Sunday, May 31, 2009

Picking Stones - Then & Now

For as long as I can remember, with spring came undeniably the worst job of farming - picking stones. Literally, exactly as glamourous as it sounds, my parents would drag us out to the field (kicking and screaming was very common) to remove the large stones and therefore, reduce the possibility of damaging equipment later during planting and harvest.
There are probably 100 years worth of rocks on this pile
Today, after successfully avoiding this task for several years, I again found myself picking rocks. This time, it was by my own choice as I carefully selected the rocks that will form a new rock garden in my backyard. I think it is so ironic, after years of picking stones from the fields and dumping them on piles outside the fields, I now pick the rocks back off the piles and bring them to the city!

Despite having several piles around my parents' farm, my mom and I discovered our neighbour's huge pile last summer when we were building her rock garden. The pile has been used for several decades as the dumping grounds for the field rocks, and it is by far the biggest pile I have ever seen. It is also full of wonderful rocks!
My future rock garden
Limited to what I could lift, I gathered an array of stones for my yard in only half an hour. The cool, weekend weather also made it an ideal day for hunting through the pile, because it meant avoiding the other creatures that call it home, particularly, snakes! I have stumbled across my fair share of them in piles while growing up. Nothing more than harmless garter snakes, but they still make my skin crawl, nonetheless. Ick.. I've got the willies just thinking about it right now!

Luckily (or unluckily if you are picking them), farming anywhere near the Niagara Escarpment produces a regular and plentiful crop of new rocks every year. Limestone is common along the Escarpment, and due to its softness, it easily erodes over time into unique and eye-appealing formations. My brother is renting a farm now that has an overwhelming number of these unique stones, in all sizes. They would be any landscapers dream, so we think there is a great opportunity to make some money off of them. Unfortunately, while there are many farmers with ample quantities of rocks to share, I do not know any that have been able to turn this into a business venture. Do you? Does anyone know how to go about selling a skid of 'fancy rocks'? Is anyone looking for rock yourself?

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