Monday, February 2, 2009

Ground Hog Day

My month long hiatus from serious blogging is now over. I'm glad to be back to my normal self. I left this blog with "Flying Pigs" and I am returning with "Ground Hogs". I should change the blog name to "The Porcine Picayune". But then, I promised pertinence.











The Ground Hog is also known as a Marmot, a Woodchuck, and a Whistle pig. It is a large sized member of the squirrel family. (Sciuridae) It makes a whistling sound when it is alarmed. Ground hogs generally live from two to three years old, sometimes as long as six years in the wild, but they have been known to live up to twenty-two years of age in captivity. They weigh from four to nine pounds. They eat seeds and clover, they love alfalfa, and make real pests of themselves in alfalfa fields. They eat bugs and bones to a smaller degree than ground squirrels do. They climb trees and often rest in the branches. They have a two layer fur coat that keeps them quite warm. They live in ground burrows, and hibernate during the winter. They stick their heads out in the early spring. They look around a little bit then go back into hibernation. It’s probably fun to watch them speculate about whether or not it’s time to get up, much like we peek at the clock in the morning when it nears time to arise.

The old story about Ground Hog’s Day, is that he comes out of his burrow on February the 2nd, and if the ground hog sees his shadow, we will have six more weeks of winter. I guess that means that if he comes out and the sun is shining, he knows that it is a false spring, and he goes back into hibernation. I figgur’ that it’s a trick, because they don’t say what happens if he comes out and it’s raining. Does that mean that we are going to have instant spring? Oh well, we don’t need to worry all that much about it, the old-timers told me that all of the local north coast ground hogs must have drowned back in the beginning of history, because we don’t have any around here.

When I was a kid, we used to go out and try to find a ground squirrel to see if it would give us a weather forecast, but we usually got rained out.

I’ve always thought that they should make Ground Hog’s day a national holiday, after all, there is no celebration between New Year’s Day and Saint Patrick’s Day. Ground Hog’s day is right in the middle and it would be a great time to have a party! So I will be celebrating February the 2nd, I can hardly wait to surprise my wife.

The legend of Ground Hog’s Day is sketchy; “The legend of Groundhog Day is based on an old Scottish couplet: "If Candlemas Day is bright and clear, there'll be two winters in the year." It must have some connection to that old legend. Again, I’m just going to have to guess, I figgur' the old timers got as bored with no-holidays as I do, and they got to making up stories about why the ground hogs stuck their heads out of their burrows.

Anyway I’m back, just like I promised. As far as being pertinent now, that was just another one of my jokes.

Happy Ground Hog’s Day!!!

Addendum:

Olmanriver wrote about The Hibernating Woodchuck. I found it to be more interesting than what I wrote, so I moved it up here to the front page. I didn't ask his permission so I'm going with the old saw: "It's easier to say that you are sorry than get permission". I'm sorry Olmanriver!

The following is by "Ol Man River":

The humble woodchuck has an amazing ability to hibernate, the facts of which may fascinate this audience; perhaps as much for what scientists are willing to do as for the facts: "A hibernating woodchuck is coiled into a tight ball with the head resting on its lower abdomen and the hind parts and tail wrapped over the head. During this deep sleep, respiration and heartbeat are greatly decreased, and body temperature is considerably lower than when the animal was active. In general, the metabolic rate of animals in hibernation is between 1/30 and 1/100 of the "resting" metabolic rate of non-hibernating animals. During hibernation, the breathing rate may be reduced to only one breath every five or six minutes, while the woodchuck's heartbeats may be as few as three beats per minute, in contrast to the normal rate of 80 to 95 beats per minute. Rectal temperature reaches a low of 3°C(38°F) during hibernation, while the normal summer reading is 32°C(90°F)." this deep hibernation also has hidden benefits....it is a weight loss program allowing the woodchuck to eat all summer long, get good and fat and then... during hibernation males will lose about 47% of their body weight and females about 37% of their body weight. this higher loss rate in males is thought to be due to energy consumed by spermatogenesis during hibernation. (so that is why i was skinny when i was younger!) the male groundhog wakes up first, starving and horny. and that is what we base our "weather report" on.

Addendum two:

This is probaly the basis of the "Ground Hog Weather forcast". All males wake-up starving and horny, and that is that leads to the first decision of their day. They have to decide whether They are most starving, or whether hey are most horny. A newcomer came along and changer the spelling to "Weather". It's all coming together for me now!

15 comments:

humboldturtle said...

So, if you see your shadow today, does it mean you go back on hiatus for six weeks?

Rose said...

Deja Vu!

Kym said...

I got a chuckle out of the hiatal Ernia but I'm glad you're back popping your head out of the hole to see if spring has arrived. I only hope the sunny weather won't have you scurrying away for another month.

olmanriver said...

welcome back! your blogging hiatuses are sort of like my giving up coffee crusades...but we did miss all the pertinence you are now bringing again.
the humble woodchuck has an amazing ability to hibernate, the facts of which may fascinate this audience; perhaps as much for what scientists are willing to do as for the facts: "A hibernating woodchuck is coiled into a tight ball with the head resting on its lower abdomen and the hind parts and tail wrapped over the head. During this deep sleep, respiration and heartbeat are greatly decreased, and body temperature is considerably lower than when the animal was active. In general, the metabolic rate of animals in hibernation is between 1/30 and 1/100 of the "resting" metabolic rate of non-hibernating animals. During hibernation, the breathing rate may be reduced to only one breath every five or six minutes, while the woodchuck's heartbeats may be as few as three beats per minute, in contrast to the normal rate of 80 to 95 beats per minute. Rectal temperature reaches a low of 3°C(38°F) during hibernation, while the normal summer reading is 32°C(90°F)."
this deep hibernation also has hidden benefits....it is a weight loss program allowing the woodchuck to eat all summer long, get good and fat and then...
during hibernation males will lose about 47% of their body weight and females about 37% of their body weight. this higher loss rate in males is thought to be due to energy consumed by spermatogenesis during hibernation. (so that is why i was skinny when i was younger!)
the male groundhog wakes up first, starving and horny. and that is what we base our "weather report" on.

sohumborn said...

welcome back!

omr said...

no need to apologize...i have seen us both and i am a lot sorrier.
thanks for filling in the dots with your usual depth of insight and interpretation of the facts!

olmanriver said...

many of us learned how to type with a pangram (a sentence using every letter of the alphabet) such as 'The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog'....
few remember the lesser used pangram... 'The sex life of the woodchuck is a provocative question for most vertebrate zoology majors'.

omr said...

They have to decide whether They are most starving, or whether hey are most horny.
you are spot on ernie... one article i read stated it was sex first then food, others insisted it was food first.

Ben said...

Visiting my aunt in Asheville, NC, I saw a woodchuck amble along the fence line one morning. I was amazed as I had never seen one and when I asked my aunt, she said: "OH him, He does that every morning." How did she know it was a guy? I never asked. My wife says I never ask the really important questions.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Ben, somewhere I read that the males are bigger.

You are one up on me, I've never seen a woodchuck.

olmanriver said...

because there are no whistle pigs in the area, i am going to segue the thread to some mongolian marmot bullshistory:
my research on the marmot family started when my sister went to mongolia where bubonic plague amongst the marmots is not uncommon. marmots are highly valued for fur and flesh, and 'boondog' is considered a great delicacy. the mongolians have evolved a hunting technique to sort out the non-plagued from the plagued that really caught my eye. they wear all or mostly white clothes, with big white bunny ears, and a tassel on a hat. this allows them to sneak up on the marmot slowly, shaking the tassel and wiggling the ears to get the marmot to sound alarm as only the healthy ones will do.
the top picture here is of a of a troop of marmot hunters listening to a frenchman reading excerpts from camus' The Plague, no doubt geting inspired for the hunt. here is a more detailed description of the hunt for the skeptic, or potential mongolian traveler.
together with the plague in

omr said...

the occasional plague outbreak amongst the marmot family in the rocky mountains, maybe it is good we dont have any marmot-kind here.

omr said...

Since I have taken this thread off the beaten track, I probably should re-rail to more Feb 2nd pertinent stuff. Sadly, no pagans chipped in to state the obvious… the Celts worship this day as Imbolc, or the Feast of Brigid day. Fires were lit and cakes baked to welcome Her as She traveled the country blessing the fields, animals and people. It is the midday between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, and held by some to be the first day of spring. The Christians took over this day with Candlemas or the feast of St. Brigid, and the Germans brought Groundhog Day to America, though they watched the badger in their home country. The Irish love Brigid second only to St. Paddy and have a similar weather reading from the emergence of the a hedgehog tradition.
Now I should stop whilst I am ahead, but as usual, I am drawn to the oddities. From the Catholic Encyclopedia we read that : “When dying, St. Brigid was attended by St. Ninnidh, who was ever afterwards known as "Ninnidh of the Clean Hand" because he had his right hand encased with a metal covering to prevent its ever being defiled, after being he medium of administering the viaticum to Ireland’s Patroness.”
Having had a sunny Feb. 2nd, a few sayings might be in order:
“From Scotland: If Candlemas Day is bright and clear,
There'll be two winters in the year.
And from America: If the sun shines on Groundhog Day;
Half the fuel and half the hay.
From the above link, we read that Punxsutawney Phil is only batting 39% for accuracy.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Thanks Ol’ Man River. That covers the subject pretty well. I did notice in his later years Ol' Punksutawny Phil got pretty punctual. He must have hired a manager to get him up in the morning.

om said...

i meant to say mongolian "boodog", not boondog. lest ekovox search in vain for a recipe, please allow me to post a how to make marmot boodog. it involves a lot of vodka, stuffing the carcass with hot rocks, using a blowtorch to get rid of the hair and watching as Marmots inflate as they cook - "It can get as big as a basketball with these four little legs sticking out,"