Sunday, December 4, 2016

Stone Stories and Hidden Treasures

We found this land because of our passion for stones and my passion for building stone walls.  The farmer's wife that had worked this farm for decades saw an opportunity to unload the last twisted piece of the original farm.  She offered us free field stone to use in our village garden.  Many truckloads of wall stones later we purchased the last piece of the farm.  Native stone has fascinated us.  At one time this area was covered by a vast sea.  Mountains to the east surrendered to the ravages of weather and their sediments washed into the sea.  Geologists gave the resulting land form the name Allegheny Plateau.  Several periods of glaciers carved the flat plateau into its present configuration of bedrock hills and river valleys.  We own a small piece of a bedrock ridge that is the visible remains of the plateau.  The rest of our land surface consists of glacial deposits.  Our tiny metamorphic stones were carried here from the Adirondack Mountains to our north.  Larger sedimentary rocks were formed closer to home.  We find these rocks both fascinating and useful.

This rock was long ago placed in the patio next to the section of garden enclosed by four stone walls.  It was selected because of its size and shape.  Years of foot traffic have worn away a thin deposit of sediment revealing a stone surface featuring ripple marks.  This stone was formed in a shallow section of the sea where gentle currents formed the ripple marks.  It is also possible that the marks are worm tunnels made by life forms on the bottom of the sea. In either case the rock is interesting and attractive.

This piece of a formerly huge rock is headed down near the garden by the road.

This is the same rock close to where it was found with a newly exposed interior surface taking in the sunlight.  When this rock was first discovered, its shape was nearly a cube.  At that size machinery would have been necessary to move it.  A series of parallel cracks were discovered crossing the exposed top surface.  A hammer and wedges allowed me to split that monster stone into several pieces small enough to be carefully moved by hand.  This piece remained unused because of its other side. Special stones with interesting fossils are hidden treasures!

Here is a closeup of the fossil covered surface.  This face deserves to be seen and that required placement as a top of a wall stone.  Its mass made such a location both difficult and unwise for me to attempt so up until now this treasure remained leaning against a tree in the woods.

This stone slice is from another monster that was located close to the above pictured stone.  A weathered crack invited investigation with my hammer and chisel.  For the first time a stone of this type actually split for me.  The core of the rock is heavily mineralized and unbelievably hard.  Contact with a hammer usually produces only a sharp ringing sound in my ears and pain in the joints of the arm swinging the hammer.  This rock has also remained on the forest floor where it was found.  The moss covered outer edge is soft and moist supporting growth.  That layer will soon fall away from the hard central core.  This stone is far to interesting to bury in a stone wall.

Here is the site of the project that will make good use of these interesting stones.  The current owner of the original farmhouse in the background takes excellent care of his home.  The previous owner allowed the field to grow weeds unchecked and I took similar care of my narrow strip of road frontage.  Now we are working to establish a tended flower garden on our side of the property line.  This new growth of sumac is creating a shaded area that can be used as a pleasant place to sit and rest and it might support native woodland plants.  We intend to use our large flat rocks to build a low ledge that will direct water to the base of the plants.  With our  well drained gardens, extreme drought ended our Bloodroot plants that had reproduced from seed.  Here at the bottom of the lane we have different soil and drainage.  We will see if the large stones will capture enough moisture to keep new plants alive.

Today's weather forecast predicts that we will awaken to find two inches of snow on the ground tomorrow morning.  The rest of the week may feature more snow each day.  Those facts made moving stones out of the woods seem like a great use of this blue sky day.

This stone's final destination is to the left at the base of the hill.  The red of the sumac berries can be seen from a distance.

Here the rocks supporting moss growth are placed flat on the ground to try and keep the moss alive.  When the ledge is completed these rocks will be placed on a slant in full contact with the ground.  So placed these rocks will capture moisture from the night air and hopefully keep both the moss and the native woodland plants alive.

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