It has been said that stone walls are Vermont’s signature landform. More to the point, Vermont writer Castle Freeman Jr. writes, “… if a stone wall a fraction as long as the walls of Vermont alone had been built by the order of some old king or emperor, it would be one of the wonders of the world.” The reason why so many stones were stacked into walls throughout Vermont is because when the glaciers were formed in centuries past, they trapped many rocks within them. When the glaciers later receded, they left millions of tons of rocks behind.
Throughout the centuries, many early Vermont farmers would find that their farmland would have many stones on it that weren’t there previously. Before a farmer plowed a farm, there were probably few rocks scattered throughout the farm. When a farm is plowed however, it causes layers of soil beneath the surface to push up their rocks from the underlying soil layers. This problem was especially evident in Vermont because of its rocky and stone filled soil. Many farmers would have to remove the rocks on their farm if they wanted to plow it again, only to find that they would have to repeat the process of removing stones, again and again. It’s like they were growing stones. Consequently, field stone became an abundant natural building material that found its way into the foundations, water wells, and the retaining and boundary walls that are scattered throughout Vermont to this day.
Every day we are reminded of this legacy of stone because of the October Country Inn’s Vermont hill farm heritage. From the stacked stone foundation that still supports the inn’s old farmhouse core, to the artful construction of the barnyard’s retaining wall, to the stone lined hand-dug well out back, meandering around the property can easily become a trip back through time. Many questions come to mind. Just look at the detail and incredible precision with how the stones are set in the barnyard’s retraining wall. In order for such a retaining wall to do its job, the width at the base of the wall must be as wide as the wall is high, tapering in width at the wall rises in height. That’s an awful lot of rock to move around.
We live in the midst of this past work that is so easy to take for granted. These stone works are cultural resources left behind by the people who once lived here, in the same spot where we now live. We are humbled by their legacy of stone. We will not take it for granted.