genegerue at ruralize.com
Tue Oct 11 21:18:41 EDT 2005
A recent story about a stingy grandmother reminded me of one of my first
jobs in the country. In 1952 or 1953, when I was 16 and 17, I was hired by
a neighbor farmer to pick stones off his newly plowed fields. In our
Wisconsin post-glacial area, stones rose like spring weeds, lifted each
winter by the freezing of the soil, moving ever upward.
I was paid five dollars a day. The work was straightforward: get the stones
off the field. I was given my choice of a small tractor or a light team to
pull the stoneboat. The first day I chose the tractor; thereafter I used
the team. The tractor required climbing on and off whenever I needed to
move forward. The team responded to vocal commands.
A stoneboat is typically made of two or three oak planks joined by a couple
cross boards bolted together. The thick planks are shaped upward at the
front, to avoid digging into the soil as the boat is moved forward. A chain
is secured at the front, to which the pulling force is attached.
The intelligence of the design is simple: stones are heavy; lifting stones
is hard on the back; rolling stones is easier than lifting them; a wooden
sled that rises but two or three inches off the ground makes for easy
loading of stones by rolling.
Here at Heartwood I have not yet made a proper stoneboat but I will. For
now I have a sled I made years ago to move supplies down the steep driveway
when it is iced over. Yesterday I used the sled to move the very heavy
twelve-inch planer with five horsepower motor about two hundred feet.
Rolled the planer onto its side on the sled, used the ancient farm truck to
Most of us today know better than to plow. A stoneboat has uses other than
to clear a field. If you have stones in quantity and wish to use them for
building, I recommend you build a stoneboat and use it to gather your
stash. And if you have anything really heavy and want to move it, why,
slide it onto the stoneboat and save your back. Or, just give the kids a
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