Saturday, February 13, 2010

Mud management and erosion control

Lest you think this post is going to detail various high tech or sophisticated solutions, let me tell you, from the very start, it will not.

This post is about recognizing a problem and trying to fix it, as best you can, with whatever resources are available to other words, "the farm way". It's not always going to be pretty, quite the contrary in fact, but the goal is to fix - at least temporarily - the problem at hand.

One of the issues we continually face, living where we do, is the slope of our property. It is very steep. Steep can be good for a view, but it's not good for what large animals have to do to gain traction on it. When it's dry, the ground crumbles beneath their feet. When it's rainy, snowy or icy, it can be quite difficult - and treacherous - to navigate.

This is what the hill to our barn looked like in early fall of 2008 after six months of half a dozen foster donkeys lived here. It's dusty, it's dry and the slope of the hill has gotten steeper due to erosion from all the traffic to and from the barn:

Fortunately, my dairy farmer and hay growing friend, Dale, offered a temporary solution to our erosion woes and we went to work:

He called it "hogs fuel" and loaded up a truck for us. Hogs fuel turned out to be giant bark chips:

It's nice to have a strong farm son around to help with these things:

The result was beautiful:

and lasted until, well...about three days ago. We have had one of those winters Oregon is known for...extremely rainy and wet. And wet makes mud:

Everywhere I look, there are hoof-covering puddle pockets:

and deep, sticky, foot-coating mud mounds:

Since I haven't been able to get my hands on additional hogs fuel, we've had to find a work around. Never underestimate the scores of uses for a simple bale of straw:

Using straw as ground cover will provide some temporary mud control on the trail up to the barn:

And now I will hope and wait for the rain to finally stop.

Even in areas where mud is not an issue, hillside erosion remains a concern. Our third pasture, where the chicken coop is located, has a small hillside that we have dug steps into. This allows us access to the chickens without further eroding the hill. Unfortunately, the llamas and donkeys have noticed that this is where I come into the pasture and have decided to hang out there.

What was once a gently sloped hillside, is now a small, jagged drop-off:

This hillside, if not protected, could erode to the point of damaging the existing fence line. We have left shrubs and grasses in place to provide some strength to the hillside, but with 400 to 600 lb animals traipsing up and down, this won't help a bit:

Enter the power of orange twine:

Never, ever throw away the twine that bundles your straw and hay:

You never know when it might come in handy:

Case in point, when some of these twine strands are tied together, they make a great temporary fence:

Like I said, the resources used may not be pretty, but if they solve a problem, even temporarily, they have served their purpose:

And this allows me to put off thinking about the fact that my property may not be able to withstand the weight and energy of five, large, farm animals for an extended period of time.


  1. I can relate to this post with every fiber of my being! Twine, glorious twine, and its many, many uses. Mud, oh the mud! Even though we haven't had much of a winter down here, there are still areas of mud. Yup, straw is wonderous for lots of uses. And thankfully fairly inexpensive. Hang in there, Spring is around the corner, then it will be the hot days of Summer.

  2. I feel your pain with mud. I that has to be so frustrating dealing with the slope of the land. We live in FLAT Indiana so I have never really put much thought into how difficult that would be. Though I am jealous of the beautiful views you have! Good luck with all your mud issues. I hope you can find a permanent and inexpensive solution.

  3. i have the steepest grade change behind my main house. it literally is a mountainside. i put in perrons. you can build these easily by yourself. if you want more info let me know! i can take pics of mine to show you!

  4. I'm sorry to hear you have this problem. Can you get some more of that famer's stuff that seemed to work? I'm sure you'll find a way to fix this. Meanwhile, I hope it will stop raining so much in Oregon. Send some down to California, OK!

  5. We have a few of these hills on our farm too. I was told strawberries can work great for erosion control.

  6. Ha, that is funny about the twine from the bale of straw! Just today I was throwing away such twine, but my husband stopped me & said that such twine has many uses, I should save it. And so I am now starting my own twine collection for my own rainy day!

  7. It is quite muddy and wet, huh? I think G would enjoy all that mud very much. :-)But, I know always have a remedy.(temporary or not) And look, youve got the straw strewn about and the temporary fence all set up.
    And about that fence....I know just where that twine was stored :-)....and yes, I know that the last time I was carrying the twine, well, I didnt put it away where it went. But only because I didnt know then what I know now....where it was to go, I mean.
    What did the llamas and donks think of that new fence?
    And Im looking at that pic again...and Im thinking that the next time we clean out the coop we either have to take a different route to the chicken coop compost....or maybe take that fence down for a bit???? :-) Or we could always play the limbo while pushing the wheelbarrow.....

  8. Oh the joys of living in the country. We live in a very steep hilly area that goes on down to a big river. Everything flows downhill here. We have been so wet this year and it's taking it's toll on the areas that house the goats. We have been doing some emergency spreading of the straw as you have.., but after a while it just gets soggy and poopy and starts smelling awful.
    We need the rain here in California and I'm not really complaining but I will be glad when we dry out a bit. Even our road up to the house is taking a beating.
    Hope you can hang in there until early summer.

  9. Lesson learned. I'll never throw away another single piece of twine... I've been throwing them away left and right... but you're right!

  10. Yes, I alway save my straw bale twine! It has many uses.

    We have mud here too, but not nearly as much as your photos show.

  11. Hogs fuel? I thought you were thinking you needed some pigs. Whew! Not the case. Good luck, Critter Farm, to a solution for your the problems Mother Nature has caused.

  12. In this part of Wisconsin everything is flat and frozen so erosion is seldom a concern. I don't envy your mud.

  13. Mud. Blech. But you have come up with some great temporary solutions. The donkey's and llamas will seriously respect a twine fence? I love that! I hope you find a permanent solution soon.

  14. Lots of problems with farmin..good thing you have the proper resources to solve them..good job!

  15. Thanks for reminding me of another thing I don't miss about owning horses. I was starting to forget.

  16. I hate mud almost as much as I hate snow!!!

  17. Orange twine is so cool! Almost like duct tape v2!

    Good luck with all the wet and mud and stuff...

  18. I came across your blog searching for mud management solutions. The tip on hogfuel and twine were very helpful. Thanks for the informative post!

  19. Mud! We have so much of it here we're thinking of starting a Mud Bar, where various critters can step right up and order a shot of their mud of choice: Sandy? Clayey? Rocky? We've got it all.

  20. You get twine on your hay bales? mmm we get wire? The twine would be so much easier to cut! and yep I would save that too! The wire is usually rusty also, I don't save it.

    We don't usually have this wet a winter, this year we are sloshing thru with you guys!

    I have never been so ready for spring in my life as I am this year! :O)

  21. Your critters are delightful. You are not alone, we are soon going to be a sea of mud...when the snow melts. Have a wonderful week....

  22. I have a fence that looks very similar to that...except it is yellow twine! Yes big animals are hard one ones property. Luckily for my the camel has such huge flat feet for maneuvering in the sand that he does very little damage. Keeping my fingers crossed for the rain to stop! Kim

  23. I am so impressed with your "make do" solutions to the problem. However, I do feel for you in the long term. Would you like my friend Geneva come and give you some ideas regarding soil erosion? she's a master gardener an is a very good landscape architect (she did all our landscaping) - plus she LOVES farms!!


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