It may be spring, but expect more ‘winters’

Published 3:01 pm Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Can you believe, the weatherman is calling for snow Thursday morning? Just in time for April Fool’s Day!
Old-timers might call it Easter Squalls. Others might refer to it as Redbud Winter. People in our area, and in much of Appalachia and the South, often recognize the brief cold periods we experience in spring as Redbud Winter, Dogwood Winter, Blackberry Winter, and a few others.
Some March days have been warm enough for short-sleeve outdoor work and early gardening, but those days were followed by a cold snap or two when we had temperatures chilly enough to stay indoors.
Spring can be an unpredictable time of year, with warm, summer-like conditions one day and snow the next. It’s easy to get lulled into a false sense of security that the weather will remain hospitable when — WHAM! — a freak cold snap hits and reminds you that winter only ended a few weeks ago.
Our grandparents/great-grandparents had no televised weather reports, no weather apps on phone or tablet, perhaps no calendar or Farmer’s Almanac for guidance. They observed and relied on the signs of nature, and maybe it was natural to name cold snaps for what was blooming at the time.
Dogwood Winter usually falls during late April or early May, right around the time the dogwood trees start blooming in many regions. Farmers knew it wasn’t safe to plant their crops until after the dogwoods bloomed.
Likewise, it takes a few days of cold weather to stimulate blackberry canes to start growing, which is why Blackberry Winter is another popular term for this weather phenomenon. Locust trees and redbud trees are also seen as harbingers of a spring cold spell. Which name you choose depends on which kind of tree is most abundant in your neck of the woods.
We do pay attention to weather. Go through the grocery check-out when it’s snowing hard or extremely hot, and you or the clerk often say, “How do you like the weather today?”
The redbuds are in bloom in Elizabethton, which means this week’s cold spell could be Redbud Winter. Dogwood Winter will be right on its heels. Still to come, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac and the references are more “winters.” How they are named may depend on where you live or what your family or forbears called them.
Some new winters according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac is “Locust Winter,” which is set in early May, or a lesser-known “Whippoorwill Winter,” which may herald warmer days to stay.
The one we tend to know is “Blackberry Winter,” usually coming in mid-May or a bit later. These fruits, which we pick for jam or cobblers, need cold to set buds, and a cold snap when they bloom is named for them. This is when less severe polar air pushes toward us after warm air masses have begun to dominate the weather.
One largely forgotten term for a patch of cold during the springtime is Linsey-Woolsey Britches Winter. “Linsey-Woolsey britches” is an old nickname for long johns, usually spun from a combination of linen and wool. This end-of-spring cold snap marked the day when the Linsey-Woolsey britches could be packed away for the season.
No matter what you call it if you have a garden — or even if you just plan on packing away those winter sweaters — you’ll do well to remember that Dogwood Winter could still be waiting to catch optimistic sun lovers unprepared!
And, for sure don’t plan on hiding Easter eggs Thursday…because if you do, you might be doing it in the snow!

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