PHOTO: Bernard Spragg. NZ/Flickr
Just last week, I voiced the opinion that early spring is the perfect time to remove rocks from your fields because the melting of winter snowfall leaves the ground soft and malleable, making it much easier to dig up the rocks.
In the past, I’ve outlined some of the tools you can use to remove rocks from the ground, but that’s only half the equation—once the rocks are out of the ground, what do you do with them? Small ones are easy enough (just pile them in a yard cart and haul them away), but large rocks weighing a hundred pounds or more are another matter entirely.
With that in mind, why don’t we “dig” in and examine a few logical and/or creative ways to transport large rocks around your farm….
Easily the most ideal choice for moving rocks is to use the front end loader on your tractor to scoop them up and cart them away. You’ll be limited to some extent by the size and lifting ability of your loader, but assuming you’re not trying to move six-foot boulders, a well-equipped tractor should be adequate for this task.
If you’re not worried about tearing up the ground, it’s pretty straightforward to tie ropes or chains around large rocks (tightly, of course) and use a tractor or ATV to pull them to a different location. This will almost certainly leave a rut marking the journey of the rock, but if you’re clearing a field for plowing, that won’t make a difference. Just make sure you won’t get hit if the ropes or chains break loose under pressure and come flying back toward you.
If you’re looking for pure simplicity with hardly any tools involved, there’s not much easier than attaching rope to a piece of plywood and creating the world’s simplest wagon. Just find a few people to help you wrestle big rocks onto the plywood, then tie the plywood to your tractor or ATV and be on your way. An advantage here: Plywood is much kinder to the ground than simply dragging the rock on its own.
If you want to take the world’s simplest wagon concept a little bit further, you can follow our step-by-step instructions for building a stone boat. The angled front helps it slide smoothly, the board at the rear end prevents rocks from slipping off the back, and the higher-quality construction is ideal for large rocks while ensuring that the stone boat lasts a long time.
For short distances over generally flat terrain, see if you can get the rock onto 10 or so metal pipes or wooden rollers. Depending on the size and shape of the rock, you might need to place a piece of wood between the rock and rollers, but the idea is that you can smoothly roll the rock forward by continuously shifting the rear-most roller to the front of the line, providing a constant track on which the rock can advance. This is commonly put forth as an explanation for how the massive stones at Stonehenge were transported.
Similar in size and shape to the stone boat, a polyethylene snow sled (also commonly used in water) can carry a sizable load without beating up the ground. I’ve found that tipping the sled on its side lets you easily roll the rocks onto the (now horizontal) side of the sled. Flipping the sled upright again shifts the rocks to the bottom so that you can be on your way.
What techniques do you use for moving large rocks around your farm?