In order to better understand why our roads turn to soup about now, here’s a short Mud Season 101.
Unpaved roads freeze hard in winter and thaw from the top down. A little warm weather and rain will thaw the top 12 inches or so of the road, but the next two feet of subsoil will stay frozen much longer and act as a sort of soup bowl – one that holds water and turns the road to - well - soupy mud.
Roads are posted to keep heavy trucks off the dirt roads, but there are exceptions, like tankers that haul milk away and oil delivery trucks. They churn up the mud, and make it more difficult for even 4-wheel drive SUVs to make it home.
Most people don’t appreciate mud season but I don’t mind it too much, since all that moisture is needed for summer gardens - and I’m a gardening guy.
Early in mud season, when the roads are at their worst, I like to stay home and read all the gardening books I’ve been given in the last year. At the same time, I like to clean out whatever garden produce is still in my freezers from last year and make soups or stews.
While my road, yard and garden plots slowly dry out, I explore some of the e-mail links that friends are always sending me to see what last minute items I might add to my plans for this year’s garden.
Then I go through my seed catalogues one more time.
I love seeds. Each one is a tiny package that holds out the promise of hope and renewal – reminding me of the eggs that are part of the seasonal table as we observe the religious holidays of Passover and Easter. I’ve already got some of my seeds tucked into little plastic 6-packs waiting to be transplanted outside when the soil has warmed and the danger of late frost has finally passed.
Come to think of it, that’s likely to be just about the time that mud season turns into spring - and then summer. And in the meantime, I wouldn’t mind spending one more long afternoon by the woodstove with the Sunday New York Times.