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An earnest young couple with a mind-blowing budget is searching for a house in an unnamed North American suburb.Their must-haves: open-concept living (does anyone enjoy living in rooms anymore?These forms, developed at the height of the Cold War, felt patriotic at an anxious time when those values were perceived to be under siege.
It’s the only place in the house I can put the broadfork, the seed potatoes, and the gleaming Ball jars of pickled peppers I put up last September.
It’s a filter that snares the debris of the farm before it can migrate into the public areas of the house.
That’s mud time, our fifth season, which is just coming to its end.
The lingering odor of poisoned rodents decaying under the mudroom, their open-air graves marked by middens of broken medicine bottles, pottery shards, and withered corncobs accumulated over the last century.
One of my winter chores involved opening the hatch to the crawl space, wriggling between the wet beams, and placing torn-open boxes of D-Con rat poison on the frozen earth.
April really was the cruelest month, one that I associated less with lilacs and snowdrops and more with the lingering odor of poisoned rodents decaying under the mudroom, their open-air graves marked by middens of broken medicine bottles, pottery shards, and withered corncobs accumulated over the last century. I don’t have to worry whether the turnips are bored, and I finally understand the practicality of the mudroom.
I don’t think the first European settlers were terribly concerned with mud.
I spent a lot of time peeking into their houses like a creepy, time-traveling voyeur. I wasn’t that good at standing in front of a classroom of students whose interest level could be rated as mild, but my research provided me with an excuse to while away a winter’s day studying 18th-century probate records.
And that is always the most interesting part of the inventory, because it is where the surveyors find the most random items: “a box of old junk,” “some broken tools,” and in one document, memorably, “a parrot in its cage.” Out of sight, out of mind: the lean-to was the original junk drawer where the household’s funk accumulated.
As landowners grew wealthy, they built more substantial dwellings.