Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Groundhog Day

Today's post is dedicated to my Grandma Miller. After I left home and transplanted myself on the opposite side of the country, there was one thing I could always count on--a call from Grandma on February 2nd to let me know whether or not The Groundhog saw his shadow. She took on this charge after I told her that there weren't any groundhogs in California.

"If you don't have groundhogs, how are you going to know if he saw his shadow?"

"You'll just have to let me know."

And that she did every year, even after I moved back to Pennsylvania, until she passed away.

The news out of Punxsutawney today, according to Phil the Official Groundhog, prognosticated an early spring.

I'm not sure what my groundhog's name is or if he saw his shadow or not, but I do know he didn't venture far out of his hole after digging out this morning--no tracks in the snow--just enough to pop out his head and say "Well, this sucks. I'm going back to bed."

And just how do I know?

Despite being well prepared for the Groundhog Ice Storm, as it was dubbed by the National Weather Service, the reality is I still have to go out in this mess. Yes, there's the usual trek to the barn several times a day for feeding, watering and checking in on all the animals, but on days like this there is also another critical task to be performed--I need to walk my fence lines.

There is approximately twenty miles of wire strung around the farm--six strands of electrified high-tensile creating six large paddocks, two alleyways and thirty gates. Give all of that infrastructure combined with hundreds of trees, the probability of something falling on my fencing system during an ice storm is high.Last winter about a dozen trees came down due to ice, snow and wind. So far this year, I've been extremely fortunate with only a few branches down.

The lovely thing about a high-tensile fence is if it's built right, it can take a heck of a beating. Too many people want to ratchet their wires until they are so tight the spindles can't take any more tension. That's a recipe for a broken fence.
Walking down through the pines this morning was as much an auditory adventure as a vista of winter beauty. Melting droplets falling on the frozen crust, breaking shards of ice skittering smacking the earth and skittering accented with the occasion rush of an entire pine branch letting go of the frozen needle cover.Trudging down over the hill, I wondered if my footsteps, as they broke through the sheet of ice atop last week's snow, were setting off tiny shock waves signaling large ice-laden branches throughout the woods to suddenly come crashing down around me. I made it a point to stay out in the open as much as possible.The Australian Pine stand took quite a beating with several larger branches down. A wild cherry dropped a few smaller branches on the wires, but nothing serious. I could only find one live conifer that succumbed to the weight of the ice.Crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch went my morning walk as I made it around the perimeter and back to the house. I'd worked up an appetite for breakfast which I squelched with a hearty batch of grass-fed roast beef hash with onions, sweet potato, green pepper, jalapeno, onion and winter squash topped off with a pair of fresh eggs and a hot cup of coffee.


  1. wow, that does sound scary and amazing. I got to hear the melting and falling ice today, I left work to go to Dr appt in Carlisle. It was eery to hear the trees nearby melting and dropping chunks of ice. Good to hear that no major damage occurred for you!!

  2. Your grandmother sounds like she was a wonderful character in your life. Beautiful photos of the snow and ice. We need to catch up one of these days ... it's been a long time.