We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Stone walls are "newer" in New England than the early enclosures, which were made of wood. Split logs, like ol' Abe used to make, but not post-and-rail. They were the criss-cross leany sort which rested the rails on tilted posts. And to keep animals out of the cottage garden, they used paling fences.
But in post-glacial New England, where the fields seem to grow stones over the winter, you had to put the loose rocks somewhere, so why not make a wall?
It is hard to walk through any woodland south of Maine without stumbling across an 18th century wall, and sometimes you find an old apple tree in the corner, or an old apple-tree trunk. No doubt planted by the farmer for home-made cider, which was the only kind of booze the average Yankee farmer could afford.
This hilly, rocky woodland, as can easily be seen by the size and species of the trees in the photo, was pasture until about 40-50 years ago: it is a young beech and oak woodland, typical of acidic lowlands in New England, and well-past the point at which it is appealing to grouse and woodcock. Good for the wild turkeys, though.
The booming deer population, alas, vacuum-cleans the undergrowth, making it inhospitable for lots of small critters and birds: either we eat those deer or we return wolves and mountain lions to New England. (I'd vote for all of the above.)
These woods are dotted with low-lying vernal - and autumnal - pools, which are excellent for the toads, tree frogs, salamanders, Box Turtles, etc. "Wetlands," as some term them. I call them swamps, and I love them: they are a cradle of life.
It's pretty amazing, isn't it. I recall an engraving of my old home town, Lincoln, showing the view from a hill some 100+ years ago. No trees to speak of, just fields off to the horizon. When I lived there in the 50's & 60's it was already reverting to woodland, although there were still some large farms and dairies around. Some of the farms turned into housing developments, but a town ordinace requiring new homes to sit on two acres of land put a stop to that. Now the prices are high and the houses sit back among the trees. Come the apocalypse, a lot of folks are going to relearn just how much work it is to clear land and pull out stumps ;)
Come to the UK and see the dry stone walls which mark out even the desolate moorland of Lancashire and Yorkshire.
The last symbols of the Enclosure acts that effectively stole the common land from the peasantry.
The Grapes of Wrath happened a thousand years ago in England.
We went to Sweden once to try and find the old home place. Failed in that but there were stone walls everywhere. The rocks heave up from the soil, so they have to do something with them, to farm, turning them into fences. Wheat, barley most of it, small fields. Lots of timber patches.
The way it was explained to me is that during the course of the freeze thaw cycle soil below stones remains frozen longer than the uninsulated earth during the thaw causing the surrounding soil to subside around the stone causing it to "rise". But I never sat in a field to watch it happen.