It’s astonishing how much water can land on this small farm during a wet winter storm. The hog pen? A river runs through it… The seasonal springs? All full to overflowing. The goats are miserable and won’t come out of the goat barn. The hogs have been complaining no end. The barn cat spots me and starts whining and looking skyward as if there is some way for me to turn off the taps.
For the past couple of days I’ve been slopping around in the wet, building dams and dredging channels to try to divert the water away from the animal shelters so everyone has somewhere to get under cover and stand with dry feet. The dogs sulk in the cab of the truck while I get steadily soggier.
Only the ducks are truly happy. They dive into all the newly formed puddles and ponds and lakes and rivers, flapping and splashing, preening and chuckling. The drakes strut back and forth as the ladies bathe, occasionally knocking one another around a bit just to show who is the most handsome and virile. All this water can only mean that spring is just around the corner, and you know what that means when you are a male whatever living on a farm.
The other things that are working amazingly well are the hugelkultur beds we put in a couple of years ago. Built on top of mounds of brush, branches, and logs, the beds soak up a phenomenal amount of water with nothing much seeping out below where they have been built (more or less following the contour lines of our sloping property). Where there are no beds (just grass, the driveway, or even the area under the trees where the hogs have been merrily rooting around through the fall) there is running water everywhere. Any place that has a dip or hollow is full of water. Except those hugel beds.
I was amazed how well they performed during the hot, dry weeks of the last two summers. As advertised, all the water they had soaked up during the winter was slowly released back to the plants and I barely had to irrigate at all, even when properties around me were watering like mad. I had my doubts as to how well big branches were going to break down, but already when I dig into the beds, there’s lots of lovely soft organic matter and not so many sticks and twigs. The biggest branches are still findable, but even they are well on their way to Rotsville.
I am impressed enough with how they have worked that I’m going to retro-build my existing raised beds in the same way. No more burn piles! I’ve always thought it was wasteful and unnecessarily polluting to burn branches and sticks. How cool to have found such a simple and useful thing to do with all that garden debris!
For more information about hugelkultur, check out the richsoil website.