Pillows and Cradles


Have you ever travelled thru the forest and have come upon the terrain that had pits and mounds that is sometimes referred to as pillows and cradles which is the result of a tree or trees being blown over by wind sometimes by thunderstorm microburst or straight line winds when the soil is saturated or hurricanes. The cradle is the depression caused by the roots torn out of the ground and the pillows is the soil around the roots that drop to the ground as the trunk and roots decay.


This area of pillows and cradles might have been from 1938 hurricane that came thru New England and cradles have flatten out over the course time.

In areas where there is a few or more of pillows and cradles you can see if each are in the same direction this might indicate a single event or are they different directions which might mean different trees were blown over at different times with winds from different directions.

I might suggest an interesting book called “Reading the Forested Landscape – A Natural History of New England” by Tom Wessels published by The Countryman Press


In the book Tom Wessels has drawings of different forest scenes and then goes into discussions about what is there and indications of what it might have look like 100 years ago.Such as stone walls and rock piles which suggest that this land was once open farm land and if the walls were just large stones, it might have been pasture land. The rock piles or smaller stones pile on top of the walls would indicate that the land continually tilled for food production rather than for just livestock.

7 thoughts on “Pillows and Cradles

  1. I had heard of this book before, and now that you recommend it I will pick it up.

    In the meantime, I will say that having lived in Western Connecticut for a while (in the exurbs), I have my own feelings about rock walls or rock “fences,” which are everywhere. Having come from the Hudson Valley (and before that Pennsylvania), where there is actually soil (from glacier melt or whatever) I thought I could easily level (by shovel) a very slight incline to make a badminton place for my kids. But once I embarked on this project, all I found beneath the surface was rocks and roots. There really wasn’t any soil as I knew it. I couldn’t sink my shovel in the ground without encountering a rock generally about 2 feet in diameter (and with it all the little rocks that surrounded it). When there wasn’t a massive rock, there was a root that with immense effort you could pull out running along the ground until you encountered another rock. What I thought would take an afternoon or two with a shovel and wheelbarrow ended up taking nearly two months (because I was too stubborn to admit defeat and hire a backhoe). During this drudgery (which resulted in an immense pile of stones which remained until I sold the property), I had time to think of the significance of the rock walls/fences. They represent the fact that people in New England for a hundred years or so (until they gave up and moved to Ohio) spent hours of backbreaking work to clear miserable land to try to grow things. My conclusion was that this immense amount of manual labor must have been the reason that Puritans were always in a bad mood, and quick to fly off the handle at the unorthodox. If you spent all day digging up rocks and roots, you would have plenty of pent up anger and time to think about who to vent it on. So when I see those rock walls, I think of how Puritanism came about.

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