Posts Tagged With: mud season

Emerges, Snarling

The curmudgeonly demeanor so essential to my charm nearly veered into the ditch of sociopathic behavior a few times this winter as the Shack Nasties made their annual bid for control. The Shack Nasties are terrible things, related to Cabin Fever but having nothing to do with the need to get outside. Cabin Fever is easily treated but the Shack Nasties are insidious and, once contracted, their cure consists mostly of endurance. Hundreds of blog posts and internet articles appeared this winter, with headlines like “Ten Quick Hacks to Beat the Winter Blahs” and I could almost relate, but my hacking was from working in the cold air and, on a good day, if I tried real hard, I could almost get myself worked up to “blah.”

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When folks who are used to a lot of snow say, “That’s a lot of snow,” you know it’s a lot of snow.

Ya think?

Ya think?

Where the ground doesn’t freeze much more than three feet deep most years, burying water lines four feet deep should do the trick, except in those years the ground freezes down to five, causing even the most stoic Vermonters to quietly cuss to themselves. But after a drive through a squall, over Horrible Mountain to the grocery store for bottled water and standing in line behind a lady yammering on her phone about that evening’s wine selection, I’m afraid my cussing might not have been to myself. In fact, I know it wasn’t but, gosh darn it, you don’t serve Barolo with Dover Sole and who in the heck convinced the women of New Jersey that yoga pants and Ugg boots are appropriate winter-wear anywhere in the world, let alone Vermont?

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Almanac

Old Farmer’s Almanac, February, 2015

Every year, winter’s back breaks and, every year, I make a joke about how it’s too bad you can’t just shoot winter in the head and get it over with, but the protracted death of winter is one of the best parts of spring and, after a winter like this one, it is a pleasure to gawk while it dies. Trees and power lines came down as the snow piled up, the cold settled in and more than a month passed between days (or in our case, hours) above freezing, but the coldest days have passed and all of a sudden it appears we’ve turned a corner (or at least tried to) as the roads have become a little less icy.

Mud

The Second Day of Mud Season

There are those who say spring is the season that most defines Vermont and its inhabitants and I agree. Not the spring of pussy willows and daffodils and baby bunnies on Easter cards, but the spring of thawing and melting and mud. The one time of year when the only people who are here are the people who live here, and most of them know better than to stand up at Town Meeting and ask if maybe the road crew shouldn’t “try thinking outside the box this Mud Season.” The only thing better than the mud this time of year (and the entertainment provided by those who think something can be done about it) is that the maple trees begin to wake up, the sap flows and the arch is fired up on Bobo’s Mountain.

The Arch at Bobo's, March 12, 2015

The Arch at Bobo’s, March 12, 2015

A quick two-day thaw brought a 2,000-gallon run of sap and a drop in temperatures brought it to an end, meaning that the first boil of 2015 could be a shake-down affair, without the pressure of 2500 trees gushing all day and having to boil like hell just to keep up.

First Steam of 2015

First Steam of 2015

As often happens, 40 gallons of sap did not equal one gallon of syrup but this particular batch of syrup tastes like it’s already on pancakes, with as much melted butter as you wish you could really have and, like the best rum, coffee or beer, you can’t shine a light through it. Whether or not it tastes so good because it’s the first syrup of the season, after a winter when I almost kicked a lady wearing yoga pants (are those things supposed to blouse?), I don’t know, but I do know that mud and maple go together and, if the first thaw of March is any indication, there’s going to be plenty of both. After months of challenging cold and snow, the Shack Nasties have loosened their grip and slipped away at last. Dirt roads turn to mud, sap becomes syrup, and Quill Gordon loses all desire to kick people in line at the grocery store, transforming from snarling sociopath to just another good-natured goof driving home in the dark, bouncing over frozen ruts beneath the stars, clutching a warm jar of fresh syrup, the surest signs of spring I know.

Empties

Ready to Fill

There is still some lovely 2014 “Amber/Rich” syrup available from Bobo’s, for those who need a fix now and wish to avoid the muddy drive over, but it won’t be long before those empty barrels are filled with this spring’s sugary goodness, ready to be bottled and shipped to far-flung corners of the world. While waiting for the next sap run and boil, as folks in these parts struggle to stay out of the ditches, here’s an official Bobo’s Mountain Sugar video to watch. Notice how just talking about syrup is enough to make some people smile.

Categories: Maple Syrup, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

An Early Spring Ramble

The beginning of spring in these parts was marked by a storm that dumped more than a foot of new snow. Winter’s keen, cold edge might have been worn down but her message remained blunt. The temperature dropped, the sap ceased running and it seemed for a few days that ours was the grumpiest village in the world. It’s not often people admit out loud that they wish it was mud season already.

Their wishes have been granted and, while it may be too soon to tell for sure, this year’s mud looks to be at least average.

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Mud season takes some by surprise, especially those who recently moved here from other places looking for the “rural chic” of catalogs and magazines. If a full Vermont winter didn’t do them in they must be sorely disappointed when March rolls around and tosses chic in a ditch, leaving them with only the rural. If there were a way to keep dirt roads dry in the spring I’m sure a Vermonter would have figured it out by now, but mud season is such a part of Vermont’s culture that maybe someone’s just keeping it a secret, so as to not spoil the fun. Continue reading

Categories: nature, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , | 12 Comments

A Big Old Dose of Spring

At Town Meeting, back on the 6th, I was told Mud Season would begin on the 7th.

It did.

A protracted spell of unseasonable warmth made it even deeper and more tenacious than usual and, two and a half weeks later, it’s still not over. Entire dump truck loads of stone continue to disappear in the slop.

While several feet of saturated road bed thawed in the warm spring sun this week, the ice on the lake remained thick, but not to be trusted.

Continue reading

Categories: Humor, nature, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Answering Some Mail

(At the top of this page is a tab that reads “Contact Quill” which will bring up a form you can use to send old Quill an email. A few readers have actually used it, and I’d like to share with you some of the notes I have received.)

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Dear Quill,

I subscribed to your blog, but this is not at all what I had in mind and now I regret my decision. How do I make the email notifications stop?

Signed, Disgruntled in Denver

Dear Disgruntled,

I am sorry to hear you are no longer gruntled, but how do you think I feel, having to look at it every darn day? Take a look at the bottom of your email notification; there should be a link that says “Unsubscribe”. Click it and follow the directions, and you will never again be notified that impotant pieces like “Careful With That Axe, Eugene“, “A Craft Project With My Friend, Eugene“, or “Eugene and the Dangers of Shatter Proof Glass” have been foisted upon an unsuspecting readership proudly published. ~QG 

Otter, Fish in a Barrel Pond 3/10/12

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Dear Quill,

L.L. Bean’s very special Spring Fishing Expo and 100th Anniversary Celebration is this weekend. We’ll give you ten thousand dollars to stay away.

Signed, Freeport Chamber of Commerce

Dear Freeport Chamber of Commerce,

Your offer is tempting but, as much as I wanted to be there for what is sure to be a great weekend (including fly tying demonstrations by Don Bastian, a man with many stories that somehow involve him in his underwear, by the way), I must send my regrets for free. You see, I will be staying away for reasons of love.

My love of anglers.

I try to pretend I am an angler, just like everybody else, but I am not. I am an angler who, when others act on the urge to get away from it all, greets them when they arrive. I clean up after them when they leave, and then, on Sunday afternoon, I try to catch fish in a lake that has been whipped to a froth by them since Friday evening. I also take their reservations, which for the past month have been carefully regulated for fairness (only x number of nights per month, etc.). Starting March 16th, however, those rules are relaxed and anything goes. Someone must be here when they call, and that someone is I.

Freeport is safe this year, as I take one for the team, so everyone who can make it should attend. And be sure to say “Hi” to Don — he’s really starting to get the hang of tying those flies! ~QG Continue reading

Categories: Humor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Mud Season 2012, Two Days In

(A certain angler in Georgia asked yesterday, “How’s the mud crop look this year?”

Ha ha.)

At Town Meeting on Tuesday, our village’s road foreman told me “mud season starts tomorrow,” which was almost amusing, considering the fact that, as I walked to town that morning, it was still just 10 degrees outside.

Tomorrow then is yesterday now, and he was right. Mud season has begun, and it looks like it’s going to be a good one.

One thing I have learned at Town Meeting over the years is that, if one is requesting funds, one should not place a series of question marks where a dollar sign and some numbers should be. I absofreakinglutely guarantee someone will stand up, waving their town report in the air, and shout, “I ain’t votin’ to put no tax dollars to no damn question marks!” It’s all over when that happens.

That might work in the big city, but you’ll get called on it every time at Town Meeting. It also helps if the wording of your request reflects what you describe in your supporting documents. We’re kind of picky that way, wanting to know just what we’re getting into.

We used printed paper ballots for a school district consolidation question, as well as for our Presidential primary votes. Somewhere is a stack of ballots that have been set aside, to be counted later, because they were defaced on Tuesday, vandalized by citizens who just couldn’t follow instructions. I am sure the Secretary of State has dealt with these things before, but his staff must slowly shake their heads after every election as they go through these ballots. I don’t know how many there are, but it’s a pretty sure thing that more than a few of my neighbors saw the section of the ballot marked “DO NOT WRITE IN THIS SPACE” and took the time to write “I WRITE WHERE I PLEASE!”.

Another Town Meeting tip: when you have had your say and the Moderator replies, “That is an opinion, not a motion,” don’t stand there like a deer in the headlights! Look the Moderator square in the eye, say “Damn right it is!” and sit down. That’s what I do, anyway.

One of the final items of the day on Tuesday was our town’s highway budget. Even if our road foreman hadn’t already warned of the impending mud, his proposed budget would have been changed when the villagers got a hold of it. We changed it, alright. We motioned, seconded, and approved a little raise for our road crew because they do a heck of a job with what they have to deal with. Without them, how else would our mail get through?

Categories: Humor, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Quill Gordon Meets an Important Man

If you are anything at all like me, when the forecast calls for high temperatures in the 70s, you jump on the tractor and go dig snow.

You know, just to help things along a little bit. We’re going to be fishing again in 18 days.

Continue reading

Categories: Humor, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

An Impressive Start to Mud Season

A stiff, warm breeze has kicked the process of melting into high gear and mud season is upon us. Driving on an unpaved road can be an adventure this time of year, even for those who have experienced mud season before. Four wheel drive certainly helps, but so do ground clearance and a certain amount of good judgement.

We wondered all morning, Mrs. Gordon and I, if anyone would get stuck today and if so, whom. It’s early yet, so there is still time for my choices (the weekend people from New Jersey) to hit the ditch but they catch a bit of a break today by not being the first to get stuck in the mud of our road.

That honor goes to a tiny little car from Massachusetts.

And it only gets worse from here!

I once came across a Hummer with Massachusetts plates, stuck in a ditch during mud season but did not have my camera along so I had to settle for laughing at the driver before shifting into low and leaving him behind, not even twenty yards up a hundred yard hill. It still bothers me to not have a photo of that Hummer in the ditch so when the driver of this car knocked sheepishly at the door, looking for help, I said, “Sure! Just let me grab my camera.”

Frankly, I’m surprised they made it this far up the side of Nonesuch Mountain and I’m not sure why they kept trying to go further, but they did, plowing with the skirting at the nose of the car until they were stopped dead in their tracks. I did give them credit, though, for staying out of the ditch.

Of course I’m going to take pictures.

 It doesn’t look like things will be drying out any time real soon — and I certainly don’t expect people will stay off our road — so maybe we can look forward to more entertainment like this in the next couple of weeks. And if, as I’m taking pictures before pulling you out, you ask how (other than a large 4×4 truck) I avoid becoming stuck in this springtime morrass, I will tell you I just don’t go out and about. That’s not dry Yankee humor; it’s good judgement.

Categories: Humor, nature, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Signs of Winter’s Demise

The calendar puts it only a few days away but, for me, it’s not really spring until someone spots a pair of turkey vultures sharing a dead skunk on the shoulder of Rte. 5. We have a ways to go yet, before the peepers are in the pussy willows and the anglers are on the pond, but things are looking up, knock on wood.

Rain and melt water are absorbing into the snow on top of the lake ice, creating a thick layer of slush so heavy the ice groans loudly under its weight.  Meanwhile, the snow piles out front are shrinking, the hay rake is once again exposed, and the driveway is a mess during the day but, man, you should hear the racket when it is driven on in the morning after freezing at night.


Continue reading

Categories: Humor, nature, Rural Life, Vermont, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Another Season

Four seasons aren’t enough to fully define a year in Vermont. We divide the four main season into shorter “sub-seasons”, not only to recognize  subtleties and nuances that deserve attention but also, I think, to keep any one of them from seeming to be an endless slog.

Some of these “sub-seasons” are simply the in-between stages as one season gives way to another. After the leaves are off the trees and the tourists have gone home, the hillsides are bare and some guys call the period before the first snow “stick season”. “Black fly season” is endured as spring transitions to summer, following close on the heels of “mud season” which marks the change from winter to spring.

It is now mud season. Continue reading

Categories: Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

March 15, 2008 – It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

One of winter’s last gasps.

 

 

 

 It’s beautiful …

 

as long as you don’t have to go anywhere.

Categories: nature, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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