Tag Archives: Country Wisdom

Country Sayings Saturday

Why it’s Called Dogwood Winter

Spring can be an unpredictable time of year, with warm, summer-like conditions one day and snow the next. It’s easy to get lulled into a false sense of security that the weather will remain hospitable when — BAM! — a freak cold snap hits and reminds you that winter only ended a few weeks ago.

Much like Indian summer — a period of unseasonable warmth in the middle of autumn — these periods of springtime cold have a name. Actually, they have several names. The little winters in the middle of spring are called variously Dogwood Winter, Blackberry Winter, Locust Winter, Whippoorwill Winter, Redbud Winter, and a few other regional variations.  Though predictable, the climb from cold of winter to the warmth of summer and back again is not completely smooth. Small “blips” in the overall pattern reveal noticeable fluctuations that can be observed from year to year. These blips are called singularities in weather lingo. For a singularity to be recognized, it has occur during at least 50% of years. Indian Summer is a long-established singularity. Dogwood Winter is another.
But why is it called Dogwood Winter, or any of those other names, for that matter? Weather forecasters SickDogwood-2015_originaldo know there will be a last frost, but it’s not predictable enough to say on what day, so we follow what the oldtimers taught us: a cold snap usually occurs around the time when the dogwoods are in bloom. With the possibility of frost happening during Dogwood Winter, they also knew to wait until after the dogwood bloomed to plant tender vegetables and annuals.  My mother said that you get a “winter” every time something white blooms.

Oldtimers also knew that blackberries need a cold snap to set buds on the blackberry canes, so as sure as night follows day, there will be a cold snap when the blackberries bloom, called “Blackberry Winter”. It comes with a somewhat less severe return of a continental polar air mass after the maritime tropical air masses have begun to dominate the weather.

One largely forgotten term for a patch of cold during the springtime is “Stump Winter”. This end-of-spring cold snap marks the last cold spell and derives its name from the use of the last of the fire wood – the stumps – for heat.  This is also known as “Whippoorwill Winter”. The whippoorwill migrates from wintering in Mexico to their summer range farther north in late May to early June. There is even another colloquialism for this spring cold snaps, which is: “Linsey-Woolsey Britches Winter,” referring to a type of winter long underwear which could be put away after the last cold snap. Whatever you call it, the last winter is not as cold as the other “winters” but still a bit of cold snap.

Me?  I don’t take my coat out of the truck until I need to make room for carrying home 4th of July fireworks…’cause it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it!







Country Sayings Saturday


“Bowed up like a Halloween cat!”

An interesting turn of phrase, “Bowed up like a Halloween cat” refers to the arching of the back of a cat.

The cat’s back is very flexible, making it capable of curving it into a fairly tight arch, especially when compared with dogs. There are a number of reasons cats arch their backs, the main one being the fear of an aggressor. In this classic Halloween pose, a cat arches his back and shows piloerection (i.e., his hair stands straight up) as a way of making himself look bigger when confronted with danger. The cat may also make it clear that he’s ready to defend himself by doing things like growling, hissing, spitting and showing his teeth. If you encounter a cat giving this display, the best response is to slowly back away and give the cat his space.

Likewise, the delivery of bad news may elicit the figurative same response.  For example, you tell your Father that you broke his brand new John Deere tractor showing off for your girlfriend.  His immediate and angry reaction would be termed, “Bowing up like a Halloween cat.”  In this case, the best response is to back slowly away and give the Father his space.

Interestingly, the term “bowed up” has an entirely different meaning in the Midwest. There they dr1H8HVHXHAHGHTH7H6ZKLEZGHRR4HVHPHHRNHYH7LJH6HYHEH1ZUHLR2H9ZGLRR5LWZIL1ZUH1ZNH1Zop the “Halloween cat” reference and just use “bowed up”  There it means to be
very, very busy.  For example, an Iowa farm boy might say, “I’m bowed up like a cutworm!”  This refers the the busy action a cutworm moth makes when flying around, say, a porch lamp.

Finally, “bowed up” can mean very physically 625408_579373818747944_299182508_nfit or muscular.  For example, “Since Johnny started power lifting 6 years ago, he’s got all bowed up like Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 70s.” I have only heard this phrase used thusly when on the West coast, near Los Angeles.






Country Sayings Saturday

The wit and wisdom of country people explained.  Today’s selection:

“Like a new goose on a new world” –  Anytime a goose of any age is in new territory, they make a world of racket.  You see, goose family members keep track of one another in the fluidness of the flock by making a series of short honks. When they come closer to staging areas, resting areas, or feeding areas, you may hear the honking pick up in tempo and also hear some additional, longer honks included. We can only assume that this communicates to the others to pay attention or that landing is imminent or there is something nice on which to crap. This happens each day when the geese are let out of their pens into the garden or pond, even though nothing has changed overnight.

This phrase, then, means to be without a clue or knowledge of previous events.

This phrase is often applied to teenagers who, for instance, appear to forget, overnight, where their shoes are or are not.  For example, in response to, “Moma, where are my shoes?” One might hear, “Good Lord, child, you wake up like a new goose in a new world! Your shoes are at the bottom of the steps.”

Fathers, on the other hand, are more taciturn.  They will simply reply, “I don’t know, I didn’t wear them last.”