Mud Season / by Greg Westrich

Those bright orange “Heavy Loads Limited” signs have appeared on telephone polls around town. As I slip and slide down my driveway in the car, the kids squealing in the backseat, I was thinking that maybe I needed one for the driveway. Mud season has arrived.

Later, I went out to fed the chickens and collect eggs. The path from the garage to the shed and the chicken coop, that I worked so hard all winter to keep shoveled has become a swamp. I sink several inches in the saturated lawn, leaving deep footprints that will still be visible in July. As the snow began to melt, water ran down away from the house and collected in front of the chicken coop. I've laid boards down to walk on. Boards in front of the coop and boards over to the shed where the chicken feed is kept. On cold mornings, the ground is hard and uneven, by afternoon a small pond develops. I keep expecting ducks to join the hens.

Inside the chicken yard, where the ground is clear, the hens have left deep prints in the mud. Their feet disappear into the mud as they walk around, enjoying the warming weather. The rooster fluffs out his feathers, stretches his neck and crows loudly. It appears that chickens like mud more than snow. All winter they hid in their coop, barely coming out to feed. If it was snowing they stayed inside, talking quietly among themselves. Every once in a while the rooster would crow loudly, regardless of the time of day.

The path through the snow from the front door around to the compost pile is getting soupy, too. The sun is getting stronger by the day, turning the snow into lakes and rivers running down the drive and through the yard, into the woods. The ground is still frozen a few inches down: the snowmelt has nowhere else to go. As I take the dog out so she can go to the bathroom, I was thinking it was a good thing the ground was still frozen or we would have sunk down into the mud and out of sight.

The dog doesn't mind the mud, nor do the kids. They leave muddy footprints from the door, across the carpet and into the house. Muddy boots and shoes collect in drifts near the front door and in the kitchen.

It's not just our yard; mud season has arrived everywhere. Down at the end of our road, where the pavement ends, several residents park their cars and walk the rest of the way home. The road has become a mud roller coaster with large puddles and deep ruts. It'll be weeks before it dries out and is passable by anything without four wheel drive.

Mud keeps loggers out of the woods, too. Recently I saw a logging road where a truck got stuck, making ruts more than a foot deep. You think that would have clued me in, but it didn't. Less than an hour later, I got my car stuck trying to get to a trailhead for a hike. I had to leave my car and walk back up the road until I got cell reception to call a tow truck.

Mud season is a transition from winter to spring that cannot be rushed. We need to be patient and let the ground thaw and then dry out, taking time to enjoy the strengthening sun and the bug-free days. Stand on the back porch and listen to the birds returning for the year. Soon enough the grass will green up, the blackflies will emerge, and peepers will begin singing. Until then, I'll just have to live with muddy shoes cluttering up the house and a yard wetter than Caribou Bog. 

Originally published in The Weekly on April 4, 2013