Spring on the Farm on Muddy Creek

Arrival of spring on the farm was greeted with reservation


| May 1999



Illustration from a 1948 Massey-Harris wall calendar

Illustration from a 1948 Massey-Harris wall calendar

No matter how mild or severe the winter, the appearance of a robin redbreast hopping about the front yard, or the spying of a tiny crocus bloom, makes the heart beat faster and the spirit leap in anticipation of the advent of a new season. The arrival of seed catalogs in the mailboxes weeks ago only whetted the appetite for more spring-time fare. 

In the days of my youth, while growing up on the shores of Muddy Creek, the rings of the woolly worm were religiously consulted for the severity of the season, and on the second of February, Punxsutawney Phil would be ceremoniously roused from his deep slumber to project the length of the remaining days of winter.

In any event, spring on the farm was welcomed with reservation. Spring thaws meant knee-deep mud and oat sowing and manure hauling and sore muscles and wild onions and cows with the bloat and calves with the scours and colts to break and harness to mend and plows to scour. But then spring did have its blessings, too: fresh asparagus, dandelion greens, snow peas, Sassafras tea and rhubarb pies. Fish would bite on most any bait, and an early morning task was the gathering of dew worms. The post office was alive with the cheeps of baby chicks in transit, and the off-beat rasp of the new mother hens learning to cluck rather than cackle blended with the crowing of roosters and braying mules, all heralding the onset of spring.

"March winds do blow and we shall have snow and what will the robin do then, poor thing. He'll sit in the barn and keep himself warm and tuck his head under his wing, poor thing." So goes the memory work from Spring Hill third grade, while the Swamp Root Tonic almanac from Scott's Drug Store advised that "If March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb."

By now, all the salt pork was gone, the huge 10-gallon sauerkraut jar empty, and the last of the hickory smoked ham and sides of bacon have been cut down from the smoke house rafters. It is spring, and the Jersey cows are so anxious for succulent green growth that they will unerringly find a carelessly closed gate to break through and clandestinely feast on wild onions and perhaps the ankle-high winter wheat.

Consequently, the bouquet of their breath and the aroma of the milk is so rank that even the old Hampshire sow refuses the unexpected bonanza of several gallons of tainted drink.