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"Like a wheelbarrow through mud" by Beth Weick, as published by North Country News, April 2011

Mud season, let's say, is a time of transition. You get the good with the bad. And if snowdrifts give way to daffodils at the temporary expense of dry ground…well, the flowers sure are purty.

Here at D Acres, a long and epic sugaring season is just winding down while the hubbub of the growing season has us trotting from task to task. The greenhouses are finally boasting beds of baby greens, robust seedlings are demanding to be transplanted, orchards and garden edges are expanding with new tree stock, and the care of peas and potatoes is looming as I write these words.

In the midst of recovering our green thumbs, however, is a final week of soot-covered digits. That is to say, more sugaring. The taps have been pulled, but stock-piled sap is demanding a last hurrah of early mornings and smoky hours beside the evaporator. And the real frenzy is in the search for wood. Having burned through all the softwood stacked in and around the sugar shack, the next best option has proven to be bundles of slab wood piled in our lower lot.

So, predictably, last week found us cutting and hauling said wood to where we needed it most. Our relief at not having to carry armfuls over slushy snow waned slightly as our wheelbarrows stalled in muddy tracks. Impromptu drainage trenches diverting water across our path only upped the ante. Swampy suction against our boots was a constant reminder that April showers bring boosted calf muscles as well as May flowers.

I jest, and even as we worked our way through the muddy glop I had to smile. The smell of dirt was pungent and had my senses primed, crocus buds reaching out of the sodden ground to grow into what we know they will become, my memory of trilliums and sensitive ferns coloring the otherwise very brown ground.

With my grip tight around the wheelbarrow's worn handles, it occurred to me – now granted I was a bit tired, sooty, and yes, preoccupied with the next day's plan – that somehow this pushing of a wheelbarrow through mud could be a microcosm of so many endeavors that we pursue here at D Acres. Fostering the well-being of our community, holding on the skills & traditions of our past, trying to create a little more joy and tad more beauty…neither good intentions nor high hopes would seem to proffer instant traction any better than a mucky path. But whether it's the health, strength, vitality, and vibrancy of our community, of our food systems, of our northern forest ecosystem, or simply of our maple syrup production, surely a bit of effort is worth putting into the mix.

So while mud season may not be the favored spell, we can agree that, yes, it's worth it for what follows? Surely the effort of a moment is reaped exponentially as the energy multiplies into the future. And whether that takes the form of sweet syrup, or blooming daffodils, or a wheelbarrow full of just what you need, or food from a farmer whose hand you can shake, let's make the extra effort. Push a little harder. Can we afford to lose our traction?

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