The bitter cold is gone and the creek is running high, jammed with giant ice floes. Almost all of last week’s snow has melted into the ground, leaving behind a rich dark muck that sucks at my boots. All I can do is shake my head, knowing full well that no amount of head shaking will make any difference in what lies ahead.

Yes, this is the dawning of the season of the mud, and I know exactly what to expect.

My rubber boots will soon become my most frequently worn footwear. Several years ago these boots had been blue, but they now have weathered into a soft shade of beige with just a hint of blue showing through at the toe. They have transformed into creek valley fashion at its very best.

Thankfully, every last one of my flock of free-ranging chickens has survived the single-digit temperatures of the past few weeks. Granted, they have not been laying prolifically, but the eggs that they have been laying are beautifully clean, and the nest boxes have also stayed wonderfully clean.

The snow-covered ground has kept both birds and eggs quite spotless, but I know that this cleanliness is about to end. Today, the birds’ feathered bodies still looked bright and beautiful, and as I looked down toward the feet of my feathered flock, I could still make out their green, yellow and deep orange legs, but farther down, closer to the ground, their
feet and toes were completely covered with thick dark mud. It almost looked as though they were taking after me and wearing rubber boots.

And oh my gosh, what has become of the pasture? It is more like a mud bath than a field. The little horses’ tails drag across the mire, but the accumulating muck does not seem to slow their prancing in the least. The calves simply do not care and lie down in the muck and chew their cud, appearing to be more pig-like than bovine. It has quickly become difficult to differentiate their varied colors through the mud that now covers them head to hoof. But what I really wish is that I could teach our dogs to wash their feet at the front door. The best that I can do is try to lure them out to romp through a grassy area before I let them inside, but alas, there is little grass this time of year, and such luring does little to clean them off.

I end up simply sweeping the mud off of the cabin’s floor the best that I can.

Even though Greg and I are spending more and more of our time staying home at the creek, there are still those occasional days that I head up town to court, dressed as a lawyer. I have come to learn that the creek’s mud will even follow me there. No matter how carefully I walk down the cabin’s front steps, searching for the least muddy spot on which to place my lawyer-shod foot, I inevitably end up with muddy decorations across my footwear.

I try to take my time and step from one grassy clump to the next on my way to the gravel driveway, but the clumps are spread out here and there across a sea of chicken and dog-scratched mire. My course is anything but straight and I often lose my balance, and to keep from falling I have to place a lawyerly toe into the muck. I have even found myself stranded
without any grassy clumps ahead of me, so that I am forced to turn carefully around and judiciously backtrack to safety.

Yes, this is the season of the mud. Not a whole lot to enjoy, but you have probably already guessed what I am about to say next. I have come to realize that there is absolutely nothing in the world like stepping out onto the front porch and breathing in the deep dark aroma of the earth.

I never knew this smell in the city, but I know it well now, and I wouldn’t trade living in this muddy creek valley for a mud-free life, not for anything in the world. By the way, I have also heard that a good mud bath is known to relieve tight muscles, condition the hair and reduce age spots. Perhaps this mud season I will dance with my long hair down, and I might even consider covering my face in mire to attain a more youthful complexion – maybe.

Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in Ohio.