(Host) Mud season is as much a part of the Vermont landscape as maple sugaring. Writer Stephanie Greene lives on the family farm in Windham county. She has a suggestion for making mud season just a bit easier to get through.
(Greene) Mud season has a way of delivering the knock-out punch to my desire to live. You survive the winter, overjoyed to be done breaking ice off your roof, spreading sand and ashes on your driveway, and mincing along slippery walkways. Then, when everyone else is singing about April Showers or has wisely fled to points south, your road turns to Jell-O. And then you remember in a terrible flash of understanding: Of course you are stuck! It’s mud season.
Well, here’s an idea. How about creating some local mud spas? Traditionally, mud bath treatment has been used to relieve arthritis, to exfoliate, even to eliminate toxins. Why not here?
Naturally, the mud would have to be special. Thrifty Vermonters must be discouraged from just going out back and bringing in a tub of muck for the tourists.
Creating the right mix would take some tinkering.
Historically, mud baths have been of four different types: lake water, saltwater, hot springs, and mud springs. At the mud springs in Beppu, Japan, you’re buried neck deep in hot sand and rinsed off. Then you can plunge into dipping pools of varying heat and mineral content, as if you were a large piece of sushi.
Many spas involve volcanic ash. But unless the rumors I’ve heard about nearby Haystack Mountain once being a volcano – that might yet erupt – are true, I’ll table the volcano idea.
And we’re also a little short on salinity here, but bubbles we have. In 1839, The Hayward New England Gazetteer listed 15 mineral springs in Vermont, including ones in Guilford, Arlington, Danville, Dorset, Pawlet, Chittenden, and Tunbridge – most of which sold their mineral water bottled.
Brattleboro was host to a very popular spa before the Civil War. Dr. Robert Wesselhoeft utilized springs along the Whetstone Brook for a “water cure.” In a letter to Horace Greeley, he noted that the springs were the purest he’d found in tests “from Virginia to the White Mountains” – and unusually free of lime sulfate. His enterprise became the Brattleboro Hydropathic Establishment in 1846. Treatments included being wrapped in hot blankets to promote sweating, and then plunging into cold spring water to rehydrate. Simple, healthy food and walks along the connecting woodland paths by the Whetstone completed the cure.
I’ve just learned how to make ginger ale using sugar, ginger, lemon juice, yeast and our very own spring water. I couldn’t help but notice how explosive the mixture can be. Tasty, but bubbly to a fault. If we could harness the creativity found at high school science fairs and STEM summer programs, I think we could easily rig up a substitute for mineral water throughout the state.
Given the proper sybaritic attitude and some Yankee Ingenuity, we could start another non-polluting industry, create jobs – and, well, just get ourselves through the season.