I remember about 150 years ago when I was in college (okay, slight exaggeration, but only slight!), which college was under construction for all the years we were there, beginning it’s growth process which has now rendered it a huge university, I used to say, “Ah, yes, Harpur College, from the Greek, “harpux,” meaning “MUD”. Now, the Greek for mud is not harpux, but I was a Greek student and it sounded good…and there was surely a lot of mud, as various sites were excavated to build yet more dorms and dining halls and library space…
I was reminded of that last night and again this morning, when I went out to feed the sheep. The “floor” of the shed, which is just dirt, gravel, and hay, is all squooshy, as the snow behind the shed and up to it’s roof, melts and seeps under the wall into the shed floor, seeking the lowest place to flow. The actual yard that they eat in, higher than the shed floor, because it is layers of hay and snow, frozen into ice (which won’t melt until June or later, unless I scratch away at it every few days, removing a layer) is a bit drier, even though it rained last night.
Mud season has started: days above freezing, nights below. Of course, that also means maple syrup season has started. Driving around, I see the big plastic holding tanks with plastic piping leading to them, with sap flowing in it. Every day I can see the progress made, as the sap gets higher, and then as the guys making syrup come and empty the tanks, taking the sap away to their sugar shacks to boil down. Or, in the more traditional situations, buckets are hung on trees, and I see folks driving or sledding or snowmobiling along, emptying the buckets into a bigger “bucket” to take it back to boil.
Sugaring is surely a more romantic image for March in Vermont than wall to wall mud everywhere, but both are indicators that winter is slowing down and in another month or two, all the snow will be melted away, and we will start to see green grass sprouting, peeking under the edges of the snowbanks. Usually, about the time the lambs are starting to pop out, the end of March, as the snow recededs out by the gate, where it has been shovelled away some, those little bits of green show themselves. By early May, the snow will be all melted from my perennial garden and I’ll be splitting and potting perennials for our yearly sale…but I’m racing ahead of myself here. For now, although the mud has some tactical issues involved, it is indeed good to see it, knowing it is as much a harbinger of waning winter and coming spring as robins are…only a little earlier.
Winter isn’t over yet, though, you understand. Today it is to be sunny and in the 40′s, pushing close to 50, perhaps. Tonight it rains, and by tomorrow afternoon, it will turn to snow and we are expecting 2-4 inches of fresh white stuff. That means this afternoon, we got out and dig the bits of our driveway which are being revealed in the melting snow out of said snow and back into the driveway. (A neighbor plowed our drive for us, a generous gesture, but his sight isn’t what it used to be, and he tried to dig all the snow out of the drive, so he dug up a good amount of the newly laid down last spring “surepac” which now is in our meadows where he dumped the snow (and surepac) he dug out of the driveway. We have been going out and digging it out as it appears, looking at first like a few small stones, and then, when we dig in, looking like we struck the motherlode. Our driveway has been having snow dug back into it for the past couple of weeks as we retrieve the expensive surepac from the snowbanks and return it to the drive, along with snow, to melt and settle back in. The trick, as our usual “snowblowing” neighbor, the guy who regularly “plows” for us with his snowblower, is to leave two inches or so of snow on the drive, so you don’t spread the surepac all over the grass! Live and learn. )
I got some neat birthday presents yesterday, and wonderful calls from friends and relatives far and near. The most unusal gift I got, one probably a lot of people I know would never have gotten, but a most appreciated gift, was a $65 gift certificate (I turned 65 yesterday!) to the grain store. Now, as it happens, I need a bunch of equipment for milking the goats next month, when, theoretically, they “kid” and start dropping milk, and that wonderful gift will buy me my stainless steel bucket and filters and what-all, so it is a really great gift. But I don’t know too many people who get gift certificates to their local grain/feed store! I love it.
I stayed home from church today with a headache/weird don’t feel like eating/not quite myself thingie, probably just from eating way too much dinner at our celebratory birthday dinner last night. (John’s birthday is next week, so we could really cash in at the local “l/2 off your entree and free dessert on your birthday” restaurant. Poor folks: they expect people to come in pairs, with one paying full price, but with both our birthdays being a week apart, we made out like bandits, with $88 worth of dinner for $44! Still more than we usually spend, but for a birthday dinner once a year, why not? Result: both full, but the desserts are free, so …gobble, gobble, stuffed, and way overeaten. Oh, well…I’m sure I’ll be back to normal by this afternoon, as I regain my desire for food, which right now isn’t functioning. A little tea, and maybe a little nap, once I get Lizzie in from her time of playing outside, which happens every day around 9:30 or so.
By the way, I find this early daylight savings time very depressing: we just get to the point where we’re NOT getting up in the dark, and we’re plunged back into it again. So, for another few weeks, it’s feed the animals in the semi-dark, not fully able to see them because we had to “spring ahead.” Since I’m a morning person, I appreciate light early rather than later, (when it’s only an hour!) for after dinner, that extra l/2 hour or so just isn’t that exciting. I wish we’d go back to April 1 instead of this early March thing. I’m still waiting for someone to explain to me how it saves fuel, because I sure can’t figure it out.