Rain, Aggie AgVentures Cow, and Hugelkultur

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.

DCF Aggie in mud

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.

DCF Aggie and Iago

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.

5 responses to “Rain, Aggie AgVentures Cow, and Hugelkultur

  1. Thank you for the mention of hugelkultur. This is similar to using swales, but seems counter intuitive. I am unfamiliar with hugelkultur. It was useful to include a link, too. Thanks. This seems like a very valuable and little known technique. It is similar to creating a giant nurse log in the forest. – The Healing Garden gardener


  2. I see lots of clouds coming ashore in BC. http://bit.ly/1ahfiq6

    Nice work with the hugels. Let nature and her microbes and worms etc have a chance to help you. Lots of labor to get it started. Good payoff.


  3. So glad the hugels are working! Lots of initial work, but then easier and better. My dog would love the mud :).


  4. We live on the downhill side of a small mountain and the idiot who built this house paved over a seasonal stream … now our driveway. Nature being itself, our driveway becomes a seasonal stream again whenever the heavy rain comes. And the base of the driveway, unless we keep a drainage ditch running through the backyard to the woods, becomes a pond, then a skating pond. Unfortunately, it also mean we have a wading pond in the basement. It’s all depressingly sodden. Life in the country can be a very wet business 🙂 The dogs really hate it.


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