Wednesday, March 31, 2010 at 9:40AM
[chuck] in New England, Science, frost heaving, stone walls

It is estimated that there are over 240,000 miles of old stonewalls in New England. A formidable number, and I can only imagine the frustration - and exhaustion - of colonial farmers as they tried to work these rocky soils. The forest was cleared, and then plowed, and then, through a process of freezing and thawing and frost heaving, rocks would suddenly start appearing in the field. And when it rained, more rocks would materialize. The farmer would pick these up, move them to the edge of his field, and start stacking them to make a wall. This back-breaking chore continued for about 50 years, until farmers started to abandon their fields, lured by the cheap, rich soils of the Midwest. [NOTE: Useful background on stonewalls, colonial farming, and the New England landscape is provided here and here; image from Camp Deerpark, Westbrookville, NY (see Elias Drops a White Pine)]. 

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