Welcome to mud season, when the locals get a little stir crazy whilst the ski trails and pathways turn soft.
Pre-COVID, the valley emptied out during the mud season. The only people out and about were locals, and if people saw someone they didn’t recognize, they wanted to know all the details: your name, where you lived, and what you did for a living. These questions are boring. Here are some different questions that could lead to far more interesting discussions.
• What kind of mud is coating your car? Is it made of glacial till, volcanic ash, colluvium, residuum, sandy loam, ashy loam, gravelly loam? Bottom line, how often do you need to rinse off your brake pads?
This line of questioning will naturally lead to multiple drainage questions, beginning with, what size gravel do you use in your driveway?
But my most pressing mud question is, where did you purchase those cute mud boots?
•And then, there is the list of garden questions: Did you get your seed order in? How early do you start planting? Have you started soil amendments already?
Which leads to the inevitably painful question: did your bees survive winter? If they did, there are a plethora of follow-up questions, like, how did you treat them, how much honey did you leave on the hive, and how many hours of direct sun did the hive get in winter? No bee conversation would be complete without asking, did you order new bees? Nucs or packages?
• A timeless classic question is, how many packrats did you catch, and what methods of capture and destroy, or deploy, did you use?
• Modern questions for 2021 would be, have you gotten your COVID vaccination yet? And, how big has the quarantine puppy grown? This last question could serve as a natural lead in to a subject I’m always curious about: where are good places to walk a dog during mud season?
• An inquiry into what’s for dinner could lead to an entire conversation about preservation of garden goods over winter, and how to use up what is remaining in the pantry. I’ve cooked up every squash soup, squash stew, squash salad, squash casserole, and squash pie recipe that can be found on the interwebs and could use another creative idea for squash.
• An always useful conversation starter is, do you know of any available homes or rooms for rent? And, do these places have cell phone or internet access?
• It would not be the Methow Valley if at least one person did not inquire as to the number of chickens in your yard. Has anyone knit sweaters for their chickens this year?
• As bird migration season starts, another interesting question would be, have you spotted the Say’s Phoebes yet?
Speaking of bird migration season, now is a good time to ask your outdoor lighting a few questions. Most songbirds migrate at night, using star patterns to navigate. Outdoor lights at night cause deadly disorientation. During peak bird migration months from March-May and August-October, The National Audubon Society encourages people to help birds and reduce nighttime light pollution by turning out all unnecessary lights from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. To participate in the National Audubon Society’s Lights Out Project, people can pledge their participation at www.audubon.org/conservation/project/lights-out.