Country CousinIssue Date: February 3, 2022
Winter is half over!
January over, and February is here! If there was a January Thaw, it was not very impressive, and came on the last two days of January and the first day of February, when temperatures did briefly get above freezing.
Legendary weather prognosticator, Puxatawny Phil, and some of his relatives in other parts of the country ventured out of their winter dens on Wednesday, Feb. 2, to check out the sun on Groundhog Day, which by design is exactly halfway between the winter solstice (Dec. 21) and the spring equinox (June 21). In the ancient Celtic world it would be celebrated as a "cross quarter" day. So, according to the calendar, on Feb. 2, winter is officially half over.
Legend has it that on that date, Phil and his relatives awaken from their long winters' sleep and come out of their holes to check weather conditions. If the day is fair and bright, Phil will see his shadow and scurry back into his hole, since he expects six more weeks of winter. If it is cloudy, rainy, or otherwise shadowless, Phil will stay out, since that means winter is nearly over.
Phil himself has been around since 1867, and his fame has attracted as many as 30,000 fans to his home at Gobbler's Knob in Puxatawny, PA. But the legend started millennia earlier, long before the birth of Christ.
Groundhog Day is also the Christian feast of Candlemas, which comes 40 days after Christmas and celebrates Mary"s Purification at the Temple in Jerusalem as well as the Presentation of Jesus. Presentation of an infant at the Temple in the ancient Jewish faith seems slightly similar to baptism of an infant in the Christian faith. Sons were supposed to be presented 40 days after birth, and girls 60 days after birth.
Christians were observing the feast of Candlemas 40 days after Christmas in Jerusalem as early as the Fourth Century AD. By the middle of the 5th century, candles were lit on this day to symbolize that Jesus Christ was the light, the truth and the way, and later still, Candlemas became the day on which the year"s supply of candles for the church were blessed, and some of the blessed candles were distributed to the people. Thus the name, Candlemas.
It's still hard to make the connection between Candlemas and groundhogs, but that comes from ancient legends clouded in the mists of time when some cultures believed animals awakened on specific dates and influenced nature and the lives of humans. Some of those beliefs lingered after the pagans of northern Europe were converted to Christianity.
According to an old English song:
If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and come not again.
An old Scotch couplet states:
If Candlemas Day is bright and clear,
There'll be twa (two) winters in the year.
In another variation of the Scottish rhyme:
If Candlemas day be dry and fair,
The half o' winter to come and mair,
If Candlemas day be wet and foul,
The half of winter's gone at Yule.
Another Feb. 2 belief quoted by 19th century New England farmers, was that no more than half their hay should be used by Groundhog Day. Those farmers knew, as we know, that clouds or no clouds, they were not close to the end of winter on Feb. 2. If less than half the hay supply remained, there would be lean times for the cows before they could chomp the fresh grass of spring. Might be time for the farmer to eat beef.
But back to good old Puxatawny Phil, who gained fame in the 1983 movie, Groundhog Day, but obviously was well known long before that.
During Prohibition, Phil threatened to impose 60 weeks of winter on the community if he was not allowed a drink.
In 1958 Phil announced that it was a "United States Chucknik," rather than a Soviet Sputnik or Muttnik that became the first man-made satellite to orbit Earth.
In 1981 Phil wore a yellow ribbon in honor of the American hostages in Iran.
Phil used to really get around. He traveled to Washington DC in 1986 to meet with President Ronald Reagan. He met Pennsylvania Governor Dick Thornburg in 1987 and appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show in 1995.
Haven't heard much about him traveling recent years. Probably staying close to his den because of Covid.
Now that we know Groundhog Day, otherwise known as Candlemas, marks the halfway point of winter, we have something to celebrate this weekend. There may or may not be six weeks of winter to come (actually, up here in the northland, shadow or no shadow there"s probably at least that) but the calendar says winter is half over. We will survive!
DIVING TIME AGAIN
One way to celebrate would be by taking a Polar Plunge into Lake Michigan at Winterfest festivities at Victory Beach in Menominee. There's plenty of fun to be had there for everyone, even those not inclined to go for an icy dip. Events starting at 9 a.m. include the Polar Plunge, a Chill-y Cookoff (with judging by everyone who pays $10 for the privilege of taste testing all the bowls of chili they want), plus Da Yooper Pooper Toilet Trot Races and more.
Sponsors include River Cities Community Pool Association and Boys & Girls Clubs of Menominee and Marinette.
We have it on good authority that teams from Peshtigo will be participating in some of the Yooper competitions, which raise money for various good causes.
We also have it on good authority - Mayor Cathi Malke - that city officials are hoping volunteers will come forward to represent Peshtigo in Da Yooper Plunge. Also have learned that tabs from aluminum cans are being collected at the Municipal Building in Peshtigo to raise funds for Children's Hospital.
Is anyone old enough to remember Woodstock, James Dean, communes, and young folks agonizing over the meaning of life?
Notice how things have changed, and how uptight and health oriented everyone was becoming, even before Covid came on the scene?
Ever wonder what turned yesterday's flower children into today's crab grass?
Civilizations are often measured by the edifices they leave.
In ancient Egypt there were pyramids, evidence of preoccupation with the pomp of the Pharaohs and preserving the body for life after death.
Solomon chose to erect the most marvelous temple the world had ever seen.
From ancient Greece and Rome there are ruins of temples, palaces, fabulous baths, the Coliseum, evidence of dedication to their temporal gods and pampered lifestyles.
In the Middle Ages they were building cathedrals and castles, the cathedrals to honor God and castles to house the kings and emperors they believed ruled by God-given right.
In the early years of our country we were building ornate courthouses and erecting marble monuments in state and national capitals, indicative of national fascination with our newly minted form of government and laws passed by elected representatives for the first time in modern history. And we were building beautiful churches, reflecting our belief that God had indeed blessed America.
A few decades later banks were solid, ornate structures, usually decked with carved ornamentation and often trimmed in gold. Money was god and we proved it. That god crumbled in the Depression, but people didn't turn away entirely. There came the era when cities were judged on the basis of who had the biggest and best commercial/financial buildings. Taller, taller, always taller. No one remembered the Tower of Babel. No one even thought about it. Insurance buildings were some of the finest. People were willing to pay to protect their possessions.
Today the most distinctive architecture and decorating seems to go into gambling casinos, hotels and medical buildings. Churches for the most part are kept spare and simple. So are courthouses. As few frills as possible go into public buildings for God and government. Even fancy tombs are out. What message are we leaving about our society? Where do our priorities lie? What will future generations say about us?
Valentine's Day is only two weeks away, so you might want to think about doing something nice for your honey. Not everyone is thrilled all the time with their spouse. A working buddy claims he wouldn't have so many problems if Adam hadn't been so cheap.
He says it all started on a day when Adam was hanging around the garden of Eden feeling lonely.
God asked him what was wrong. Adam said he had no one to talk to when God wasn't around.
God told Adam he would make him a companion and that it would be a woman. He described woman and what life with her would be like. "This pretty lady will smile and sing and be happy all the time. She will gather your favorite foods for you. She will cook for you. When you discover clothing, she will wash it for you. She will always agree with every decision you make. She will not nag you and will always be the first to admit she was wrong when you've had a disagreement. She will praise you! She will bear your children and never ask you to get up in the middle of the night to take care of them. She will never have a headache and will freely give you love and attention whenever you need it."
Adam asked God, "What will a woman like this cost?"
God replied, "An arm and a leg."
So Adam asked, "What can I get for a rib?"
And you know the rest of that story.
My buddy's wife isn't too happy with her spouse either. Says she'd like to live in the fast lane but she's married to a speed bump.
Incidentally, recently was dismayed to learn that both male and female humans have 24 ribs each. Always believed it was true that men had given up one of their ribs for women. Faced with scientific facts, guess it was only Adam who had to get along with only 23 ribs.
Covid and all its variations or not, it's also cold and flu time again, and not all ailments are caused by the Covid virus. Authorities have long warned us to take antibiotics only when we really need them, and the common cold and other viruses generally do not yield to antibiotics anyway.
However, scientists years ago began admitting that Grandma was right, and for whatever reason, chicken soup has a beneficial effect on people with colds. And as a bonus it's a comfort food. Isn't it nice that sometimes our bodies really do know what's good for them?
I'm also a firm believer in a hot toddy. Strictly for medicinal purposes, you know. Put about a shot of brandy, a tablespoon or so of lemon juice and a tablespoon or so of honey in a heat proof mug and stir in about a quarter cup hot, hot water. Before you mix this up be wearing your flannel jammies or sweat suit. Take your drink to bed with you so as soon as you're finished you can snuggle down under the covers and stay there till you feel better, or until you have to get up, whichever comes first. If the drink worked properly you will have perspired a lot, and will probably need a good hot shower when you wake up. Which is a good thing. I like to think of it as washing the germs off.
Another excellent drink for a cold-riddled body is hot buttered rum. In a heat proof mug mix about a cup of milk, 2 tablespoons sugar or a tablespoon or so of honey, and about a teaspoon of butter. Heat to almost boiling and stir in a shot of rum. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon. Sip slowly, again while warmly dressed and ready to slip into bed.
If you're really good you may get away with snuggling under a comforter on the couch while someone else fixes your comfort drink.
Incidentally, cinnamon not only tastes good, it has some antibiotic properties. So does honey. Scientists have not yet proven either one works against viruses, but then again they haven't proved they don't.
Crock pot or oven meals are perfect right now. Turkey and chicken are best buys, and pork isn't bad. With Christmas credit card purchases catching up with many of us nose to nose with property taxes, most of our check books need all the help they can get. Here are some thrifty meals for hungry families, and mighty tasty too.
CROCK POT TURKEY LEGS
Make this with thighs if you prefer, but peel off as much visible fat as possible. Skin them if you like. Don't skin the legs. They tend to be a bit dry already and you don't want the meat falling off so all those flat bones get in the sauce. Chicken drumsticks or thighs work too.
2 to 4 pounds turkey legs
1 onion, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
1 can tomato soup (10 1/2 oz.)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup water
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon thyme
Place turkey drumsticks, thick end down, into slow cooker with onion and green pepper slices. Mix soup and remaining ingredients and pour over the drumsticks. Cover and cook on low 4 to 6 hours. Serve with rice, noodles or potatoes.
CROCK POT STUFFED CABBAGE
Cabbage is a vastly under used vegetable, very healthy and very inexpensive. This sounds like work at first glance, but requires very little kitchen time for an impressive and satisfying meal. You serve it over boiled wide noodles, so prepare for those too. As an alternative, if there's room in your crock pot, tuck a few peeled potato halves into the bottom of the slow cooker before you abandon it for the day. Carrots and onions are good too, and then you have a sort of stuffed cabbage boiled dinner. If you do that you don't need to make the sauce, just serve everything with the broth.
1 head cabbage
1 can beef broth or 2 cups prepared beef bouillon
1/2 pound bulk pork sausage
1/2 pound hamburger
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup broth from the crock pot
1/2 pint sour cream
2 tablespoons tomato paste
garlic salt and pepper to taste
Cut the center out of the cabbage head and save it for tomorrow's cole slaw. You don't have to be fancy about the cut, just make room for the stuffing. Maybe do this part the night before to save time in the morning. In frying pan brown the sausage and hamburger. Drain off excess fat and mix in the rest of the stuffing ingredients. Pack it into the cabbage head and set the whole thing in the slow cooker. Pour the broth or bouillon around the outside of the cabbage. Cover and cook at low all day, 6 to 8 hours. About 15 minutes before serving time boil wide noodles, remove cabbage from the crock and mix sauce ingredients in a saucepan. Heat but do not boil. (Sour Cream will curdle if it boils) Serve with buttered noodles and pass sauce to pour over all.
APPLESAUCE SPICE CAKE
This cake can bake right along with most oven meals, including the No Peek casserole and it's a good, easy and inexpensive dessert.
1/2 cup margarine or buttery flavored Crisco
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cup applesauce
1 cup raisins, optional
1 cup chopped nuts, optional
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream shortening, sugar, honey and eggs together. Mix the rest of the dry ingredients. Add to the creamed mixture alternately with the water and applesauce. Or just put all the ingredients into food processor and whip until well blended. Stir in nuts and raisins if you're using them. (It's a good idea to toss the raisins with a bit of the flour first so they stay distributed throughout the cake instead of settling out. Prepare the crumb topping and sprinkle it all over the top of the cake. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes. If you need to guild the lily, serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped topping. But it's also very good as is.
Thought for the week: Sign outside a church: "Headed in the wrong direction? God allows U-turns."
(This column is written by Shirley Prudhomme of Crivitz. Views expressed are her own and are in no way intended to be an official statement of the opinions of Peshtigo Times editors and publishers. She may be contacted by phone at 715-927-5034 or by e-mail at email@example.com.)
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