It is mud season. We had a driveway last fall. We have no driveway now. We have, what the people who slog through it to work on our house call a slough.
I knew the word slough (pronounced, and sometimes spelled slew). I knew it from my adolescent years when there shuddered through my peers the need to read The Pilgrims Progress by John Bunyon in 1678. Bunyon wrote the allegorical story that follows a young man, Christian, from the Slough of Despond in the City of Destruction through a long journey before he arrives at Celestial City and meets his maker. Looking back, I think none of us actually read it as it is a hard slog for am adult much more for a 13 year-old. Nonetheless, we were all antiquated with the concept of the Slough of Despond. I think it must have fit our melancholy pubescent years. I was curious to discover tonight that it is in the dictionary with the definition of “ a state of extreme depression”
Our mud is not the Slough of Despond but it can be the cause of depression if not extreme depression. Mud season is only fun if you are a pig and maybe not even then. I am not sure if pigs like cold mud with the winter’s ground frost rising up through it in heaves. There is an area of about 50 feet all around our house where we are working that is littered with left over lumber. It is our only hope to make it from the slightly frozen woods through which you can traverse after parking the car at the bottom of the driveway by Pee Wee’s porta potty. Our driveway is long, a little less than a tenth of a mile. Now it is even longer. If you walk you have to go up hills and down into valleys. This topography is created by the 4-wheel trucks that can actually make it up the hill through the mud bath.
The main entry into the house is through the garage these days. From the entry door all the way across the paper-covered garage floor you find shoes. Big ones, not so big ones, slippers and hiking boots. By each pair of shoes is a pile of dried (and sometimes not dry) mud. These are the points where people arrive in the garage and shed their muddy boots and change to work shoes.
I am not sure if this is standard procedure with construction workers and subcontractors but we certainly appreciate it. We have our floor down now but it is not sealed so everything we bring in is here to stay. All of us bring it in. Today things were very busy and poor Sophie, the dog, was following me around with imploring eyes. After a bit she started to pant. I realized she had to go pee pee really bad. She lost her off-lead privileges when she started exploring not just our 3 acres but all 30 around us. She needed me to take her out.
When we got back in someone else grabbed me and started asking me questions. Sophie patiently stood by me waiting to “wipe-wipe” which translates to grabbing an old towel or a shop rag and digging mud out of her pads and toes. Sometime later I realized she was not by me. We taught her how to let herself into our little basement apartment and she had. When I finally got a moment to go there myself I found a tired and relieved dog ball happily ensconced on the couch. She has couch privileges so that was no big deal. What was a big deal was that she tried to get me to follow the dog-rules and wipe-wipe. I did not. When I arrived some 30 minutes later the couch was mud-colored. Thankfully it had dried to a fine dusty power that you can use a shop vac to remove. Of course it is important to remove the dog before applying the ultra high powered shop vac of ours. Otherwise we might not see her until spring proper.
We have a hip-high shop vac. It used to be pretty stainless steel. Now you cannot tell what color is under the dried, powdery, dusty mud. We have a small shop vac I use to capture sanding debris directly from my tools. I also use it for small clean ups when I am working in a specific area. Between the two, we still have no hope of escaping unscathed. Tonight I spent three hours sweeping dried mud from the house.
I know mud season will end but for now it rules our lives. Yesterday we worked a very long day that ended up at the warehouse looking again for more building materials that had gone astray. On the way back to the house about 8 pm we decided to grab a pizza. We parked our front-wheel drive car well below the real slough and proceeded to trapse throug the mud toward the island of trees where the ground is still relatively well frozen still. I took three steps then the forth the mud kept my shoe. My forward momentum could not be stopped. I plowed forward in my sock foot and then my other shoe stuck in the mud. Determined not to have to put two sock feet into the cold mud I wrested control from the mud and managed to keep one shoe. It took me several sucking steps to go back to retrieve the lost one. Then I was faced with the decision to walk what amounts to a city block from the car to the house in my sock foot or put my foot, dripping mud, into the shoe. Through all of this I am balancing two medium pizzas in my left hand like a waiter. My spouse tossed me a ski pole and the dripping foot went into the boot.
We made it up the hill hopping from hillock to lumber. When I took off my shoe and peered in to see the damage I could not tell the difference between it and the other both were so mud-caked.
When the ground thaws we can put fat round river rocks into the mud to build a base for a real driveway. We can put gravel down and we can drive up the hill to our house. For now we must deal with the slough as we wait for spring to arrive.