Saturday, October 29, 2011

Stoned (And How to Move the Big Ones)

 Sam has discovered water below the waterfall.
       Hard, cold rocks. Soft, colorful petals and tender greenery. What a wonderful contrast, and one I love using in my landscaping. When we inherited the farm, the only landscaping here that included rocks was a rock garden in the back yard. Heirloom iris grew there among lots of weeds. The iris are still there, along with lilies and a variety of hosta, and the mums I planted there a few days ago. I downsized that garden shortly after we moved here, but now want to add a second rock garden near it, with a path between it and the old garden. I've located only about ten of the fifty large stones I figure I'll need.
       The water feature project we set up several years ago used up a huge number of stones. The hill pictured above is terraced, with rocks stabilizing the dirt. I didn't want to fiddle with a pond so there's a "dry" well under the creeping thyme at the left in the photo. That's filled with rocks, truckloads of them gathered from the fields around the house and along the road. 
Driveway in front of house.
Water feature is in background.
       After we added this porch in 2004, I built a retaining wall along the front. It was needed because the house sits at the top of a hill; the wall keeps dirt from washing down over the drive. Finding enough stones after finishing the water feature turned out to be a challenge. Since a huge black locust tree shades this spot, I planted more hosta here, along with hydrangea and bleeding heart. The hydrangea are survivors from some sticks I could barely identify as such when I found them many years ago. I believe my father-in-law must have planted them by the front door. My husband's family rarely used the front entrance, and the plants had been neglected. The porch addition changed that.
Stone path from lilacs to garden
with a large stone for a sundial.
       I started using small stones in landscaping the farm before we moved out from town. It was a case of using what was available, and after finishing the rather ambitious task of putting in a drain field, I  had a pile of stones left over. That pile disappeared into several projects. The first was a path from the lilac bushes in front to the vegetable garden. The big stone on the right was one my father-in-law had set out near the lilacs to hold a sundial. He bought the sundial but never set it up. The lilac bushes grew and shaded the stone.  I had it moved. I have the sundial. Someday I'll get the sundial onto that stone!
        You'll note that this large rock is set deeply into the ground.  If left on the surface, it would have looked like it just rolled off the truck. Buried, it looks like it belongs where it is.   
Stones at base of kitchen porch steps
      Leftover stones also went into a circular path around the flag pole in the front yard, a pathway from the side drive to the milk house, an edging around the rock garden in back so I could mow without hitting the larger rocks, as mulch around the water faucet in the back yard, and as mulch near the house's foundation.  Mixed with the drain field stones are ones I gathered during other projects around the yard.
       A few years ago, the farmer who rents our fields reseeded them. That meant he had to "harvest" the copious crop of rocks that have pushed to the surface since the last time the field was planted. He piled those rocks at the edge of the field and I moved them two year ago to the ditch by the road in front. I'd like to line the entire ditch with stones, but to do so I'll need four times what is there now. That's not going to happen any time soon.
       The same farmer offered to move some BIG rocks into the yard for me. That was this spring before the weather went nuts. He hasn't had time to act on that offer yet, but I sure hope it still stands next spring! As you might guess, I have ideas for the placement of several, the bigger the better.
       When I move large rocks without help, fifty pounds is as much as I'll try to lift and carry. Even then, I don't carry that much for more than a few feet. To "lift" a large half (or more) buried rock out of the ground, I lever it up, pack dirt under it, and lever it up again, repeatedly packing dirt under it until it's no longer buried. To move it, I tip a wheel barrel on its side as close as possible to the rock, roll the rock into the wheel barrel, and tip the wheel barrel upright. Using this method, I can relocate rocks weighing a hundred pounds or more without assistance.

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