Summer….Autumn….Winter……Spring…….There are four seasons in a year. We all learned about the seasons from a young age. Not only did we chant nursery rhymes about the different seasons of the year, but we also watched the seasons pass before our very eyes. I believed this for the first 25 years of my life. Then, I moved to Vermont.
Vermont is the only place I know of with five seasons-summer, autumn, winter, mud season, and spring. Mud season marks the transition from winter to spring, and the start of maple sugarin’ It begins some time in March and lasts anywhere from two weeks to a month. It is when the warm sun overcomes the cold winter temperatures and the snow finally recedes. The deep frost begins to thaw from the top down, which prevents the melting snow from percolating into the ground. The ground becomes a sponge absorbing as much water as possible. Mud season can also alternate between
warm sunny days and snowy windy days, extending the winter thaw even longer. Water squishes out of the earth with every step. All of the streams and rivers run full as the snow melts off the mountains and makes its way down to the valleys.
Vermont towns post their roads this time of year to keep the heavy trucks off of them while the ground is so soft. I have read that as much as 65 percent of Vermont roads are gravel. During mud season, these roads can become tricky to navigate as the dirt gives way under the weight of the cars leaving huge ruts. There have been years, when the town actually closed our road to all traffic for a few weeks waiting for it to dry out. The year I was pregnant with my third child and had two toddlers on my hip, the roads were the worst I have ever seen them. I feared that I would get stuck with each outing I had to make. I couldn’t imagine myself, 8 months pregnant, walking through the deep mud with a toddler on each hip.
In my 25 Mud Seasons, I have learned that if you follow just a few simple rules while driving, your life will be much easier and happier.
- Stay calm.
- Ride the ridges.
- Don’t stop.
- and relax….it’s just mud!
I also notice that Vermonters become a little restless during this time of year. Last weekend, while my husband and I were doing chores, one of our neighbors came barreling down the road. When he saw us, he came to a screeching halt swinging his car to the side of the road and letting out a loud whoop. “Chuck!” he called out his window to my husband, as he leaned over his dog, which sat in the passenger seat. He had that crazed look in his eye with his hair a bit rumpled, and his flannel shirt on. The two of them talked about mud, the weather, sap flows, and tapping trees for maple sugaring.
As we hung our sap buckets on our maple trees that afternoon, it marked the beginning of my 26th Mud Season in Vermont.