A Year of Mud

Reader Contribution by Laura Berlage and North Star Homestead Farms
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The ever-present mud hasn’t slowed down our sheep dog Finlee’s enthusiasm.  Needless to say that muddy footprints have been part of the year’s adventures. 

During the dust bowl of the 1930’s, farmers talked about having dust and dirt in everything, finding its way into the house through un-seeable cracks and crevices.  Glasses had to be put away upside-down to avoid filling with silt, even in the cupboards, and a fine layer of brown everywhere made housekeeping a nightmare. 

Now, some days in August, when it’s been dry for weeks and a strong south-west wind blows, the sands and silts will kick up and drift about.  The grit gets everywhere and rumbles up skyward as cars and trucks frequent the gravel road, leaving a fine, brown dusting on all the lawn furniture and parked vehicles—a tiny taste of that earlier weather plague.

But, in your heart, you know it’s just a fluke of August.  It won’t last long.  Autumn rains are coming, and the dust will soon settle as the leaves are shaken from the trees.  But this year that dusty August never happened—instead we had a different excess.

Mud Season

Mud Season is another less-than-desirable time on the farm.  It comes in early spring, with lambing and garden work as the frosts work their way from the soil.  Snows melt and the precipitation turns to rain (and plenty of it).  Pastures flood, the creek rises alarmingly, low patches in the driveways wash out, and the oozy, gooey mud sucks at your boots, even as you walk through the grass.  Nothing dries well and molds and mildews shake off their winter drowsies and look for mischief.

Now, mud season usually lasts a month or two and then things dry out enough that the tractor can roll across the yard without leaving ruts, the driveways can get smoothed out, and the creek goes down.  But not this year.  No, this will be remembered on our farm as the YEAR of mud season.

There was rain…and then more rain.  Drizzles, gushing thunderstorms, all-day-duck-weather rain, and mist.  About every combination of possible rain (and occasional hail) set the tone spring through autumn.  First-crop hay got rained on.  Squash and cucumber seeds refused to sprout.  Tomato plants pouted in the prolonged cool weather and lack of sunshine.

My boots have had such a thorough workout, I’ve blown through a pair already this year!  No time for sneakers—they’d just get soaked, along with my wide-brimmed chore hat and garden gloves.  Everything soggy, sloppy, drippy.  Twice (well after spring thaw) the creek has been over the road.  Six inches of rain in an hour-and-a-half?  Well, that was a week ago Friday…just another day in the year of mud.

I remember watching a documentary about WWI, and one soldier’s letters home remarked that they were always fighting in the mud.  Maybe, he mused, it was the same mud, just trucked around to wherever the fighting was next. 

On the farm this year, it certainly seemed like I was contending with the same mud, relentlessly.  We went to battle with each other starting at morning chores.  Slippery mud at the doorways and by the hydrant where I filled water buckets, gloppy mud in the turkey pen that stuck to their taloned feet, oozy mud as I pulled chicken tractors forward in the pasture, slipping and falling. 

Mud on the tires, mud on the entry rug, mud under my fingernails, mud everywhere!  Try to weed the garden?  Guaranteed you’ll come out coated in mud!  The weeds might pull out easier, but your clothes will be so soaked and caked, it might take a wench to pull you out.

The slugs had a heyday, as did the ducks.  The turnips grew like crazy, as did the kale.  Frogs and toads were so prevalent on warm evenings that it was like driving an obstacle course with my utility golf cart to finish chores without creating undue carnage!  Surely, somewhere in all this moisture must be some relief to the state’s aquifers.  Lake Superior has risen to higher levels than I’ve ever seen.  Folks, it’s been a lot of water!

Not that I’m trying to complain.  It’s not a hurricane, or an earthquake, or a forest fire.  We can handle the rain.  But please, how about a break for the relentless, merciless mud?  With these fall breezes, maybe there will be a chance to enjoy a reprieve before snow flies, bringing its own new batch of late-season mud before the ground freezes, waiting to become mud again next spring.

A year of mud?  It’s not a mud slide at least, but it’s certainly been an adventure on the farm.  Oh, and that tool that went missing?  Found it in the mud yesterday.  See you down on the farm sometime.

Photo by Kara Berlage.

Laura Berlage is a co-owner of North Star Homestead Farms, LLC and Farmstead Creamery & Café. 715-462-3453 www.northstarhomestead.com

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