Mud Pies

Lately I’ve had the urge to make mud pies, something I haven’t done since childhood. I wonder what this is about? Maybe the wish for thawed earth, thawed bones, or re-awakened creativity? Although the temperature outside is in the single digits as I write this, I can close my eyes and imagine creating mud pies in the spring. Come with me if you want…

The soil is still just a little frosty under the shade of white pines and cedar trees. Let’s dig over here in a place warmed by sun. Can you feel the sun on the top of your head and shoulders? First remove the top layer of protective grasses, and a few shoots of stinging nettle, some twigs. Watch out box elder bugs-we are uncovering the soil! Then add a few shovels full to our bucket.

Just think, a long, long time ago we would have found only the rock from which this soil originated, the parent material. Those rocks are ancient Grandfathers who have seen all of history. Today this soil contains the particles of those same rocks, in addition to a whole lot of decaying organisms from the woods and field. Can you smell it? The smell of decomposition and life reawakening at the same time, death and life. It’s the smell of spring.

Now we have enough soil in our bucket to make a few pies, let’s carry it to the orange water spigot behind the chicken coop. Oh, the water is cold! This soil contains mostly clay particles, which are really tiny, so they slide around when water is added. You can feel the slipperiness if you squish it between your fingers. Here are some pie tins from the recycling bin. Fill them with mud and make swirls or smooth them with a stick.

How shall we decorate these pies? The first one might be topped with a pussy willow twig, in honor of willow’s courage to wake up and send out blooms so early in the spring. And, the furry blooms remind me of tiny kittens. And you can frost one with bright green moss growing next to the cedar log.

If it were later in spring, we would gather tiny, brilliant red fungi from the dead hickory limbs. The red stands out against the bright green moss. It’s still early spring and the fungi aren’t out. Instead, you might find a red cardinal feather under the bird feeder. And there’s always pine cones from last fall and pine bundles from the white pine, five soft needles in each bundle.

Time to sit back and admire our creations.

The clay is drying on my hands. Let’s wash up.

I think I might be able to make it to spring.

Posted by Kyla Cox

Expresses her creativity most dynamically through her connection with Mother Earth, Kyla Cox is a well-known figure in Des Moines’ sustainability movement. Whether you’re talking about urban gardening, permaculture or conservation, Kyla’s name is sure to come up.

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