Clay is just soil, so why should I bother looking for it in my backyard. This is the reaction of the average person on the street who does not know that clay is not just soil that you can mold with; it has a lot more uses than we give it credit for.
No other earth material has wide and extended use for both domestic and industrial uses like clay. They are used in creative art, science, engineering, and other aspects of human endeavor, making it a valuable earth resource.
So, the question is: can I find clay in my backyard? The answer is: you might. The next question will be ‘how do I find clay in my backyard. That, we will tell you now.
How Useful Are Clay?
Clay materials are useful because they are plastic when they are wet and coherent when they are dry. Clay is useful in the following ways:
- They serve as a growth medium for plants: Different crops grow well in clay soil: rice. Clay has a great water retention ability and is rich in potassium oxide, calcium oxide, and nitrogen.
- They have been used in pottery to make utensils and other materials for domestic and decorative purposes from ancient times. Clay has been used in making pots, plates, and other utensils. Even in these modern times, clay can be processed, glazed, and then used to produce very beautiful kitchen wares.
- They have many applications in face and beauty therapy and are used to make many cosmetic products. The many powders and face foundations women put on are made from clay, and many other beauty practices find clay very useful.
- As building materials, clay can be made into bricks and adobe and used in many construction works. Bricks that are fired have always been the main building material; even in some clime, it is still the material of choice. These days brick walls can be put into making beautiful structures that last.
- When clay is harvested and processed, it can be used with other materials to make other building materials like tiles, melting pots.
- The kaolin type of clay is needed for the finer grades of ceramic materials. Kaolin is a kind of clay useful in making breakable materials both for home use, engineering, and other areas of life.
- Kaolin, a kind of clay, is used in coating paper, thereby giving it a gloss and increased opacity.
- Some clay known as the fuller’s earth is used in wool scouring; this is the process of getting raw sheep’s wool washed and prepared before it is processed for other uses.
- They are used in the wastewater treatment plant and for naturally filtering and purifying water.
These are some of the many uses that you can put clay too. So do you still wonder why you might want to find clay in your backyard?
Types of Clay
Clay can be categorized into three major types, and they are:
The earthenware clay is the most abundant of the three clay types. They are considered of lower quality than the other two.
One of the most popular earthenware clays is terracotta which is commonly used in making flower vases. Earthenware clay is weaker, porous, and only becomes waterproof when they are glazed.
Stoneware is perhaps the most durable of all clay types; they are resistant to liquid and are non-porous. They are clay that has been fired to extremely high temperatures, turning the glaze on the outside to glass.
Porcelain they commonly made of white clay, and they used mostly by sculptors to make beautiful artwork. They are clays that have been fired to about 2600 degrees. T is of great value because it is strong and durable.
Is There Clay Everywhere?
Clay can be found in many places under the topsoil. Sometimes you might see clay on the topsoil; other times, you will have to dig to find them.
You should suspect that the ground has a clay deposit underneath. If you notice that a place has light-colored mud, you can dig for clay there. The color of the topsoil is your first pointer than clay might be underneath.
Some subsoils have clay, but they are mixed up with sand and rock, and this type of clay might not be as useful as pure clay. So, watch where to dig for clay, ensure you will get the pure stuff.
Can You Find Clay in Your Backyard?
It is estimated that more than 75% of the land on earth is earth. This means that the probability of finding clay in your backyard is high.
Clay, especially earthenware, is common in most places, and your backyard is not an exception. Below are some of the various characteristics of clay that will help you know it when you see it around you.
- They come in different colors, from red to grays, white and orange. So, if you check your backyard and it has any of this color of soil, then you probably have clay there.
- Clay is slippery when you touch it, unlike sand and soil.
- It sticks to the hand when handled; this shows its plasticity.
- It has the smallest particle size of all the soil types that there are.
- Natural clay usually has organic matter, small stones, and other rock particles inside.
Where Is Clay Found in Nature?
Clay can occur on any earth surface or subsurface; however, there are places in nature that places that you will find them in abundance, especially if you need them for commercial purposes, and they include:
- Where the earth is naturally exposed like gullies and canyons.
- In construction sites where excavation has revealed the clay that is underneath the earth.
- They can also be found in stream beds and riverbanks.
How Do You Find Clay in Your Backyard?
When you are looking for clay in your backyard, you should know its characteristics to know it when you find it.
The fact that when they are wet, they are soft with a plastic texture, but their texture is crackled, angular and hard when they are dried are things you should look out for in your backyard.
If your backyard is close to a river or stream, the chances are that you will find deposits of clay called alluvial deposits. These deposits usually have other components like gravel, sand, loam, Silt, and the likes.
Tips To Looking for Clay in Your Backyard
The tips below will help you in your quest to look for clay around you:
- Be ready for a little work, getting your hands dirty and come prepared with a small digger to dig with
- If you have muddy puddles or areas where water stays for a while before draining into the soil, that is the first place to start your search.
- Dig out some surface soil in that muddy puddle area, and then see if you find soil that looks, feels and acts like clay. Here you must check the color of what you dug to see if it has one of the colors of clay, then you try to mold it to see if it is plastic. Lastly, check if it is sticky to the hand when it is moist.
- To be certain of the soil material you dug out, place it inside water and sit for 48 hours. If it dissolves and forms a slimy liquid that is smooth, then you have clay there.
How Do You Dig Your Own Clay?
Clay in its dry form is difficult to handle or dig because it forms clumps that can break. So, if you want to dig your clay, you will need the following materials and equipment
- Aerator for incorporating air into the soil
- Gypsum for softening the soul
- Shovel for digging
- Spading fork for lightly breaking and turning the soil.
- Watering hose and water
The steps below should be followed in digging out your clay:
- Moisten the soil you want to dig with water gradually and frequently for 48 hours. Because clay has a high-water retention ability, the water will linger for a while before it drains. Just ensure that for those 2 days, the soil gets enough water.
- Use an aerator to aerate the soil.
- Apply gypsum on the soil; it does not have any use in the soil other than loosening the soil clumps and ensure that enough water gets into the soil, thereby making the digging job a lot easier.
- Use spading work to work about 3 to 4 inches of the soil to break up large clay clumps.
- Leave the soil to dry for 24 hours, and afterward, you can now use your shovel to dig the soil.
The soul would have been so loosened that the digging would not be too stressful.
If You Don’t Have Clay in Your Yard, Where Is the Best Place To Find Clay?
If you can’t find it in your backyard, the best option to look for clay is to check-in hill lands or waterways. Any place where the surface has been exposed, be it for construction or mining pits. The beauty about these places is that most of the digging work has been done for you.
Other places that are good places to look for clay are water cuts, riverbanks, and streams. They usually have a high content of clay, and you are most likely to find less impurities like dirt, Silt, or even sand, and before they can be put into good use, they must be processed.
Clay as a building material, an ingredient for making cosmetics and makeup, material for different art and pottery products have been used from historical times. Its use in this modern time is getting more varied.
The plasticity, color, and strength make it a unique material for both domestic and industrial uses.
The good thing is
Clay is all around us, and if you do not see any, you are not searching or digging enough. It would be a wonderful experience to look for clay, process it, and then use it to make anything of your choice; it indeed gives a great feeling of accomplishing a little feat.
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