It must have been May of 1992. I was in my freshman year of high school. That year we happened to have an authentic foreign language teacher. It was a Friday and she asked the class what we were doing over the weekend.
After thinking for a few seconds, a friend and I replied we were going to a rock party. What? The Rolling Stones are playing? Well, growing up in a small town community, most of the students in class understood exactly what we were saying. Our teacher, however, didn’t catch on. The next Monday she sincerely asked how the concert was.
That memory popped into my head more than once this spring. We had a chance to get a crew picking rocks on the farm we added last year. Not every farm needs this treatment, but this one did. My mom usually coordinates all that stuff as dad and I are still busy with other farm work. Finding labor is not easy, but now that four of my children are capable to do this work it is a bit easier. Along with them, we had a high school student from the area. One of the tillage tractor drivers drove the backhoe and kept them moving.
It is a short season between the time corn is planted and when it gets too tall to get across without doing a lot of damage. You just never know if this kind of work will get done, a big rain at the wrong time can put an end to it before it even starts. The season was shortened a bit more with a couple of rain days and a couple of days that were too hot. Usually, they worked from 8 to noon or 1 p.m. In the span of a couple of weeks, they picked up rocks on about 50 acres.
The rocks were thick. Even though our rule is don’t pick up anything smaller than a softball, in a quarter-mile-long field working a 60-foot wide swath, several times they came out with more than the front bucket could hold.
So, what do we do with this ‘field stone’? We hope to sell some of it as we have about $150 an hour in labor and machine cost. It would be nice to recoup some of the expenses. Every year there is talk of packaging field stone in totes and sending it off to spring consignment sales. That hasn’t happened yet, but maybe someday.
I know somebody is wondering why we don’t use a mechanical rock picker. Well, it just didn’t work for us. We never had enough time to run it. When the time was right, we needed to be planting or doing something else.