View Full Version : OT: Growing rocks...

11-14-2004, 11:30 PM
This is a subject that is familiar to those who farm in the northern climes. This year we had extremely dry weather in the first half of the summer. Then it rained. Then it rained some more. Then it continued to rain. After that it rained.

The result is that we have really wet ground.

It is almost a (non) urban-legend that rocks grow out of the ground each winter. If you are a farmer then you will totally understand this. Well, I have lived here in the place where the ground freezes every year for one third of a century. This is the first time that I have seen the rock growing action in effect. If you are a farmer in these climes then you will know what a rock picker (http://www.vermeerag.com/equip/rp6084.html) is.

Now, to the point, which is very off topic.

What happened is that we had a very wet fall. The soil above the rocks in my driveway froze solid in the last few days. Then, today, the sun came out. It blew above the freezing point of the soil above the rocks in my driveway.

Here is the effect that I captured today. What has happened is that the soil has frozen above the stones. Then, the sun came out over the next two days and during the middle of the day it was sufficient to melt the frozen soil above the rocks just underlying the surface of the gound. The rocks have an insulating factor that is greater than the surrounding water saturated soil. When the sun shines on the driveway it melts the soil above the rocks. That soil then runs with the melted water around the rocks and below them. The rocks have better insulating properties than the surrounding soil. In the spring, the frozen soil melts and drools underneath the rocks causing them to lift up above the surface of the driveway-field-whatever....


[This message has been edited by Evan (edited 11-14-2004).]

11-14-2004, 11:43 PM
Oh yea. I have a collection of "rocks" out of the field and piled under a tree. The smallest weights about one ton. The largest, I had to keep inching with a dozer. It's about 10' x 3.5' x 2' and looks like a cargo ship. And... we don't have hard freezes down here for any lengh of time. (Our frost-line is 6".)

Funny how those rocks just keep sprouting. Must be the fertilizer I'm using. http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif

11-14-2004, 11:46 PM
My wife and I lived in Southern California for a few years about a decade ago. Some of her co-workers at the time were asking Janet what it was like to grow up in Southwest Minnesota with all the farms and in a town of less than 2000 people. She told them about all the normal stuff, including picking rocks. Janet's grandpa was a farmer and the whole family helped in the Spring and Fall, so she had plenty to tell them about the mysteries of farming. They didn't understand why the farmers wanted to collect rocks, so Janet went on to tell them that they put the rocks back each fall to prevent frost heaves in the fields and then they pulled the rocks back out in the spring to prevent damage to the plows. Some of them bought it... Until I burst out laughing http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//smile.gif Then we told them the truth.

[This message has been edited by Nutter (edited 11-14-2004).]

11-14-2004, 11:47 PM
Sorry! Dupe post. I hit quote when I meant to hit edit.

[This message has been edited by Nutter (edited 11-14-2004).]

11-14-2004, 11:51 PM
This is a very powerful force. I have heard of steel transmission towers - the latice work ones where the 4 main legs are huge angle iron girders - being torn in half from this. The legs are buried below the frost line on a large steel pad to support the weight. The pad cannot move and the moist earth is frozen to the legs during winter. Ice expands of course, and the water in the moist earth does also and this expansion has but one direction to go, upwards. If it doesn`t break lose of the steel, it will put so much tension on it, it will be, and has been, broken in two. Mother Nature has no equal.

11-15-2004, 12:04 AM

I have a boulder at about two cubic meters in size. I have tried to move it with my Land Rover. No dice...

[This message has been edited by Evan (edited 11-14-2004).]

11-15-2004, 12:18 AM
By the way Evan, them aint rocks in your picture--Them are pebbles and stones!

These are rocks. (Pics taken three years ago--Winter Time.)
(Just to the right of the barn is the "boat" rock.)

This was just the start of the current collection.

11-15-2004, 12:47 AM
Pikin rock, yep, when I was younger I had a friend who had about 250 acres. He grew a dry crop of alfalfa. Every year for about five we would go pick rock. We would follow a flat bed trailer which was being towed by his tractor at very slow speed. Every year there was a new crop of rock just as thick as the last year. The ground didn't freeze, the temp was always above freezing. Don't know why the rocks "grew" but they did. JRouche

11-15-2004, 09:47 AM
This has nothing to do with the ground freezing or anything like that. Do you remember when you always had more metal coat hanger than you could use and didn't know where they all came from. I had the same problem until I read the book on the sex life of coat hangers. It all became clear at that point.

When I lived in Spokane Washington I found that the rocks there had a very active sex life and that explained what was happening. I think that the coat hangers have shared their sex life habits with the rocks. Don't know what will be next. Hope it will be money.


11-15-2004, 10:24 AM
Here it is known as Bobcaygeon topsoil http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif
Jim http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//smile.gif

Milacron of PM
11-15-2004, 10:30 AM
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I found that the rocks there had a very active sex life and that explained what was happening. </font>

Does this mean that my socks are murdering each other and disposing of the "bodies" ?


11-15-2004, 10:38 AM
Don.....I think socks are carnivorus

11-15-2004, 11:53 AM
Ok, I was wondering where this would spin off to. Sock murdering. Who would of thunk?

11-15-2004, 06:48 PM
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Nutter:
Sorry! Dupe post. I hit quote when I meant to hit edit.

[This message has been edited by Nutter (edited 11-14-2004).]</font>

Glad I'm not the only one confused by those symbols, in fact I just tried to edit your post
(it wouldn't let me).

J. Randall
11-15-2004, 09:08 PM
Don, socks are the larvel form of coat hangers. When you find a lone sock in the floor it is on it's way to the closet to turn into a hanger. James

11-15-2004, 09:17 PM
A few years back I worked as a well-drillers assistant. We would get calls from people who all of a sudden started getting sand in their well water. Turns out they had poured a cement slab around the well-head the summer before and the freeze/thaw would lift the slab and the well casing with it and break the seal between the casing and the bedrock allowing sand to enter the water supply. The trick is to wrap tar paper around the casing before pouring the cement, forming a sleeve that allows the slab to move by it's self.

11-15-2004, 09:33 PM
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Iquithadenuff:
Don.....I think socks are carnivorus</font>

You mean canibalistic http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif

You guys look into a clothes dryer and what do you see?A porcelin linind steel drum right?Wrong,its really a porthole to another universe.I think its what caused the big bang,a tube sock/anti-tube sock explosion http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif

Rocks in the field?My grandad said rocks are like cats,they aren't born,they just appear out of thin air.

11-15-2004, 09:58 PM
The rocks in death valley dont get frozen much, but they do like to go for a slide.


11-15-2004, 10:38 PM
I suspect the dryer tubs are acting in concert with UFO's.........OR: Maybe the tubs are entry ports for the UFO's

George Hodge
11-15-2004, 11:03 PM
My granddad used to dig down around the boulders he hit with the plow,then piled brush and stumps on the boulder,lit the pile and waited till it burnt down at which time he would pour several barrels of water on it.The big rock would shatter and he could then haul the pieces off on a stone boat.

11-16-2004, 05:28 AM
I think socks have anti-sex so they disappear one at a time.


11-16-2004, 05:54 AM
Correct me if I;m wrong, but isn't this called "Heaving"?

At one time I was supposed to move to western NJ in a largely farming community(One of the neighbors had one of the largest Combines on the east coast!)and on this 4 acres of "sod", my parents decided to plant a garden. Well there's just one little problem. Nothing but rocks. I'm not kidding, My father refered to it as "stony acres" and the general consensus was the crop that grew best in the area is stone. In over 8 years of tilling and rock picking, it dropped the area of the garden almost a foot below ground level. Today if you went by there, you can easily tell where the garden was. with no rocks to hinder them, the weeds are two feet higher than the surrounding ones.


11-16-2004, 07:19 AM
I grew up in "upstate NY" and had to remove the rocks that "Grew" every year, I now live in Virginia thank God no rock growing where I'm at but loads of red clay that stains everything it touches.
I had wondered if the effect might be centrifugal, not being a physics major ( disclaimer for stupidity) I wonder if the rocks migrate to the outside of the ball (Earth) as it rotates at a thousand miles an hour. I understand that gravity has the effect of holding things toward the center, but the difference in density of the objects would make a difference in how they acted in relation to each other. Now without making reference to my mother or my heritage or personally attacking me for my lack of knowledge is there someone out there that might be able to prove or disprove the theory?

11-16-2004, 09:16 AM
I have a problem with AOL installation disks reproducing in my mailbox.Every two weeks,they evolve into a newer and better form.
The neighbor has a very rocky yard and he refuses to do the elbow to elbow method of rock removal with the five members of his family.Things are accquired while mowing a rocky yard...the dog got a limp,he got a little window seven feet up the bedroom wall and his wife got a new patio door!He got the farmer down the lane to disk his yard but failed to pick rocks...gotta talk to that boy.My wife will take the rocks for landscaping...but not one at a time.

If I got it right first time,everytime....I'd have a real job!

11-16-2004, 10:31 AM

Gravity acts equally on all things, be it rock or feathers.


We get frost heaving every year, it tears up the roads. This isn't the same. All over the driveway are little and some bigger holes with a rock at the bottom of each hole. These rocks weren't sitting on top of the driveway before it froze and thawed.

11-16-2004, 11:44 AM
My worst nightmare would be to dig another 1000ft long trench for a cable line in the North East. Cable company wanted 6,000$ to do it, Yeh right! THose damn rocks, all of them, Damn rocks, the walk behind ditch witch doesnt move rocks any bigger than a softball. Ofcourse only in Yuppy-ville do you have to bury the damn wires instead of having telephone poles like everywhere else.

11-16-2004, 11:53 AM
I used to live in Victoria on Vancouver Island. It's all one big rock. All ditch digging is done with dynamite. I watched them blast out a bank where they were widening the road in town. It was directly across from some stores on the other side of the road with big plate glass windows. The drilled hundreds of little holes and packed in a couple of ounces of powder in each one with sequential delay caps. They draped heavy mats over it. When they set it off it went "PPPPhhhhhtttt" and all the loose rock dropped out from the bottom of the mats. Not even a thump or bang.

Herb Helbig
11-16-2004, 05:58 PM
Evan -

"Gravity acts equally on all things, be it rock or feathers."

But, but, but ... how come the water always shows up UNDER the ice?


11-16-2004, 06:22 PM

It is like the old question: Which weighs more? A pound of lead or a pound of feathers?

Didn't say anthing about density....

11-16-2004, 07:11 PM
As I am sure you know Herb, if something weighs less than the amount of fluid that it displaces, it floats. Water, (unlike most liquids) expands slightly and loses density when it freezes, thus making it less dense than the surrounding water and allowing the ice to float. If water did not have this fortunate characteristic, life would probably not exist on earth.
Since bodies of water freeze on the top first, the bottom remains insulated preventing them from becoming frozen solid (and life is allowed to continue merrily along below). Curiously, water is at it’s most dense at 39° F, so it gets more dense as it gets colder, and then becomes less and less dense at it gets colder.

Herb Helbig
11-16-2004, 11:03 PM
Evan- I know you didn't say anything about density, but that's what captainkirk was asking about, that and the centripetal force necessary to keep stuff moving in circular motion.

Isn't the correct answer that rocks tend to be more dense than dirt, so they'd sink rather than float? And that the centrifugal force that we experience on the rotating earth is
1) very small and
2) reduces the weight of stuff (at the same depth and latitude) equally.

Of course none of that explains why we manage to grow such successful rock crops. I wonder if we could get a subsidy for not growing them.


11-17-2004, 02:12 AM

You would think that the large heavy objects would sink in the fine smaller stuff. But, there isn't a density difference, just a size difference. Rocks and sand are the same thing. If you put a bunch of marbles in a can of sand and then evenly mix it and then shake it they all drift to the top. It is the same effect that grows the rocks. In the case of rock growing the "shaking" is the very slow but sure disturbance cause by the freeze/thaw cycles and the transport of fine particle by melted water. It can also happen just by plowing the soil, no freezing needed.

I saw an interesting bit on the Myth Busters show the other night. They were experimenting with quicksand. The filled a large tank with fine sand and bubbled water up through it, then stepped in to see if they would be sucked down like in the movies. No way. Instead they actually floated high in the quicksand at about middle chest level and sunk no further. The sand mixed with water was much denser overall than they were. Myth Busted.

11-17-2004, 02:36 PM
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">...the centrifugal force that we experience on the rotating earth is
1) very small and
2) reduces the weight of stuff (at the same depth and latitude) equally.</font>

Yes, it does act on everthing equally. It is small but not invisibly so. For the Olympic hammer throw the difference in centrifugal force between 50 degrees latitude and at the equator could make a difference in distance of about one foot further at the equator given all other factors the same.

John Garner
11-17-2004, 04:45 PM
So is it the freezing of water to ice that makes the frozen water smarter, or is it only the more intelligent component of the whole population of water that freezes?

11-17-2004, 05:08 PM
Same sort of principle as a Thermos bottle. Keeps hot things hot and cold things cold. The question is: How do it know?

Herb Helbig
11-17-2004, 07:38 PM
Very good questions, JG. Actually, you see, it's the smart/dense polarity theory of thermodynamics at work here. The densons (D's) and the smartons (S's) are in constant conflict. The D's figure it's smart to push the S's to the surface where they have to put up with the cold air and ice skate blades. But the S's find this stimulating. If you've ever heard the ice groaning at night, it's not in agony - it's the S's laughing at the D's.