Mud Season

People  living in the country sometimes call the early spring "mud season". As the days warm up, the ground begins to thaw and soften. At the same time, the winter snows melt. The result is mud. The fields are too wet and muddy to work in. Anyone who comes into the house tracks in mud on their shoes or boots. Walking can even get hard as shoes and boots get heavy with mud. If you talk to anyone who has ever traveled on a dirt road in spring, they will tell you that driving can be quite an adventure.

Mud Season Science:

First, how is frozen ground different from thawed ground? Some people say there is a difference in how much water it will absorb. You can find out for yourself.

Before the ground thaws, take an empty can and remove the bottom as well as the top. Stand it outside on the ground. If you can, push the bottom of the can into the ground a little. Fill the can with water and see how long it takes for the water to run out into the ground. Do this again in the same spot after the ground thaws. Is there a difference in how long it takes for water to go into the soil?

What do the results mean? Will the ground being frozen make a difference in how much flooding might happen after a late winter rain storm? When do you think plants are better able to get watered by the rain, when the ground is frozen or when it has thawed? Which erodes (washes or blows away) easier, frozen soil or thawed soil? How could you find out?

Watch and see when the snow melts in your neighborhood. Does it all melt at the same time? If not, where does it stay longest? Why do you think it stays longer there? What kind of weather melts snow best?

What would be a good test to see if the ground has thawed or if it is still frozen? Is it when it is soft enough to make a mud pie? Is it when it is soft enough to push a pencil into? Does the top layer of soil thaw before or after the soil underneath? How can you find out? How deep does the ground freeze? How can you find out?

When does the ground thaw in your neighborhood? Does it all thaw at the same time? If not, what spots thaw first? What spots thaw last? Why? What kind of weather really helps the soil thaw?

What is the mud like where you live? Can you roll it in your hands into a ball or a snake? If you can, it means the soil has a lot of clay in it.
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