Monday, May 7, 2018

Picking Rocks

Some people wonder if "picking rocks" is something that actually happens. To a non farmer, or even a farmer who doesn't have rocks in his soil, the whole thing sound absurd. You mean pick rocks, like picking an apple?

Kind of .

My land is full of rocks. Most around here is. If you don't have residue, or last years dead plants, on the surface, it's possible to use a rock rake and a rock picker to get up most of them. Because I'm trying to keep as much residue on the surface as possible, for as long as possible, neither of those pieces of equipment fit with my farm. So, they need to be picked up by hand. One by one. Anything bigger than a softball can damage equipment, that's the short answer to why the rocks need to be removed. Frost heave brings up new ones every year, as does any type of tillage. Both happen on my land.

My dad, Gramps to some of you, has spent the last couple of days with me picking rocks. I hope to find a few other people (paid) to help me in the future. This used to be a job done by high school kids, but they have other options/things to do with their time, and its a demanding task.

We went across the land, back and forth, one on the little loader with a rock bucket attached, the other walking and picking the rocks and throwing them in the rock bucket as we went. We'd cover a 40 foot wide strip, then turn around and go back, scanning/picking another 40 foot strip. Over two days, ten hours of work as the days are short because of the demanding labor, we picked over about 15 acres.

We dumped the rocks in piles at the edges of the field. Here, where my land buts up against a cemetery, you'll see a brick post marking the border of the cemetery. If you look in the underbrush you'll see huge piles of rocks that have been put there over the years.

A couple years ago one of those big rocks broke off a row unit on our seed drill. At the time I put a wood stake with a flag on it to mark the location, intending to come back and dig up the offender. I never did, but while walking this time I saw what turned out to be the "tip of the iceberg" . While digging around it with the shovel I found a remnant of the wood marker, a short piece of wood lath.

Kind of like finding a needle in a haystack. Makes me wonder how many more like that are out there.

After doing some calling around I've line up a crew of three to help me pick the rest of the rocks. Gramps might help, but it'll be limited to driving the loader.

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