Monday, July 02, 2012

Stone walls



I see a lot of stone walls when I'm out hiking. (These photos were taken early this spring; thus the lack of foliage.)

And all I can think of when I see one is, "Maaaan, that must've been a LOT of work."



And I wonder. I mean, I know that farmers had to clear their fields of stones, so they had a ready supply of rocks for the walls.

But wouldn't it have been easier to just heave the stones out of the fields, and then cut down some trees and make wooden fences? Or wait, were farms close enough together back then so that if you heaved a rock out of your field, it'd end up in your neighbor's field? Or did they figure that the rock walls would last a lot longer, making all of the work in the beginning pay off?

All I know is, long after the farms are gone and the forest has reclaimed the land, the walls are still here. And it makes me tired just looking at 'em, thinking of all that work.

7 comments:

~~Silk said...

Fields "grow" stones. As the soil is loosened by plowing every spring, stones work their way to the top, so clearing stones is a never-ending task. Building a wall between fields is a way for you and your neighbor to share the load so to speak, and to agree on a permanent boundary line.

An old-timer told me this: Rodents and birds are threats to crops. Snakes eat rodents and birds. The walls also function as snake-attractors. A field bounded by stone walls is a field full of snakes, and a field full of snakes is a field free of rodents and birds. Ain't no wire fence can do that.

Anonymous said...

And they had the sense (and wanted to convey that sense) that they and their families were permanent features of the land. Yes, it was a lot of work BUT your great-grandson would be tilling the same fields.

rockygrace said...

~~Silk, is there no end to the stones? I mean, being a gardener, I'm familiar with the never-ending--rock phenomenon, but it seems like at SOME point, the ground would run out. Wishful thinking, I guess.

and Anonymous, it's kind of cool to think of the stone walls as something to pass on. A legacy.

James P. said...

Yes, the stone walls are lovely. Not sure I feel the same way about them here in Virginia, where there are a million of them around the big country estates and surely all built by SLAVES. So....

Domestic Kate said...

One step above slave labor? Child labor! Families back then had a crapload of kids. They're strong and in need of something constructive to do.

(My dad was one of 7 kids, and his parents owned an orchard.)

rockygrace said...

Oops, I didn't even think about the slave angle, Ginny.

And Kate, nothing wrong with putting the kids to work! Although I'm sure the kids would disagree ... does your dad remember his chld labor fondly, or with resentment?

James P. said...

Oh, I doubt that the stone walls were slave-built in Upstate New York....Here in Virginia, another story. I like to imagine a plantation master's last words: "People, the stones in the fifth row down just don't look straight to me...."