Monday, April 27, 2009


This weekend a group of people were taking a dry wall stone building course at our farm. They were a diverse crew –men and women - from across South-Western Ontario, all there to learn the dying art of building a dry stone wall. It was fascinating to watch (I was the chief cook and bottle washer) as a symmetrical stone wall emerged from the rubble of stones we had collected from across the property.

Over dinner, the teacher, John, was explaining that it takes a certain personality to build a wall. For the perfectionist, it can be an exercise in frustration as there isn’t a scientific formula to getting the wall right and sometimes you have to select the less-than-perfect stone. But he added, “for the cowboys” who just think they can stick a stone anywhere, there are lessons to be learned as they find they can’t be quite so casual about the whole process.

John also observed that people who get into wall-building are often musicians, writers and other creative types who see the wall as a work of art – something beautiful to be created out of stone.

Apparently he’s been approached about using wall-building as a team-building exercise and you could see how that could be very effective. People had to learn to work together, to listen to each other’s opinion, and not always be right.

Likewise, it struck me that there were some lessons for business owners too on the importance of being flexible. If you are hell-bent on being right all the time; on sticking to one course of action, it likely won’t always work to your favour. So an element of going with the flow makes sense. Now if you’re so laid- back that anything goes, like the cowboys, then you run the risk of losing your focus and offering a shoddy product or service.

The other lesson learned this weekend is the value of bartering; of forming strategic alliances. Sixteen people gathered at our place to build a wall, in return, all we had to do was feed and water them! Pretty good deal I would say and now we have a beautiful wall and some new friends.

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