Sunday, May 22, 2011

Gardening in New England Rocks (Bad Pun Fully Intended)

Anyone who lives in New England can probably tell you what our most common native crop is-- rocks, of every shape and size.  Just this morning, I was working with my dad to reopen our old vegetable garden, which has been empty for a few years when we were all too busy for it, and found at least fifty rocks in a 10' by 12' area.  To put this in perspective, the garden was in use for at least ten to twelve years prior to the few years it's been lying fallow.  Somehow, in all that time, we still failed to remove all the rocks.  Every year, more appear.

Boyfriend attributes it to erosion, arguing that as the topsoil washes away, more rocks are revealed.  This makes sense, but he's never lived here to get a perspective on how ridiculously many rocks can show up in a brief period of time.  Thus, I prefer my own argument-- that New England rocks know how to migrate.

Either way, and despite all the rocks, I'm really excited to be reopening the garden.  Unfortunately, the more I sank into school and work over the past few years, the less time I got to spend outdoors, and I miss that.  Homegrown vegetables are also better than ones from the store, if only because you appreciate the work that went into them!  This year, I'm attempting , zucchini, cucumbers, green beans, carrots, radishes, watermelon and a few varieties of tomato.  We'll have to see how they turn out!

Farming in New England is overall an interesting phenomenon.  When I was driving to Virginia a few weeks ago, I was listening to the very funny book A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson, where the author and a friend attempted to hike the Appalachian Trail.  When discussing the New England segment of the trail, which spans almost all of the East Coast, Bryson wrote that colonial New England was (I believe) 30% forest and 70% farmland.  At the time when he was writing his book, the late 1990s, these numbers had swapped entirely, a really unusual reversal of progress. 

In large part, however, this didn't result from a lack of good soil for farming.  Rather, it was a result of increasing economies of scale associated with mechanized farming.  The hills and rocks of New England meant that farms simply weren't large enough for the huge machines that work so well in the Midwestern states.  So farming moved there, and New England reverted to forest.

A recent article I found, however, argued that with rising gas prices, the worth of local farming might increase, bringing year-round production back to New England.  I have to admit, it's a persuasive argument.  The Farmer's Market near my house in Ann Arbor has great food of all types, fresher and cheaper than those at the grocery store.  And when buying plants for my garden this morning, I got all seven varieties of vegetables and fruit for under $20.  As long as I do it right, the amount of food they'll produce for me is well over that amount. 

Regardless, it'll be a nice change to have something manual to do this summer in between my research and writing.  And the results should be delicious!

1 comment:

  1. You know, the rocks could be carried. By a swallow.