An extra season of boot-sucking mud

  • The Bobcat stuck in a quagmire of mud at Miles Smith Farm. Courtesy of Carole Soule

  • It’s never a good sign when your boot gets stuck in the mud. Courtesy of Carole Soule

For the Monitor
Published: 12/14/2018 4:48:05 PM

Our Bobcat, a kind of a farm bulldozer, was up to its belly plate in mud, wheels spinning – digging deeper into the muck with each rotation.

Last week, with my husband Bruce at the controls, the Bobcat had delivered a 1,000-pound round bale of hay to our hungry cattle in the pasture and was leaving when the mud took hold and would not let go. With Bruce using the bucket on the front of the Bobcat like a mechanical arm, the machine was able to push itself free of the quagmire.

Usually, in the autumn our pastures are dry and the ground solid. But this year’s excessive rain transformed them into fields of soul-sucking mud.

When I plodded through the field we call “Omega,” I was in constant fear of losing a boot. With each step, I wiggled my feet and gently lifted my toes until I heard a sucking sound as that boot pulled free of the mud. I repeated this step by step until I reached the safety of a concrete pad.

Occasionally, on muddy terrain, despite my best efforts, I’d slip and fall face-first into the morass which was not spa beauty-treatment mud; it was farm mud, abundantly enriched by my herd of healthy livestock.

Mud is not good for cattle either. Their feet can get stuck in it, and it mats down their fur coats, diminishing their insulation value. Muddy fields make them nervous, too. Cows gingerly pick their way along, concentrating on staying on all fours. They don’t want to fall any more than I do.

This week the ground finally froze and now we can deliver hay to our 60 head of cattle without getting stuck; walk without losing our boots; wear clothes not crusted with mud; and undress indoors, instead of on the stoop.

Yet even when frozen, mud still takes a toll. All those ruts and ridges have become rock-hard, creating treacherous footing. I’ll stumble over a frozen clod or slip off a ridge and fall on my butt – at age 66, I’m not so agile (and I don’t bounce like I used to). Falling into soft mud is embarrassing; falling onto rock-solid earth is painful.

It’s just barely winter, but I’m already yearning for spring. Not early spring, as the ground thaws and mud season resumes, but late spring, when the soil stays put and does what we want it to – provide firm footing for farmers and cattle while producing fields of nutritious, sweet grass.

(Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm in Loudon, where she raises and sells beef, pork, lamb, eggs and other local products. She can be reached at cas@milessmithfarm.com.)




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