Tag Archive | weather patterns

Emerging Rocks

Periodically, rocks buried in the soil at our farm will come to the surface.  This is usually a very slow process aided by weather conditions.  It can take years, decades, or in the case of huge boulders, centuries for the rocks to be pushed out of the dirt.  After many years of mowing the fields and orchards, I have memorized the locations of all the rocks that jut from the surface enough to catch the mower blades.  Or, at least I thought I had.

In recent years new rocks have lifted their heads within just a few winters.  The piece of granite above is an example.  It measures about 3.5 ft x 2 ft and for most of my lifetime at the farm has been nearly submerged.  The stone is a piece from the cellar of a barn that stood on our property back in the 1800s.  Until recently I have been able to mow right over this chunk of granite.  Starting around four years ago, things changed.  I hit the thing with my mower blade.

Trying to mow a rock with a rotary mowing machine is not recommended.  I cringe whenever I hear that telltale ringing crunch of metal on stone.  Luckily, it is a rare occurrence since removing the mower blades for sharpening is a tedious, time-consuming task.  Yet, in the past few years I have caught several previously unknown rocks that have suddenly surfaced.  What is so quickly moving these buried chunks of mountaintop or ledge?  Most likely the power of ice.

Our weather here in central Maine has changed since I was young.  Even in the last ten years there have been noticeable shifts in patterns, something I’ve discussed in prior posts.  The current pattern involves much more rain in winter.  Storms that once would have been pounding Nor-easter blizzards now deluge us in rain.  The ground does not freeze as deeply as it once did so the water soaks in.  Since it is still Maine in winter, a heavy rainstorm in December is often followed by several days of below-zero F temperatures.  All that moisture runs down around and under the rocks in the ground and then freezes.

Freezing water expands with an irresistible power.  The ice crystals push the rocks higher and higher until they break the surface.  I believe the new warmth and excess rain are why rocks are appearing with such annoying regularity when I’m mowing.  And also why older rocks are rapidly working their way more completely from the earth.  As they pop to the surface, most of these stones can be loosened with the tractor bucket and moved out of the way.  The great chunk of granite above will require some effort with chains, pry bars and the tractor to get it out of the middle of a hayfield.  I’ll put that job on my To Do list.

Ides of March and an Early Spring

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This 15th of March brings a very early spring for us.  The robins and red-winged blackbirds returned last week, a sure sign of warm weather.  Yesterday I heard a killdeer.  Those water birds return to nest near our farm pond.  Most years if the killdeer arrived this early, they would be dealing with ice and snow.  This year the pond is nearly iced out.  The next three days of forecast rain should finish off the ice lingering in one corner.

Wild ducks have been flocking inland from the ocean for a couple weeks.  Any day I expect to hear the aerial acrobatics of the woodcocks’ mating rituals.  Once that starts, spring peeper frogs and mosquitoes are not far behind.  Maple syrup season is finishing up as the trees bud.  The sap began flowing in early February.  Most years March 15 is right in the middle of sap season.  An early spring for us, indeed!

The Ides of March are famously associated with the assassination of Julius Caesar.  He was killed on March 15, 44 BC by members of the Roman senate who feared his power as a dictator. Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar, features a soothsayer warning Caesar to beware the Ides.  This bit of fiction led to the date becoming part of our culture.

In ancient Rome, the ides of a month were the middle of the period.  The word connoted divide.  It was traditionally a time to settle debts.  Depending on the length of the month, the ides fell on either the 13th or the 15th.  Perhaps Caesar’s killers chose the ides because they symbolically wished to settle their debt with the ruler.  The Ides of March are a reminder of the bloody fate of a tyrant, and a warning for all over-reaching politicians.