It has been a very wet year so far. Actually, the last few winters and springs have been fairly soggy. We aren’t even into spring yet this year, and we are completely saturated.
Rain is good, we need it for water, plants, grass and animals. However, the side-effect of rain is mud. Now mud isn’t simply wet dirt. Some soil can get wet, drain quick, and dry out fairly easily. Mud though, is nasty stuff. It’s smells, and it’s sticky. Not just any kind of sticky though – it gets everywhere, and it seems to multiply! When you try to remove it from a place or an object, the only thing you have managed to accomplish is putting mud somewhere it wasn’t – and where it was, well, it doesn’t look like you even touched it.
What’s the big deal though, right? It’s just mud – it will dry up.
Well, yes it will dry up – eventually. As stated above, mud isn’t just wet dirt. Sandy soils for instance dry out fairly quickly due to how loosely sand packs together.
Think of a beach – sure the water rushes up and makes the sand wet, but have you ever noticed during low tide that the previously covered sand is fairly dry? This is the same concept.
However, if you (like us) have a soil of primarily clay, you will see that the water doesn’t quite drain as quick.
Think of someone making pottery… They have to put it in the oven to dry because it takes so long.
And here is why this is such a big deal: Healthy Animals!
Mud not only brings a slippery, sticky mess; It also brings disease, worms, and critters.
Last year (about this time actually), I posted a blog regarding our goats getting worms. The vet confirmed that during times of increased rain he also typically will see an increased worm load as the worm carrying parasites will climb higher on the blades of grass – the parts that are consumed the most by grazers. He also stated the much higher instance of hoof rot in goats and sheep or mud fever and rain rot in horses.
Speaking of rot – even if you don’t have animals, too much water and soil that won’t dry out is disastrous to gardeners too. Root rot can destroy entire fields of plants when the roots become to sodden.
Now, when the mud does dry out, you are left with all those ruts, nooks, and crannies that will now hold water (like a clay pot). What do you get with standing water? Yep, you get mosquitos!
What can you do about nature though?
There are two main options when it comes to mud:
1) Deal with it
2) Prevent it
Let’s talk about dealing with it first:
First, look at trying to control the mud in areas where it will be most prevalent.
Areas by gates, water troughs, hay feeders, barns, parking areas, entrance/exits, etc. Anywhere animals or people are bound to meander. In areas like these, there are several methods. Some options are better for animal areas, some better for human areas, and some work good for both.
Flax Straw – Flax straw is what Egyptians used, and some countries still do today, to mix with clay to make bricks. Now, I don’t have to go into to much detail as this should be fairly easy to figure out (flax straw + clay = bricks).
Rocks – Depending on the size, rocks can provide excellent footing in areas that are saturated with mud. In some areas, pea size gravel make work best (walkways, etc.), whereas in other areas, some good ol’ crush and run gravel may be just what you need. Mostly, rocks were great as a preventative, but also can provide quick relief in areas that aren’t to deep with muck.
There are many ways to deal with it, and many people have their own opinions. Just keep this in mind: if you add hay, straw, leaves, or anything that would breakdown in your compost pile… it will also breakdown in your mud (adding more mud). Ask me how I know! Also, keep safety in mind. Anything you add changes the footing for you and your animals. There are many more options you can find about dealing with mud and muck, but the best way is just to prevent it from the start.
Let’s talk prevention:
If you are very lucky and you are just starting out with fresh land like we are, you can combat this from the start. Recognizing areas that may be prone to water and working around it or fixing it right away. You will want to look for slopping areas of course, potential pathways, ditches, etc.
If you are already established, there are some preventative measures you can take now to avoid more issues in the future.
Pathways - as stated before, you can fill these in with rocks or gravel. This provides an excellent way to allow water to drain away from the area before becoming an issue.
Down Spouts - I am assuming you have a roof, as well as roofs over your outbuildings. The water runoff can create an absolute mess, but can easily be fixed. Water Catchment! Not only will this prevent water from pooling around your buildings, but provides free water for animals and gardens. Just make sure you use a container made for potable water and it is black to prevent algae growth. Also, some states/counties don’t allow this (which just boggles my mind), so check with your local government first.
Slopping Land - Try to get these areas leveled out if possible. Just keep in mind, if water is flowing and following a slope and you change this… the water still has to go somewhere. You can then landscape the area in a way that will allow water to follow an intended path. French drains work great for areas like this and allow water to continue to flow it’s current path, simply underground. This prevents any disturbance leveling may create.
Pasture Rotation - this is a tried-and-true method for keeping your ground in good condition, fertilizing pastures, and providing a healthier environment for your animals.
Outbuildings: when possible, build your outbuildings off the ground. Now, I’m not saying you have to give your animals a penthouse, but just enough to prevent water from flowing in through the entrance (or sides for that matter). And as an added measure, make sure you provide adequate bedding for your animals. This will go a long way to ensure they (and their feet) stay dry.
Naked ground - Bare ground is wet ground. If you have a garden that you have just cleared, try covering it during the off season. If you live in the south, you will know that bare ground also equates to ants. They love turning empty dirt into a thriving ant bed.
Again, there are many resources to reference for dealing with and preventing mud. My personal favorite are Facebook groups. If you haven’t already, try joining some gardener or homesteading groups on Facebook and see if any of them have some ideas that can help.
AND... If you haven’t noticed yet, we added a new comment box at the bottom of each page for you to share your ideas and thoughts. We would love to hear from you! If you have a trick or a “fresh” idea that I haven’t mentioned or you haven’t seen before, please let us know. We enjoy sharing our ideas, and love trying out those sent in by you.