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Mud, Glorious Mud

January 22, 2013

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A serious mid-January thaw turned our dirt driveway into the quagmire that usually doesn’t develop until late March or early April.

The prospect of two (or more) mud seasons this year got me to thinking about...mud.

Mud. Dirt and water. Such common stuff that it’s oozed its way into colloquial language: mud in your eye, mudslinging, stick-in-the-mud, clear as mud, muddy the waters, your name will be mud, happy as a pig in mud, splittin' the mud, dragging his name through the mud.

For centuries, humans have used local mud as a construction material, for healing, in religious purification rituals, and for many forms of recreation (Who hasn't relished making mud pies and splashing in mud puddles?)

One interesting tidbit: For decades, major and minor baseball teams have used a special rubbing mud to rough up the surface of the glossy new baseballs to make them safer to use.

Healing muds and the mud baths used in traditional healing (as well as for skin and hair care) don’t come from the back yard, but from special clay deposits.

Turns out, ordinary backyard mud has many uses, too.

Make some available to local birds, since many species use it to make their nests. Even city residents can create mud puddles (as well as other nesting materials) to encourage birds in their neighborhoods.

Create mud puddles for pollinating insects If you garden, you need pollinators!

Use for emergency first aid (backyard or wilderness) A cool mud compress wrapped around a sprain or a muscle strain and bound with a bandana or a rag will help cool the area and reduce swelling. A daub of mud also helps reduce the pain of a bee or wasp sting.

Provide hours of no-cost fun for kids. Mud play is great fun that helps modern kids recapture an authentic childhood. Here, a family creates a mud-pie kitchen on the balcony of their home. Fun for all generations.

Turn serious play into wonderful mud artworks.

Create a community-wide celebration. You could follow the annual Mud Day tradition of Westland, Michigan

Feast your eyes! Humans celebrate mud everywhere. There’s even an International Mud Day, which mud lovers will celebrate this year on June 29.

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Margaret Boyles lives in a wood-heated house in central New Hampshire. She grows vegetables, eats weeds, keeps chickens, swims in a backyard pond in summer, snowshoes in the surrounding woods in winter, and commutes by bike whenever possible.

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