February 2, 2015

What's Up with that Groundhog?

Sometime through the wee hours of the night, relentless winds that had blown snow horizontally for nearly a full day ceased. The storm was over, leaving behind a palette of white with crazy drifts and designs in the newly fallen snow.

Temperatures plummeted to single digits, with wind chills flirting below zero.

Welcome to February in Wisconsin.

The morning dawns with clear skies ushering in happy thoughts of bright sunshine on dazzling new white snow. 

Then I remembered: It's Groundhog Day.

Oh no! That means 6 more weeks of winter if that furry little rodent sees his shadow!

But wait! Is it just Punxsutawney Phil who predicts weather for the whole nation? If so, this storm shouldn't have cleared out of the Northeast yet, thus, it's still cloudy there and spring will be early. 

Snow sculpted around the tree trunks

I've always held to the philosophy that some little Wisconsin groundhog was responsible for predicting our early spring because it's usually cloudy here and clear wherever Phil pokes his head out. 

I'm forever the optimist. 

But how in the world did we ever decide to get long term weather reports from a rodent? 

It turns out Punxsutawney Phil isn't the only groundhog show out there! Several other furry friends have their own websites, including Wiarton Willie in Ontario, Staten Island Chuck (more formally referred to as Charles G. Hogg), and this year Birmingham Bill (the Birmingham, Alabama Zoo woodchuck) is deferring to Punxsutawney Phil for his prediction (no explanation given). There are others, too. Raleigh, North Carolina has Sir Walter Wally and Atlanta has General Beau Lee. 

Every tree is ringed this way

And here in our blissfully brrrrrr state of Wisconsin, we have Jimmy. Until this day I had no idea that Sun Prairie, Wisconsin is "The Official Groundhog Capital of the World". What a claim to fame!

Did you know that in Washington, D.C. they use a stuffed groundhog for their predictions. What's up with that?

Love the designs the wind drew in the snow

Sadly, I've just read that Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow, despite overcast skies (how is that possible?) 

That makes it a double whammy, or maybe a triple, if you count Jimmy and looking out into my own backyard. 

(However, I've discovered the real truth is that Phil's prediction is decided ahead of time by know-it-alls on Gobbler's Knob. Say it isn't so!)

So we settle in for a long February. 

How is it that the shortest month of the year can seem the longest? 
Sunshine on snow really does sparkle like diamonds!

Let's look at this this way: we've made it through January with not much snow or bitter cold. And WE'VE MADE IT THROUGH JANUARY! It's always a little victory to know that the first month of the new year's winter is behind us.

And after we sail through February (ahem) it will be MARCH and we can look forward to crazy winds every day and unpredictable temperature swings and even more snow and ice, because any good northerner knows, spring does not arrive with the Gregorian calendar in the upper Midwest. Rather, we might get a glimpse of Spring in early April, if we are lucky.

So, hunker down. Make some more hot cocoa, grab an extra blanket for the bed and toss another log on the fire. It's winter in Wisconsin, and despite the predictions of a furry rodent and the foreboding of 6 more weeks of winter, we already know that to be true here in our northern clime. 

We might as well find ways to enjoy it. I'm getting out my snowshoes and layering on the clothes and heading out into the brilliantly bright, snowy world. Keep warm, my friends!


Here are some pictures of a woodchuck who visited us and hung out in my maple tree a few years back. The little guy wasn't sure what to make of this lady and her camera. 


I've since learned that another name for the woodchuck (or groundhog) is a whistling pig, due to a whistling noise they make! There's your trivia for the day! 

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