May 14, 2003

Stoney Ground

image copyright Fred First

Two creeks make one. Goose Creek on the right flows between the house and barn; you can see a bit of the barn roof through the trees. The larger creek on the left has no name. It follows the edge of the pasture, and wears a rock wall like a necklace.

I have just come in from tilling the garden; and thus begins our second gardening year here on Goose Creek. The first year, the present garden site was not our first choice. Then, it was a shabby patch of head-high briars and sumac and my first choice was across the creek, in the pasture over next to the barn where I could keep my garden tools handy. My first task was to put up metal posts to hold a four-strand electric fence to discourage if not prevent the garden produce from becoming 'Wildlife Salad'. In ten attempts to drive in the first metal post, ten failures in the top six inches of soil, ending in a jarring metallic clank against buried 'river jack'. We decided to relocate to the briar patch instead, where the posts went deep enough to put up the pretend deerproofing.

In my first dozen passes over new garden with the tiller that first year, I was jolted to a sudden stop when the tiller tines got hooked under a buried fender of a rusted ancient farm vehicle of some sort. This year, it is stream-deposited rocks I am turning up.. from softball sized round river rocks up to melon-sized (and larger) oddities looking like the potato-shaped moons of Mars. The bigger ones send the tiller lurching suddenly sideways. I've worked clay soil that took three passes to penetrate; and I've snipped old fence wire from the tiller tines in other gardens more than once; but I have never had to do battle with submerged rocks like this. They lurk like enemy submarines, threatening to throw me sideways just as my mind begins to wander and I lower my guard. I have learned, after a few painful bruises, to stand well behind the tiller handles while working the rocky ground, and so this year, the hip bones may come out less black and blue than last. Pain is a great teacher.

On the shady side of the pasture along the creek our foot trail follows the low rough wall of lichen-covered rock piled for a hundred years along the rim of the nameless creek. Especially after my tiring hour with the rocks in the garden today, I appreciate what it must have been like, five generations ago, for our forebears here to have walked behind a ragged pair of mules down row and furrow, all day long. Every little bit farmer and beast would be stopped of a sudden as the plow became wedged under a 200 pound river rock-- fragments of mountaintops dropped in the flat valley floor millenia ago by earth-shaping floods. Man and mule would have rolled the large rocks from the soil onto a wooden sledge and pulled them to the edge of the field, unloading rock after rock, year after year, building a fence made of toil.

This process cleared the pasture of plowing obstacles, of course, and the low wall also protected the field from floods that, from clues left in the terrain, must have been unprecedented by today's standards of 'heavy rains'. In years since, the creek has undercut the banks below the wall in places, and there the crude pile of rock has tumbled back into the creek, to wash in powerful storms to someone else's valley pasture downstream. Millenia from now, some other soul nearer the coast will find our recycled rocks in a sudden jolt, with a tiller or plow, and the story will begin once more.

Posted by fred1st at May 14, 2003 05:39 AM | TrackBack

Pasture? Creek(s)? Gardening? A Born-Again out-doors man, I guess. ;-) The photo, however, showed a beautiful place to live.

Posted by: Alexandra at May 14, 2003 03:50 PM

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