MudSeason on the homestead is a season without time. It’s also time without a season, and a time between. That sounds very poetic, but mud season is more like the name suggests and there is nothing poetic about it.
It froze, so now it melts
Mud season is when the seasons are changing with warm melting days teasing in between frigid days. The only constant is that the nights are almost always cold (except, not always). The bonus of this time between seasons is that it coincides with Sugaring Season. As the trees awaken and bring sap from the roots to the new shoots, we humans can carefully tap the trees and collect that sap for ourselves. As good stewards of the land, we are careful to tap the tree in such a way as to prevent the introduction of diseases, and to spread the tapping spots from year to year so as not to damage the tree. Then, we can boil that sweet sap into sticky gold (or maple syrup). I had a couple days out tapping this year, not as many as normal, but I just help our friends, it’s not our livelihood. I haven’t been to a boil yet. (One boils the sap to remove the water as steam and to have just the sugars remaining in a thick solution.) The sap runs best with cold nights and warm days, with freezing temperatures hit and at least a 20 degree swing from cold to warm. I swear the sun helps too, more than cloudy days, but maybe that only helps my mood.
The only other benefit of mudeseason is that it exists because the snow is melting. The snow melts before the ground thaws, or simultaneously to, but slower. This means that a fair amount of water slurries into thick mud through the day, equaling terrible mud pits to drive through. Depending on the consistency and thickness of the mud along with the weight of the vehicle, some of these ruts are pretty deep. Then, at night they freeze. Anyone familiar with mud season is also familiar with the tug, and loss of steering, from sticky mud pulling your tires about, and the hard, disastrous ripping of undercarriages from driving over those same ruts when frozen. The towns and private road owners do their best to mitigate the damage, but really until the ground thaws enough for the water to sink in, there isn’t much to be done. It can be a catch 22 whether it’s better to leave the road somewhat smooth or perhaps drag deep ruts with heavy equipment when grading or dumping gravel. Some years, mud season is only a week or so. Some years it seems to drag on for weeks. It is always related to the amount of snow to melt (not so much this year) and the length of warm and windy days.
This is also a teasing time of year. I can see my garden, and for a while I could sink into the dirt. I seriously contemplated planting some crops like peas and kale that can grow right through frost and low snow. But this week, the ground is frozen as hard as a shelf of rock again. My midmorning and overnight snow has disappeared and it looks gorgeous. However, I go out to collect the eggs and the tip of my nose goes numb. It is not gardening weather yet.
We also haven’t quite finished the woodpile where I want to put the indoor greenhouse to start some plants inside. I do technically have enough room beside the remaining wood. However, it would be an open invitation to the Cat Olympics Distance Launch from the woodpile to the plastic “roof” of the greenhouse. As it is plastic, only a little thicker than a shower curtain or heavy table cloth, the cat olympics would soon render the greenhouse too vented to actually hold in heat or moisture. Thus, we wait about another two weeks. Or, I move the remaining wood. We’ll see where my patience lands.
I intend to start not only the vegetables requiring a longer growing season like tomatos and peppers, but also those that we are impatient for such as cucumbers. For the farmers markets, I have a bunch of edible flowers to plant to use on cookies and cupcakes. I haven’t decided whether to plant enough seeds to sell some starts as well (plants started to transplant). It’s not my normal thing to do, as I am not an expert gardener. But if I could sell enough to make back the money I’ll spend on potting soil and seeds, it would be awesome.
While the sun teases me with its hints (and lies) of warmth I still have time to write and not feel guilty for being in front of a screen. This means that I am pushing right now to create marketing materials and future episodes of my serial stories. The more I have completed now, the easier I can publish them through the summer without needing to waste gorgeous blue skies indoors. I need to be outside more this year than I was last year.
Anticipation also builds for spring babies. Not human babies. I don’t want more children nor grandbabies for years. But our baby chicks will be arriving in about two weeks. As you may recall from earlier posts, we have about 25 meat birds and 10 Americanas (blue/green egg laying chickens) in the first set. These tiny chicks will be adorably cute and live under a heat lamp until they are fully feathered and ready to be in the large pen & coop. In May we receive about another 25 meat birds and 15 pullets (ready to lay) chickens of brown eggs. We won’t be fully ready to sell eggs again until June, but then we’ll be ready for farmers markets. The blue and green colored eggs won’t be ready until the middle or end of summer, but that’s ok. It’s building the flock for the future. Next year we’ll be ready with colored eggs from early spring forward. Our four chickens that we do still have are laying in force and we have more than enough eggs for ourselves for eating and baking. It’s perfect. AND, our goose started laying. Since she was dropped off here, we have no idea what breed she is. “Standard” isn’t actually a breed. So, research suggests that she’ll lay between 5-50 eggs this spring. She’s already at 7 as I write this, so she’s either an overachiever or right on schedule. She isn’t happy with the colder days of mud season as I cannot fill her pool when the hose freezes. She has plenty of fresh drinking water, but she’s happiest when she has a pool to wade and bathe in. She tried bathing in snow the other day (it had partially filled the pool,) but that wasn’t nearly as exciting.
Our first pop-up market of the Season was April 2nd (yesterday as I post this). We didn’t try to have garden starts available, nor even pickles and jams. We did have crafts and pre-orders of chickens. Moreover, we brought baked goods of muffins and cookies. The pop-up was where some of our items are picked up each week from the virtual farmers market. So some of these customers buy our baked goods, but we haven’t sold crafts through it. Hopefully, people coming in to see the items will make them more likely to buy. There was no commission for this sale. Even better! In May is when we start the regular farmers markets. We’re manning a booth at least once a month in Lyndonville on Friday nights and then each Saturday in St Johnsbury. I don’t think we’ll do Danville as the sales will probably not justify the gas and time. It didn’t really last year, even though it was a sweet market to be at. I don’t want to over extend myself too much for markets either, as I want time for other things. Fri afternoon/evening to Saturday morning is easy as I don’t need to unload the car at all.
MudSeason on the homestead is a season without time. It’s also time without a season, and a time between.