Sunday, May 5, 2013

Growing rocks

The past week or so has felt more like mid-summer than spring, and so over the weekend I made a good start at putting the vegetable garden in. The peas are planted and four rows of carrots, some greens, broccoli, and a few green beans. There’s still work to be done, of course. Always is with gardening.

Not quite potatoes...
No matter if I’m tilling the soil, planting seeds, or dragging weeds out by their roots, I often get a little ditty stuck in my head while in the garden. It’s something my kids learned at preschool from local musician and environmental educator Barb Desroches, and the refrain goes like this, “Rocks, rocks, rocks. There are rocks all over the earth. There are rocks on the mountain and rocks in the sea, so many rocks to see.” Barb doesn’t mention the rocks in the garden anywhere in her song, but they’re there, nonetheless.

It doesn’t matter how many rocks – from thumb-sized to boulder – I’ve dug and picked and sifted out of the garden the year before, every spring I find a new crop. And that crop seems to grow uninhibitedly through the spring and summer and into the fall. A few years ago while digging for Yukon Golds, I found some Granite State Boulders instead. It took half the afternoon to dig those suckers out, and they were too heavy to pick up, so I rolled them out the garden gate and left them for the tractor.

It’s no wonder, with all these rocks, that New England is crisscrossed by stone walls. The first farmers needed a place to pile all that glacial till – and, I suppose, a way to keep the animals in the pasture. It seems a little crazy that early settlers continued their attempts to farm this rocky soil. It’s tough enough to grow a family garden!

Of course, the early folks didn’t have the luxury of a quick drive to the store, regardless of the season, to pick up veggies grown in California or some other faraway place for dinner. What they grew was what they ate. And eating what you’ve grown by your own toil is still satisfying, even if the grocery store is just down the road. There’s just something pleasing, beyond that sun-warmed, fresh taste and superior nutrition, about growing and eating your own vegetables.

I picked more rocks than I care to count from the dirt today, as I placed in the garden the seeds that will grow into this year’s harvest. My feet and fingernails are dirty, my shoulders tinged brown from sun and soil, and it’s a joy to look at my little garden in the back yard and see the neat rows of dirt packed over the tiny seeds.

Sure, there is more rock picking to come this season, and too many weeds to pull and bugs to battle. But each morning, my first gaze will be out the bedroom window at that fenced-in rectangle, where I’ll watch the seeds sprout green from the dark soil, growing higher and fuller, flowering, bearing good food to eat. Unearthing a steady stream of rocks seems a small price to pay for that reward.

Original content by Meghan McCarthy McPhaul, posted on her Blog: Writings from a full life.


  1. Brings a smile to my face.

    I read a narrative by the Bolton (Mass.) Historical society that indicated in some cases the walls were built by itinerant labor, who worked for a meal and a good night's rest.

    1. Thanks, Bill.
      There are some days I would gladly pay in room and board for rock work!
      Hope you had a great winter.