Using Rocks From Rocky Soil

A pair of homesteading legends advise an Oklahoma couple there are multiple ways of using rocks buried in their homestead's rocky soil.
By Helen and Scott Nearing
July/August 1983
Add to My MSN

Think of the rocks embedded in rocky soil as a resource, not a liability.
Photo by Fotolia/Ignatius Wooster

Content Tools

Related Content

I Am An (Environmental) Hoarder

Cam rationalizes his hoarding behaviour....

Ecological Building Pioneer’s Post-Humus Book a Call to Action

Greg Franta’s work on climate change and the built environment, as reflected in his book Cooling the...

Build a Houseboat

Here is a plan for how to build your own floating cabin, "The Live Aboard Houseboat."

Now Showing: The Coolest Cactus

Old strains of holiday cactus are easy to grow, but updated varieties rebloom more often and produce...

Here in Oklahoma, my husband and I recently bought five acres of beautiful woodland situated near a lake. Since then we've discovered that the soil, though rich, is laden with rock, and we've had little success in raising a garden. Could the Nearings, who have had extensive experience with gardening on the rugged Maine coast, give us suggestions about removing boulders and/or gardening in rocky soil?

We wouldn't buy land that didn't have rocks on it! We're in our 70s and 90s, have just finished building a stone house, and are gathering rocks for a possible next one. In our “forest farm” living room, we used a plumb rock face as an attractive back wall.

Other ways of using rocks include road making, filling in dips in the land, constructing patios and walks, and walling gardens to keep unwanted creatures out. (We've built about 1,000 feet of stone walls.)

We give odd-shaped or smooth stones as gifts and mementos. When we find one with a circle around it, we give it to a child, saying, “Put this under your pillow and make the same wish every night and every morning for three weeks. If you don't forget once, you'll get your wish.”

True, sometimes you may find a stone you can't use. When we were digging our cellar in our previous home in Vermont, for instance, we came across a huge boulder. So we excavated under it and dropped it down below the needed level. On the other hand, putting an outhouse over another large slanting-rock gave us a homemade “Clivus Multrum” (the composting toilet that decomposes human excrement as the waste works down a slope)!

What's wrong with stones or rocks? They're mighty handy things to have around the place!

Helen and Scott Nearing began homesteading, in 1932, on a farm in Vermont.

Post a comment below.


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 66% Off the Cover Price

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.