Schools got cancelled last week for mud. Half of Vermont lives on a dirt road and the buses just couldn’t get through after three long days of pounding rain. The snow runs off the sides of the mountains and since most of the people live in the high sweet valleys we get buried under mud. Up here in Vermont, in America’s north country, spring comes in the form of rain, rain on top of snow, softening the snow and ice, so that as you walk across it, the snow opens up to hard bare ground with every step. You know that something is happening down below. There’s stuff happening up top too, but you can hear the water underneath. Before long there are the squishy sounds your boots make as they ease across the yard, but there is the constant sound of water running down below too, Just beneath the world you see is this other one that you can hear and sometimes even touch with the soles of your shoes. The earth is waking up and even the birds are coming back.
Spring is early this year. March is usually a month filled with snow and since that first week when we got two colossal snow storms it has been quiet up here. We have had fifty degree days. It’s looking like this year we might have an Easter egg hunt in the cold leftover grass instead of the white snow. The US Snowboarding Open is this weekend and the kids are racing in just their jeans.
Through it all, the deer are still walking the same trails they’ve been making all winter long, The mash the snow into hard-packed rough ice covered muddy clumps that will remain long after the softer snow has melted away. Their footprints are the icy understory in the forest now. We throw hay and salt down in the meadow for them as winter ends and they have already gotten all the low bark off of our trees. They are looking skinny and the coyotes take more of them in the late night hours. It sounds like a horror movie out there some nights and when we can stand it no more we begin to throw the hay. We are chastised for this by the locals. The Vermonters let nature take its course. I try. I really do, but by March I feel like everybody needs a little Disney break and I cave every single year. I fatten up a few deer and the coyotes move on to somebody elses’s woods.
Our small holding backs up to a protected forest trail. So we have wild woods that begin just at the edge of our land. Our chickens don’t lay well when the coyotes are hunting in our meadow. The sounds that interrupt our sleep seem to unsettle them too. And we don’t need wild animals molesting our livestock, so we fatten up the Kent Hill deer and they are faster and stronger and the coyotes move on.
The sleepy season is almost over. There was a winter’s farmer’s market yesterday in Brattleboro. It was filled with cute little girls in dresses and boots and their Vermont mama’s selling a winter’s worth of pottery with their long braids tied back with flowery ribbons. They was Thai food and musicians with guitars and harmonicas. All the farmers had little pots of veggies and flowers for your house and piles of seeds filled with hope and promise. God we’ve missed each other and this sunny Saturday was cause for celebration. We came right home and ordered our new baby chicks.
Because the geese are coming back too. The first ones have just started coming. They head down to the pond and hang out around the edges grabbing the fish who are swimming up toward the sun. These geese are huge. It is as if the Canadian flocks send out the strongest sentries first. These are the ones whose job it is to declare that winter is over. They make a bog racket when they come back and like trumpets they sound the spring. Welcome back guys. Watch out for the mud.