Rock Wall

You can’t go far in New England without running across the stonewalls that demarcate the old field boundaries of the area’s agricultural past. The edge of my house lot lies along the stonewall border of an abandoned farm. By turns, the land behind me was cropland, pasture, and at last, an orchard. 

The rock boundaries are one of the defining traits of New England. It’s a history of people trying to feed themselves, make a living on the land by whatever means, and finally move off for better land in the West or greater opportunity in the city.

I’ve understood the situation’s dynamics since I came from New York City to New England. But gardening on the top of a hill heaped up by glaciers gave me an intimate understanding of the old New England saying that its soil yields a crop of rock every year. Creating a relatively rock-free garden was the labor of years.

We’ve found creative ways of incorporating all the rock, mini-boulders, and gravel we’ve removed. All that glacial debitage forms a hillock and even small stonewalls. The stonewalls we created are a minor reflection of the larger one at the back of our lot. The larger one was built as early settlers attempted to get the stoney soil to yield food, and ours was created for the same purpose.

Climate change may alter our human impact on the land, but New England will always be rock until the epochs grind it into soil, something I am incapable of doing.

3 Replies to “Rock Wall”

  1. On Lake Superior, huge piles of rocks are heaved up on the shore – big thick piles – and I always wonder where are all these rocks coming from and how powerful are the waves that hoist them all up and toss them on the beach.

    1. The Great Lakes are, as I understand it, another glacial feature. But I always find myself in awe of them, being that are essentially inland seas.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: