Farming Rocks

This past Saturday we had a beautiful 50 degree day and I had the perfect way to spend it- volunteering on the farm at Stone Barns. There were two possible jobs to participate in, one was to help transplant currant trees and the other was to help clear a field of rocks in preparation for planting. Since I hadn’t had a hard workout in over a week, I decided to pick the heartier grunt work.

A group of about 8 of us followed farmer Jack Algiere out to a spot in the fields on the side of a gently sloping hill. You could see all the different rows that had been planted during seasons past, and we were at the highest patch of rows on the hill. Jack explained that this was about as high up the hill any veggies could be planted because of the slope and because of a rock ledge in the hill. This particular bed had been for artichokes last year and would be planted with potatoes this year. Well, after we had cleared the rocks from the area that is.

Clearing rocks is a laborious task but it needs to be done not only to clear the soil for planting but also to prevent any rocks from damaging farm equipment. We were instructed to build piles of rocks outside the plowed area and then we would load them into Kubotas that would haul them away for use in leveling an area of the grounds somewhere else on the farm.

So with that bit of instruction we got to it. We all started energetically and within about 20 minutes it looked like we havd gotten all the major obvious rocks out of there. Easy, right? Haha, silly us. Then Jack would drive the plow through and with each pass it would uncover countless more rocks, some of them gigantic “3-man rocks” meaning it would take 3 people to move them. Anything larger would have to wait for Jack to come thru with the tractor and we’d try to roll the rocks into the loader.

And so it went for several hours. Good hard work but it was kind of calming and fun at the same time. C’mon, when was the last time you got to play in the dirt like a kid? It was like an afternoon of treasure hunting, only the treasures were just rocks. Every time the plow made a pass we’d all descend on the trail in its wake to fetch all the newly exposed big ones. And somehow no matter how many tons of rocks we extracted that afternoon, every new pass of the plow would bring so many more to the surface.

By the end of the day I was completely wiped out. I don’t care how much us city folk may exercise at the gym; doing real honest productive farm work produces a much deeper and more gratifying type of exhaustion. And to think all that work we did was just the prep for the season, it really gave us all a newfound admiration for the four season farmers at Stone Barns. I can’t fathom how much they do in the course of a year! I really enjoyed my day out in the field and I hope to volunteer there again in the future.

In other miscellany, Joan Rivers was in my hood the other day, filming a commercial or something for The Celebrity Apprentice. I’ve never been a fan of Rivers, even before she had all that creepy cosmetic surgery, so I hope The Donald fires her and she can stop jamming up streets in my neighborhood.

Speaking of tv, have you seen the current season of This Old House? They’re working on a brownstone in Brooklyn. I can appreciate the homeowner wanting to retain some of that historic charm, but did you see the colors she chose for her kitchen walls and cabinets? She picked Institutional Green! The kind they used in every public school I’ve ever seen in NY. Gross.

And one last tv note: I have a new recommendation for your DVR- Dhani Tackles The Globe. The premiere was on the Travel Channel tonight and it is worth catching. The concept is that Dhani Jones, linebacker for the Bengals, travels to different countries and learns a bit about each culture by immersing himself in an indigenous sport. Great concept, since a linebacker in the NFL should actually have the raw skills to at least not embarrass himself in most physical activities no matter how foreign. Tonight’s episode- Muay Thai in Thailand. Entertaining, not just for the Muay Thai bits, but even the parts where he visits places outside the gym. In one scene his muay thai trainer gets him to eat fried insects from a street vendor. Like every good travel show host, Dhani is game to try it, but he prefaces it by shaking his head and saying “Man, black people just don’t eat this type of sh!t”. That’s quality American television!

One thought on “Farming Rocks

  1. I guess my parents didn’t put you to work during any of your trips to Vermont during college. Beth and I have in mind for our next visit to my folks, helping them “get the wood in”. This means cutting, splitting and stacking firewood. Since my Dad just turned 77 a couple weeks ago, I figure they could use some help this year. I will keep you posted. LOL.

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