Anyone in the mid-Atlantic region knows that we've been inundated with rain since early April, and especially the last two weeks. I think today is the first day it hasn't rained in a couple of weeks. In our county, May is going down as the wettest May since we've been keeping records.
That means the soil is saturated. It is literally engorged with water, which means it's unusually soft. Normally all of us livestock farmers would be in the thick of making hay right now. That means mowing the grass, letting the sun dry it, then baling it and putting it under roof for storage. It's like grass raisins.
But if you try to drive across the ground right now, all you do is make ruts. Although we can keep off the fields with equipment, the cows have to stay on the fields. And cows are heavy; all that weight is concentrated on four hooves, each covering only about 7 square inches. Times 4, is 28 square inches holding 1,000 pounds. That's 35 pounds per square inch.
Compare that to your car. It has 4 tires, each of which intersects the ground at maybe 30 square inches (5 inches wide and 6 inches of contact). Times 4, is 120 square inches for 1,500 pounds. If it has several passengers, it might weigh 2,000 pounds. If it's a heavier SUV, the square inches might double, so lets just deal with a car like a Subaru Imprezza. 2,000 pounds distributed on 120 square inches is only 16 pounds per square inch, half as much as a cow.
So today I moved the herd 3 times rather than just once. In fact, I've been moving them twice a day now for a couple of days. They've pushed a lot of tall grass into the ground a couple of inches. They've made some muddy spots. In New Zealand, they call this "deep massage." It's been going in since herbivores have existed, and it's strategically beneficial from time to time. Not all the time, to be sure, but from time to time, kind of like an ice cream bar.
In nature, the herd would simply move faster as it pugged up sodden ground. That's what we're doing, giving them smaller paddocks but moving more frequently. That shortens the stay and makes the massage positive rather than negative. Those muddy spots will now sprout a whole different type of plants than existed before, increasing diversity and offering more variety to pollinators.
It's all part of a wonderfully complex synergistic ballet and we're privileged to be a part of it. Letting the rain, or any environmental context, influence our daily lives keeps us mindful of a grand design bigger than us. I think it helps keep me in perspective, and that's a good thing.
Has the rainy weather affected any of your plans or routines?