Today was nice but a storm is forecast for tonight, I wanted to deal with this somehow and allow the cows back to the lower pasture so they can access the loafing shed if it is a severe storm. First, I removed a section of fence so they could get to the lower pasture without having to walk through the gate and deep mud.
a layer of geotextile material, and then layer sand or other ground over it. This was not the best solution for us because who knows when this earth will ever dry out enough to layer geotextile fabric over the pudding-like surface? Another idea was to cover with deep mulch - I had already dumped several 50-lb. bags of wood chips on and they just disappeared into the depths. Yet another suggestion was to add organic material, and since I had a big pile of half-composted chicken bedding nearby, this is the strategy I selected. Last month, Cadence and Israel did the spring cleaning of the chicken coop forMothers Day and because the wheelbarrow could not make it through the muck, had piled the winter bedding (fine-shredded pine, straw and chicken manure) along the south side of the pasture fence. So, for three hours I moved the pile, scoop by scoop, to the muck. All in all, I put about a foot deep of half-composted chicken bedding into the mud and stepped it in.
I have a few scenarios of what might happen next:
a) as the chicken bedding decomposes it will leave little air pockets which will allow worms and/or roots to establish and create openings for the water to flow through the heavy clay for drainage,
b) when the sun comes out and dries up the water, the heavy clay soil with fine pine bedding in it will bake into some sort of adobe-like material and harden, allowing the rain to run over the top, not sit on the surface,
c) the bedding will just disappear into the clay and not make any difference,
d) the pine beddig will absorb water and expand, causing the area of the ground to get higher and essentially dam the drainage from uphill and exacerbate the problem.
Being an optimist, I choose a or b, but I respect the law of unexpected consequences, so it could be none of the above. I realized as I was shoveling that we may have actually inadvertently caused the quagmire to be worse when we hired our neighbor to scrape away the mud layer and pile it in the southwest corner of the loafing shed yard. Perhaps that contributed to the pooling of water at the gate that would have otherwise drained gradually down the slope. In a more typical season we probably wouldn't have had an issue but in this year of unrelenting rain, having heavy, non-draining, clay soil is sure challenging. It would be helpful to have a civil engineering degree to be a farmer.
I closed the gate and barricaded the old route to the lower pasture with two long criss-crossedboards quickly set in place (I did not dare to step into in the muck for more than a moment or I might have sunk to my waist.) I figured the cows would not choose to go through the deep muck if they had an alternative, but I figured wrong. Even after I had guided them through the new route once, both LaFonda and Jitterbug waded through the thigh-deep deep muck(so at least I had improved it some--before they were sinking chest-deep) and climbed over the barricade rather than taking the new route -such is the power of routine for a cow. However, a short time later, they both came running joyously through the new, opening in the fence, kicking up their heels - they seemed happy to have an alternative to the quagmire, and LaFonda even came over and licked me as if to say thank you. I am relieved that if we get that big storm tonight my cows may not get stuck in the muck,.
The peonies are loaded with buds