Fortieth day from Christmas

Tor, good afternoon, your February 2 birthday is coming around again – your eleventh! And it will also be Groundhog Day again. A year ago, you were living in the middle of Virginia, where you might have seen a groundhog come out and look at his shadow.


Now you’re living deep in the countryside of east-central Portugal, amid thousands of olive trees. How about writing a “Comment” to this and telling us what other plants and animals you see there – and stars and rocks and clouds, if you like – and whether there’s a chance you may see a groundhog?



7 thoughts on “Fortieth day from Christmas”

  1. No, there are no groundhogs in Portugal. Our friend Faye has described a “swishy-tailed” mammal not unlike the groundhog, but we don’t know what that is. However, Portugal has an infestation of wild boar, otherwise known as “Javali,” that dig up the earth around the olives.

    About stars–a few nights ago we had a bonfire in the olival and spied the constellation Orion, a bit tilted but as I used to see it in Virginia.

    1. That inspires a picture (I wish I could draw it), you all picnicking under the gnarled olive trees, with the bonfire glowing up on them, Orion up there between them, and around behind one of them a boar rooting.
      The cover picture of last October’s issue of “Natural History” magazine was a close-up photo of a pig’s face, because there is an article inside about the minds of pigs (directly descended from wild boars). They show many kinds of intelligence and emotion like humans, but they aren’t talked about in this way as much as elephants, chimpanzees, ravens, dolphins.

      1. I suppose the intelligence of elephants, chimpanzees, ravens, and dolphins is more generally celebrated than that of pigs is due the the fact that the former creatures are not mass-produced to be slaughtered for human consumption.
        Feral pigs can be quite destructive, and I don’t have a problem with killing them. But to raise a highly intelligent and sensitive creature in horribly overcrowded and stressful conditions just to produce cheap bacon is unconscionable.

        1. It certainly is. Pigs have been victims of atrocity for millennia, in earlier human cultures, but on a relatively small scale numerically. We support Compassion in World Farming and other such appeals, but it is hard to see how any impression can be made on the enormous scale of factory hog-farming in places like North Carolina except by political action. It is not only a humanitarian but an environmental mass horror, which perhaps makes political action faintly possible.

  2. A Happy Birthday and a little hello and info from the home of the prognosticator of all prognosticators. It is sunny this morning so Phil will see his shadow today! You know what that means! This from Phil’s official website:

    The Pennsylvania Tradition of the Groundhog

    What does a sleepy, furry marmot have to do with seasonal change? According to fans of Punxsutawney Phil, everything! But why?

    The story begins with Candlemas, an early Christian holiday where candles were blessed and distributed. Celebrators of the holiday eventually declared clear skies on Candlemas meant a longer winter. The Roman legions, during the conquest of the northern country, brought this tradition to the Germans, who concluded that if the sun made an appearance on Candlemas Day, a hedgehog would cast a shadow, thus predicting six more weeks of bad weather or “Second Winter.” German immigrants brought the tradition to Pennsylvania, but how did Punxsutawney Phil emerge?

    In 1886, a spirited group of groundhog hunters from Punxsutawney dubbed themselves “The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.” One member was an editor of Punxsutawney’s newspaper. Using his ink, he proclaimed Punxsutawney Phil, the local groundhog, to be the one and only weather prognosticating groundhog. He issued this proclamation on Candlemas, and yes, Groundhog Day. Phil’s fame spread, and newspapers from around the globe began to report his Gobbler’s Knob prediction. Today you will find 20,000+ in attendance and millions watching on television or via the web.

    – See more at:

    1. I believe that the logic is that if it is sunny on Feb. 2nd, then a high pressure system is over the area. This would be followed by a low pressure area and its associated precipitation. The precipitation is usually in the form of snow this time of year hence more winter like weather.

      On the other hand if it is cloudy then a storm system is currently in place, to be followed by nice weather.

      This reminds me of St. Martin’s Day. In Poland, a traditional belief is that on Nov. 11th, St. Martin rides across the sky on his white horse and this supposedly results in the first snowfall of winter.

      1. Yes, I had assumed that about the clear sky, though in less detail than you have spelled out.
        Interesting information about Martinmas (November 11, a candidate for the 4th cross-quarter day).

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