Picking Stone on the Farm

Cows in fog in Vermont

Wrested from the woods, came the fields and pastures for the farm. Trees cut, stumps pulled, land plowed and harrowed and seeded. And stone picked! Every time a piece was plowed to reseed, up came stones, and more stones. The family went out in force, walking so many feet apart like a band of locusts, an army advancing slowly, a sweep search of the terrain. The tractor moved slowly along, pulling the dump cart. Each stone thrown in clattered loudly, until the bottom was covered and stone upon stone muffled the sound. Age eight was about right for being sat on the tractor seat, told to steer straight down the field, and the tractor set in motion , creeping along in the lowest gear. Every so often, Dad ran alongside and stepped up to set the course straight, as easy as it was for a child to let it yaw off left or right. “Whoa!” shouted any of us who found a stone too big to pick up quickly, the rig was stopped and crow bar plied to wrest it out of the ground. Too big still? A chain was wiggled underneath, until it could be hooked to itself, and the tractor pulled it out. Too big to lift into the cart? The stoneboat was pulled along too, big and heavy, wooden, edged with iron and flat against the ground. Those big ones were rolled on, and dragged off the field. Hot and dusty and thirsty, we were glad to have Dad check his pocketwatch and declare it time to go home for dinner. Almost too dirty to wash up at the kitchen sink, how good it felt to sit down at the table, a hot dinner of meat and potatoes, vegetables and bread and butter and glasses of our own cold milk. And then pie, often pie, but sometimes tapioca or rice pudding, or maybe lemon bars or homemade sherbet. A fifteen minute rest followed, then the invariable, “Well!” from Dad, and back to work we’d go.
An open window into farm life, a first time look for some, a trip down memory lane for others.
Bette Lambert is a lifelong farmer’s wife, and she has opened a window into her farm family’s life with her book, A Farm Wife’s Journal, available HERE for purchase.


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