Groundhogs, badgers, Christopher Lee and Candlemas

It’s funny how cultural connections are made and often begun in the most unlikely ways. For example, last night, we picked a televisual feast from Roku and as is usual for us, it was a “cult” horror movie called “City of the Dead,” starring Christopher Lee as the lead undead guy. The movie was set in a rural Massachusetts town with a perma-fog and equally permanent darkness, populated by a band of survivors of 17th century witch hunts.

In the movie, Feb. 2, which is also Candlemas, is an important day of sacrifice for these witches being the day halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. (Not to mention that it was their way to irritate the local time-wearied clergyman).

In Christianity, Candlemas commemorates the ritual purification of Mary 40 days after the birth of Jesus. Pre-Christian Celts celebrated the day as Imbolc, a day linked to the gestation of ewes and lambing.

Hmmm. We wondered. Was there a link between Candlemas and Groundhog Day? Well, gosh, there is. From Projectbritain.com is this rhyme:
“If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will have another fight.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,
Winter won’t come again.”

The site also notes this German Candlemas tradition, which has been adapted in the U.S. with a groundhog subbing for the badger:
“The badger peeps out of his hole on Candlemas Day,
and, if he finds snow, walks abroad;
but if he sees the sun shining he draws back into his hole.”

Which brings us to a more local tradition — Blossom, Perry County’s prognosticatin’ groundhog. Caretaker Tamara tells us this afternoon that “Blossom did not see her shadow today. She didn’t even peek outside!” (Search our blog for “Blossom,” and you’ll see more about our little local garden-thievin’ celebrity).

The local weather was cloud and rain, and if the Candlemas rhyme is followed, agrees with Perry County Blossom that spring is en route.

We’re putting our money on our local folkways predictions no matter what that Pennsylvania whistlepig says.

http://www.stormfax.com/ghogday.htm

How to feed your whistlepig

So, you’re thinking about a whistlepig of your own? How do you feed her? What do you feed her? How much do you feed her? Well, Tamara and Jack, close personal friends and culinarians for Perry County Blossom, have done the math for you. (They’re PhDs. They’re good at math.)  Here’s their grocery list for the last five months:

  • 35 heads of cabbage.
  • 40 pounds of carrots.
  • 300 pieces of fruit (apples, pears, nectarines, etc.).
  • 150 cups of oatmeal.
  • Extra cucumbers, vegetable scraps, tomatoes from the home garden.
  • Uncounted pounds of salted peanuts in the shell.

Remember, the next time you hear, “Mom! Dad! Can WE have whistlepig?” You have some concrete statistics to show where their allowance will be spent right after your “only- if-you-take-care-of-her” riposte.

Previous posts on our winter/spring prognosticator:

Groundhog eating a carrot.
Nom nom nom nom nom as carrots, apples and peanuts disappear.  (Photo by Jack)

The downside to celebrity

It was just a matter of time before the paparazzi found Perry County Blossom, our answer to that other weather predicting groundhog in Pennsylvania. Below the tabloid  is the real back story from her caregivers Jack and Tamara.

tabloid cover

2013 marks the fourth year, and third hibernation since Jack and Tamara first saw Blossom foraging among the oaks. Jack started feeding her and over the course of the year, she learned to recognize his voice, her name and the word “Dinnertime!” He guesses she was a year or two old on their first meeting.

In spring 2011, she’d had a litter of five and then seven the following spring. When the babies were about the size of guinea pigs, she would bring the pups out to eat and Tamara and Jack would watch them play. This year, she didn’t bring the pups out.

Nursing the pups  is very strenuous for Blossom; taking a toll on her energy and any stored fat. When she emerges, she’s starving and will raid the garden and chow down on whatever else is available.

Jack, her personal chef, says Blossom loves anything juicy such as ripe pears, peaches, tomatoes, nectarines and melons. He usually gives her a half-cup of old fashioned rolled oats ( with a pinch of Sel de Guerande,  French gray sea salt), one apple, one carrot, one-eighth head of cabbage and six peanuts in the shell. Blossom also gets any spare cucumbers from the garden.

Jack says there is a specific order in which she eats: oatmeal, peanuts, carrots, cabbage, then the apples. She will not eat squash or any kind of potato and especially despises bananas. Blossom has put on substantial weight over the past month, an improvement over her first appearance this spring. She was thin and was looking a little less than healthy.

They are sometimes joined by Ratty or Fox, a gray fox. Fox gets two dog biscuits every night plus table scraps. As Jack said, “It’s a wild version of the nuclear family.”

Groundhog Day 2

Punxutawney Phil, perhaps the nation’s most famous rodent since Willard, has spoken, predicting an early spring in his annual Groundhog Day ritual.

Not to be outdone, our local whistle pig, Blossom of Perry County, has her own opinion, according to a text message from her spokespeople, Tamara and Jack. Blossom’s verdict? Six more weeks of winter.

In six weeks, we’ll see which of the two groundhogs has better climatic foresight.

COOL LAND BEAVER -- Pennsylvania has its weather predictor. Perry County, Ark., has one too.
COOL LAND BEAVER — Pennsylvania has its weather predictor. Perry County, Ark., has one too. Blossom is way more stylin’ though. 

 

 

Peanuts again?

My adventurous cousin took another exotic trip to China and Tibet. These two photos reminded me of Blossom the Groundhog  and her peanuts, except this primate seemed a lot less happy with his treats.

PICKY — This monkey in China’s Sichuan Province picks over peanuts given by tourists.
YUM? – This monkey doesn’t seem too happy with peanuts again. (“I’d settle for a banana … A moon cake? Candied lotus pods? Anything but peanuts. PLEASE!”)