New England was one of the first place in North America that Europeans set down roots. I’ve always wondered why. Especially in New England.
Those people were farmers and if there’s one thing you can say about this area is that it’s not great farm country. Not only is the weather awful, but there is no topsoil in most places. It’s not a bad place for orchards and dairy cattle, but everything else? It’s pretty hard to find a large, flat area with good earth.
Between the hills, mountains, boulders, and trees, there’s almost no earth you can plow without moving a lot of rocks first. That’s from where all our stone fences emerged. They were not created to divide areas of land. The farmers just needed a place to put all the rocks.
This is also why you find rock walls in the middle of nowhere. The middle of the woods. Where the stone fences were put didn’t really have a lot to do with location, just how far they could haul that rock before they said: “Okay, this is as far as I am going!” The horses always agreed.
Eventually, someone got the bright idea to dig up the rocks and pound them into gravel. It turns out that you can never have too much gravel and sand in this world. We also have a lot of big holes in the ground that have filled up with water because no one is using them anymore.
Is there a child who, one hot summer’s day, won’t take the plunge into an old quarry? This doesn’t always work out well. Over the past few decades, cities throughout the region have been trying to fill in those holes. Too many kids diving in, hitting unexpected rocks and drowning. It would also seem that diving into a quarry is the easy part. Getting out can be fraught with challenges.
Last night, my son pointed out this his house is actually built on an old gravel pit. That probably explains why they have such a nice, flat piece of ground … but also explains why the backyard is about 12 feet lower than the front yard.
New England has quarries. Lots of them. In use, out of use, full of water. That’s what you do in a land full of rocks and roots. Dig!