Time to Celebrate the Gardener's Favorite Varmint!02. February 2017
While people around the country are celebrating Groundhog Day today, I prefer to celebrate this cuddly marmot every day! Gasp! The horror!! How can any gardener even think about praising this annoying creature? Well think about it. A groundhog will eat your very best tomato or cabbage. So in a way, he's complimenting your gardening skills, right? And surely he keeps you on your toes planning ways to keep him out of your garden. Or maybe you're just on your toes so you don't trip in his burrow and break your ankle? Let's not forget too, they have impeccable timing. Their instincts on when to emerge from hibernation are impressive. Some trust his shadow over the local weatherman on when to start planning their garden. And that's what today is all about Charlie Brown.
Years ago we had a groundhog terrorize our garden. We named him Hermie. Yep, that's him in the photo above. He was a fat, fearless varmint who lived under our front porch. He made himself at home, that's for sure. He really dug our patio furniture. He adored chewing on the porch railing. And he sure did LOVE our tomatoes. And the carrots. And the apples. We actually saw him reach up to pick apples right off our tree.
In the past, I used a small electric garden fence to help deter Hermie the Groundhog. The fence may or may not work. While I do get the occasional half eaten tomato, I wonder how much worse it could be without the fence. If an animal is hungry enough, it'll do just about anything to eat and survive.
FUN GROUNDHOG FACTS
- Groundhogs are related to squirrels. This should be obvious since they look like giant cuddly squirrels (also a nuisance in the garden).
- Groundhogs are also called whistle pigs, land beavers, woodchucks, marmots, and "you rotten so-and-so."
- Their impressive burrows include multiple exits for easy escapes. There's a hibernation room, and a separate bathroom (because they aren't filthy animals, y'all)
- Groundhogs are true hibernators. Their body temperature and heart rate drops during hibernation. Other "hibernating" animals only go into a deep sleep. Groundhogs still move around some while hibernating. They toss and turn while dreaming of your tomatoes.
- Groundhogs are kinda antisocial. They pretty much just mate when they need to, then go off on their own to wreak havoc on your tomato patch.
- Groundhogs are usually on the poop-list of farmers and gardeners. Their burrows can injure animals and break farm equipment. They destroy crops, especially delicate greens. They will take one bite out of your prize tomato before moving on to the next 5 tomato plants to do the same thing. Do they forget if they like tomatoes or not? Or do they just like making gardeners angry?
- Groundhog Day stems from a German or Celtic tradition. They originally used hedgehogs to help predict the weather. When German immigrants came to Pennsylvania, they switched to groundhogs. It's debatable which animal is cuter, but hedgehogs drive cars, so my vote is for them.
- Groundhog Day was started in 1887 by Clymer H. Freas, the editor of the Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper. He declared the town groundhog Punxsutawney Phil to be a meteorologist. If it's sunny outside on February 2, the groundhog will see his shadow and go back inside to stay warm for 6 more weeks of winter. If it's cloudy, then spring will arrive early. This form of weather prediction is much cheaper than super doppler whatchamacallit.
- Punxsutawney Phil is the most famous groundhog. He's sort of a big deal since they made a movie about him with Bill Murray in 1993. BUT he's not nearly as awesome as Hermie the Groundhog IMO. Groundhog Day is a light-hearted tradition and big celebration in Gobbler's Knob, Pennsylvania.
- How accurate are Punxsutawney Phil's weather predictions? The National Climatic Data Center said his forecasts are "on average, inaccurate" and "[the] groundhog has shown no talent for predicting the arrival of spring, especially in recent years." So Phil may be on par with most local weathermen.
Here's Hermie the Groundhog surveying his property...err, everything he wants to eat.
I don't like the way he's leering at my tomatoes.
Much to my husband's despair, we never tried to eradicate Hermie from our yard. WHY? Well, I have a soft spot for groundhogs. They are SOOOOOO cute. Just look at that face! If we were homesteaders or farmers, Hermie would've ceased to exist very soon. I appreciate the aggravation most gardeners feel when dealing with this pesky pest.
YES, this is the original Hermie the Groundhog posing for our Groundhog canning labels. Thanks a million Hermie. Your payment? Oh, sure, go ahead and help yourself to anything in our garden ;)