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Groundhogs & Earthworms

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Weather note:  So many people are enduring treacherous, blizzard conditions this week, especially in the Midwest and North!  You may be too busy shoveling snow to care that today is Groundhog Day.  Phil says early spring, huh?  While you’re taking a break and staying warm, maybe you’ll allow me to share about the outdoors as a classroom.  Then you can close your eyes awhile and imagine spring’s arrival.

We’ve enjoyed a generous amount of spring-like weather here in the Southeast in the days leading up to Groundhog Day.  It’s been a time for wandering outdoors, being nearly tempted to wear shorts or take off one’s shoes!

As the temperature creeps down again, all the talk surrounding this February 2nd celebration reminds us that we might as well enjoy the duration of winter.  The kids have been listening to the usual cute stories about groundhogs and shadows.  They’ve learned a bit about weather, at least as much as you can from a talking marsupial inspired by German folklore.

A recent sunny day led to my daughter’s discovery of a less celebrated underground animal with an incredibly important job.  When my husband pulled up some of last year’s tomato plants, she noticed earthworms wriggling around the dirt at their roots.  The earthworms, in a protective amount of soil, spent the better part of an hour being carried around and admired in an old pie pan.

My daughter remembered with pride how we’d been encouraging earthworms to live in our compost pile and garden throughout the previous growing season.  We’ve talked about the worms’ natural ability to aerate our soil and produce rich humus.  Scientists have discovered that tens of thousands of these tiny animals can live in a single acre of agricultural ground.  When they thrive, so does our garden.  We strive for organic gardening practices that are safer for us and the worms.

The kids both enjoyed holding the worms and watching their unique locomotion.  After a reasonable amount of time, we returned the earthworms to a safe spot on the ground.  Punxsatawney Phil may get all of the publicity this week, but we’re celebrating the humble creatures already at work on this spring’s garden.

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