Early on in the text of one of the homesteading books we own (The Self-Sufficiency Handbook: A Complete Guide to Greener Living by Alan and Gill Bridgewater) is a warning that country living is typically a dirty thing. By "dirty" here they are referring to literal dirt ("Mud, mud, and more mud!"), and they are so very correct.

As I write this we are experiencing a pseudo-spring here in northern Illinois. Temperatures the past couple of days have seen highs in the 40's (F), lows in the 20's, and that looks to be something that will be sustained yet for the next couple of days. The temperature itself makes one think about the possibility of doing things outside.

That is, until one actually goes outside.

The terrain during one of these partial thaws is somewhat interesting, from an academic perspective. It's warm enough outside that one ventures out in flannel or a sweatshirt - sans jacket - for short periods of time. The snow from a few weeks before has melted, but not entirely - it's spared in those areas where it had drifted into especially thick piles, or where there is not sustained sunlight sufficient to cause it to yield. Where it remains it is changed - no longer the bright, stark landscape covering and conquering what is below, it instead now begins to incorporate that landscape, presenting in shades of gray.

Meanwhile, the ground itself has begun to thaw, but only at the top layer. This leaves a semi-liquid layer of topsoil floating on a solid substrate. It slides and squishes beneath the feet in a fashion that would feel familiar to anyone who has ever had the joy of mucking out an animal stall.

This weather presents what is likely the only time of year that I find myself envying, if slightly, the town- and city-dwellers. The proportion of concrete to soil in town means that one is only really experiencing the upsides of the warm weather, and can ignore the niggling frustration of the mud by simply avoiding it.