This recent piece in the New York Times is strike a chord with all you gardening- and farming-types out there. It pays homage to mud, a field and garden bed companion that the author, Verlyn Klinkenborg, is missing this year.
There are clear advantages to a spring without mud. I have not lost a boot to the suction of the barnyard swamp. I haven’t had to cut drainage channels through the corral. Nor have I had to tractor through primeval ooze while hauling a round bale to the run-in shed.
Still, something is missing in a season in which the forsythia came and went without mud. In a well-drained garden, mud season makes it easy to do your spading, whether you plant potatoes on Good Friday, as my uncle does, or merely prepare the earth for tomatoes to come.
What we have this year, dry earth, is intractable stuff — hard, powdery and too light in color. What rain has fallen has barely laid the dust, and even a good storm now wouldn’t raise the kind of mud I’ve come to expect over the years. Mud season is more complex than that. It needs frozen ground, good snowpack and a sudden thaw. The mud of mud season isn’t merely waterlogged dirt. It is upheaval, the amphibian earth changing shape before your eyes. It is the seed of spring in the corpse of winter.