It’s Groundhog’s Day! (or How I learned to live with the groundhog and love it)

Today is one of my favorite holidays because it celebrates round, furry people who like to sleep and have the good sense to go back to bed when they wake up to find that it’s dark and cold.  Talk about hitting the sleep switch!

Groundhogs are remarkable creatures, though not much appreciated by most people. They are persistent, deliberate, adaptable, and not easily perturbed. I came to love groundhogs after discovering that we shared territory with one in our previous home. She lived under our woodpile, which was a bit of a mess; we vainly hoped she would straighten it up a bit, but apparently “woodchuck” is somewhat of a misnomer.*

Groundhogs are the bane of many gardeners because they are so cosmopolitan in their tastes: they will eat almost any sort of vegetation, and are particularly fond of garden vegetables, largely because of their moisture content. (Groundhogs are masters of energy economy; if they eat food with lots of water in it, they won’t have to walk all the way down to the creek to drink.) **

I discovered that the secret to living with our groundhog was to make sure she had what she needed. One early summer day, I watched her amble across the yard from the wood pile toward the garden, which was on the other side of the house. We have always had what we call a “freedom lawn” (which means we don’t apply any herbicides or fertilizers to it) and the yard was a sea of bright yellow dandelion flowers. Being energy efficient by nature, the groundhog ate the blossom off every dandelion she passed. About halfway across the yard, she paused for a few moments then turned around and waddled back to the wood pile, apparently full.

When the dandelions weren’t in bloom, I found out that she loved borage. Fortunately for me, the borage had self-sown madly around the edges of the raised garden bed closest to the wood pile. I came out one day to discover the borage had been eaten to the ground on three sides of the bed, but the vegetables and greens in the middle remained untouched. As I had plenty of borage all over the garden and it grew back rapidly, both the groundhog and I were extremely satisfied. I never lost any vegetables, herbs, or greens to her, and she got her fill at all times.

I learned a lot from that groundhog: never pass up a tasty tidbit; always stop eating when you are full; dandelions and self-sown borage are gifts from the garden gods; stop and soak up the sun whenever the opportunity presents itself; and most importantly, some days, the right thing to do is pull the covers over your head and get another forty winks.

Happy Groundhog’s Day!

* It’s actually an Anglicization of a Native American word (Algonquian) for the animal, wuchak.

** I’ve been told by a gardening friend that providing a shallow dish of water between the garden and the groundhog’s burrow will also deter vegetable predation, because the critters are chiefly looking for moisture when they raid the garden.

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8 responses to “It’s Groundhog’s Day! (or How I learned to live with the groundhog and love it)

  1. Very nice groundhog educational piece. The creature is so cute! Thank you for sharing. Blessings to you, Jennifer…

    • Jennifer Barricklow

      I actually have a framed copy of that image on the wall of my study. I once belonged to a networking group full of introverted people (talk about being conflicted!) and we took that groundhog for our mascot.
      Thanks for stopping by! Blessings to you, too! 🙂

  2. You are so right! What a great day to celebrate something that goes back to sleep when it’s cold and dark. Love it!

    • Jennifer Barricklow

      Sadly enough, I was unable to emulate my furry hero yesterday (or today, for that matter) and go back to bed where I belonged. Maybe tomorrow…
      Thanks for reading!

  3. I liked your post! And, I thought, at first, you were talking about me, as I have not shaved my legs in a while, thereby making me…furry. And, I like to sleep. 🙂
    nice to catch up with you!
    and, could you update the link to my blog to this one: http://www.planejaner.com ?
    thanks–and blessings
    jane

    • Jennifer Barricklow

      Actually, I was describing myself, as I am both round and furry (for pretty much the same reasons as you gave) and am NOT a morning person.

      Congrats on the new hosting arrangement! I’m WAYYYY behind on just about everything, but I did change the link on my blog so everyone can find you. Now I have to catch up with all the mad blogging you’ve been doing, you crazy, inspirational wonder!

      I’m tired just thinking about it. 😉
      (Maybe I should go back to bed first.)

  4. I’m late to this groundhog party, but I had to share that Jeff and I went to Punxsatawney in 2008 to celebrate Groundhog’s Day right at the source. It was on our bucket list, plus I have family in the next town over. It was an amazing international event! (People from as far away as Wales and Japan were there that day.) You literally have to show up on site at no later than 3 or 4 in the morning (most people party there all through the night–clean, family fun). They have a little stage and do game shows, singing, dancing, beach balls in the audience, and fireworks. To me, it was Times Square country style and there was such a friendly, goodnatured vibe to the whole thing. And then the moment everyone has been standing out in the cold on their feet waiting for. It was much more regal a production than you see on TV. They rolled out a little red carpet on top of a large tree stump. Men in tophats and tails reading the proclamation. And then the little guy himself pulled out and held up for all to see. It was very inspiring. I wore my “I saw Phil at Gobbler’s Knob” T-shirt and my little groundhog pin to work this year. Definitely a holiday to celebrate!

    • Jennifer Barricklow

      Hiya, Lynn!
      Thanks for sharing your Gobbler’s Knob experience; I remember you telling me about it shortly afterward, and I always think of you guys on the day. (I’m so tickled that you wore your t-shirt and groundhog pin to work! Got to get me one of those…)
      The weather up your way may not be bearing out Phil’s prediction for this year, but our weather here seems to be. Marking the third day of above-freezing temperatures and sunshine — 30 mph winds have been a little biting, but the sunshine alone is reason enough to celebrate.
      Happy Valentine’s Day to you! 🙂

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