After I finished two CDROM releases yesterday, I went back to trying to clear the swales in the back yard today. This time, I went higher up in the yard and found yet more trouble -- one culvert empties into the swale which then leads to another culvert; but that along the way, the swale is blocked by a tree and its roots, by some variously nefarious grasses, and by the edge of a pile of discarded lumber that has sunken into the muskeg and thus become slimy and water-heavy. Yay for bogs!
I went to work with a hatchet and a shovel, and I managed to clear the blockages passably well. All this stomping around in the muskeg makes for a real mess -- just stepping on the ground smashes the pretty grass and reveals the angrily oozing mud underneath; and my shovel-and-hatchet work leaves blobs of grimy straw, dead roots, and lumber bits everywhere.
Apparently draining muskeg at anything other than an industrial scale is very much a study in "it has to get worse before it'll get better". But in spite of the ugliness, there was a surprisingly immediate payoff: the goo started to drain right away, shedding maybe a dozen liters a minute, it looked like.
To parallel Freud: the purpose of this drainage is to transform boggy necrosis into ordinary muddiness.