The dream had come true. After several years of apartment living our first real home was just what we wanted -- a 1785 farmhouse with hand-hewn beams and ridiculously wide pine floorboards, a stream, acreage with fields and woodlands, a New England town of fewer than one thousand. The farm had been in the same family for two centuries until it was sold right after The War to Mr. A. who lived there for three decades before selling it to a family that found the house too small and after just a couple of years sold it all to us.
We moved in late in June, too late, we thought, to plant the large vegetable garden we imagined somewhere behind the house. That would have to wait to the next spring. For this year, I chose a spot along the country lane, a space open and grass covered, flat while bordered on two sides by sloping land, and with full sun. Perfect for now, I thought.
With spading fork in hand I walked out the door, enthusiastic and joyful. I paced off our small garden right in the center of the flat area and turned over the first forkful of earth. And turned over a couple of fist sized rocks. These were removed and tossed to the side. The next forkful yielded similar rocks. And the next and almost every one thereafter.
"Wow. I know New England soil is supposed to be rocky but this is ridiculous."
It was a longer afternoon than I had expected but I was hardly going to quit on the first day. By dinnertime I had a small plot dug up and, next to it, a large pile of rocks.
"How's it going," my sweetheart asked as we sat down to our simple dinner.
"Uh, not as fast as I thought. I think the garden will be smaller than we planned this year."
Still, by summer's end we delighted in our little garden's production; green beans, zucchini, tomatoes and the like. One day an elderly gentleman came to the door and introduced himself as Mr. A. He was back in town to visit friends and stopped by to look at his old home. We welcomed him into the house and walked together outside. He noted our garden with undisguised bemusement.
"That spot used to be a hollow. I had a fella come by with a couple truckloads of rocks and dump them there and then covered it with a couple inches of dirt. Musta been twenty-five years ago."
The next year our large garden was behind the house. I got a rototiller and turned over a few stones here and there.
Originally appeared in Green Prints.