Don’t look now, but it seems to me that as far as weather predictions go, The Old Farmer’s Almanac has crashed and burned in its outlook for February. And in the ruins might be found the remains of a groundhog or two—Punxsutawney Phil and Buckeye Chuck, perhaps—who had stepped out for a snowball fight during the six more weeks of winter which they had predicted. Of course, the east coast has been lambasted by snow but the Old Farmer has missed us by a mile…so far.
The doggerel verse for February in the almanac reads : “Groundhogs stock up on sunblock. Melting: Get ready for a belting! Blizzards confound weather wizards. Bright but bitter as flakes flitter. Better, then wetter. Good news for the sledder!” Does this much resemble what we’ve had so far? Is this something that we still have to look forward to? El Nino was blamed for last year’s uncertainties, Who’s the villain this year? Or villainess—there is a La Nina (female version), you know.
Maybe it’s an over-all, national perspective, not currently applicable to our neck of the woods. I’ve got bulbs trying to poke their little green shoots up out of the ground. There is an actual crocus blooming its little heart out over on South Street; I spotted it on my can-recycle-pick-up walk around town on Sunday (Quite a haul uncovered by the absence of snow). I keep trying to cover shoots and bulbs (uncovered by chipmunks, squirrels, moles?)up because this weather is just NOT normal and critters are more than happy to hit the salad bar but they’re very insistent, those bulbs, and I fear that they’re not long for this world. Must be very worrying to the fruit-raising folks as well. Say a brief prayer ( or maybe a long one, if you’re counting on local strawberries, apples, peaches, cherries—the usual) for Monroe’s Family Farm Market, for Pochedly’s, for Stottler’s, for Patterson’s and Blue Bird Orchard, anyone who’s watching with trepidation as their plants and trees get fooled into reacting to the Spring weather, putting the cart before the horse and having the horse kick the bejeesus out of the cart and take off for parts unknown. Ditto for the maple producers around here. They need warm days all right, but they also need cold nights to keep the sap rising and falling, rising and falling , for as long as possible. Once the sap gets all of the way up to the leaves, the sap goes “buddy” and the taste is off. Screws up your stack o’ jacks, big time . I don’t know if a brief trip up to the branches then back down for awhile puts the kibosh on the taste of sap and , thence, syrup, but I’d guess that to be the case. Not a good prospect and I see that the local boilers have got their bags and buckets and pipelines going to make the most of whatever they can get. Good on ‘em.
The whack-o participants in the various Polar Bear Plunge events have probably been disappointed as well. No ice to break, no monumental goosebumps, definitely a reduced Macho-factor this year when the water temperature isn’t much worse than your standard first-dip-in-the-pool when the swimming season finally rolls around. Nonetheless, the R-C and the AB-J both reported that Valentine’s Day saw a charity event in Philadelphia—titled the Cupid’s Undie Run—benefitting sick children. Going out for “a brief run” was mentioned. One person interviewed was quoted as saying, “I’m about as comfortable as you could be, running in underwear.” That about says it for me. About one thousand people showed up in various stages of undress, in little more than their underwear and body paint, with some of the more hirsute shaving messages in their body hair ( a post card would be lots better, if you ask me). Those wearing the scantiest panties celebrated the bright, near-seventy-degree day by rejoicing in the slogan, “Sun’s out! Buns out!”
All for a good cause. Other cities such as St. Louis, Miami, Pittsburgh, Cleveland—was this on the news?—I missed it—held similar events, all raising funds for the Children’s Tumor Foundation to help support research into neurofibromatosis, an incurable genetic disorder with many disastrous consequences, particularly tumors in the nervous system. Around here, we can relate to this focus because of the locally-based Friends of Melana, honoring the life and memory of Melana Matson and sponsoring fund-raising activities such as the run during SummerFest supporting children’s glioma research.
And in a complete change of topic: Lent approaches; start looking for paczkis. As soon as Ash Wednesday happens, their time is up. Paczkis are Polish jelly doughnuts and just like Mardi Gras(Fat Tuesday), Shrove Tuesday, in Poland Fat Tuesday (Ttusly Czwartek) marks the wise household manager’s solution for getting rid of all the good stuff—butter, eggs, cream, sugar, meat…the good stuff—just before Lent comes down and marks a season preparation, fasting and repentance.
Paczkis around here are filled with all kinds of fruit fillings, sometimes custard or Bavarian cream, then rolled in confectioner’s sugar or iced. Strictly speaking , you shouldn’t be able to get them after Ash Wednesday (March 1 this year) but there are usually a few vagabond pastries to be found here and there and no one would like to leave the poor things out in the cold (If it ever returns) would we? Keep in mind that these traditional sweeties will clock in at about 500 calories apiece. It’ll take a couple of wedding receptions-worth of Polka dancing to work those babies off.
Or just head out to run in your skivvies—it’s all the same.