Hopefully, summer is almost here to stay

Published 11:23 am Friday, June 9, 2023

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It’s that time of year when the hope is for warm sunny days – days that the sunshine beckons you to come outside, perhaps spend a day at the swimming pool or lake. But, not just yet as summer has sputtered some on its arrival, giving us some cooler than usual days for the first part of June.
Old-timers call it those “little winters” that are perhaps less known these days. They can occur in late May or early June, are milder than the previous cold snaps and are not named for the trees that are in bloom. One of the winters is known as Linsey-Woolsey Britches Winters. It was once a popular term, back when winter clothing was homespun of linen/wool, and winters were harsher. It was the last time in spring that you’d need “long johns” before trading them in for summer clothing.
Whippoorwill Winter, perhaps what we experienced this week, is the last of the cool weather (hopefully). Around this time of year, you can hear the song of the whippoorwills in the evening and early mornings. This is a sure sign that those long summer days of sipping a cold iced tea on the porch are just around the corner.
Long before there were weathermen on television and long-range weather reports, local folks of Appalachia had signs that would let them know when to plant their gardens and when to wait. Predicting spring cold snaps could mean the difference in the success or failure of their crops. If you planted too early, a cold snap could undo all your hard work and waiting too long could mean not having a long enough time for crops to grow before the first freeze. Here in East Tennessee, this seasonal lore is still used today and passed down from generation to generation. These little winters are a part of our local weather calendar.
These little winters are something farmers and country folks came up with to label the cold snaps that come every year after spring is finally here. It will warm up and give us some beautiful days and then all at once we’ll be plunged back to winter-like temperatures.
A piece in the Farmers Almanac says that we name these “little winters” by whatever is blooming in our area at the time. Staying in tune with nature and the normal progression of the seasons was and is important to farmers. So, the old time farmers had their way of knowing when it was time to plant by whether the dogwood winter or perhaps blackberry winter had come and gone.
It’s fun to hear the other names people come up with for the spring cold snaps, such as “britches” winter, “whippoorwill” winter, and the newest one, “stump” winter. That was when it got cold after you had shoved your last stump of firewood in your stove and you hadn’t planned on cutting any more wood for the stove until the next fall.
Most of us would rather just move along and get the winters over with.
The calendar says summer will officially arrive Wednesday, June 21, at 10:57 a.m., which is the day with the longest period of sunlight. On that day the sun appears highest in the sky at the solstice; its ray strike the earth at a more direct angle, causing the efficient warming we call summer.
Summer is a welcome time of the year…it brings festivals, trips to the swimming pool and lake; the farmers markets open, supermarkets stock up on watermelons and newly-grown vegetables. There are trips to the beach, hiking in the mountains, and locally it means the season for “Liberty: The Saga of Sycamore Shoals,” which is now being performed each weekend in June. Another festival is the Rhododendron Festival, which is scheduled June 17-18. And, it’s also Vacation Bible School time at local churches. A number of churches are having Bible school next week. And, to not forget, families schedule reunions in the summer.
Summer is a season we all welcome, because it not only brings sunshine, but fun celebrations as well. Hopefully, the cool days and nights are behind us, and we can get to fully enjoy summer and all that it brings.

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