Farmer’s Wall

Portsmouth stone walls remind us of our farm heritage. Clearing the land for crops was no easy task. It wasn’t just a one time chore.  Trees had to be cut down and stumps removed.  As the soil was plowed, rocks had to be dug out and cleared away from the planting area.  Rock removal was not just a one time process.  The winter’s freeze brought up a bumper crop of rocks every year. So what was the farmer to do with the rocks?  Removing them was heavy manual labor.  They had to find them, lift them, load them onto a cart, carrying them to the edge of the field and then off-loading them.

What did the farmer do with these discarded rocks?  They made them useful.  Instead of stacking them in mounds, they used them to form the boundary of a pasture or planting field.  This type of wall goes by several names.  “Tossed,” “thrown,” “pasture,”  “stacked” or “farmer’s” wall describe the type of wall.  Robert Thorson, in Exploring Stone Walls p.67, writes:  “In a stacked wall, the stones are placed one above the other with no concern for the fit of the stones beyond nesting them together, as if they were logs in a stack of firewood.”

The “farmer’s wall” pictured in this blog is in my backyard.  It reminds me of the farmers who cleared this land for farming.  As I look at the old maps I can name the families who farmed the land that is my yard.  I think about the Bordens, the McCorries, the Fales, and the Pierces.  As I try to preserve the wall I feel connected to them all.