Part of the landscape
text & photos : Norma A. Hubbard (April 2018)
I am a gardener, so I spend a great deal of time digging in the dirt. I am always amazed when I watch gardening shows on TV, or on YouTube, and a gardener just pushes their shovel into the ground, no resistance. I wonder, where are the rocks? In our area, there is the wonderful black muck soil, yet what I have is some dirt mixed with lots of rocks. As I write this article, my land is still covered in snow and I am waiting for spring – so bear with me as I wait for my crocuses to push through that snow with the promise that spring has truly arrived and I write about something different that seems to ‘grow’ in our area, rocks.
One of my earliest memories of rocks comes from when the English River was dug up behind my family farm on Montée Giroux. I can recall old photos of my sister and me, perched on rocks like water babies alongside the river. Huge rocks made up the banks, replacing the trees that used to line the shore. I didn’t know then why there were so many rocks, only that the rocks were warm to sit on after swimming. Years later I was told that the river was dredged in hopes of increasing its flow. As a child, I spent hours collecting rocks. I still have a few of the rocks that I collected from when I was young.
I love rocks. Nevertheless, even I get fed-up with rocks on those days where it takes me hours just to dig a hole for one plant. There have been days where I start out thinking I am just going to separate a plant and expand a section of the garden, and then two days later, I am still digging out rocks out of that one small section. I have been known to curse at a few large rocks when they have refused to move! However, for the most part, I use the rocks as part of my gardens. Of course, I have a rock garden … and people would laugh to know that many of the rocks in my rock garden are not decoration, but are there to block holes dug by the chipmunks. It seems more often than not, as soon as I have cleared an area of rocks, the chipmunks think I’ve done it for them and move in! In addition to my rock garden, I’ve made rough stone walls, inuksuks and walkways from the rocks that I’ve dug up. Moreover, even in winter, rocks continue to provide interest to my garden. As I write this article, all my plants are buried under snow, but my inuksuks look great covered in fluffy snow. The Indigenous people use inuksuks as markers to show others the way or to tell stories; I like to think my inuksuks will tell others that a lover of the land lived here long after I am gone.
There is an incredible variety of rocks in our area. While I may not know how to build a real stone wall, there are plenty of excellent examples around Hemmingford and surrounding towns. The early pioneers took advantage of these rocks and built incredible walls. Technically, many of these walls are dry stone walls, because no mortar was used to build them. The next time you drive along Covey Hill road or the 202, take notice of some of the striking stone walls that have withstood the test of time. Although I do appreciate the skill it took to build these walls, I know little about the history behind them. I know that the early settlers brought the skill with them from their rugged homelands of Ireland and Scotland. For more information on these impressive structures, you might want to check with Hemmingford Archives.
Take some time to really look at the rocks that decorate our landscapes – from the old stone walls that border many properties, to the rocks in our gardens, to rocks in and along our rivers, or even to the rocks that litter our cow pastures – it is hard to imagine our area without rocks. They are such an ancient part of our landscape.
Rocks do add a certain rugged beauty to our land, so the next time you are gardening, and like me, you find yourself cursing another rock to dig out, take a moment and remember that rocks are just another piece of the nature in our area.