Naturalist’s Notebook: Tennessee’s Little Winters

These days if you need long-range weather predictions you watch the Weather Channel or check the weather app on your cell phone. Long before these convenient weather sources, farmers were close students of the weather. This was very important to their way of life. They didn’t want to plant certain crops and then lose them to late freezes, so they kept track of several smaller winter events.

They noticed that every spring after the weather had begun to warm there were cold snaps that happened around the same time that certain plants bloom. They named the cold periods after those flowering plants.

My grandparents always talked about “dogwood winter,” which usually happens when dogwood trees are blooming. This spring the dogwoods have already bloomed, so I guess we are past that. I included a couple of photos taken while they were blooming.

The other late little winter event I’m familiar with is called “blackberry winter”. At my house the blackberries currently have lots of buds and a few blooms. Check out the photo. The strong storms we had two nights ago brought in cold north winds and nighttime temperatures in the 30’s. It had been springtime warm before this cold snap. Is this a blackberry winter?

I would have said it is but decided to check the internet first to see if there was any information on blackberry winter. I was surprised to find a LOT of sites that talk about blackberry winter, as well as several other “little winters” I have never heard of.

There is “redbud winter.” This would actually happen prior to dogwood winter. The redbud trees have finished blooming now.

There is “locust winter,” another one I never heard of. However, I noticed today that black locust trees are in full bloom right now while temperatures are dipping the lowest. Hmmmm. Maybe this is locust winter!

Unfortunately, that would mean we can expect to have another cold period –blackberry winter—in a couple of weeks.

My favorite unheard-of late spring cold snap is called “linsy-woolsie britches winter.” I’m not sure how far back in history linsy-woolsie britches were a thing, but I found out it is also called “long john winter.” That makes a little more sense.

Weather is part of nature, so it fits into my blogs about nature that you can observe right around your own house. It is something that affects you and all the plants and animals around you every day. 

According to those websites I visited, linsy-woolsie britches winter is one that follows blackberry winter, so keep those long johns handy!

Just in case that isn’t enough late cold snaps for you, the very last one is called “whippoorwill winter.” Just the night before this blackberry/locust winter hit, I heard a cousin of the whippoorwill called chuck-wills widow calling in my woods, so the whippoorwills can’t be far behind. 

Get ready for the heat after that one!

Mr. Bill

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