This outburst of rocky recreation was occasioned by the replacement of our old crumbling-asphalt driveway with a gravel driveway that can accommodate both our car and the cars of our tenants. The construction of that new feature on our homestead was made easier — no, actually, made possible — by big, noisy machines running on fossil fuels, our “energy slaves.” No one in business around here harnesses the amount of human or animal muscle power needed to dig, haul and spread all that material.
But in the aftermath of this project, I found a playground for my human capacities for imagination, design and hand/muscle work.
First I fit together flat expanses of flagstones to create a patio under our kiwi trellis and walkways from front door to new driveway. Making these intricate jigsaw puzzles of rock had me on my knees for days. (Thank you, trusty foam kneeling pad!) We used the existing materials we had on hand, and then seated them in the stone dust left over from the driveway project.
The greatest challenge was moving the gigantic flat stones that it once took three strong young men to bring down from the old family homestead in Deerfield. Moving these stones required Nick and me to utilize the utmost capacity of our backs and muscles to lever the smaller stone onto the wheelbarrow and move it into place. The second was even bigger and heavier, so we resorted to rolling the stone into place on a series of round poles. This engineering method probably erected the pyramids, the stone circles of Britain and the gigantic stone heads of Easter Island.
The next phase of my stone play involved building walls to serve as tree wells to protect trees from the higher ground level of the new driveway. I built a wall around the sugar maple tree using thick concrete chunks we had been given years ago, now re-purposed from an old pathway. The tree well protecting the pear tree I built of field stones, many of which we had dug up from this property over the years. They were originally part of stone walls that my father, Carl Krogh, helped me build when we first moved to this house in the 1980’s (shown in photo).
I felt my father’s spirit enlivening me as I lugged and fitted together the stones. He loved to work around his yard, and built many beautiful stone walls over the years. I feel like an inheritor of his love of stonework and digging and other muscular yardwork.
The last two stone projects I’ve completed, like the maple tree well, involve recycled “urbanite.” That term is sometimes used to describe the chunks of hard and durable human-made material, like concrete and asphalt, that result when old roads, sidewalks and buildings are replaced. I used two large concrete hunks to fashion steps up to one of our rain barrels, and used some of the larger asphalt pieces to extend a paved pathway back to our bike shed. “Urbanite” isn’t as beautiful as real stone, but the price is right, and its productive use avoids adding it to the waste stream.
So I’ve been having loads of fun, but I realize that those who construct hardscaping for a living might see this work from another angle. Robert Frost addresses this in his poem “Two Tramps in Mud Time”:
Out of the woods two hulking tramps
(From sleeping God knows where last night,
But not long since in the lumber camps).
They thought all chopping was theirs of right….
Nothing on either side was said.
They knew they had but to stay their stay
And all their logic would fill my head:
As that I had no right to play
With what was another man’s work for gain.
My right might be love but theirs was need.
And where the two exist in twain
Theirs was the better right — agreed.
But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future’s sakes.
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