Monday, June 27, 2011

Picking Rock

            The West Boulder valley is appropriately named – the experts say that a glacier moved through the area some years back, leaving behind a large supply of rounded stones littering the landscape.
            The soil on the West Boulder is a nice deep silt, and there’s plenty of it, so the hay is abundant in the fields along the river.  But rock-picking is a time-honored tradition, and there are piles of rocks beside every field where four generations have tried to keep the surface relatively clear.
            This good silt, however, is subject to erosion, and our May deluge washed a huge rut down through the road near the shop.  It will take months to gather enough material to fill the road back in, and I bought a dump truck to help with the task.
            Normally in June we are primarily occupied with irrigating and fencing.  But the unusually wet weather has eliminated the need for irrigating the hayfields, and a muddy road has kept us down off the mountain.  There are still plenty of weeds to spray, but we have been working as time allows at filling in a crossing to allow direct access across the washout and up to the house.

            We began by cleaning up a litter of rocks that had rolled down off a ridge in Coyote Gulch.  One of us would drive the tractor while the other directed the position of the loader and threw in loose rocks.  Twelve bucket-loads of rocks was enough weight in the dump truck to make a load.  After six truck-loads of rocks we had cleared off several acres, and had sufficient base for our crossing.  Then we went looking for some larger rocks.

            A neighboring rancher was in danger of losing a pond to erosion and needed some rip-rap.  We hauled him a load of big rocks, and he in turn loaded us from a pile of smaller debris that washed down the creek and into his pond.  This debris worked well to fill in over the rock we had already dumped into the rut.  The next step will be a load of gravel hauled out from town, and we will once again be able to drive directly up to the house.

            We spend days picking rock every time a field is plowed - frost continually heaves rock toward the surface. Yet this year when we have a need for that rock we have nothing plowed up.  No one has ever picked rock off the sod before, so it was quite satisfying to clean up a few places where loose rock was littering the grass. 
But now we’ve gotten the easy stuff, and the return on our time and fuel is diminishing.  We’ll finish our crossing, then turn our attention to haying.  I have an idea of a source for fill material from a hayfield up west - a rocky knob that juts out into the field.  That will be a project for the fall.

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