The snow goeth and the winter-sleeping creatures are stirring. There are umpteen Irish Gaelic words for mud, but the one I heard most in Donegal was Clábar. (well there’s also puiteach, which indicates a soft boggy place, or a well-ripened blackberry.)
Bonny clabbar, if you have a brief date with Merriam Webster, is from the Gaelic term Bainne Clábar, (trans-literally “milk mud”) a sour, thick magic that happens when you let unpasteurized milk age at a specific temperature and humidity (pasteurized milk just turns rancid–it doesn’t doesn’t contain the wild yeasts and bacteria needed for the fermentation process. ). In 1-5 days you end up with the bonniest of clabber, a yogurt-like product that was all the rage back in the day, and some nutritionists will tell you a healthy item chock full of things your gut needs. If you strain your bonny clabber, btw, you end up with curds & whey, appropriate for tuffet perching and arachnid monitoring.
Here in the Massachusetts highlands we are starting with mud season. I have already left a shoe behind in my trek across the driveway. I have already skimmed a sargasso of algae from the pond, and with next week’s predicted 70-degree weather, I suspect the frogs will emerge from their leaf litter palaces on the pond floor and start their singing. It’s messy business with dirty floors, mucky dogs, and rushing streams that carry the soon-to-be-hatched scourge of black flies. The vernal ponds will swell, and the spotted salamander, larger than you think she’s going to be and with a certain dinosaur je ne sais quois to her appearance, will hopefully lay her clutch in our pond as she has for several years. The black bears will be at the suet any day now.
In Irish country springtimes I often heard one line of a William Marshall poem repeated by various friends and acquaintances, often as we lurched along damp and slippery roads or squelched in our Wellies on the periphery of bogs. It comes to my mind here every April:
“I’m livin’ in Drumlister, with clabber to the knee.”