It May Be Spring, But We Still Have 5 “Winters” Left in Appalachia

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Photo Courtesy: Allen Watkin
Photo Courtesy: Allen Watkin

I love the season of spring.  This is in part because I love to garden, watch baseball and go for long walks outside, but probably has far more to do with the fact that I simply hate winter — it is ugly, cold, and the older I get, the more difficult simply surviving until the tulips outside my window becomes!

Though the calendar may say that it is officially spring for those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere, the wisdom of our Appalachian ancestors cautions that we have not seen the last of Old Man Winter; in fact according to mountain tradition you should expect five more winters before spring has fully sprung.

The first of these winters is expected to arrive sometime in late-March and is known as Redbud Winter as it typically coincides with the time apple trees begin to blossom.  The remaining four winters occur at intervals of roughly a fortnite apart (two weeks).

During Redbud Winter, it is not uncommon for heavy frosting of a couple of days of frigid temperatures, followed by a return to warm weather.

Redbud Winter is succeeded by Dogwood Winter which typically arrives in the second week of April, around the time the Dogwood Trees are in bloom.

Two weeks later, comes Locust Winter which is often a brief cold snap that sees temperatures plummeting for a brief day or two before returning back to normal once more.

The fourth, most notorious, and most well known of the spring-winters of Appalachian weatherlore is the Blackberry Winter, which often coincides with what is known as the “May 10th Cold Spell.”

Blackberry Winter / May 10th Cold Spell is generally the final extreme cold most places in Central Appalachia will see and it is a generally accepted rule for many gardeners not to plant delicate plants until after the May 10th Cold Spell has come and gone.

Two weeks after Blackberry Winter, just days before Memorial Day Weekend is the fifth and final Appalachian little winters, known as Long John Britches Winter.

Long John Britches Winter is a term used to describe the type of underwear our ancestors would wear during this final cold spell before the unofficial final goodbye to winter — and the official start of summer just weeks away.  It was typically the final days long john britches would be worn to bed.

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