I’m sure everyone in the US is familiar with the superstition that if the groundhog can see his shadow on the second day of February, there will be 6 more weeks of winter. In fact, one of the rituals in this country is to celebrate “Groundhog Day” by hauling out an official groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, and holding him up for inspection and a photo opportunity. If the sun shines during this exercise, it is assumed that winter will not be over for a while.
This predictive strategy may work for the northeastern US, but it doesn’t apply on the West Coast where the closest thing to a groundhog is the mountain beaver, Aplodontia rufa. This mole-like creature only comes out at night, so the probability of it ever seeing its shadow is practically zero.
Our reliable predictor of spring is the crocuses, which under average conditions always bloom by Valentine’s Day. This year I saw the first blooms the third week of January, a little earlier than usual. They seem to know when it’s time to come up and when it’s time to bloom, because the frogs have been croaking and the birds singing ever since the crocuses started to bud. Primroses and cyclamens don’t count because they bloom all winter long.
As much of the rest of the US freezes in a snowdrift, the tomato, pepper and okra seed starts are growing in the greenhouse, the lettuce is coming up in the outdoor garden and I’m looking forward to spring!
[Punxsutawney Phil photo from the Washington Post. Mountain beaver photo from Wikimedia. Crocus and primrose photos are mine, taken a couple of weeks ago.]