Last fall’s leaves carpet the ridge above the last mile of Riley
Creek before the water flows into the Blanchard River. About an eighth
of an inch of brown mud coats these leaves. I know this because I
stepped off the road into it last week and the stuff is like Velcro on
my Brooks Ariel 12s. Good running shoes have elaborate, deep tread,
especially those that are built for stability to keep daydreamers like
me from doing a daily face-plant on the asphalt. It’ll be June before I
clear out all the dried mud.
During much of this past winter
(joyful emphasis on past) the rural roads of Putnam County were banked
high with white snow. When the walls of white became a little dingy, the
skies opened up and gave them a fresh, clean coat. High winds
distributed the flakes evenly, making it possible for us all to be
buried under an exceptionally deep blanket.
On the rare occasions
that the snow melted down to less than six inches, or the wind carried
it into my driveway, the drifts turned brown. Ohio State University
Extension educator Jim Hoorman told me that the people of Minnesota have
a specific name for this. “Snirt” is what piles up in parking lots and
alongside the road in the Midwest during the winter. It’s not quite
snow, but it’s not dirt either. When a blizzard wind is so strong that
it pulls topsoil right up into the air, you’ve got yourself a snirt
A week ago in this space I referred to Hoorman’s
presentation about the planting of cover crops to abate runoff and, in
turn flooding. Take a gander at the side of any remaining snow bank that
faces a bare field and you’ll notice its several shades darker than
that on the lee of the drift.
I’ve noticed quite a few mounds of
dirt on field edges lately. I figured that most of this was churned and
piled up as the various township plows attempted to keep the roads open
this winter. I hauled a shovel across the road and sunk it into one dirt
pile. I tried to, anyway. The blade penetrated an inch and hit a solid
boulder of compacted snow. That’s some major snirt there.
Dictionary defines snirt as “something or someone shmushy or smushable.”
That’s exactly how I would describe the feeling as I applied pressure
to the undercarriage of my shoe alongside the road. I expected to feel
the marginally crisp crunch of browned oak, elm and maple leaves.
Instead I got shmush. The online resource even offers a fine use of the
term in a sentence: “Don’t step in the snirt or you will crud up your
shoes.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.