May 17, 2010

Stones Become Walls

I have been plugging away at an endless garden chore: clearing the small trees and brambles that grow up in the stone walls surrounding my back yard. The constant reappearance of what to me are weeds are more evidence of the insistence of natural growth. I long ago gave up on keeping other walls around my property clear of trees, and now, 20 years later, the wall along the southern boundary of my property can hardly be seen. We could say, with Robert Frost, "Something there is that doesn't love a wall,.."

The stones of various sizes, mostly granite, weren't piled up into walls for decorative reasons; making walls of the large stones that kept rising up in the fields was a convenient way of dealing with them in the early days of farming in New England: making a boundary fence and clearing a field at the same time.

Below you see a pile, not a wall, of stones in the middle of one of my fields. A few years ago I had someone with a small excavator dig up the large stones that dotted the ground and caused havoc to the brushhog he used to mow the field; I have this done every couple of years so that fecund nature doesn't grow up and ruin my view. Locally, a field with a lot of rocks in it is called "boney"; my boney field is now cleared of rocks, for now. As you can see, the pile is already covered with growth, and the field will grow rocks again, as the frost, year by year, lifts them up above the ground.


  1. As a child I remember noting that the fields in Vermont differed from those in Maine by the rocks they displayed. Never knew the term 'boney field'.
    You could probably sell that nice Vermont granite to sculptors, or sculpture suppliers.. . I also know a sculptor who would haul some away if you wanted to simply clear some out...
    If these were prehistoric times those would be mammoth skulls and litter -ally be bones creating the literature of the fields.

  2. Westchester and Putnam counties in NY, where I grew up, served dairy to NY city and the land is webbed with the most beautiful stone walls and around the NY City reservoirs, much of the exquisite stonework was done by people working in the WPA under the direction of master stonemasons from Italy.

    The last time I was home for a visit I was lucky enough to come upon a crew rebuilding an old wall - and me with no camera!


  3. Amazing to think of these rocks just continually bubbling up. We once met an architect turned sculptor who used his rocks to create incredible sculptures on his property near Frost's home. They were all done by balance, no rods or glues to keep them in place. It was an unforgettable sight. Alas, the photos we took are slides. Maybe someday we'll get them all scanned and can use them.

  4. It's quite wonderful to think of these rocks becoming sculpture; how appropriate for work near Frost's home, Linda. And Kim, I'd be happy to give away the rocks piled in the center of my field. Deb, I didn't know about those walls around the NYC reservoirs. There was––still is––a large community of Italian stonemasons near here in Barre, VT, working in the large granite quarries and sheds.