly vertical. (The fourth -outer - face is rough-textured and tapers naturally.) By just after 6 pm, the stone was packed and the site cleaned up.
Jaki and I have been involved in lots of stone moving and raising, all over the world, but never have I seen nine people work so well together with a common goal. Everyone contributed useful suggestions and all I could think of is that we were nine minds meshing as one. It was an incredible experience, and the group broke about 7 pm with all participants in high spirits.
July, 2005 Megalithic Workshop: Even More Trials and Successes
Ivan was unable to attend the 2005 Megalithics workshop, due to a nutsy immigration problem, which, it appears, he will soon have sorted out. We are looking forward to seeing him in November of 2005. Fortunately, celebrated dowser, labyrinth builder and sacred space maker Marty Cain was able to fill in on very short notice and to handle the transrational side of the proceedings while I concentrated on the analytical side.
The first two-and-a-half days of the 5-day workshop were extraordinary. In that time, instructors and students conceptualized and actualized a wonderful sacred space in a field belonging to Earthwood next-door neighbors Frank and Elizabeth Brasacchio. Marty Cain facilitated the conceptualization, and, together, she and Jaki and I supervised the actualization. Particular credit must be given to the owners, who, I am sure, must have wondered, at times, just what they had gotten themselves into. The seven students, some from past workshops, were into the project. One commented later that this creation of a sacred space was one of the most inspiring projects she had ever experienced.
We were fortunate in having access to a quantity of lovely pink Potsdam Sandstone miniliths, midiliths and megaliths to work with. These stones had been freshly born of the local power company's blasting into the substrate (on the Brasacchio property) to install a new power pole. It is amazing how much freshly quarried, and brilliantly clean, stone was made available: tons of the stuff.
At design sessions, with the owners present (but graciously allowing the proceedings to "go where they may"), we came up with an Ankh design, integrated with some of the important features of Frank and Elizabeth's front field and garden. A lovely copse of white birch trees at the southern end of the field became the head of the Ankh, with a long neck composed of an avenue of alternating male (rectangular) and female (triangular) stones, Avebury style. Opposing pairs of stones were set every 5 megalithic yards along the neck. This avenue led to the central stone circle of 12 small standing stones around a rose of seven beautiful triangular paving stones set level with the ground, 19 stones in all. East and West of the circle ran the arms of the Ankh, leading, in each case, to large "full stop" standing stones, as at Callanish. These stones were actually mates, consecutive layers of the same red sandstone strata. To the northwest and southwest, avenues continued on to the garden area, each finishing with a major standing stone, the largest about 1500 pounds, and launched perfectly into his socket hole by the team, a practice session for Stone B at the Earthwood Trilithon.
We had to leave the project after 2-1/2 days - a half day longer than planned - to assure time enough for Stone B. (A week later, several of the team returned to F & E's site to raise the final stone and clean up the field of leftover stones from our pool of candidates.
The 5.4-ton Stone B (cut from the same originally 34' stone as Stone A) moved beautifully to its socket hole, carefully and precisely placed about six feet from the first upright, installed in 2004. A particularly gratifying move was rotating the stone almost 120 degrees on a turntable made of wood, and topped with a piece of flat granite. The stone turned easily, but, by the end, the granite turning piece was shattered. But it had done its job. In future, I will make a truncated cone out of hardwood for the purpose.
Raising the stone over its socket was not a problem. Experience from the previous year helped, no doubt. On Saturday night, we had a perfect Megalithic banquet at the stone circle, and looked forward to Stone B's installation on Sunday, the final day of the 5-day workshop.
After the usual discussion, measuring, arguing and compromise, we decided on a height and distance over the hole. It was about eight or nine inches further along over the hole than I was happy with, but stone circle builder David Brandau's arguments for the position were compelling, and we all decided to go with the placement. I polled all of the students, and no one raised an objection. (Later, I found out that Jaki, and 2 or 3 others, were not entirely happy with the placement, either, but, sadly, they did not speak up.
Trouble began with the lynchpin, which normally comes out with one good hit with a sledge hammer. It did not. Paul Campbell, our strongest helper, railed on that pin and it barely moved. It took several hits to remove it, and, later, someone told me that the stone moved forward slightly with each hit, which might have caused our next problem. I hope I have learned from this that the lynchpin must be placed without too much weight on it, and in an easily removed position.
We should have reset, but didn't. Clearly the pin was going to come out, so we persevered. On about the 7th or 8th "thwack," the pin came out and Stone B rotated quickly and beautifully ... for about 70 degrees. It clipped a stone on the far (east) side of the socket hole, the side closest to Stone A, and would up wedged with its lower west side edge into the carefully prepared floor of the socket. This edge was stopped about 15" short of where the stone needed to be to complete the Trilithon as planned and envisaged. Bummer. But, still. it didn't seem as bad as the previous year's raising, which involved clearing the socket of 2 large stones in situ next to the stone. But it was okay for Stone A to stand anywhere in its socket. Not so Stone B. It had to be the right distance from Stone A.
Work proceeded slowly, but, using a variety of methods practiced the year before, including Class Two lever illustrated on page 298 of Stone Circles, we managed to get the stone vertical. But it was still 15" away from its correct location. Now we had to "walk" the stone along the bottom of the socket. We used the walking beam method shown on page 289 of Stone Circles. A long beam is lashed across the belly of the stone, as tightly as possible with ropes. We had some success with is, but the smooth-sided stone did not provide good friction for the ropes. What may have saved us was a smooth round quarry hole in the stone, about an inch in diameter and bored 8" deep We were able to use a lever in this stone to give us a lifting and rotating point.
By 8:45 pm (almost 4 hours after the workshop was scheduled to finish) the stone was where it was supposed to be. It was getting dark and the mosquitoes were hellacious. The stone was about 3" out of plumb, on its north-south axis, and wouldn't budge. We'd had a good day, not a perfect day, and enjoyed a post mortem over a beer or two up at the house. We decided that had we gone three inches higher, or kept the stone back eight inches, it would have gone straight up, where it was supposed to. The problem with the lynchpin may have been critical, as well. Ultimately, the decisions were mine, and I take full responsibility and only hope that I have learned a few lessons.
It was agreed that some of the nearer students would return in a week or two to complete the work, and, on August 7, Paul and Corrina, Bruce Kilgore and Jeff from Saranac Lake returned to help. By clearing away gravel under the south edge of Stone B, the megalith moved easily to a perfectly vertical position, aligned just right with Stone A. We packed the stone, tied the site, and put away all of the equipment. We also transported and erected the final stone at the Ankh next door, and removed extra stones to a nearby stone wall. Frank and Elizabeth were away that day and were delighted the the stone faeries had returned to complete their work ... and left the site neat and tidy.
I will try to get some help isolating these two articles from the newsletter and to get some pictures on the new pages. An illustrated version of this article appeared in the Winter Solstice 2005 Club Meg News, #13, available as a back issue.
We'll raise Stone C - the 5.2-ton capstone - at MegaCo/07, August 7-11, 2007. Go to the Home page and click on the Incan stone icon for information.