Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Bog Blog


We are lucky enough to live in an area where there are few true natural hazards. We don't have earthquakes, the chances of a tornado is low due to our proximity to the mountains, and we harbor no venomous far as we know. We don't even have poison ivy.

What we do have are soap holes.

A soap hole is a spring that rises up in a particular kind of soil. Maybe one of you soil specialists out there could tell me exactly what it is about this white dirt that results in the formation of these bottomless wells of soupy, slick mud into which an animal can fall and never emerge, because when they try to crawl out the sides just collapse and they slide back in.

Worst of all is if a horse goes into one. We don't have any soap holes in our horse pastures, but an unsuspecting visitor once rode into one, and the horse couldn't begin to get out. After a few tries, he just gave up. One of the other riders broke out a rope, managed to toss it around the saddle horn, and they dragged him out, but then almost lost him to shock. Over the years, we've learned to warn outsiders what and where to watch for these death traps. 

And they're tricky. In dry weather the top crusts over and looks like solid ground, so a cow or calf will wander out onto it only to break through and sink. We put the tires around the edges to mark them, and you'll notice it's swallowing them up. There are countless more already at the bottom. We've tried fencing them, but they contract and expand based on how much moisture we get in any given year, so sometimes they eat the fence, too. 

Luckily, most of the time what falls in is able to get out, with nothing worse to show for it than a coating of nearly impermeable mud that they'll be wearing for days. And if there are some that don't...well, since all of our soap holes are clear out on the south lease, that's a cow or calf that goes missing and unaccounted for because unless it happens as we're trailing cows, we don't see it happen.

Given the price of cattle, we're going to be fencing the holes again this year. Unfortunately, even a good solid barbed wire fence wouldn't stop certain critters from venturing where they shouldn't. Good thing Max can swim. Now to toss her in the reservoir and get rid of the mud before she gets in the pickup for the trip home. 



Janice Grinyer said...

Its bentonite clay - and when wet, its a slippery mess. Since it contracts and expands as it cycles from wet to dry and back and again, its probably eroding the layers underneath, making a pocket...and a very dangerous situation as you noted.

You could be sitting on a pocket of saber tooth tigers and wooly mammmoths, you know ;)

Anonymous said...

If you're a human, and reading this, and want to store away the instructions for getting out if your horse falls in, what are they?

And while you're at it, what is the way to get out of quicksand - and is it different? I really want to know.

I can already handle riptides, should I ever get into the ocean again, and I was just made aware that lovely honeysuckle is often entwined in the wild with poison ivy (so don't get too close to smell the tricky things). And stay away from places where avalanche potential is high. And don't go for a hike anywhere you aren't prepared to survive the next week in, and...

Nature wants to eat us.


PS Cities and suburbs have their own hazards.

Kari Lynn Dell said...

Wait, now, I'm confused. I thought bentonite was the stuff they used to make irrigation ditches and dirt dams more waterproof? Or is that a different kind?

And Alicia, the best way to get a horse out is what I described, assuming you have help at hand and the horse is saddled. Roping them around the neck to drag them out usually just results in choking. Or you could hope to get lucky and the horse finds a solid bit of ground on the edge somewhere and gets out on their own.

A human could basically swim out, the stuff is the consistency of a thick soup, so you could paddle to the side then belly crawl onto solid ground.

I have no experience with quicksand. Yet another of those hazards that don't seem to occur up here on our high altitude gravel bar.