Groundhog May

Updated: Jul 15, 2020

Although it is way past the 2nd February, the traditional Groundhog Day in the States, it certainly feels like it here just now.

The superstition goes that if a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day and sees its shadow due to clear weather, it will retreat to its den and winter will persist for six more weeks; but if it does not see its shadow because of cloudiness, spring will arrive early. Spring has arrived for sure, but the repeated 'Groundhog Day' feeling of the film is certainly here with us.

A farmers daughters, we have been brought up with a culture of weather watching and speculation and it has always been a source of interest and discussion in our family. And as Forest School practitioners, this sky watching has continued. In these times, where our practical session work has dried up, even though it feels like we are hiding inside, we still continue to look to the skies for hope, blue and daily planning.

If it's raining, great for our garden and the trees and plants of the woods and we get to see if our old waterproofs still cut the mustard. If it's windy, our children will be a bit more manic and flustered; but windy days make good drying days, as my lovely friend Kate would always say, so it's a day for more washing. If it's sunny we can potter and walk with calm enjoyment, and make silly shadow pictures. If it's cloudy we can have an excuse to get on with homework and maybe a session infront of screens. When the rain and storms come, it's a great time to gaze and watch it unfolding outside and then wait for the forthcoming rainbows. The weather has always provided us with classic parallels to our lives, so we are continuing to weather the storm as it were, but are feeling somewhat frustrated that we can't be working as we would like to be.

This weather lore was actually brought from German-speaking areas where the badger (German:Dachs) is the forecasting animal, which is great because we don't have any groundhogs here. But we do have badgers.

Their dens have been sources of anecdotes for us for years. One of our children, as a toddler refused to leave a badgers den on a walk one day, when his tiny sister was screaming for a feed and all we really wanted to do was get home. The dark intrigue of a deep hole was too much for the young boy to resist and he sat and refused to move from the spot.

They excavate such huge den's and they leave huge spoils of clay around and about, so we get to take advantage, by having a plentiful selection of pre-dug Wealden clay, to sculpt and make with.

One of our children has used her lockdown time avoiding online learning by discovering the music of Queen. Aside from the music, the films of extravagant performances, album cover artwork and information about all the members of the band; her favourite discovery has been that Brian May once had a pet badger! She's been trying to convince us that it would be a great idea, and that she could kidnap a badger from the woods. We've suggested going down at nightfall to lay out snacks and observe them from a quiet distance. So far she's not wanted to get involved in badger observation, but we did this as part of our Forest School training and it was a fantastic experience.

If our diaries had panned out as they should have done, we'd be at our busiest time of the year. We'd currently be facilitating groups of children from schools in the city on farm trips and on countryside, Forest School inspired, residential trips. Obviously this isn't the case, so we can only hope that such rich educational experiences are there for them this time next year.

So when we are frustrated about the daily continuum of monotony that has been brought by not being able to work with groups of children, maybe we can blame the badgers.

Today is a windy day btw; so bring on the washing and hectic children.