Thursday, October 22, 2009

Some views of New England and its stone walls

This blog is usually about painting, but tonight I am going a little bit afield. Let me show you some photos I have taken lately. I don't often work from photos but I take a lot, I always think I will......... I am not claiming the that these are "art", they are just some places I have stood this week. I have been showing the progress of fall through New England over the last month or so. I love old barns and houses, trees and hills. I spend a lot of time hunting painting locations, these are the result of that.

This is the public library in Tilton, New Hampshire, it must have started life as a meeting house. New Hampshire has this sort of architecture everywhere. Below is a view I found that is also near Laconia, I need to be on that location at two so I go up there an hour early each time and drive the back roads looking for scenery. Notice the mountains in the background. Those are the beginning of the White Mountains.

I haven't done a post on Wallace Nutting, but I will soon. He did the same thing in the 1920's and published a series of books of his photographs and descriptions of the back roads of America all titled with the word Beautiful. He wrote Maine Beautiful, and New Hampshire Beautiful, etc. If you collect American furniture (and who doesn't? ) you know his guide to furniture.

The barn above was in upstate New York, near the finger lakes, I was there in the last week too. I enjoyed painting over there because the farms are still operating and that keeps the fields open. The soil there is not rocky like in New England, and I guess it is still profitable to farm there.

The woods are reclaiming all of rural New England. The woods here are all marked off with stone walls.They run in every direction and as the fall strips the leaves from the trees they appear. Wherever you see a stone wall it was once a farmers field . The frost heaves new stones to the surface of the fields every winter. In the spring the farmers moved them to the borders of the fields to get them out of the way of their plows. Below are some of the granite stones that are the teeth of our landscape.

And here are some old walls that are in that woods.

Generations of farmers spent their lives laboriously clearing the fields that these woods have now reclaimed. A hundred years ago New Hampshire and Vermont were 90% cleared and 10% forest, today they are 90% forest and 10% cleared. The trees march back on to your land as soon as you lay down in the ground yourself.

There is a place only a few miles from me called Mystery Hill, or Americas Stonehenge. Giant stones, megaliths and chambers built from monumental rocks and cyclopian walls cover several acres of a hillside. They may be well over a thousand years old, or they might not be. I don't know which, but there is some carbon dating evidence that argues for their great age. They are certainly very spooky and mysterious. I will do a post on those too, as soon as the leaves are off the trees so they can be seen clearly. New England has dozens of standing stones, massive stone chambers and man made balanced rocks. I have stumbled upon a few really strange things out painting in the woods. There are ruined 19th century mills along the streams, forgotten orchards still producing after being abandoned for generations, and the foundations of entire villages from early America in the forests of New England. I know colonial roads still visible through the forest that haven't seen a wheel in a hundred years, and I know places where the red paint people camped six thousand years before Christ.


willek said...

I was a bird hunter all over New England in my younger days and your comments brought me back. The best place to find worm eating woodcock, for example, was where the farmers kept their pigs. The rock walls always struck me. Those tons of rocks, fields now grown to one and two foot thick trees, the people who had to move off the land to the woolen mills and shoe factories when families got too big for the hard scrabble farms. We'd stumble across decayed houses and my friend would collect blacksmith made nails from rotting beams and boards. Old grown over dams and mills were common in the coverts and grapevine covered apple orchards were the best places to find ruffed grouse. Working hard through thick brush you would come across an old orchard in the woods and have an apple still cold from the early day and have a juicey bite from where the apple was cleanest as the dogs rested.

I have done a few pictures in the thick woods, but it is really difficult to portray good bird cover as it is so thick and brushey and your field of sight is diminished. I guess you would have to find an edge that has been cut away. Those are common nowadays, and paint that cross section.

Unknown said...

As a trail runner, I am all over the old woods myself. I can't resist exploring old carriage roads, or anything that looks like it might have once been one. I've found wonderful old foundations, hand dug and hand built with field stones, but still intact, huge trees grown up in the middle. Occasional pottery shards, or in sites of more recent vintage, old rusted buckets or pails.
To look at the foundations, and get a mental picture of the layout of the house or barn.. chimney here,
entry here.. is always fascinating.
Its actually amazing that there is still enough undeveloped land for these sites to remain undisturbed.
Willek, I didn't know anybody hunted for Woodcock. They are such a goofy looking bird.

Diane Greene said...

You were in the Fingerlakes? I live between Seneca and Keuka. It is beautiful here.

Mary Bullock said...

You have touched on one of the things I love most about New England, Stape. I also love the little graveyards that you run across in the woods - long abandoned but containing the history of early settlers. Their tombstones usually go all the way back to the early 1700's and are quite poingnant - lots of babies and young children. I paint lots of graveyards - they seem so full of lost loves.

Knitting Out Loud said...

Love your post! From Robert Frost country, "the woods are lovely, dark and deep". And wonderful comments.

Jo-Ann Sanborn said...

Many years ago I traded one of my early paintings for old rock wall to build a fabulou fireplace. Unfortunately it was to be destroyed anyway, being in the path of the future. Sometimes touching the old stones you can feel their history. Wonderful post.

Unknown said...

I am just catching up on all of your posts. I must say, the pearls and cigar are a nice touch!

I am envious of all the history of New England. Besides a few Spanish Missions from the 1800's, our stucco buildings date back to 1970.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I think you should be painting that stuff. I can hear your enthusiasm. You might channel Ogden Pleisner and A. L. Ripley.


Stapleton Kearns said...

You need to be careful running out in the woods, Willek is liable to blow your ass off.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I was painting for CNY gallery in Cazenovia, I am going to show some art there soon. Is that near you?

Stapleton Kearns said...

I have a good collection of graveyard photos and always think I should paint from them, but they are macabre and I could only show them in non commercial venues, I don't think most of my galleries would welcome more than about one. I would like to paint them in black and white with just a blush of color.

Stapleton Kearns said...

As you know Robert Frost had a farm her in Derry in the early 1900's. It is preserved for visitors today and is a pleasant place to walk a dog.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Did you build the fireplace yourself, was it an interior fireplace? That sounds pretty cool.

Stapleton Kearns said...


Hope you are surviving new parenthood. I did that once. California makes up for its lack of architectural history with a great number of natural wonders. Tahoe I have painted but I want to go up out of Bishop, into Payne country some day.

willek said...

You have profaned my marksmanship. and called my ability to identify a moving target into question.!!! I am NOT of an ILK anywhere near comparable to that of a nameless past vice president. !!!

willek said...

I just commented on your answer to Deb's comment yesterday... for all to view...

Today we painted hilltops of blueberry barrens in Sedgewick Maine. We will be painting there again tomorrow in the rain and fog. It looks like a landscape on another planet. .

Sandra Galda said...

I drive past America's Stonehedge each week, still must visit. Ditto on the Frost farm. I grew up in WNY state, yes the farms are gorgeous. I always remark how nice it is in NYS cause the trees are not taking over so much---you can see expansive vistas......
your blogs are so interesting!