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By Staff | Dec 16, 2011

I have been a rock fan for as long as I can remember. If I tell you I am a fan of the stones that would probably not come as any surprise.

Ever since I can remember, I like to walk not so much as looking ahead, but looking down at what’s in front of me.

I am on the lookout for any rock that has an interesting shape, color, pattern, or anything that catches my eye.

Growing up, I learned in school about rocks that were sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic. When on a drive, I look at exposed rock and outcroppings to see if I can determine their origins.

It is not unusual to find some small rock I thought that was worth a second look in a coat pocket, on my desk, or atop my dresser.

Now that I have established the fact I am a rock fan, hard rock, if you will, I can also say that I do not like rocks.

Every farmer I have ever known has a severe dislike for rocks. We detest the rocks that show up every spring in our fields and have to be picked up or ignored at our peril at harvest time when the combine passes over them and hopefully not ingested into the machine.

My son likes to remind me of the rock I saw a couple years ago when I was chopping stalks and did a poor job of trying to steer around it.

My poor judgment required several thousand dollars of repairs to the stalk chopper.

Rocks are a particular problem for us farming on the glacial moraine. A moraine is created at the edges of a melting glacier, depositing thousands of years of rocks.

Think of a bulldozer that pushes material in front of it, but some of the material at the left and right sides of the blade slides off and is left behind.

If that bulldozer is a glacier, the material that is left at the edges is the moraine and is an annual source of rocks of every size.

Most every farm has a rock pile, usually many rock piles, where each year’s accumulation of rocks is tossed.

Field driveways and ditches are favorite spots around here where they are tossed one last time.

By now I can say there are good rocks and bad rocks depending on their location. That is until about two weeks ago when I learned that even “bad” rocks can have their redemption.

I contacted a local landscaper as I was in need of a retaining wall for my new lawn. I learned the landscaper had a talent of building retaining walls using rocks.

Having a very good supply of rocks and being of the frugal nature, I approved using the rocks that were lying around here as a source of material.

Over the time span of two days, three men, a skid loader, and a small excavator took what I considered to be one of the most useless things on a farm and made them into a something to be admired and appreciated.

The 500- to 1,000-pound rocks went on the bottom and as the wall went higher, the rocks got smaller until rocks you could carry by hand were placed at the top.

When the wall was finished, I recognized individual rocks that were in the wall and knew where they came from. I can say that every one of them came from within a half mile of here.

That wall represented around 100 years of rock picking by at least three generations of farmers.

I will bet each rock was a source of irritation for the person picking it up and then tossing it on a pile with all the others from all the other years.

I guess everything has a purpose in this world. Sometimes, it takes a while to figure out what it is.

Maybe there is a use for button weed, cockle bur, mare’s tail, wooly cup grass, or my newest enemy, Asiatic dayflower.


Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at crye@wctatel.net.

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