Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Old Stone Fencerows

Among the most remarkable things in the rural landscape of the Beaver Valley are the old stone fencerows. Created by the pioneers when originally clearing the land for homesteads, these are permanent reminders of their enormous effort. They created a landscape of small fields bordered by trees, and they become startlingly visible in November - December.

I am absolutely amazed by the size of the rocks they moved, even the smaller ones. I've seen pictures of how this was done, using a team of horses, a huge tripod of poles, and a block and tackle for the large ones - a far cry from the easy stone picking we still do today. Three rocks in our own fencerow are half the size of a small car! And most of the rocks would be far larger than even two men working together could move.

Almost more amazing are the built-up stone walls, made of smaller rocks that could be packed into a solid structure. These form straight lines through the woods, or down the side of a lane, and some of them are still standing 150 years later.

I see these old fencerows almost everywhere I turn, though much moreso on top of the Niagara Escarpment where it is stonier, than in the actual valley, which has clay soil at the surface. They are most remarkable to me where they mark an old homestead now otherwise gone.

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