Imbolc and the Groundhog Day Theory

So this post is going to be a little scattered. I’m under-caffeinated and freezing my toes off. I’m ready for spring! I’m ready for heat, really. Brrr, it’s been a long cold one, and not in a good way.

For the bulk of the population of North America and possibly Europe, February 2nd is Groundhog Day. If the little bugger sticks his head out of his den and sees his shadow (good weather), it’s another six weeks of winter for us. However, if he comes out and stays out, winter is over and spring is on the way.

Can you imagine being that species, doomed to living down being afraid of their own shadows? The reality is Groundhog Day takes its idea from a much older, more extended tradition; in Ireland, Scotland and Wales folk celebrated this time of year as the return of not only light, but of life. Oh yes, they did look for the hints of animal life as well, and usually around this time the hedgehogs and other small mammals began making their presence known once more…

The ewes would begin to produce milk again, something the people couldn’t just drop down to the corner shop to pick up. Generally sheep and goats are the first to begin dropping their young, which means milk. Which means life, not only for the lambs and kids, but also for the folk who milked them.

Modern times have brought changes obviously, besides that of the corner shop. In my area, the cows have been dropping calves for at least a week or two (poor things! I can’t imagine the states of their little ears in this cold) which means there is plenty of milk to be had. Even so, cows are now selectively bred so that dairy farms are never without cows that are producing. Heifers (females) are often kept to replace older cows when the time comes, and bull-calves (un-castrated males) are either castrated and sold, or on the very rare occasion, kept and used for breeding.

That’s all I’m going to say about that. Dairy farming is a touchy subject for me, even though I love milk. I’d rather have a cow of my own for raw milk (so much healthier!!) than drink the liquid gold they’re selling in the store. Circumstances, though… sigh.

Back to the message at hand! No matter what, spring is indeed just around the corner, and it is a perfect time to celebrate not only the milk flow, but the returning light. Although the days have been progressively longer between Yule – with about 8 hours of daylight between sunrise and set – and true spring, Ostara (with 12.25 hours!), it’s the tiny increment at Imbolc with 9.5 hours of daylight, that is first noticed. It was the first real sign that the world was not going to be plunged into a wintery darkness forever. There was, literally, light at the end of the tunnel.

Many people begin planning their gardens at this point in the winter, avid gardeners going so far as to draw plots to map out what will go where. Others are starting new projects in their chosen crafts; a new afghan or scarf, a new sampler to hang on the wall. It is, much like the lambing that begins now, a time for coming out of the shell, stepping out of the warmth of the hearth (home) and starting fresh.

Myself? I’m going to be starting a new cross stitch pattern I’ve designed. A large sampler, it depicts my family home, my family, and of course, the alphabet and numbers. In 1812, a little girl signed her name to a sampler she’d stitched. 200+ years later, her descendant will be doing the same thing. I hope my mother will enjoy it when she gets it for her 65th birthday. And if you know her – don’t tell her! <|;^) The girls and I are on our own for Imbolc this year, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to miss out on a feast! Here are our dinner plans: Venison Roast


2 c cheap, dry red wine
1 c water
1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp soya sauce
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp rosemary, lightly crushed
garlic powder, salt & pepper to taste

Mix the marinade in a bowl. Place the roast in a large, heavy-duty resealable bag, and cover with the marinade; remove as much air as possible and seal. Set it in the fridge for at least 8 hours, but 12 is best (I have marinated meat for 36 hours for best results!). Roll it over a few times while it soaks in the liquid.


1 lb baby potatoes*
1 lb baby carrots*
8 small onions
3 stalks celery
2 cloves garlic

6-9 strips of fatty bacon

Pre-heat the oven to 325*F.

Place vegetables in the bottom of the roasting pan, sprinkle with seasoning if you wish. Remove the roast from the marinade and place on top of the veggies and cover with the bacon strips. Pour a small amount of the marinade over all, and cover with the lid and set in the oven.

After one hour, turn the heat down to 275*, and continue cooking for at least 20 minutes per pound (so a 3 lb roast would need an hour). For safety, use a meat thermometer stuck in the thickest part of the roast. When the meat is done, it should read 160*F.

Set the roast on a carving tray and cover to rest.

Remove the vegetables from the pan and set aside. To de-glaze, set the roaster on an element at nearly-high heat. Use a 1/2 cup of the red wine, and 1 cup of beef broth. Once the pan is de-glazed, pour the stock into a small pot and add more broth if you wish. Create a thickening for the gravy as you would for beef.

Carve the roast, and pour a small amount of the gravy across the slices on the serving platter.


* If you are serving Clapshot and Cabbage, you may not want to include these veggies in the roaster.

Clapshot **

2 lbs potatoes, peeled & prepped
2 lbs swede turnips (rutabaga), peeled & cubed
3 lg carrots, peeled & prepped
2 lg parsnips, peeled & prepped
pinch salt for water
pinch salt & pepper for seasoning
1/4 c butter, cubed
1/3 c heavy cream
1/4 c chopped chives

Place all vegetables in a large pot, fill with water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to mid-high. Cook for approximately 20 minutes (’til a fork test shows each kind is tender). Drain and mash with butter and cream. Place in serving dish and garnish with chives.

Boiled Cabbage **

1 med head cabbage
3 tbsp butter
salt and pepper to taste

Remove the first few leaves to get to the fresh below. Trim the stalk end, but don’t remove the core. Cut into six wedges, and place in a large pot. Barely cover with water, and bring to a boil. Turn it down to half heat, and simmer for 15 minutes. Fork test the core, if it’s tender but still a bit firm, the cabbage is cooked. Drain and place on serving plate.

Serve with butter and salt and pepper.

** Leftover Clapshot and cabbage (chopped up) can be combined and fried the next day, a form of Bubble and Squeak.

Gram’s Upside Down Apple Spice Cake

1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup pecans, chopped – if desired
2 large Granny Smith apples, cored & chopped

1 box Spice Cake mix
2 lg eggs
water & oil as called for

Pre-heat oven to 350*F.

Melt the butter and spread on bottom of an 8×8 pan (spray the pan well first, trust me!).
Sprinkle with brown sugar and nuts.

Mix the batter for the cake, divide in half. Pour half of the cake over the butter, sugar and nuts. Use the remaining half for cupcakes, muffins or another cake.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the top springs back when pressed, or a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool for five minutes on a rack, then run a knife around the edges. Turn the cake out onto a serving platter, letting the gooey apple topping run down along the sides. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream!

Here’s hoping spring is definitely starting soon… Happy Imbolc everyone!

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