Friday, July 20, 2012


Friday, July 20, 2012

Darker than a pocket right now even though there are a few stars out. Karl the Wonder Dog does not please at 3:30 in the morning and he heard something that didn't make him or me happy. I fumbled around in the dark finding my shoes until I stubbed my toe and put on a light. That only raised a nasty comment from the darkness. There was something big outside but I couldn't see what it was. It sounded more like a bear than a coyote but in the darkness, who knows. Now I'm tired and grouchy but here's a little unrelated story anyway. Picture is up top.

Many towns and cities in Vermont have reached their limits on water and sewer systems. I always marvel at the story behind Rutland, Vermont where the chief engineer completed the city's projects and then went away to fight in the Civil War. That means very old systems exist and replacement is long overdue.

Nearby Barre, Vermont, a granite capital of the world, started a renewal project last year and it is supposed to be finished this fall. Replacing all the water and sewer lines is a big project and to date I haven't heard of any special "finds" such as have occurred in Burlington where north end digs have come up with cemeteries of War of 1812 vintage. If the diggers in Barre have found anything, they have been quiet.

What has been of interest to the project and to gardeners and landscapers is the old streets, buried under layers of asphalt. The original roads were first just packed dirt but in Barre they were later laid with granite cobblestones, a stone in abundance. Someone in Barre government noted the magnitude of the truckloads of cobblestones and they set up a dumping site off Falwell Street where locals could go and load up cobblestones for free. This was a gardeners dream--of sorts.

Access requires that you are a Barre resident and that you go to the engineering office in the basement of City Hall for an application. It's a one page, simple little form that says you can get up to 500 cobblestones for your personal use and that you are a resident of the city.

These cobblestones vary in size but probably average out to being 6"-7" wide and thick and 10"-12" long. They have a smooth side and a rough side and some have cement still stuck on in places. The more difficult part is that the stones are in a pile of dirt and you kind of have to work through the pile and pick out the unbroken ones. Every day or so the city runs a bucket loader down the pile and more stones are more easily accessed. I have been going regularly with friend Michelle as she will build a patio and perhaps a garden wall in the back of her new house. But the real deal here is that free is nice but heavy is what the project is really about. Granite averages more than 165 pounds per cubic foot and good granite is on the 195 pound side of the equation. That means that stones add up. We use my truck but even that has limits that are reached quickly. Those who come in little cars arrive with smiles and leave with their front tires just touching the ground. Not a good idea but these cobblestones are so nice that every gardener can imagine garden walkways and raised beds in keeping with the local architecture.

Michelle's plan was to get stones while they are free and get on with the building when other more important parts of her home rehab are completed. If you wanted similar stones like the ones sold at the big box stores for landscape projects, you'd be paying almost $4 a piece. That means that 500 stones is worth a bundle and that part of the numbers make the work seem like the bargain that it is. The pile continues to shrink and who knows how many stones were trucked away to a landfill instead of being offered up for the citizens. Recently I have heard that non residents have been granted permits too so as to get rid of the current pile. If you are in the area and interested, just check. Michelle needs a few more and the lugging part of the project should be over this weekend. I can't wait until she starts the real project as I know it will look really nice. Maybe you have a similar project that needs some cobblestones too.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where it's really quiet and I am thinking seriously about sneaking back into bed. Have a nice day and come visit us at Vermont Flower Farm where the daylilies are in peak bloom.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
On Facebook as Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens and also as George Africa
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm
And always here to help you grow your green thumb!

1 comment:

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