Mount Vesuvius

Mount Vesuvius

This story is merely descriptive of the type of soil we had at our old home.  I haven’t spent much time working on the suggestions y’all gave me earlier, although I have given them a lot of thought and have ideas on how to proceed on all but one of them.

I have turned Princess’s suggestion over to Hestia, and she has done some work on it.  I have to admit that she has an … interesting … writing style.

I’m not feeling at all well tonight.  Bit of a cold and/or flu I’m afraid.  Internet sterilized huggles to y’all.  Take care.



Clay is one of the three principle types of soil.  I am not certain what the other two types are, as no examples exist within dozens of miles of my backyard.

Clay is useful for a variety of purposes.  For the gardener, good use can be made of clay provided it has first been purchased from a store in its kiln-hardened variety.  For example, pots made from clay are useful for keeping plants in.  Additionally, statues made from clay can be attractive and versatile.  Examples of this use can be found in the Louvre in the sculptures of Michelangelo, and, more domestically, in the local Wal-Mart as the material used to construct lawn gnomes.

Clay that lies in the soil, however, is evil.

The Encyclopedia of the Columbia University Press supports this assertion, and has very little good to say about clay with respect the agricultural endeavors.  To quote…

Excessively clayey soils, however, are exceedingly difficult to cultivate.  Their stiffness presents resistance to implements, impedes the growth of the plants, and prevents free circulation of air around the roots.  They are cold and sticky in wet weather, while in dry weather they bake hard and crack.  Clods form very often in clayey soils.

The article goes on to say that improvements can be made with lime, chalk, or organic matter, and that some plants can actually manage to survive in the stuff provided they were allowed to spend their childhood with more mothering soils.  Furthermore, the most amazing thing that I learned from the article is that “clayey” is actually a word.

To summarize though, to gardeners wishing to create a garden starting from seed, clay sucks.

Despite the encyclopedia’s belated attempt to put a positive light on the matter, my wife, the garden fanatic, has absolutely nothing good to say on the subject of clay.  I am absolutely 100% in agreement with her on this issue.  We hate clay.  We loath it, despise it, and detest it.

Where we differ, unfortunately, is in the ways we wish to deal with it.  I, personally, find that videogames, reading, and sleep are absolutely marvelous for managing virtually all aspects of the clay dilemma.  My wife, however, seems to believe that forty-pound bags of topsoil, humus, and sterilized poop are a far better solution.

I suppose the difference in opinion stems from the question of what one’s ultimate objective is, and my wife has made my ultimate objective clear from her perspective in no uncertain terms.  My ultimate objective from my perspective doesn’t count; I’m just a husband.

We buy most of our topsoil at the local Home Depot.  By decree, for the first four years in our home I was not allowed to leave the store without carrying out at least ten bags of the stuff.  This adds up to 400 pounds of dirt that had to be brought home with every number 10 nail purchased.

This would not have been such a problem if it weren’t for the fact that each of the forty-pound bags actually had to be put somewhere.  My wife did not seem inclined to just to let it remain in the bags to be artfully arranged in piles on top of the grass.

So this meant that we had to dig holes for it.

The process goes like this:

My wife first picks out an area of healthy, easy to mow grass for a garden bed.  She then stakes it out carefully with little strings and sticks.  She double checks all of her distances with a measure tape, and then does one final bit of research to ensure that the sunlight in the area is proper for the kind of plants she wishes to sow there.  Then she hands me a shovel.

The sod must come out first.  In many gardening magazines, the horticulture expert takes a sharp instrument, stabs the ground all around the marked up lines, and then simply rolls up yards of sod into a tube like an architect rolling up his skyscraper layouts.

The only conclusion I can reach is that these gardening magazines are either tampering with the photographs or that sod that grows in “clayey” soils does not respond to the same rules of reality.  The biggest roll of sod I’ve ever got out of the ground could more easily be measured in inches rather than yards.  And invariably, the small hunk of sod I do manage to pull up has a four to ten pound clump of clay leached to it.

An hour our so after I’ve begun, after several days worth of muscle-tearing labor, the sod is finally removed, exposing the clay beneath.  This clay either is to be amended with various nutrients and forty-pound bags of sterilized poop, or is simply removed entirely.  My wife usually chooses the latter option.

Digging in clay, as might be guess from the encyclopedia definition, is a nightmare.  It is heavy stuff, hard to cut through, and must be loaded into wheelbarrows and carted off along with the sod to be dumped elsewhere.

Eventually, this creates another problem.  What, actually, are we to do with all this clay?  While I haven’t tried it, I strongly suspect that Home Depot will not accept it in some kind of a soil exchange program.  It can’t be sold on eBay to people with clay-deprived gardens, as the postage would be murderous.

So we just pile it.

The first place we piled it was in building a hill for our waterfall.  This was fine for a while, but we realized that it may have been a little too fine when the waterfall started looking less like a gentle, natural spring bursting forth from the earth and more like Mount Vesuvius.

The next place we stowed it was behind the garage.  This location remained viable a lot longer, and the impressive mound of clay-laced dirt could actually be seen by sightseers as being intentional.  The problem here occurred when my wife actually started deliberately to plant clay-friendly plants on this mound, and was reluctant to have me continue to unload additional wheelbarrows full of the heavy stuff on top of them.

So lately, I’ve resorted to dumping the stuff in the least conspicuous remaining places in our backyard that I can find.  If the digging continues, some of our neighbors will be mystified to find miniature Mount Vesuvei popping up in their own gardens.

The latter, fortunately, is unlikely.  We have finally just about run out of clay.  Virtually our entire back yard down to three feet is now composed of topsoil, humus, and sterilized poop, carted from Home Depot in forty-pound bags, ten at a time.

It is, on reflection, an astounding feat, similar in scale if not quite in notoriety to the building of the Great Pyramids.

Now there is an idea I wish I had thought of earlier.  If only I had taken the clay and baked it into bricks on my barbeque grill, we could now be selling tickets to the tenth wonder of the world: the great, clay-composed pyramid of the suburbs, soaring majestically into the sky, with bits of sod still clinging to it in an artistically arranged manner.

On reflection, though, I doubt that my wife would have gone for the idea.  It would have taken up way too much garden space.


4 thoughts on “Clay

  1. you could always lay out in the sun on one side (long enough to get a little red) start humming “do dee dee doo doo” around the house, and start building an exact replica of devil´s tower in the backyard, a la close encounters 😉

    and thank you for “clayey”

  2. I love words like clayey—it can apply to so many things—

    “I awoke to find my brain was nearly as clayey as my feet; and yet, somehow, I managed to prepare a fragrant cup of coffee and enjoy it, until I realized I had lost my sense of taste, overnight…”

    “A real case of the flu can make one’s hands feel just like clayey, useless gloves…”

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