Monday, February 2 is Groundhog Day. It’s a day rich, maybe not in correct weather forecasts, but rich in history and mid-winter celebration.
The Native American people in the the Punxsutawney area had a lot lot of respect for the groundhog They held the animal in high esteem. The First People considered the groundhog as the reincarrnation of their ancient ancsetors.
Even the name Punxsutawney comes from the Delaware word “ponksad-uteny” meaning the land of many sandflies. Even the very word woodchuck comes the Deleware word “Wojak” or ancestral grandfather.
When the German settlers arrived in the region during colonization, they brought their traditions. One of those was Candlemas Day, a day early Christians celebrated as the day when Jesus was presented to the temple and the purification of his mother Mary. (Luke 2:22-39). February 2 was also viewed as the close of the Christmas season (forty days).
It was a mid-winter day to light candles in hopes of an early spring and good planting weather. As with many Christian holidays, there were pagan roots as well. One was the Imbolc Festival when people would see if any animals, such as serpants or badgers, came out of their dens on the day, a sign taken to be an indication of spring’s soon-to-be or not-to-be arrival. Centuries later, the Germans looked for hedgehogs on the day to predict the upcoming arrival of spring.
Now when the settlers arrived in the New Land, they needed an animal for their traditons and customs. They found the respected Wojak who was easier to deal with more so than wolves, bears or badgers.
The first official record of the day in America was written by James Morris, a shopkeeper in western Pennsylvania. From his journal entry written on February 4, 1841: “Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas Day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters, and if he sees his shadow he pops back in for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate.”
The first official celebration of Ground Hog Day was held on February 2, 1886. The editor of the Punxsutawney Spirit, Clymer Frees wrote: “Today is groundhog day and up to the time of going to press the beast has not seen its shadow.”
Happy Wojak Day!
On the Wild Side
The results of the November Bear Season are beginning to be released. In 2014 a record number of hunters bought bear licenses, 173,523 in all. The bear harvest was also about as high as expected with 3,366 bears taken. It was the seventh highest harvest and would have been higher, according to bear biologists, if the weather would have cooperated more. Many areas in the state had a rather severe ice on the opening day of bear, Nov. 22. Tragically, one person was killed by a black bear in New Jersey recently, but in general a black bear is fairly harmless. Since 1900, 61 people have been killed by black bears, many more have died from lightning strikes, dogs, and bees. Discover more at Black Bears.
It is estimated that the total bear population in PA is about 18,000. The photo above was taken near Wattsburg on Creek Road and the Erie County Fairgrounds.
Ice is forming and getting safe in many locations. Two ice fishing tournaments are scheduled for Valentines Day. See the Pymatuning and Canadohta posts below.
Yard and Garden
January and February are the months many gardeners prune fruit trees, berry bushes and ornamental trees and shrubs. Learn more about the best time and methods and discover PATrees. Gardeners can also contact the Master Gardeners at the Crawford Extension Office at 814-333-7460.
Timberland Bait Shop on Dutch Hill Road will sponsor the 10th annual Canadohta Fishing Tournament on Valentines Day. Cash awards will be awarded for the largest fish caught in several different categories. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at the Bait Shop. For more information visit the Web site, Timberland Bait, or call the shop at 694-3474. More in Go Crawford next Friday.
Pymatuning Winter Festival
The 39th annual Winter Festival will be held at Pymatuning, February 14 and 15. The event is sponsored by the Pymatuning Trailblazers Snowmobile Club. It opens at 7 a.m. at Shelter #4 at the Old Jamestown Beach.
There will be plenty of snowmobile rides for kids, guided snowmobile rides along the trails, a raptor watch and plenty of snowshoe activities with Linda Armstrong, the Park’s Environmental Coordinator.
For more information, http://www.goerie.com/winter-fun-days-come-to-pymatuning-feb-14#
Maple Taste and Tour
The annual Maple Syrup Taste and Tour weekend is set for the March 14 and 15 It’s a great weekend for fun and to learn more about the art of maple syrup production. Many of the local producers are participating in the event again this year. Each will have special activities and demonstrations, free samples and maple syrup and products for sale. For more information, Taste and Tour. The local maple producers always win many awards at the State Farm Show every year. Discover more about some of our local maple producers at Maple Awards.
Crawford County Conservation District – Woodcock Creek Nature Center
Please call to register 814-763-5269. More information can also be found at Crawford Conservation District.
Wednesday, February 4, 4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Laura Dengler, Crawford Conservation District, will share her broad knowledge of maple products and how to cook with them. If you think that maple is only used for syrup or candy, you will be amazed at the wide array of delicious foods that can be made with a touch of maple! Everything from maple barbeque sauce, chili, mustard, pancakes and sugar, to maple dips and cotton candy! Maybe she will let us taste some samples…ahhhh.
–“Let’s Count Birds!”
Thursday, February 12, 4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
We will be counting birds at the Nature Center! If the weather is good, we may even go for a short walk. Judy Acker, Audubon French Creek Outreach Coordinator, will also show us how to participate in the “Great Backyard Bird Count.” This annual project includes bird and nature fans from all over North America (www.birdcount.org).
–“Earth Tales from Around the World”
Monday, February 16, 4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Join Kathy Uglow, Crawford Conservation District, to relax and enjoy a late afternoon snack as she reads selected stories from “Earth Tales from Around the World” by Michael J. Caduto. The author states, “Stories are the heart and soul of many cultures. They tell us who we are and what we believe in. To traditional cultures, stories are sacred. Let us enjoy these stories. Let us treat them with respect and reverence.” You will have the chance to help select (by audience vote!) which stories you will hear.
Monday, February 23, 4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Did you ever try a “Paw Paw” smoothie? How about some stir fry with saute‘ed Fiddle Heads and green beans? Allegheny College senior Meghan Pierce will share information from her thesis on “Forest Gardening and Edible Plants of NW PA.” See what kinds of native edible plants are “out there.” You will also receive recipes to take home and try on your own. We will get to enjoy a sample of something yummy that we may have never even thought to try!
And Just For the Heck of It
Punxsutawney Phil has made quite a name for himself over the years. He made an appearance on the Oprah Show (1995); met President Ronald Reagan (1986); and, even gone a bit political by wearing a yellow ribbon in support of the American hostages in Iran (1981). Phil went high-tech when in 1996 he got his first website and in 1998 his forecast was sent live over the internet.