Clearing The Land Of Rocks

Pipestone Flyer

    In the early years of farming, many tasks were done manually, including the job everyone hated; clearing the land of rocks. Each spring as the ice and snow left the fields, the field that had been completely cleared of rocks the previous spring was once again, dotted with a new crop of rocks.  Clearing the land of rocks was one of the first tasks each spring. They were picked by hand and hauled off the field to prevent damage to the cultivating, planting and harvesting equipment.   

    During the summer when it rains the water moves around a rock carrying tiny bits of soil underneath it, gradually moving the rock to the surface. The same is true of frost. As frost heaves the ground, the rock is moved and again, soil is displaced under the rock causing it to gradually rise to the surface.  As verified each spring, the supply under the surface seems to be never ending.

    Eventually mechanical rock pickers pulled behind a tractor were developed but in the early years rocks were picked by hand. This was probably one of the most tiring and boring jobs on the farm, although weeding the garden was right up there. The job involved walking alongside a wagon with a low-sided box that was pulled by a team of horses and picking the rocks from strips 8 – 10 meters wide. The rock picking crew would proceed up and down the field until the entire field had been covered.  

    The team of horses were ideal for this chore as they didn’t require a driver, thus providing an extra pair of hands to pick rocks. Once the horses were set on a course would proceed straight down the field and would move forward or stop on the verbal commands ‘get-up and whoa’.  Occasionally they would have to be re-directed but it was amazing how straight they would go.  

    Rocks too big to lift onto the wagon were rolled up a heavy plank (ramp) onto the wagon.  Very big rocks were rolled onto a “stone boat”, a 4-ft by 6-ft (1½ by 2 metre) steel toboggan pulled by a team of horses or the tractor.  If too big to roll onto the stone boat, the rocks were removed by wrapping a heavy (“logging”) chain around them and pulling them to the side of the field with a team of horses or the tractor. 

    Driving through the countryside today, tidy rows of rocks can still be seen lining the fence lines; rocks that were placed there through the hated but necessary tedious task of early pioneer families.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ryan Jake Applegarth, 27, charged with First Degree Murder

RCMP Major Crimes Unit seeking male wanted on first degree murder charge

Land re-zoned to accommodate new church building

County of Wetaskiwin council approves re-zoning at Malmo Church property

Wetaskiwin police say thief broke into locker, stole debit card

Wetaskiwin RCMP investigate theft, fraud, seek information and ID suspect

Two men charged after stolen vehicles, property seized near Wetaskiwin

Wetaskiwin/Camrose RCMP investigate possession of stolen property, more

Rosebrier 4-H Beef Club January report

Rosebrier public speaking event coming up this weekend

VIDEO: Feds look to help 126 Canadians quarantined in China for coronavirus

China has confirmed more than 4,500 cases of the new virus, with more than 100 deaths

Landowner hearings begin for Trans Mountain expansion in Alberta

Detailed route talks start in Spruce Grove, in B.C. communities soon

UPDATE: Sylvan Lake RCMP say missing female located

19-year-old Alyssa Manderville was last seen in Blackfalds on Jan. 26

Watch out for scams, clickbait in the wake of Kobe Bryant’s death: Better Business Bureau

Kobe Bryant and his daughter were killed in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles

Despite reports of decline, birds flocking to national parks in Canadian Rockies

Recent studies suggest overall bird population has slid by three billion since 1970

Pregnant B.C. woman stuck in Wuhan, the epicentre of coronavirus outbreak

Woman is due to give birth in Wuhan, China unless she can get out

Majority of Canadian boards had no female members in 2016 and 2017: StatCan

Statistics Canada says 18.1 per cent of director seats were held by women in 2017

VAUGHAN: Childhood heroes like Kobe are supposed to be immortal

Kobe Bryant tragically passed away in a helicopter crash that claimed the lives of nine people

Most Read