My Turn

Story published: 04-16-2014 • Print ArticleE-mail Story to a Friend

Old timers had a name for all these weather changes

By: Virginia Manuel

Freelance Writer

Well, after the mild winter we have had a spring that seems a little ahead of itself this year.  Maybe it is due to global warming or the fact the earth got knocked off his axis by a couple of degrees.

In the springtime here in the northeastern corner of Tennessee we see a lot of different changes in the weather. Some days it is warm and the ground begins to thaw then it might be so hot you think summer is upon us. The next few days we might get a cold snap with rain, snow, sleet and lots of wind. The old timers predicted the changing of spring by the blooming trees and the different types of winters as they called them.

Beginning with the first few warm days as the ground began to thaw the serviceberry (Sarvisberry) trees would be the first to bloom. This would be called Sarvis Winter and to the old timers, it meant the return of the circuit riding preacher. After the long, long, winter the ground would be thawed enough to have funerals and bury the dead. The snow white blooms of the serviceberry trees would be used to honor the dead at the “church sarvices” -- thus the name Sarvis Winter.

If there was a cold snap when the Locust trees were in bloom it would be called Locust Winter. It usually isn’t very long or cold. For example it could be snowing in the morning and record breaking temperatures by afternoon.

The next tree to bloom was the redbud. If the weather turns cold while the redbuds are in bloom it is called Redbud Winter. Only the hardiest crops would be planted before this cold spell.

Dogwood Winter comes after a few days of warm weather and brings several days of cold, weather and the possibility of a killing frost. Planting the tender crops should wait until after the Dogwood has bloomed. Oldtimers sometimes used the blooming of the Dogwood as a sign to plant their corn.

Blackberry Winter is probably the most widely know of the winters. The oldtimers knew that the blackberry canes needed a cold snap to set the buds, so the cold snap during the blackberry blooming was called Blackberry Winter. Blackberry Winter is normally not as harsh as some of the other winters. The soil is warmer and drier now so tender crops could be planted without much danger of being frostbitten.

Linsey-Woolsey Britches Winter is the winter only the oldtimers heard about. That was back in the day when they wore homespun clothing and it was when you could shed your “long johns” for cooler, lighter clothing.

Whiporwill Winter is the last little cold snap we get after the Whipporwill has migrated north from Mexico. Its that last surge of arctic air. It’s not as cold and doesn’t last long or do much as much damage as some of the other winters.

After a long hard winter and spring with all the cold snaps summer can’t be that far away---or can it?