Mud season

I am grateful, the thermometer reads 51ºF. Less than one week ago we were well below zero. Although I have little tolerance for the sound of drip, drip, drip (more often than not, it portends disaster) I have welcomed the sound today. The sun is high and, when the wind is quiet, it warms my shoulders from above and my face from below as its illuminating rays reflect off the subsiding blanket of snow and ice. I could find the barns with my eyes closed for the sweet perfume of wet hay has settled over the pastures.The sheep have not been thrifty and have trampled much of their feed as bedding. The icy mattress which took months to form thaws rapidly as does all exposed ground. Our thick soils are good at producing a particularly soupy sort of mud, and I don’t much like this mud season. I have fallen on the ice more times than I would like to recount, last week alone, but would rather skid and dance briefly in the mud than slip and fall prey to the unforgiving force of gravity, even one more time, on ice. I welcome the return of liquid water. That may sound strange but because we have been so cold for so long, natural pools of water have been scarce and Joanna and I have worried about the birds and the deer. We were glad to know that a nearby spring was producing a small but constant stream. The thick blanket of ice which formed one evening last week must have been especially difficult for the deer. Their legs are so thin, seemingly unprotected. The ewes stuck close to their feed but managed to beat a path to their trough. I walked back and forth between the water for the rams and their shelter, once each day since the ice settled, to be sure that they could find their way through the otherwise unbroken sea. The roofs are now clear and I can see a bit of gravel here-and-there along the lane. The blue sky is lovely, the birds seem lighter and fly faster through it. They spill seed, carelessly, from the feeders. The opportunistic deer park themselves in just the right places to greedily collect the spoils. The reflected light of winter makes that season bright. The ground, this time of year, will become progressively darker as layer upon layer of snow and ice melts. Each stratum giving up its treasure, frozen within, such that the ever-increasing accumulation darkens the ground until the snow is gone and the trove dissolves into the soils below. The buds are swelling and our lamb crop is due to arrive anytime within the next week or so. And then surely spring will have arrived. We felt the need for a walk this morning. Joanna headed off along the trail, still knee-deep in snow, while I donned my waders and took to the water nearby. The stream lay deep within a narrow gorge and because the sun has not been all that high there was still lots of snow piled along the icy banks and atop a uniform sheet of ice which lay between them. It wasn’t until I made my way, upstream, to the dam that I spied photographic potential. I was able to walk along the wall of the outflow which provided good vantage from which to photograph this receding ice sheet.


22 thoughts on “Mud season

  1. No chance of dripping around here right now. After a fairly slack January and February we have been hit by a somewhat stormy March. Forty one centimeters of snow since Sunday and another 10 or 15 by Thursday. On it goes. Nice to see that spring may be slowly moving toward us. Like jenny I, too, was unaware that what we were looking at was ice–quite a surprise! I enjoyed your description of mud. I hadn’t considered much that the mud is itself a product of many factors and that the mud you get is very much a tell of the value of the land, in many ways.
    You are your waders–it must have been bitter cold even through the woolen socks that you were probably wearing. Around here we call them ‘vamps.’

    • Nice to see you in my comments section Maurice. I’m sorry that your winter is being difficult – spring surely must be right around the corner. No lambs here yet – but any day (I hope). The stoves are still keeping us warm at night – and we’ll probably keep them lit for another six weeks or so. D

  2. Beautifully written – I could see and feel your spring coming! And I like all things ice anyway – but I am not sure if I had recognized this sheet of ice. Had you said it was a piece of a shield or some other exotic weapon… a close-up taken in a museum or at a Star Trek convention, I had believed it, too!

    • Thanks Elke. The thaw accelerated today and we’ve got a river of melt water running through our backyard. No worries … it’ll be good for the water table!

  3. The ice looks like concrete to me, it’s so strange, it looks so dense and heavy. And dark. The level of details is incredible. I love the reflection of the clouds in the water. This is a very original shot !

  4. You have a talent for capturing nature’s designs when they present themselves. Loved the piece.

  5. Nice description of the advent of the spring melt, David. We are slowly experiencing the same metamorphosis from snow to mud. I have started leaving the lid off the compost bin so our solid block of kitchen scraps can resume its work of creating soil amendments for the coming year of produce. It’s also encouraging to see that ice is becoming revealed both for the chance to photograph it and the speedier melt without the insulating snow atop. Nice late winter, thank goodness, abstract.

    • We’ve got a river running through the backyard … melt water from the hills behind us … it’ll surely fill the pond by morning! The ground feels strange beneath my feet … sort of squishy! D

  6. The image is lovely. I grew up in Iowa, in a time of gravel and mud country roads, and had more than a few interesting experiences during mud season. And of course we had mudrooms, too … a sort of seasonal dmz between the mess outdoors and the living quarters.

  7. Had to chuckle at your comment about drip, drips portending disaster! We had an ice dam that dripped into the walls and into a small portion of the living room ceiling. It was just like water torture! Will have to look into some extra insulation for that area of the attic this spring/summer. Your special lenses make this image appear as if you’re looking under a microscope. The droplets are so clear and detailed. Will not be sorry to see all this snow and ice disappear. Glad you captured this photo before it was too late!

    • Yes .. the melt is happening rapidly. There is a river flowing through the backyard … relieving the hills behind the house of their winter’s burden. We can actually see spots of clear ground here and there. You see … spring is coming … just around the corner.

  8. We are fully engaged in a melt, leaving my husband to comment that before next spring we need to renovate the living room where, though the thinly insulated walls, we can hear water dripping from the roof as though it were falling beside us. We are expecting 15 degrees Celsius on the weekend, so we’ll be cutting tile out the back door, and hoping to finish the bathroom soon.

    How many ewes do you have to lamb this spring?

    • We experienced something of a flock reduction last fall and only put 16 mature ewes out to breed. We also had 9 ewe lambs that we kept back from the rams … but one of the rams had other ideas and (unbeknownst to either of us, and for several hours) spent a beautiful fall afternoon with the girls! So, who knows how many lambs we are expecting! Thanks for checking in this evening. I am glad that warmer conditions are being felt up North as well … let’s hope it continues.

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