Bending to pick up a stone and dropping it in the wheelbarrow brings back a flood of childhood memories. Growing up on a small farm in Co Meath we often had to help out with chores. I hated any job that required a stooped back. So dropping potato seed on beds of cow dung or wading through the muck picking freshly dug potatoes were not my favourite jobs. I wasn’t very fond of weeding the vegetable patch either or picking sticks for the fire. Funny that, cause now I like to bring back an arm-full of stick from a country walk – my mother’s daughter!
So when I decided to start tidying up the many stones around the Yank’s house I was reminded of my stone picking days as a child. My father would till a patch of ground to grow barley to feed the animals, potatoes to feed his children and turnips for both of us - does anyone mangle turnips any more I wonder. The crop would be rotated for a few years then the land was put back into grass and a new place was selected for tilling.
Once the new grass grew it was important to remove any stones that the tilling had raised to the surface. If left behind these might break the mowing machine at a later stage. Armed with a bucket we would walk in straight lines over and back across the field filling our buckets with stones. I hated it. And yet now I find myself at the Yank’s house picking much bigger stones.
If there is one thing we are not short of at the yank’s house it is stones. They are everywhere. Whether they have fallen off old walls or we dug them up as part of the work.
One of my far off dreams for the Yank’s house is to use these stones to repair some of the old walls. To create outdoor rooms, with gravel floors and places to sit. This will preserve the footprint of the yard - it’s history and the story of how it evolved to be as it is today. But in the meantime I have a lot of stone picking to do.