Mud

There is no mud quite like farm mud.

If you have a patch of earth you’ve broken open and tried to tame, you know this is true. Farm mud is a beast all its own, a subspecies of the normal dirt and water formula churned liberally with gravel and grass and compost and fertilizer. And we all know what fertilizer is, right?

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I have a very clear memory of standing on the doorstep of my aunt’s house as a child, being inspected before I was allowed to come inside.

“You look like you rolled in a mud puddle!” I remember her shouting.

“I did,” I answered. And it was true. I spent a healthy amount of my early years smeared with dirt and mud… by choice.

Mud

I believe deeply in mud. I believe in the importance of experiencing nature in a visceral, tactile way. I believe that even if a person grows into an adult who prefers a sanitary, climate-controlled space, the background of feeling your hands in the earth shapes you in a way that never leaves. A childhood with clean hands and feet always covered by shoes sounds somehow unnatural to me. Aren’t children built to explore and encounter the world God made?

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Even when we lived in our beloved little townhome on a fraction of a lot in Washington, I managed to find ways for my kids to get dirty. Really, really dirty. Many was the evening I hosed filthy bodies on the back step after long afternoons digging trenches in the woods down the hill.

“Strip to your skivvies, and leave your muddy clothes on the floor by the washer!” was the nightly cry.

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As spring has taken over Floating Axe Farm, there’s work to be done. But there’s also play. Sometimes the two intersect, even. But somehow, every evening— whether the hours have been spent in the little homemade playhouse under the tree, catching bugs to hand-feed to the hens, playing soccer or frisbee or shooting rockets in the side yard, or picking rocks from the freshly harrowed field— the result is the same. Kids streaked in farm mud that clings to their boots, has migrated to their hair, and never quite comes out from underneath fingernails.

I couldn’t be happier. Neither could they.

Another spring, and the call is the same: “Strip to your skivvies, and leave your muddy clothes on the floor by the washer!” This is the background music of a blessed family.

 

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