Rocks are usually considered a farmer’s enemy. Thanks to frost, they constantly heave up through the soil, infiltrating our fields and gardens where they’re just a nuisance when it comes time for plowing, planting and post-hole digging.
Then again, if you have a large supply of rocks on hand, perhaps you can put them to use in creative ways, making them assets rather than liabilities. Here are a few ways you can use rocks on your farm.
1. Rock Walls
This might be the most obvious way to put an abundance of rocks to use on your farm. Rock walls come in many different designs, depending on the type and shape of rock available, and they can serve numerous purposes including mere decor as well as utilitarian structures designed to keep livestock in place.
If you have access to quality stone (such as shale) and have a lot of ambition, you can try to split your stones into flat-faced pieces that stack perfectly into a beautiful wall. But if your stone is of lesser quality (or if you don’t have the time or skill to become a master stone mason), there’s nothing wrong with using what you have, as you find it, and holding the wall together with mortar. It might not last as long as a free-standing wall of pure stone (the rigidity of the mortar causes cracks to form in the wall over time), but it might be a more realistic solution for the busy hobby farmer.
2. Stone Cribs
A somewhat unusual use for rocks is as weights to hold wooden or metal fence posts in place. Essentially, all you have to do is build a large wooden box or frame—perhaps two or three feet tall and wide—and leave the top open so that you can pile rocks into the box/frame to surround a fence post standing upright inside the box/frame.
Why would you want to use rocks to hold up a fence post? Well, this can be a great solution if you need a fence post in a location where it probably won’t stay firmly in the ground on its own (such as a low spot that constantly fills with rainwater) or if you have trouble with frost heaving posts out of the ground each spring. The beauty of the stone crib? Nothing is actually installed in the ground, so it’s immune to the effects of frost.
Wondering what to do with those unbelievably huge rocks jutting out of the back field? It seems like every old farm has a few of these monsters lurking around, because they were evidently too large for early farmers to move while clearing the fields. With modern tractors and front-end loaders, removing (and moving) these hefty boulders is within the realm of possibility. But what do you do with them?
Consider making them decorative centerpieces. A couple of huge rocks on either side of a driveway can make for an eye-catching entry, and you can use slightly smaller boulders as a practical (and attractive) way to block off the edge of a driveway if you don’t want vehicles beyond a certain point. Just be careful moving them around—even with a strong tractor, these big boulders can be tricky to move.
4. “Paper Weights”
I’m not kidding. Maybe you don’t need rocks to literally hold down paper, but for weighing down objects that might blow away on a windy day, rocks are worth their weight. Typically you might use rocks to hold town a tarp covering a piece of machinery, or maybe you have something more obscure to pin down, such as a plastic swimming pool for your dogs. (Yep—been there, done that.)
What are some of the ways that you like to put rocks to use on your farm?