Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Mid-Winter's Nightmare

                Groundhog day. February 2.
                I have to admit that I abhor reading about Punxsutawney Phil’s forecast every year on this date, because… well… it is complete nonsense. But, allow me to elucidate.
                First off, for those unaware of whom, or better yet, what Punxsutawney Phil is, it is a groundhog; one of those nefarious creatures that relentlessly attack an organic farmer’s efforts like… humans seem to enjoy despoiling the entire planet earth! More specifically, groundhogs are rapacious gluttons of anything and everything that we rapacious humans love to devour…
                Ack! Okay, allow me to start again. Groundhogs, to put it quite succinctly, are the WORST invaders of any garden… period. But I have vociferated about that quite extensively in previous entries. For those who attempt, attempt to nurture produce in the vicinity of one of those voracious creatures, no more needs to be said, or written that is. For those who are not aware, well, the image presented by the town of Punxsutawney hefting Phil into the early February air is in no way indicative of what reality is.
                Perhaps I have lost a few of you at this point, but… my blood is… to use a cliché.. boiling at this point. Because I f&%#ing HATE groundhogs!!! Those ground burrowing creatures are the most cowardly of mammals, that spend their lives foraging off of the efforts of good natured gardeners all across this region…
                Okay… pause… take a breath… relax…
                Groundhogs… Oh how I hate those f&%#ing creatures. But I have stated that before. And, I have had countless people reciprocate that verdict, and I might add, even more vehemently than me. (Of course there are others, whom I deem quite naïve, who say those filthy creatures are beneficial because they aerate the earth… AERATE THE EARTH! What the…? Ack… back to the entry!)
                Perhaps I should resume with a description of Groundhog Day this past February 2, 2012 that is. The high temperature was 56.8 degrees Fahrenheit and the overnight low was 41.7 degrees Fahrenheit. In perspective of average seasonal temperatures, it was rather warm for deep winter. Nonetheless, Punxsutawney Phil should not be…
                I can’t continue without addressing this Punxsutawney Phil absurdity. I do feel the need to apologize to the well meaning town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania where this absurd Groundhog Day is centered, but, in all seriousness, the focus is… a groundhog… A GROUNDHOG!!! A brown furred mammal with long fingers and sturdy claws perfectly adapted to dig under any type of barrier those furless two legged creatures known as humans might erect to divert the groundhog’s cowardly thieving of those aforementioned human’s plantings of healthy organic produce! Who knows better my dismay over those despicable creatures than Carl Spackler of “Caddy Shack” fame, where he devised all kinds of methods to rid the golf course of those nefarious creatures, that he termed “gophers”.  (Linguistics is not the issue here. Groundhogs are!)
                So where was I? Oh yeah, Punxsutawney Phil. What a tranquil, even celebratory sight arises over the groundhog that is lifted from his/her… actually, where exactly do those people dressed up in early twentieth century attire actually find their “Punxsutawney Phil”? I thought that this year, after having witnessed so many similar years of Punxsutawney Phil, that groundhogs are never anywhere close to being active at that time of year. (A small aside: a groundhog is “active” when it comes out of hibernation and starts to venture about looking for food and/or a new residence.)
                There is no amount of words that can relay how I HATE/DESPISE that display of Punxsutawney Phil. First off, it is a GROUNDHOG! Second is the notion that a shadow is going to relay to a groundhog to sleep for more weeks is absurd! Thirdly… well in the twelve plus years I have been farming, no year has appeared even remotely the same, translated… means… hefting a placid groundhog into the air on February 2 will reveal very little of what to expect for a growing season!
                Egads, but I get worked up about this! And this year in particular!
                After picking up the newspaper and seeing the typical Groundhog Day forecast, and it does not matter whether that forecast is six more weeks of winter or not, because as I have written above, it is all nonsense, what struck me this February 2 was that it was… February 2! Who ever actually sees an “active” groundhog on Groundhog’s Day? Honestly. It is the depth of winter. In all my years of analyzing vermin activity in the region, I have never seen a groundhog out of its hole… on Groundhog’s Day!
                Until 2012, that is. I perused the morning paper, which, of course, documented Punxsutawney Phil’s analysis of the upcoming year, which, I quickly forgot, or perhaps even ignored. Anyway, the 2012 winter was quite mild up to that point, in fact, we really did not experience a winter transitioning from 2011 to 2012 in our Mid-Maryland region. From a farmer’s perspective, we did not experience a deep frost, which is quite important for certain perennial crops, AND, we experienced an early hot period… which basically threw everything out of whack! Now six months into the season, the bug population is extremely heavy,… but groundhogs?
                On February 2, Groundhog’s Day, I was driving past my neighbor and partner’s farm on Murkle Road, and as Stone Road approached, in the middle of the asphalt road lurked… a groundhog! On February 2! What the…
                I must now approach the term “wisdom”, because that is something that I am quick to admit to be lacking in the arena of farming. Unfortunately for me, an over ten year veteran of organic farming, there is very little local “wisdom” from which to learn in the realm of “organic farming”. Nonetheless, and I will pause again here, to state it quite clearly, my point in organic farming is not to make myself a bazillion dollars… which is impossible while farming organically, but to relay the many, many, many situations I have experienced while farming to the next generations, which has been lost over the past hundred years through our Agricultural Extension Service. Eventually, the Agricultural Extension Service will get that “organic” food production is much more important than “chemical” agriculture, but we are not there yet…(At least I hope they will eventually get it.)
                So, “wisdom”? This past winter had no deep freeze. In our mid-Atlantic, mid-Maryland region, we almost always experience a deep freeze. We did not this past winter. Things, as usual, are askew. What does that mean? Well, for one, the pest population is “healthy”, and that is not good. The clearest example, there is the canker worm, which normally cannot over-winter through our deep freeze. In a “normal” year, the canker worms will not appear until August. They are already prevalent. Which leads me back to Mr. Groundhog…
                A hibernating… beast, such as a groundhog, must surely be triggered internally by the temperature, and while I vociferated earlier in this entry that Groundhog Day was too early for them to  emerge from hibernation, if a deep freeze does not occur in a region that normally does, the entire equation gets thrown off. (Not being a hibernating creature, I do not claim to comprehend how their bodies make them work.)
                Nonetheless, it was quite deflating to witness a groundhog on Groundhog’s Day. There is so much work to do, and to think that the groundhogs are already attacking your efforts… before you have even started! But there was a happy ending to this tale for me on this past Groundhog’s Day. Some may think it macabre, brutal, even callous, but for me I am a realist, and as I will stand by that statement, any judgment is unwarranted unless one attempts to grow organic produce without groundhog attacks.
                It was late evening on February 2, 2012… what time would that be? 5pm? I drove down that stretch of Murkle Road, and… to disregard my reaction… there was a dead groundhog in the middle of the road. I breathed a heavy sigh of relief, and to commiserate with Carl Spackler of Caddy Shack fame, albeit tweaking the concern from gophers to groundhogs… Au Revoir, Groundhog!

1 comment:

  1. We completely get it...we once had groundhog troubles all over our yard. Then a big old stone wall holding up the side of the property fell over. heh heh heh After the bulldozer rearranged the dirt there was no more groundhogs.