Do areas on your property look like this—sparse vegetation and very little topsoil? Hill County soils are notoriously thin. At one time, this spot likely had lots more soil and vegetation. What happened? Hard to tell exactly, but it’s likely due to a combination of cedar clearing, overgrazing, the slope of the land, and heavy rain. Before Europeans settled in the Hill Country, it is estimated there were about twenty-two inches of topsoil. The clearing of soil-building cedar combined with overgrazing resulted in the loss of the vegetative cover holding that topsoil in place.

Topsoil became detached with each heavy rain—something called rain splash. Then the loosened soil was transported by water flowing across the land. Over time, more and more of that rich upper layer was lost. Where did the soil end up? Likely at the bottom of the hill or in a nearby river or stream. But all is not hopeless for this area and others like it. There are ways landowners can stop incremental degradation and help nature by speeding up the healing process.

Read more from Christine Middleton in the Hays Humm here.