Wherever the glacier has been, we are blessed with fieldstones. I have a great affection for them. They are so perfectly suited for us humans: not too small to be unnoticed as you walk across the meadow, and not too large that they cannot be moved by the efforts of a man or woman, sometimes with the help of a friend, horse, ox, or a modestly proportioned tractor. Most of them can be picked up and used in a wall or other useful structure, and nearly all can be rolled into position. Iron bars and wooden sledges are helpful in persuading fieldstones to do one’s will.
Only those who work the earth, either to farm it or build on it, are intimate with fieldstones. I was an innocent high school kid when they first came to my attention. A spring crop of fieldstones raised out of the ground by frost and erosion had to be removed. Any Vermont field that was to be plowed that year and had not been cleaned of stones in the recent past had to be cleared of recently emerged stones that were large enough to encumber the plow. A couple of us ignorant teenagers were told to get out there and make friendly to cultivation a particular small field a couple of miles from the barn.
Great fun it was. We had the use of an old but faithful Farmall tractor (a lovely red tricycle of a machine: two large wheels to stern, and two small wheels forward, but so close together that it was unsafe to ride across rather than up or down the face of a hill); a sledge constructed of heavy oak planks fixed to a chain and hauled behind the Farmall; and a six foot long iron bar, weighing some 40 pounds. The object was to toss, roll, or lever the stones onto the sledge and drag them to the edges of the field where they would become new additions to stone walls that had been growing there since the early 19th century when the land was first cleared of forest. It was a full day’s work: 200+ ancient stones taken to their new purpose. And so I became a friend of fieldstones.
Decades later, my wife and I now live among the fields and forests of New England, where there are quarter million miles of stone walls and billions more stones still emerging from the earth. The stones and the stories they tell embody an ancient history, gravity, nobility, beauty, and even wisdom. They have become the perfect metaphor for the next generation of our life’s work. It is these qualities with which we strive to imbue everything we do at Fieldstone Publishing.