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Groundhog Day Brain Dump: Punxsutawney Amish, “Grundsow Lodges”, and the Miracle Heater in court?

Happy Groundhog Day! (UPDATED BELOW)

  • groundhog day
    Not Phil. Rodent rival Wiarton Willie, climate soothsayer of Wiarton, Ontario

    Something tells me that with the weather lately, old Punxsutawney Phil might just see his shadow, dooming us to 6 weeks more winter.  Punxsutawney, of course, is the central Pennsylvania town known for holding the most prominent Groundhog Day celebration, complete with a tuxedoed band of residents known as the “Inner Circle” who care for Phil and interpret his prognostications.  Groundhogs, if you were interested, apparently live only 6 years in the wild, longer in captivity.  Phil may be the most famous, but many towns across North America have their own groundhogs-in-residence, most with catchy names like “Buckeye Chuck”, “Smith Lake Jake”, and my favorite, “General Beauregard Lee”. The Inner Circle claims that it has been able to extend the original Punxsutawney Phil’s lifespan by feeding him a magical punch which adds 7 years to his existence.  Sounds good to me.  Read more at groundhog.org.

  • Groundhog Day has origins in 18th-century Pennsylvania German culture.  The custom’s roots supposedly reach even further to Europe, where there was a tradition of making weather predictions based on animal behavior, that of the badger in particular.  A later development was the Groundhog (Grundsow) Lodge.  The original such group,  founded in Allentown, PA in 1933, decided to hold annual February 2 meetings “not only to hear the groundhog make its annual weather prognostication, but also to enjoy an evening of dialect fellowship aimed at instilling pride in their ethnic inheritance.”  Today around 18 such lodges operate, holding fersommlinge (gatherings) at which they eat Pennsylvania German food and promote the language and culture through various programs and activities.
  • Punxsutawney, despite being best known for its famous rodent resident, actually lies near a sizeable Amish settlement as well.  Clearfield County is home to a community numbering 9 church districts as of 2008, located near Punxsutawney and the borough of Troutville.  I have never visited Clearfield County, but maybe someone reading this can add more.
  • No matter what Phil predicts today, bad signs may be on the horizon for Heat Surge of Canton, Ohio, maker of the “miracle” Amish heater.  The product, you might recall, is an imported electric heater, encased in a wooden mantle, ostensibly made by Amish craftsmen.  Heat Surge has spent tens of millions over the past few years in massive advertising campaigns promoting their device.  But it looks like a group is challenging them on their heater’s claims.  Five individuals have decided to sue Heat Surge “over whether its fireplaces cut heating bills sharply and are made in the United States by Amish workers.”  Apparently, they’d like to make it a class action suit to include others with similar complaints.
  • Finally, photo of the day from Misty Anderson, who is soon moving to a La Plata, Missouri Amish farm she and her husband have just purchased.  Misty says that on a visit to view the farm, the owners took them out for a buggy ride, which gave her the chance to snap this photo.  Best wishes to Misty as she and her flock of 8 get settled in this spring.

amish buggy view

UPDATE: The verdict is in. Punxsutawney Phil has emerged from his burrow to…not see his shadow and thus predict an early spring.

The AP reports that since 1887, Phil has seen his shadow a total of 98 times, and not seen it only 16 (with some missing years in there).

They also note that Phil failed to make a football prediction for this weekend’s Super Bowl.  Below, a shot of Phil with two of his handlers (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic):

groundhog day punxsutawney phil

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    25 Comments

    1. I do not believe all that hogwash about a groundhog
      predicting the weather it is all up to the Good Lord and mother and Father nature

    2. Rich Stevick

      Below are a couple of websites that tell all–or a lot–about February 2. Briefly, this day is the half-way point through winter (PTL) and has its roots in a Roman holiday. In medieval times, the Roman Catholic hierarchy rescued it and turned it in to one of three blessing ceremonies–the church blessing of ashes, of palms, and of the candles. They called the latter Candlemas. In North America, we substituted the groundhog for the Roman’s hedgehog. But unless you are a history geek, you already have more info than you ever wanted. Happy Groundsow Day. Rich Stevick P.S. The second website has directions on ridding your garden of groundhogs, the subject that interests me most.

      http://www.suite101.com/content/the-feast-of-candlemas-in-medieval-times-a82810

      http://landscaping.about.com/cs/pestcontrol/a/groundhog_day_4.htm

    3. Is there a way to post a picture along with a comment? All this talk about groundhogs reminds me of some pictures my husband and I took in Lancaster County this summer of a groundhog who poppoed his head out of the ground.

    4. Pam–it’s not possible to post a photo with comments, but you are welcome to post it on the Amish America Facebook page, which you’ll find in the left sidebar. You should be clear to do it on your own, but let me know if I can assist.

    5. Thanks, Erik. I just posted the photo — nothing spectacular, but just thought I would share it.

    6. Glad you got it up Pam–he’s a little hard to see, but it’s actually a great shot! I am quite the fan of groundhogs and woodchucks and the like 🙂

    7. Professor Stevick I am only a semi-history geek but thanks for fleshing out the Groundhog Day background a bit more for us!

      One of my good Amish friends has to deal with them on the farm. As cute as they are, as you know they can be pests to a farmer, which is where the shotgun comes into play.

    8. Marilyn in New York

      Hi Everyone,
      Well our groundhog shadow’s didn’t show so spring is suppose to be around the corner, but I do believe the same Ivan does. The Good Lord makes the decision.
      Marilyn in New York

    9. Forest Hazel

      The whole idea of groundhogs predicting the weather is preposterous. Now wooley worms, they can really tell you something about the weather.

      Groundhogs do taste much better than wooley worms though, to give credit where credit is due….

    10. Richard

      If that groundhog popped-out of his hole on my lawn, id put him to work helping shovel my driveway. Richard, lebanon,pa

    11. Good thinking Richard; but I think he may be a little too pampered of a rodent to help you out much..!

      Marilyn and Ivan I think you are about right there. Phil is basically just America’s little furry entertainer, at least on Feb 2.

      Forest I can’t say I’ve tried either groundhog meat or wooley worm…meat? but given the choice groundhog it is. After all, it has “hog” in its name.

      But really it is one of those animals that is just about too cute to eat, pest or not. I don’t want to go soft here, but I calls em like I sees em.

    12. Oh, I learned a lot here. Thanks for writing about this..That first photo with the groundhog statue made me laugh. It reminds me of a “groundhog” version of the Easter Island statues 🙂 🙂 Greetings from Oregon, Heather 🙂

    13. Richard

      I think id like to interview mr Punxsutawnwy phil for my blog, i wonder if he will be up to it after he clears the snow from my house for the next 6 weeks. Richard, lebanon,pa

    14. Slightly-handled-Order-man

      An early spring, wonderful, I guess. I still like a little verse I always enjoyed despite the raunchy road-kill-ish nature of it;

      “The groundhog saw a shadow, it meant six more weeks of winter, but not for him – it is my front left tire.” – the Red Green Show.

      I think I’ve been to Wiarton, Ontario, but not during Willie season. There is something I like about the pictured statue. There is an Easter Island quality to that statue. Actually it reminds me of a stone statuette of a walrus I remember from my childhood (it’s still there in my parents’ space).

      The woman that bought the Amish farm, is she and her husband converting to the faith?

    15. Richard

      Good morning everyone. Roads here are clear and the sun is coming up on the horizon over here in Lebanon,pa.And you can’t beat that.I knew before that ground hog popped out of his hole that it was going to be 6 more weeks of winter, my car insurance bill popped out of my mail box first. Always a dead giveaway for me. Richard. Lebanon,pa

    16. I like the Easter Island comparisons, that’s two now 🙂 It is a very noble rendition of a groundhog, if you ask me.

    17. Richard you have got me cracking up here…simple solution: get the groundhog to gnaw off your mailbox. No more bills!

    18. Slightly-Handled-Order-Man,
      My husband and I are not Amish or Mennonite, but we are plain dressing Christians. We were looking for an Amish farm because we wish to simplify our lives. No electricity, no propane or gas, all wood heat and cooking. Plus we want our children (6 boys, 2 girls) to know what it’s like to really work hard and feel pride in your acomplishments. We will farm on our farm and hope to produce 80% or more of our food. If you would like to follow our familys’ adventure you can read our blog, http://inherithearth.blogspot.com
      We will continue our blog after we move by means of solar or pedal power.
      Have a wonderful day,
      Misty

    19. Slightly-handled-Order-man

      Misty Anderson; I hope to keep track of your blog, and I wish you all the best of luck! When you talk about plain Christian, do you mean Friends (Quakers)? There probably are other faiths that have a connection with the plain lifestyle, the Friends and the Amish/Mennonites (among similar related others) are the most well known.
      I wish I could do what you are going to do. I’ll look at the blog. Thanks for sharing by the way!

      Erik; I once knew a girl who came from Wiarton, and come Groundhog day she hated the jokes people made about her community, sometimes it takes a pretty thick skin to come from a Groundhog town. On local TV I recall this year the morning show Anchors referenced the Bill Murray film “Groundhog Day” quite a bit but never showed footage or the film later that day. Not that I noticed anyway.

    20. Slightly-handled-Order-man

      Misty Anderson; I made my first visit to your blog, I like what I see. Very well done! I think I will check it out quite regularly, I think.

    21. Yonie Wondernose

      Erik

      I am appalled. How dare you forget to mention Octorora Orphie in Quarryville. In the very heart of Lancaster Co. at that. Next to Intercourse that is.

    22. Yonie,

      I really dropped the ball on this one. My apologies, and give Orphie my regards. See I forgot, I thought PETA had replaced him with a robot already 😉

    23. Yonie Wondernose

      They are going to. plus he won’t be adding phosphorus to the bay.

      The price of oysters is really skyrocketing

    24. I didn’t realize groundhog phosphorus was so potent.

      That is right though you Lancaster people do raise them in those groundhog mills, don’t you??!

    25. Ed Patterson

      Interesting that you refer to the settlement as the Punxsutawney Amish. I would say the majority of people in the area refer to it as the Smicksburg Amish settlement after the small town of Smicksburg that is the center of the settlement and located about 10 miles southwest of Punxsy. There are some splinter groups that have broken off from the Smicksburg Amish, north and east of Punxsutawney.

      The Smicksburg settlement is the 3rd largest in PA and the 11th largest in the U.S. There is some tourism associated with the Smicksburg settlement but I’d describe it as ‘Lancaster without the hype’. Scenic countryside and since 1962 the settlement has been a welcome addition to our area.