Sailing Stones

Death Valley is located at the lowest altitude in the USA and is known for its extreme heat and cold. There’s a phenomena in Death Valley where black dolomite rocks as heavy as 140 kilos mysteriously hydroplane across the desert lake bed leaving trails in their wake. The occurrences confounded scientists since the 1940’s. Some believed that electromagnetic fields generated by UFO’s were responsible. There are even records of the happenings in Native American rock art depicting something unexplained up in the sky.

Modern technology enabled a couple of determined geologist to solve the mystery in 2014. The geologists set up a weather station and recorded the moving stones on camera after attaching GPS trackers to them. It took two years, a lot of patience, and perfect DSC05553winter conditions before they witnessed the rocks move. A day after rain the pond was covered with a thin layer of sheet ice.  The ice formed around the rocks lifting them clear of the lake bed. When the ice started to thaw and break up during the day some of it clung to the rocks forming a floating seat and the wind was enough to move them across the surface.

Winter carries with it a sense of slowing and contracting. There’s a temptation to curl up on the coach with a cuppa and a book. Mornings are crisp and cold and I often wake up in the clouds. Plant growth slows and aside from a little weeding not much happens in the patch. There are of course those ‘other jobs’. The ones I’ve been avoiding as they are as boring as waiting for stones to levitate across the ground. In fact one of them does require moving stones. Hundreds of them.

I have espaliered citrus trees in front of the house that enable me to step out onto the deck DSC05548in winter and pluck oranges and tangelos for breakfast. The trees are mulched using stone mulch as we live in a high fire risk area and I didn’t want to put flammable material right next to the house. It does make maintenance labor intensive however. I’ve been contemplating for over a year the task of taking up all the stones to give the trees a really good feed and compost to boost production. The rock wall surrounding the citrus also needed some repairs where it had subsided.   I finally attended to the tedious task this week. It’s quite meditative but it did make me wish for UFO’s or ice sheets to lend some assistance. Just imagine getting up one morning to find all those stones moved to one side without any effort from me.

Speaking of tedious we are still working our way through all those pumpkins, not to mention the kale. I did grow our first edible pomegranates this year which add a bit of zing and variety to a dish…

Kale and roast pumpkin salad with pomegranate molasses and almonds


  • Pumpkin peeled, seeded and cut into small wedges
  • Bunch of kale
  • Handful of chopped almonds
  • 2 spring onions
  • 1/2 lemon juiced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 1 small pomegranate – seeds removed. The easiest way to do this is slice off the crown and expose the white membrane. Score around the pomegranate from top to bottom making four quarters. The score should reach the white membrane without cutting the fruit open. Soak the pomegranate in a bowls of cold water for a few minutes then gently pull it apart and remove the seeds which will sink to the bottom of the water.


  • Heat oven to 180C (fan forced)
  • Toss the pumpkin pieces with 1 tbsp oil and 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses to season then tip onto baking tray and roast for 25 minutes until the pumpkin is tender.
  • Blanch the kale in boiling water for a few minutes then run under cold water to stop it cooking. Drain and dry in a salad spinner or with kitchen paper.
  • Toast the almonds in a dry fry pan.
  • Whisk 1 tbsp oil and 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses with lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Mix the kale with the dressing and stir in the spring onions.
  • To serve, tip the dressed kale onto plates, place the roast pumpkin on the kale and sprinkle with almonds and pomegranate seeds.

Image: espaliered oranges

One thought on “Sailing Stones

  1. Charles

    We love the thought of your pumpkins. Anne-Mare makes the best pumpkin soup. Now if we had known about your project we could have swapped a trailer load of mulch, for a trailer load of … , correction, box of pumpkins 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s