Who Are You Going To Believe?

Groundhog Day is this week. Supposedly, a hibernating woodchuck wakes up, peeks out of his (why is it always a he?) hole, and if he sees his shadow there’ll be six more weeks of winter.

Around here, we don’t like woodchucks, and we certainly don’t pay attention to their prognostications.

Would you believe an animal that looks like this?

Woodchucks are foul-tempered rodents which destroy fields, mow down vegetables, and are truly stupid. (Yes, stupid. Years ago an entire family marched, one-by-one, up to my dog, who dispatched them all.)

Or would you believe Tina?

Tina, who took a long molting and winter break from laying, left this in the box last week, and has laid an egg, almost daily, since.

Around here, that’s a sure sign of spring.

Perhaps, though, you’d like a harbinger of spring that is prettier than either the woodchuck or Tina. Will this do?

The bluebirds have returned. They’ve been checking out the nesting boxes in the meadow.

Of course, here in New England, you don’t count your daffodils until they’ve bloomed. A few major snowstorms could still blow through. But, right now, I’m thinking that I’ll be able to get my cool-weather greens and peas in by April first. Meanwhile, it’s time to get the shedding blade out and go groom the goats.


  1. woo hoo!! it’s been feeling like summer here in California for the last week (up to 80 degrees outside). it’s been a bit ridiculous really. but i can’t wait to start planting peas and beans and lettuce and carrots and and and…

  2. It has been a very mild winter here in Bountiful, Utah. We’ve had bad snow storms then it warms right up and melts away – so unusual – different from when I was growing up. Wow, Tina laying eggs! Perhaps the sign of spring to come should be Tina instead of the groundhog. I saw a flock of geese flying north this morning on the way to work. Seems early to me.

    • Here in Washinton, our Robins go south to winter in Southern Oregon, and Northern Ca. So then about a month or two after our Robins go south, the Robins from Canada start showing up here, so we have Robins throughout the winter till just before ours show up in the spring. The Canadian Robins don’t sing while they are here, so I always look forward to hearing that first joyful bubbly song, telling me “I’m back home where I belong!”

  3. I have the magical day when we hit 10 hours daylength (Feb 4 for us here at latitude 44N04) marked in bright green marker on my garden calendar. In the ancient Celtic calendar, it is called Imbolc, and marks the halfway point between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. Traditionally, it is considered the first day of spring. One book I read referred to it as the day each year ‘when the back of Old Man Winter is broken’. My winter garden guru, Eliot Coleman, points out that 10 hours is the day length at which plant growth resumes and I plan to celebrate by going out and throwing around some seed for earliest greens — mache, miner’s lettuce. The girls aren’t ramping up egg production just yet. My older girls have molted, but haven’t gotten the message about ‘more light’ just yet. The pullets are laying, though, so we get an occasional omelette. Hope to have kale greens to put in them in a couple of months! Way to go, Tina!

  4. Here in Newfoundland, we don’t even have Groundhogs. I do have my own sign though – the chives on my kitchen window are sending up flower buds. Now I know that the chives outside are not doing the same as they are under several feet of snow BUT the days are absolutely getting longer. Can’t wait for winter to be over.

  5. Your bluebirds are so beautiful, they are like a cross between our robins and bluetits of which we have many at the feeders at the moment. We also have spring bulbs peeping through and lots of snowdrops out now.
    For us too it has been a milder winter than in recent years and I can see day by day that the light is getting longer and everything in the garden is emerging.
    Hope you had a good writers weekend and look forward to hearing if you enjoyed it.

  6. It a GLORIOUS sunny 60 degrees here right now with a high near 67 degrees, that would be a record for us.
    The daffodils are about 4 inches out of the ground, I got 18 eggs yesterday from 21 hens and I saw a Eastern Towhee at my bird feeder on Saturday. So things are not “normal”.
    By the way I had never seen a Eastern Towhee here in Missouri, I had to look it up to find out what type of bird it was. From what I read it shouldn’t have been here, apparently no one told the bird.

  7. It doesn’t matter if the groundhog sees his shadow in Vermont……we would welcome ONLY 6 more weeks of winter. Ours lasts way into April any year!

  8. I hate to say it, but I am a sucker for that groundhog! Gives me something fun to talk and read to the kids about! Rode the horses to the winery last Saturday..I actually felt guilty putting on that tank top! And I saw for the first time a western bluebird in my plum tree and the owls are building nests in the nest box..and..and..and!

  9. I think Miss Tina laid that egg because she could finally see what she was doing. The face/head trim of some of her fancy feathers all those weeks ago may have done the trick. BTW – I’m with you, I have no warm spot in my heart for woodchucks. Such distructive little buggers!

  10. Last week we had a flock of robins under the trees near the dining room window. But we think they never left, as it’s been so warm this winter. We’ve seen many flocks of geese following the river since December.

    I also have snow drops in full bud in the south garden. This is a first, and I’m of 2 minds about it. I like seeing the flowers, but seeing flowers in January is just wrong here in western Mass.

    For the next few years I will stick to my old frost dates for planting, until I’ve accumulated enough new data to change when I do things.

    • Yesterday, I put the hens in the veg garden to scratch it up and deal with bugs, but 2 inches under the mud was frozen ground. We’ve a ways yet to go before planting early!

      • The rain here set a major thaw in motion. I know because it kept the water in huge puddles on the ground. When it thawed, it all came into the cellar. It’s been doing this since Irene, due to an extremely high water table out here. Didn’t ever have water in the cellar before..

        We had solar PV panels installed in early January and to put the ground rod in, they dug in the flowerbeds. There were still worms. Might be why the robins stayed over this winter…

        But I will still wait for my old frost dates before planting..

    • Here in southern Maine I saw my daffodils today. My tulips popped out last weekend. No flowers, but I am truly concerned and think this winter has been way too warm for any plant’s good.

  11. The goats could do with keeping their furry winter coats on for a while if they were in the UK. As a suspected (in time for my mother’s birthday) the weather has decided to ‘do winter’ after all.
    Not the full monty, well not here in East Anglia, but barely above freezing by day much lower at night for the week ahead. And the occasional snow flurry. We’re keeping our winter woolies on!


    • Celia, I’m sure you’ll be warm – the knitting that you’ve posted on your blog is simply spectacular. The goats could shed for a month and still have plenty of coat left!

  12. I’d much rather believe the bluebirds than a grubby woodchuck. We have bluebirds here in NC year round. Saw several the last few days.
    BTW, did you notice the article in the Mosquito a couple weeks ago about the major house renovation on Russell Street? That was MY house! I lived there from 1984 to 1996 and had woodchucks most of that time. Don’t know which was most destructive of the garden – deer or woodchucks. Tearing down the house won’t get rid of either but the new house will be a distinct improvement. There was a tumble-down structure behind the house that someone told me was once a chicken house. I saw some major holes in the ground and figured that’s where the woodchucks lived. Ahh, wildlife in Carlisle!! :)

  13. I’ll have the kids vote. I have always loved whistle pigs. Although I must say my stuffed one looks much cuter than that fellow you photographed. So we shall vote, groundhog, Tina, or bluebird. I’ll let you know.

  14. My hens took the winter off, too. I understood my dinasours not laying, but my young girls, too? Well, it’s been a brutal winter here in Florida. We had pert near 30 minutes of freezing temps one night.:-) . Sorry, had to….seriuosly ,very mild. The girls are laying again. All is right with the world.

  15. Here in Virginia we are still waiting for winter to arrive let alone end!

    And wow! Terry, I was shocked that you called the groundhog stupid.

  16. I have a woodchuck that has been living in my backyard for the past 3-5 years. I have grown very fond of “Chuck”!!! He/she is so much fun to watch. Yes… I have lost all of my tulips and black-eyed susans. One year “Chuck” had a family of three young ones!!! Had so much fun keeping an eye on the family. Overall these creatures are harmless! I can live with them!!!

  17. When I lived in Michigan, I loved hearing that soft song of the eastern bluebird return each March. Sure sign of spring.