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Stumps, Stumps, Everywhere there were Stumps

November 24, 2021


The first generation of farmers and villagers, trying to create homes from the forest, had to endure a world where stumps were everywhere. A road was a strip of land where the stumps were cut low enough that the axle of an oxcart could pass. As farmers plowed their fields they had to work around stumps. When Anne Langton sketched, she practiced her stumps, and included many in her pictures, though not to the extent that they were in reality present.

People tried burning them to get rid of them, they tried pulling them out with oxen, but most sizeable tree stumps were there for a generation. It was only with the advent of stumping machines that clear fields and lawns finally became practical.

The early stumping machines were giant tripods, working with a block and tackle, or a screw-shaft. They travelled up and down the side roads, working for each family. Stumping pullers were dangerous—sometimes the chains broke, whipped and maimed the workers. But everyone was relieved when their properties were finally clear.

On farms, the giant stumps were often dragged to the edge of each field, where they were fitted together into stump fences. Many of these arrays survive to this day, as a beautiful reminder of the stumping bees of days gone by.

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