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The "little winters" of spring

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Little Winters

WABASH VALLEY (WTHI) - Spring is often a season with changing weather patterns, and early settlers gave names to some of the chilly periods.

Today, farmers can use a calendar and weather data to calculate the average last day for frost or freezing temperatures, a method obviously not available back in the day.

Nature is what the early settlers and farmers relied on to predict weather patterns, and some of this folklore they developed has withstood the test of time.

As trees and briars blossom in the spring, many of these blooms served as a warning to people that a cold snap was on the way.

The term 'Dogwood Winter' is one of the better-known "little winters" in the Wabash Valley.

It gets its name from dogwood trees, which bloom in the spring. Locally, that's usually in mid to late April.

Farmers expected cold weather and often frost around the time the blooms appeared, so they waited to get into their fields until the trees had flowered.

There are several other little winters in weather folklore:

Redbud Winter: when redbud trees bloom, usually in early-mid April

Locust Winter: depending on the region, it can be when the leaves come out or when the tree blooms, usually in late April or early May

Blackberry Winter: when blackberries bloom, usually in early to mid May

Tennessee folklore also mentions a 'britches winter,' which happened when farmers had already put away their wool pants for the spring and switched to lighter cotton pants for the summer.

Some years, multiple cold snaps can occur while other years only see one.

Whichever the case, the name of the little winter is shared with the tree or briar in bloom at the time the chilly temperatures set in.

As for 2022, we've now experienced a couple mornings with temperatures in the 30s and some patchy frost as of April 27, and maybe unsurprisingly, the dogwoods are starting to bloom (though the redbuds still have blossoms, too).

Let's hope this is our final round of chilly weather the spring, but if the old folklore holds true, be on the lookout for cooler temperatures again when the locust trees or blackberries bloom.

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