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What to do with lots of Rocks and Boulders

 
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Hello all, I'm new here but have been listening to podcasts and learning all I can. Wondering if you all can help me with ideas for all this rock I just pulled up from an irrigation project. I've got 80 acres in Western, CO and I have lots of rocks ranging in size from being able to pick up by hand to too big to get with the loader of my 70hp tractor. I've been dumping them in the ditches on each side of my property but I am wondering if there are better applications. Right now I have an old, unkempt, orchard (apricots, apples, pears, and plums), typical garden, and the rest in hay fields being sprinkle irrigated. I looked up some dry stacking stuff but these are boulders for the most part so i don't know if this is something I could do.

Any thoughts or suggestions are appreciated.

(I've tried to look for landscapers to sell rock to but I had no luck in that arena as well.)

Thanks,
Ryan
 
Ryan Koeneke
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oh ya and I have a slight downward slope to the whole property on a mesa at about 6,300 ft facing north with gullies on both sides of the property. I've just been haying it but i'm wondering if there are good things I can do with these rocks since I have to move them outta the hay field anyways.
 
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Location: west marin, bay area california. sandy loam, well drained, acidic soil and lots of shade
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I'm certain others will have lots of ideas. I wish I had lots of big boulders. they are good for creating micro climates and also for holding moisture in the ground. When we go on long drives here I like to look out the window for the big boulders and look at what plants in the area have chosen to grow near them it is always facinating to me to see the differences in the plants right around a boulder and the plants far from them.
 
gardener
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Here are a few ideas of what rocks can do:

-Gabions are big walls or piles of rocks designed to retain and capture moisture, check out Geoff Lawton on gabions and a thread started by Cassie Rauk about air wells which are based on the same principle.

-A rock swale (essentially a ditch filled with rocks and plants on the sides) could be built, or a ninja/stealth pond! like Paul Wheaton talks about somewhere in his fun informative keynote presentation:

A ninja pond is essentially a pond built with with large rocks on bottom, slightly smaller rocks, and then slightly smaller even until you progressively get sand and dirt on top. Then it is covered with plants on top. This way you get the benefits of a pond, but NINJA-STYLE!!! The main reason for ninja ponds is that some places don't allow ponds on their properties. I'm paraphrasing Paul's keynote here if you don't want to watch the entire thing to find it.

-Create reptile habitat: easy enough. Lay rocks around your property and leave them alone. Reptiles love rocks because of its high thermal mass which helps them maintain an internal temperature and stay alive. In return for leaving the rocks and reptiles alone, they'll eat the pests on your property and protect your gardens.
 
Ryan Koeneke
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Thanks Dave, I'd seen that keynote (one of the first permaculture things I watched about a month back). I'll look into gabions though, I haven't seen what Mr. Lawton was doing with those. Thanks for the tips, they are greatly appreciated!!!
 
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Hi Ryan,

Welcome to Permies.com....

I LOVE Rock...climbing them, carving them...laying them (laying on them)...stacking them...Oh Boy...rocks and the things you can do with them.

Since you asked, I would suggest perhaps getting some books on geology, dry laid rock walling, general stone work, and move on from there. Gabions are great for so many things too! I helped build my first gabion basket over 35 years ago and have seen amazing things done with them since then.

Selling rock is only (typically) viable when there is easy access, the quality is good, and there has been some "pre sorting" and palleted...then you can often sell them but it usually is in the "bulk" format at whole sale prices, or you need to market them yourself. If you do...it is hard work but can be lucrative it done correctly.

Do you know the different ways to split stone and would that be of interest?

Do you have any neighbors close by that may benefit from your bounty?

Do you need any buildings built?

That the best start I have to offer, but would gladly try to answer any questions you have?

Again, welcome!

Regards,

j
 
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My ideas would be to use them as a permanent mulch in your orchard. In my pastures the largest and healthies apple trees are the ones that have had rocks picked from the field dumped around them. If you are looking to add some one story buildings you may want to build them from rocks using slipforms in the stylr of the Nearings.
 
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I'm collecting some of mine in one place to make a petanque court (halfway down the article).
 
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I'd save them or set them up for stabilizing Swales and terraces on steeper slopes. They might also act as a slow drain for your Swales so pick their location carefully. And I second the microclimate idea!
You may find, as I have that you can move larger rocks with the bucket of your tractor by skidding them. Just push the bucket under them to reduce friction and gain control then push them without lifting.
And in my experience you can't gain much by selling rocks. If you have them so do those nearby. The value is in trucking them long distance, not a big help to you. On our farm we have just piled them for decades in an easy to reach location (ie not in a ditch:) for use later. They were traditionally used as boundaries. We have two hundred year old rock boundary walls long after the generations have forgotten where the line was.
Happy stacking!
 
master pollinator
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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Rocks can be laid out so as to provide a snow fence. Large specimens mixed with small laid across the prevailing wind will trap snow within the mass as well as on the leeward side.
Snow melt along with wind and evaporation protection can allow trees and bushes to thrive in landscapes that wouldn't normally support them. These trees and bushes increase the effectiveness of the windbreak and snow fence. The British might call this a hedgerow. Wildlife will use it.

The same structure laid on contour, could be used to construct a sort of swale without a lot of excavating. Simply lay out the rocks and dump any unwanted brush, stumps, soil, crop residue etc. on the up hill side. Leaves from the shrubs will fall into this tangle. Water and eroded soil will accumulate.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
Check out the Talus Garland effect. Google it or scroll down until you see the graphic of the rocks and tree in this thread. --- https://permies.com/t/31304/desert/Rubble-Rock-Fog-Wall-Swale
 
Ryan Koeneke
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Jake Myers wrote:My ideas would be to use them as a permanent mulch in your orchard. In my pastures the largest and healthies apple trees are the ones that have had rocks picked from the field dumped around them. If you are looking to add some one story buildings you may want to build them from rocks using slipforms in the stylr of the Nearings.



This won't require a rock crusher right? I guess I don't really how you'd use them as permanent mulch (just circles around the drip line with a guild inside)?
 
Ryan Koeneke
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Dale Hodgins wrote:Rocks can be laid out so as to provide a snow fence. Large specimens mixed with small laid across the prevailing wind will trap snow within the mass as well as on the leeward side.
Snow melt along with wind and evaporation protection can allow trees and bushes to thrive in landscapes that wouldn't normally support them. These trees and bushes increase the effectiveness of the windbreak and snow fence. The British might call this a hedgerow. Wildlife will use it.

The same structure laid on contour, could be used to construct a sort of swale without a lot of excavating. Simply lay out the rocks and dump any unwanted brush, stumps, soil, crop residue etc. on the up hill side. Leaves from the shrubs will fall into this tangle. Water and eroded soil will accumulate.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
Check out the Talus Garland effect. Google it or scroll down until you see the graphic of the rocks and tree in this thread. --- https://permies.com/t/31304/desert/Rubble-Rock-Fog-Wall-Swale




Thank you all for the great responses. I need a snow fence on a part of the lane into my place. The road sits in a bit of a trough with the uphill (south) side seeming to have the prevailing wind in the winter. The lane has a row of apple trees on this south side and a barbed wire fence running down the side as well. To begin this I would stack rocks up and down the barbed wire fence for the length that I need the snow fence. However, the questions I have are:

How high does the rock pile need to be for an adequate snow fence? (I will try and get pictures here in a bit)
How much stuff do I need to pile on these rocks or will just rocks do enough for the fence?
Can I gain any benefits for this style rock pile for the existing (or future) fruit trees along this lane? (ie would this be a better place for cherries or apricots that have high chances of frost due to the radiant heat from this pile in the spring?_

 
Dave Burton
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This would not require a rock crusher. It is advised to leave the rocks whole because of their thermal mass. A permanent rock mulch is just leaving rocks around your property and letting them sit there. They retain the heat, accumulate moisture because of their thermal inertia (heat and coldness being transferred over time through the medium of thermal mass), provide habitat for protectors/predators, gather silt and dust particles from wind passing through, and leach minerals as the rocks weather and erode. I think this is what they meant by a permanent mulch. The rocks provide benefits by "just" being there.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Ryan Koeneke wrote:[Thank you all for the great responses. I need a snow fence on a part of the lane into my place. The road sits in a bit of a trough with the uphill (south) side seeming to have the prevailing wind in the winter. The lane has a row of apple trees on this south side and a barbed wire fence running down the side as well. To begin this I would stack rocks up and down the barbed wire fence for the length that I need the snow fence. However, the questions I have are:

How high does the rock pile need to be for an adequate snow fence? (I will try and get pictures here in a bit)
How much stuff do I need to pile on these rocks or will just rocks do enough for the fence?
Can I gain any benefits for this style rock pile for the existing (or future) fruit trees along this lane? (ie would this be a better place for cherries or apricots that have high chances of frost due to the radiant heat from this pile in the spring?_



Your snow fence will consist of the rocks and the trees and bushes that grow out of it. It's a shelter belt. In some climates, a lot of rocks might be needed while in others you could grow an adequate snow fence with no rock at all. Rock mulch can prevent evaporation, keep roots cooler and provide a home for beneficial creatures.
 
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