Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A 5th Vermont Season

Tuesday March 27, 2007

It's heading for 7 PM here and despite the weather I have to say how much I do enjoy the time change and the advent of spring. It still has Karl the wonder dog a little confused as to when he's supposed to go for a walk after dinner but the rest of us have adapted well. Tonight there is a heavy fog and the temperature of 43 this time of day is uncommon. We would like to see the temperature fall into the mid twenties and refirm the earth to something you can walk on without wondering how deep your shoes will sink. This is early spring in Vermont and this is the start of our fifth season--Mud Season.

Evenings like this one remind me of being 6 years old and wondering if we'd make it home for supper. The old early-forties Buick was a fine car with Bondo patched fenders and a good array of dents, scratches and rust. It mattered little what a car looked like back in 1954 as no one had a new car and during mud season no one would know if you did anyway as every car was covered with mud.

My Dad always figured if he could make it over the hill by Frenches, we'd probably be golden. He'd always make an initial run and just gun the motor for all it had in hopes that he'd make it and not have to put on the tire chains. That philosophy worked in early spring but it seemed as if it created more problems than it was worth.

One night we waited for one of the Reeds to finish milking and come down with the tractor to pull us over the top and on another night we blew a radiator hose and walked home. These memories repeated themselves over time with only the date changing.

Getting buried and then having to put on the chains was no guarantee that you'd get out but it was the last resort. My father would curse the chains being stuck together and I feared him too much to remind him that he was the only person who put them on and took them off. Often he'd have to jack up a tire at a time to get them on and sometimes he'd have to take them off and do on-site repairs with a giant ball peen hammer and a cold chisel. These were skills I did not want to learn but the repetitiveness buried them back in my mind. I can still see my father's arthritic knuckles covered with mud but powerfully draping the chains under a wheel well and over the tire before he layed on the ground and pulled the pieces together to lock them. Yes, mud season in the old days was something you expected but did not look forward to.

We've been here on Peacham Pond Road since 1989. Gail lost the entire exhaust system only once, and since '89 I have had enough discussions with the road foreman to get the road built up more each year. Tonight the pot holes are so deep that Karl barks each time a vehicle approaches as even at slow speeds there are loud rattles. Yes Vermont's 5th season, Mud Season, is memorable!

This is the season when Gail and I can take a brief walk every night after supper. That's a nice change. By tomorrow night I expect that enough snow will have melted off the potted plants that we'll have some discussion about when the insulating blankets will get torn off this year, who will fold the 500 feet of plastic, how much damage we'll find from the vole population and whether Hosta "Montana aureomarginata' will sprout first and get nailed by frost as usually happens. All the conversations will be interesting to us and have relevance to what we grow and sell. Farmers, even flower farmers, trust each other with their conversations and they look forward to them.

Gail just interrupted my writing by asking that I come into the kitchen and listen to VPR and a couple senators discussing education, funding, taxes and spending too much money on special education. One of these has been around for a long time. He hasn't been around long enough to have learned that he should answer constituents questions and at least fake an interest in thoughts. I wrote him on March 7th and I haven't even received an acknowledgement yet. Perhaps he doesn't answer email or maybe he doesn't read it. Apparently he doesn't know me yet, but he will.

Mud Season is not a planting season, it's a time for final preparation. It's a time to sharpen tools like hand pruners and then wade through the snow to cut some pussy willows or some forsythia for a vase on the side board. It's time to push a hand file or a power grinder on the edge of all the shovels to sharpen their points. It's time to sand all wooden handles and apply a fresh coat of oil or sealer. There's actually a long list of Mud Season chores that have to be completed quickly. As the snow melts and the grass greens, planting time will be here and there's no spare time. Here on the hill there's still over two feet of snow on the ground but that too will be gone soon.

Mud season is a time to reflect on last year's gardens. The picture above is from late last summer. The daylilies had just peaked but other flowers held strong and the color combinations attracted new customers. Garden memories are peaceful.

From the mountain above Peacham Pond, where summer visions are clear, just separated by three more months, more rain, more snow and more fog.

Spring gardening wishes,

George Africa

1 comment:

Apple said...

We're experiencing mud season here too, although for me I only have to worry about the driveway. Today is the first sunny day in a long stretch so I'm enjoying the lack of snow fog.