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The lady of the house versus the spring mud

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By Janny Wilcke

After months of winter with its snow and cold, bulky coats, frozen windshields, school closings and slippery roads, almost all of us are eagerly looking forward to spring. We anticipate the pleasures of the warm sun, breezes scented with the awakening earth, and the surprise of crocuses and daffodils pushing their way up overnight. But the thing that comes to my mind in spring is mud. I, too, love warm weather, spring flowers and sunshine, but I admit it is mud that I connect most to spring

This hasn’t always been the case. Until we moved to our farm in Henry County, mud was never much of an issue. In places we have lived in the past, we almost always had a stone or brick walk, and a few times we even had a paved driveway. But when we renovated our home here so that my mother could move in with us, we put off making a decent parking area and even a path to the house. We figured we’d deal with those later. Yet, here it is seven years past and those projects still have not made it to the top of my husband’s priority list, in spite of periodic gentle reminders.

As a result, the mud issue has reached the top of my list of annoyances. My shoes get caked with the brown muck. I have to straddle a three-foot wide strip of mud just to get back and forth from my car to the grass, and, while I am still quite agile, I am not a gymnast. All too frequently this time of year, one or the other of my feet invariably sinks into the mud, which holds fast to my shoe, much to my irritation.

Last summer, still bugged by the recent mud problems and anticipating those to come, I took it upon myself to solve the problem. I can’t pave a driveway, but I figured that at least I could make a stone pathway to my back porch. I hauled rocks from a used rock garden and placed them close together covering the twenty-odd feet from porch to drive. It was hard, backbreaking work, but I was determined.

Those old field rocks, of course, were not uniform in either size or thickness, so that my pathway was somewhat of a hazard. Almost immediately my husband caught his heel in a crevasse and was lucky to find his balance as quickly as he did. I received little praise for my labor. In truth, we had to warn our less-agile guests against using my stone pathway when they came to visit. But I think I made my point.

The mud problem at the house is not the only annoyance. Bare dirt where horses feed all winter soaks up moisture from rain and thawing snow and becomes a deep muck with the properties of swampy wetland. I have to wash my husband’s jeans twice to get rid of the caked-on mud, and I dread having to do the chores when trips or other business obligations keep him away from home. The horses roll in the mud which then bakes onto their coats in the warmth of the spring sunshine. Our cats leave countless paw prints on the hoods and windshields of our cars every day, and our shoes inevitably track mud into the house, in spite of our best efforts to scrape it off outside.

I recall my late father-in-law’s professed reason for becoming a family physician instead of a farmer like his father. He always claimed that the main deterrent to his going into farming was the crushing mud on the Iowa farm where he grew up, basically during the 1920s. He said the doctor’s office in town was the cleanest (and warmest) place that he knew, and so he chose medicine over agriculture. I know it wasn’t his real reason, but I can relate to his anguish at having to deal with Iowa mud.

My fondest hope is that my backbreaking effort to craft a stone walk last summer will push the issue to the top of our priority list for 2010. I’ll admit my path is dangerous, although it probably looks beautiful from the sky, but if nothing else it stands as evidence that the lady of this house means business when it comes to mud.