FORT KENT, Maine — Ahh, spring in northern Maine: The time when thoughts at Rusty Metal Farm turn to increasing temperatures, baby animals, blooming flowers and all the mud and detritus revealed by the receding snowpack.

As pointed out in previous columns and news stories in this paper, it’s been a long, cold and snowy winter all over New England where residents are more than ready for some positive climate change.

I think my friend Kale Poland, a Turner native, captured it perfectly when he posted on Facebook last weekend, “People who aren’t in the Northeast, I wish you could be privy to the change of emotion weather can bring in New England. I have never seen a year where people were just so unhappy because of our extended winter. People were actually angry and depressed. Yesterday, it was like New England teleported to a different region of the world, and there was not a bad mood in all of the Northeast. 70 degrees today!”

Now, we’ve not hit 70 degrees yet here in the north, and looking out my windows I can still see plenty of snow on the ground and in the woods, but there is no denying the change of the season.

That does not mean things are all robins and cherry blossoms on Rusty Metal Farm. Far from it — it’s more like all mud and dirty snow.

In other words, welcome to mud season, that uniquely northern New England time of year tucked in between spring and summer.

And while mud season brings its own unique challenges, at least they are somewhat mitigated by the promise of warmth and sun.

Take the sled dog yard, for instance.

All winter, the sled dogs stayed warm and comfy burrowed in fresh straw I delivered to their houses several times a week.

And all winter, I wondered just where all that straw ended up — about 35 bales worth this year.

Now I know.

Much to the dogs’ delight, the melting snow has revealed a carpet of straw covering the dog yard, on which they are even as I write this, lounging on in the sun.

Just because the snow is receding does not mean there is still not a lot of it out there. This is something I discover pretty much every afternoon when one or both legs sink up to the knee in a fun little maneuver mushers refer to as “post-holing.”

It’s even more fun when done while trying not to spill two full buckets of stew for the sled dogs.

Speaking of food, what goes into a sled dog does come out the other end. No matter how attentive I am all winter to cleaning out the dog yard, every spring, the melting snow reveals numerous examples of when my mind must have been on things other than poop-scooping.

Closer to the house, the snowmelt resembles more of an archeological dig.

All winter, I give Corky the Shusky various containers to take outside and clean out.

Judging by what is appearing as the snow goes down outside my backdoor, greek yogurt, solid white tuna and tomato soup were particular favorites of mine this winter.

And if only Corky would stick to snow. Sadly, she is more than happy to run around in all the mud on the farm. Thanks to that, my kitchen and living room decor is now early American dog paw print.

Or at least it is until I get the broom and mop out to clean all those muddy prints off the floors.

On the poultry side of things, every chicken on Rusty Metal Farm — regardless of age — is a spring chicken.

After a month cooped up in their heated coop, the gals are enjoying daily forays out into the world where they are finding all manner of interesting and apparently tasty things to investigate and eat.

It’s kind of fun to watch them free ranging around, right up until they free range down to the sled dogs.

If you are a chicken, entertainment is apparently where you can find it, and parading back and forth in front of a barking kennel of sled dogs ranks pretty high.

But temperatures are slowly increasing, and every day I can see more and more dirt where there used to be snow.

And somewhere, on the other side of all that mud, straw and winter debris, I can almost see summer.


Julia Bayly of Fort Kent is an award winning writer and photographer, who writes part time for Bangor Daily News. Her column appears here every other Friday. She can be reached by e-mail at

Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.