Of all the holidays, real or not, observed or not, given-a-day-off-with-pay or not; there are only two that we view as agricultural based celebrations. Thanksgiving of course is the grand, end of the harvest season celebration. Hopefully we have had a good growing season and the larder is full of food to carry us through the winter. The animals are fat with summer and fall feeding either on pastures or in the woods and are ready for winter too.
Groundhog Day is the celebration of the awakening of spring. No it’s not true spring but it is halfway through winter. Originating among many cultures around the world, they all started getting antsy halfway through the long cold dark period and began to look for signs of when it would end. They looked for natural signs that the earth was warming up and hibernating animals were chosen as the best predictors. Depending where they were it was bears or badgers, in the New World it was groundhogs.
For us it does coincide with when we begin to plant the first crops out into the field. In most winters we put out the first lettuces, fava beans and onions the first weeks of February. Soon to follow are peas, radishes and turnips but it is not until early and mid March until it is really warm enough for serious planting. Groundhog Day does mark the tentative beginning of spring/end of winter but you better hedge your bets.
The prognosticators are mixed in their forecasts this day. Punxsutawney Phil says six more weeks of winter. Sir Walter Wally (I’m sorry I’d be embarrassed to come out and look for my shadow too with that name) says it’s an early spring. Dunkirk Dave from Dunkirk, NY did see his shadow but the forecast for six more weeks of winter was invalidated due to artificial lighting.
The National Weather Service gives both the 30 day and the 90 day forecast as below normal temperatures and above normal precipitation. This says six more weeks of winter to me. They also say the groundhogs are only right 39% of the time.
We don’t even begin to see groundhogs around here until April or later so as forecasters of the weather for this farm they aren’t very useful. Looking out the window at the light rain coming down on top of the 3 inches of snow and ice left from the weekend it looks like spring is still some ways off.
So my recommendation this Groundhog Day is to celebrate making it most of the way through this cold winter with the knowledge that spring is truly on its way. Because we have an ongoing battle with non-weather predicting groundhogs we usually mark the day in North Carolina fashion with some sort of smoked pork dish!
There is only one true weather predicting groundhog , he is from Pennsylvania and he has been right for over 100 years. 20,000 people do not stand around in 18 degree weather in the dark for nothing !!!!! If Phil wasn’t such a nice groundhog, these impostors would be in jail.
If you ever get to the area, Punxsutawney Inn’s motto is”a good place to hole up for the night”
Spoken like a true Pennsylvanian, from the land of the original Pennsylvania Dutch groundhog day traditions.
I find it funny Dunkirk Dave had artificial light….but living on one of the Great Lakes (Lake Erie is not a little peehole like Jordan puddle) one tends to suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder) due to the lack of sun.
I like the website a lot….its good motivation for Theresa to do work on ours. Having 3 young chitlins gets in the way most of the time. The price of having a family and a farm I guess.
Had 4+ inches of snow on my tunnels, didn’t bother to shovel. I guess mine are more manly than thou’s…touche B!
We usually don’t worry about sweeping off the tunnels unless it is going to be 6-8 inches or more of light snow. We knew sleet was coming so being wise farmers we used our better judgement and got up early for the easy cleaning.
I know too many people who have slept in and had their tunnels collapse, ouch!
Yeah, I know the feeling. Last year I was up most of the night on Inauguration day doing just what you said, we had 4″ of wet stuff. I made the calculated move to not bother as most of the snow stopped by midnight when I went to bed. I know better because of my wise farmer mentor not to take chances. Hope you are staying dry, we have had 23″+ of rain since Nov.11th, over half the yearly avg. in two months. Haven’t had to water inside the tunnels, water just soaks up thru the ground, even on the inside beds.