17 August 2015

"Rock picker"


Very cool.  My maternal grandfather would have been awestruck to be able to use a piece of equipment like this in his cornfield (instead he had my aunts and uncles fan out through the field each spring to "pick potatoes.")

When I was growing up I never quite figured out why every year rocks would emerge at the surface of the fields.  It wasn't until as a an adult when Michael Waters' Principles of Geoarchaeology that I finally understood how the dramatic freeze-thaw cycles of the Upper Midwest result in cryoturbation and "granular convection."

If you visit any old farm in Minnesota and Wisconsin and walk the fields, you will almost certainly see a pile of rocks off at the side - often under shade trees - where generations of a family have picked rocks and tossed them away from the tilled areas.

12 comments:

  1. Big old rock piles all over western NY as well. I have built numerous garden walls and 3 chimneys and many more in the pile to go. A beautiful resource!

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  2. https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/ca/d9/06/cad9063fa9aa39a1bfd483f550907f10.jpg

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  3. Not sure if it's the same over there in Min. but here in Mi. the shade tree usually grew opportunistically through or beside the rock pile. At least the current generation of trees. I'm not really sure how great great grandpa started the pile.

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    1. :-) which came first, the rock pile or the shade trees? :-)

      many rock piles started at an opportunistic location in the field. a pile in the middle of a field may have an exposed ledge or an outcrop at its base. that exposed rock would not be planted or plowed, so it made for a good dumping spot for all the rockettes that were collected.

      I-)

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  4. Piles in France and Belgium are a little different...
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/glosters/2201611447
    cheers another phil

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    1. Whoa...

      I guess if you think about it, that's the modern-day equivalent of finding arrowheads from Paleolithic hunters...

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  5. From the confident, smooth tone of the narrator, I was expecting any moment to see evidence that this entire video was some kind of joke.

    I guess it's really for real.

    Lurker111

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    1. You only have to pick rock once to understand why that thing is cool!
      I'm thinkin', buy one and go in biz clearing fields and sellin' rocks.

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  6. I've never picked a rock, or had even heard of it, but it's obvious that's a great invention.

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  7. When I was little my uncle, who still had a fondness for working a team, would hitch his two workhorses - they seemed to me, age 6 or 7, like giants - to a stone boat, an 8x8 (?) wooden platform with two wood skids underneath. We would set off out the lane and down the main road, gravel still in those years, out to one of the newer fields, where the Spring thaw would still spit rocks up to the surface. My uncle would tie the reins to the tee on the shaft of the harness, and the team would make their own way back and forth across the field, slowly covering everything that wasn't still too soft yet from the snowmelt. (That was my uncle's rationalization for sticking with the team: "They'll not get bogged down like a tractor would," he'd say, "They're smart; they'll know what will hold them and where it's too soft. We don't have to wait for the ground to dry out as much.") Our job was to run alongside the stone boat, picking up what we could lift or calling for my uncle when the stone was too big.

    When the stone boat was loaded we'd unload it in one corner, or maybe in a copse of trees where the land was too steep or too boggy to farm.

    And at the end of the day he'd take up the reins again and the team would drag us home, the boat loaded now with a passel of tired and dirty kids ready for supper, bath and bed.

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    1. Classic. That's a good memory to have.

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  8. There's a great lecture over at boingboing on stone wall building in the upper midwest and in the northeast because, not only were stone walls useful in delineating property, but because of the very qualities you mentioned every landover had a huge pile of rocks in the corner they had no other idea what to do with. http://boingboing.net/2013/04/02/lecture-on-stone-wall-building.html

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