Mud season in Maine is a mythic beast.
Everyone has their own story about its power or its weird beauty. Books and songs have been inspired by it. Dogs and pigs roll in it; people drive miles out of their way to avoid it.
It’s even become a tourist draw of sorts – the Camden Harbour Inn offers a spring getaway referred to as its “mud package.”
So to celebrate this unique season – some say it’s a state of mind – we’ve put together a primer filled with facts, figures and fun stuff about mud.
PIGS ARE COOL
It’s not because they disdain cleanliness, or even because it’s so much fun to slip and slide around. No, pigs love mud because it’s about the only way they have to cool off, says Lori Costa of Alder Brook Pig Farm in Athens, north of Skowhegan.
“Pigs do have a few sweat glands – unfortunately for the pig, they are all located in their nose,” Costa said. “It only keeps the nose cool. So in order to keep their body cool, they partake in a mud bath, which also acts as a sun block.”
So next time you see a muddy pig, you’ll make a better informed decision before passing judgment.
READING IS CLEANER
Some books on mud:
“Pigs in the Mud in the Middle of the Rud” by Lynn Plourde (Down East Books) – Plourde is a Mainer through and through – born in Dexter, lives in Winthrop – and this wonderful children’s book earned her a slew of critical praise. It was distributed to all Maine kindergarten students in 2003 as part of the Read with ME program.
“Mud” by Mary Lyn Ray (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) – This children’s picture book is an ode to the squishy and gooey qualities of mud. Author Ray lives in New Hampshire, so she should know.
“Mud Book: How to Make Pies and Cakes” by John Cage and Lois Long (Harry N. Abrams) – Part art book, part recipe book, this is a detailed manual on how to make all sorts of interesting mud pies and cakes. Not for eating, though. And yes, the co-author is that John Cage, the composer.
A SLIGHT CHANCE OF MUD…
It’s time now for your April 2012 mud season forecast. To get a professional opinion on this, we turned to WGME (Channel 13) chief meteorologist Charlie Lopresti.
Unfortunately (or fortunately if you don’t like mud, but who doesn’t like mud?), Lopresti is calling for a very mild mud season this year. Because of an extremely mild winter filled with mid-season thaws, we’ve already had a “series of mini-mud seasons,” he said.
Mud season usually happens in April, when the winter’s snow melts faster than the ground’s subsurface can thaw, Lopresti says. The water has nowhere to go, and it turns the top layer of soil to mud.
This year, there’s been very little snow to melt in most of Maine, and summer-like temperatures in March have resulted in the ground being “completely thawed” in many areas already.
So before we get a good mud season, we need more winter in April. Which, of course, is not out of the question in Maine.
“It’s still possible we could get more snow and the ground could freeze again,” said Lopresti. “But that threat is diminishing with each day.”
A STICKY STORY
Funny mud stories? Maine’s got a million of ’em. Here’s one re-told by Maine humorist Tim Sample:
Among the oldest and most durable Maine mud season tales is the one which involves a Maine farmer who spies his neighbor’s felt hat slowly drifting downstream, as it were, on the surface of a mud-clogged back road.
Figuring to return it when the road dries up, the farmer fetches a pole and snags the hat, only to find the neighbor peeking out from beneath it.
“Kinda muddy this year ain’t it?” says the would-be Samaritan.
“Ayuh,” replies his neighbor philosophically. “It could be worse, though. At least I still got my hoss under me.”
GOOD TIME TO GET AWAY
Mud season is not usually the time tourists want to come to the Maine coast. But for the past couple of years, the upscale Camden Harbour Inn (camdenharbourinn.com) has been offering a “mud package” two-night getaway.
Beginning at $329 per person, here’s what awaits you: Champagne breakfast, complete with “muddy chip” pancakes; Rituals Hammam Body Mud for a “unique mud shower;” welcome mudslide cocktail; wine tasting; and a three-course dinner with dessert, including Muddy Molten Chocolate Cake.
SPIN THOSE TIRES
Mud bog racing is big in Maine. Though not held strictly in mud season, the sport is certainly inspired by it. Most races begin in May and go through summer, at makeshift muddy patches all around the state. Pickup trucks are souped up and modified for maximum mud power.
One place to check for upcoming races is Godeepmud.com, which lists races in Lebanon. Or see the “Oxford Mud Run” page on Facebook for information about mud racing in the town of Oxford.
Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: