Monday, April 6, 2009

Spring...don't plant flowers until the Hoot Owl hoots.

Snow on the blooming redbud tree is not that uncommon in the Southeast.

The air was filled with the sounds of yard work this weekend in my neighborhood. I even noticed one of the neighbors planting annuals around her mailbox...a task she most assuredly will repeat next month. Like many others this weekend, she fell victim to the Calender Spring/Actual Spring trick bag. What? That's right...the Calender Spring/Actual Spring trick bag. Trust me, it got me one year too.

The calender tells people the vernal equinox (aka Spring) happens most years on March 20, as it did this year. Days and nights are of relatively equal length as the sun travels around our planet's equator. Despite the mystical sooth sayings of a certain pudgy rodent in upstate Pennsylvania six weeks earlier, the exit of cold weather is much more orderly, predictable. Everyone in the South knows cold weather hasn't officially ceased until each of the 'mini-winters' have run course because there is a big difference between the season called Winter ending and cold weather ending.

There are three distinct phases, generally speaking, that precedes the departure of cold weather in the Southeast. Granted, this isn't new stuff...Farmers' Almanac has been printing it since 1818 with far more accuracy than that witchcrafty groundhog in PA...and farmers use the phases to determine when certain crops should be planted. The indicator for the arrival of each phase is the blooming of certain plants.

We are currently experiencing Redbud winter here. Although it was a nice toasty 74 degrees on Saturday, the blooming of the Eastern Redbud tree has brought with it a cold snap that calls for a chance of snow just a mere 4 days removed from warmer temperatures. After another brief warming spell, dogwood trees will bloom and with that another cold snap usually around 3 or 4 days long. Last to arrive will be blackberry winter...somewhere around the first of May. The distinct brier can be seen blooming all along Southeastern roadways with promises of fruit for cobblers and pies by July 4th...making the last of the cold spells a little more bearable.

Now when I was but a young lad in the times before central air conditioning (at least at our house), I knew when I heard the hoot of the Hoot Owl outside my window after sunset it would soon be time to raise the windows at night and take off the white Fruit of the Loom t-shirt during the day. Of course, I now know that scientifically speaking there are no Hoot Owls, just the native Barred and Common Barn Owls, and the louder hoots are timed to their mating cycles. Still, even though Spring officially started March 20, for me cold weather isn't truly gone until the owls have made their presence known...a happier time for us all.

So for this boy from the Southeast, forget the lessons in horticulture related weather...warm temperatures and hooters go hand in hand to me.

Take it for what it's worth.


Brooke said...

Our weather is crazy! It's 70 degress now and it's suppose to freeze one night this week!

Burkulater said...

We're experiencing tulip winter here. Vacation this week. Not what I expected, but I should know better.

Z said...

that last sentence is hilarious! HEE HEE!
SNOW IN APRIL? Another sign of global warming? Can't be Global CHANGE because you say this happened before in 1818?

GOOD LORD, don't tell Gore, he could lose his Nobel prize!

Tony C said...

Weather update: We received about 1-3 inches of snow last night...still no hooters.

David said...

Up here in Down East (term invented by a drunk with a compass in one pocket and magnet in the other) some times called New England, hooters are only at restaurants that Christians don't frequent. And spring is more commonly called "mud season". But since you can't shoot mud, I am not sure why they call it a season anyway. I mean after all we have deer season, tourist season etc. ;o]