Sunday, April 27, 2014

Rock: The Good, The Bad and The Heavy


Rock is something we have lot of! I remember in Connecticut we used to call them Connecticut potatoes, but here in Maine, well, it probably is something more akin to Giant Dill Atlantic pumpkins. Don't get discouraged.  Though the frost brings a new crop to the surface each year, you can use them to advantage (sometimes.)

Years ago we took advantage of the past 200 years of farmers in our yard who piled and stacked rock in loosely arranged stone walls. When we put in the medieval herb garden, we dragged rock from the woods and decayed walls. Only the flattest and largest for the pathways, only rock with lichen for the uprights were used. It is amazing what two people and a lever can achieve!

But now I must use what is around for building additional retaining walls. It made me look around our neighborhood and see how others have used the local rock. Sometimes flat, but more than not, roundish and awkward, it is not easy to make a wall. Like a puzzle, but with heavier trials and errors.

I like to vary the color and shape when possible. Some rock is grey granite, and some has a pinker tone. This wall took a surprisingly long time, and is far from great. You can make a great section and then realize you used all the flat ones, and then have only round left, or you used all the pretty lichen covered grey ones in the same section and have only pink left. Sometimes you need to walk away and get some distance- mentally and physically.

At the end of our driveway is a clump of mossy, lichen covered rocks. I swear it was one of the things that sold me on this house. It looked Japanese...beautiful rocks artfully placed in a sea of pea gravel.

To see really beautiful stone, I walked back to our neighbors house (our house was part of that property more than 3/4 of the 150 years they have been standing.) They sit on the same geological formation, but they saved some of the choicest granite blocks for the front wall. I love the toadstool cap on the granite hitching post. Lovely, without being cutesy. The ash tree is also a most spectacular specimen.

Here around the barn foundation, someone with heavy machinery, has stacked some gorgeous granite specimens. This looks stunning but will be out of the question for our walls. It does amaze me that our foundation though has 4 x 6ft granite blocks holding up the house. How did they move those then?

 More humbly, and much more perplexing is our front rock wall. It has been frost heaving and collapsing for many decades,with people just throwing the fallen member back on top...not a well thought out design! I think I will start on the ends of each driveway and try and make something of the chaos..but someday might need more attention.

But I remember what a great friend said to me when I was in my 30's and frantically trying to develop the garden at our house in Redding, CT. She was from Taiwan and had a different frame of reference - she said "you know a garden takes 30 years to make, a lifetime to mature" -which reminds me of when we visited the gardens in Suzhou, China. This garden, Lion's Gate, was only about rock.... it took several generations of owners, over 100's of years, to collect the rock and place it. The rock came from all over Asia.  This helps me get new perspective  when I think things aren't coming along as they should. I will do it one rock wall at a time.

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