Locust Winter 2015

42 degrees.

That’s what the thermometer said when I peeked at it with uncaffeinated eyes this morning at 6:30.

So, I rubbed my eyes, slipped on my glasses, and looked again.

42 degrees.

Three sips of coffee later – it still says 42 degrees, but it’s not as fuzzy.

And, after three openings and closings of the outside door, I don’t need the thermometer to tell me the third “winter” of this Spring has slipped in upon us.

Locust winter is here.

Brrrrrrr.

And, yes.  Locust trees are blooming.  I saw one Sunday on the way to church – the racemes were just beginning to lengthen, turn white, and open.

(Can’t help but wonder about the Honey Locust trees at the Zoo.  If they are blooming, the aroma there would be delightful!!)

Redbud, Dogwood, and now Locust – that’s three “winters.”  The next will be Blackberry.

I’ve located two blackberry bushes, both of which are full of swelling buds.  It won’t be long before the bushes are dotted with white flowers. Perhaps, they will bloom during this week’s prolonged cool down and we can strike two winters off the list before May slips in and Summer’s heat begins to tease.

Not one to wait for Cotton Britches Winter to send winter wear packing to the attic, I’m already sporting shorts and sleeveless shirts. But, I’ve kept out a jacket and a sweater – just in case.  And, this morning it feels like a mighty good idea.

Dogwood Winter 2015

Slow down, Spring.  Please, slow down.

Your longer days bid me linger in your presence.

But, you’re passing so quickly I hardly have time to enjoy you.  I’ll blink twice and you’ll be gone.

Stay with me…settle in and pass some time with me.  Stay a while and let me soak up your sweetness and savor your beauty.

Red tulips. Yellow daffodils.  Grape hyacinths.  Flaming forsythia.  Violet violets. Pink peach blossoms. Hot pink redbuds. Green clover. New leaf green.

You’re in such a hurry – rushing toward Summer…. Slow down.

Let me touch you…smell you…feel you…inhale you…enjoy you.

Pear blooms – nearly gone.  Redbud burst blooms a week ago.  Peach blossoms…dropping.

And, now…now Dogwood spreads its bracts, wider each day, pale green, greenish white, whitish green, whitish tan, whiter…then white as the flowers within them bloom.

Today, a cold front rolled through with rain and storms and wind.  Tonight the temperature will feel more like Winter than Spring and offers a promise of frost for Easter morning.

Dogwood Winter is upon us.

That’s two down.  Three more Winters to go.

Redbud Winter 2015

With bated breath, I watched the forecast late last week.  Lows in the mid 20’s were forecast for Friday and Saturday nights.

Peach and plum trees, in full bloom, would suffer.  As would ornamental trees.  The first blush of Spring would brown by morning.

I grieved the loss I knew would come.  Then, I acknowledged that it was beyond my control, took action to protect what I could and moved on, hoping for the best.

Friday night’s temp dropped as forecast.  There was talk of Redbud Winter, but no Redbud blossoms had yet been sighted.

‘Round these parts we have Spring “Winters” – Redbud is the first, followed by Dogwood, Locust, Blackberry and Cotton Britches.  By the time Cotton Britches Winter gets here, we’re usually glad for the cooler temps it brings.

Yesterday, Saturday, Hubby and I headed out on an errand run.  We had not gone 50 feet before I saw confirmation that this was, indeed, Redbud Winter.  It was as if the freezing temperatures had squeezed the branches and popped out the blooms.

As we traveled down the interstate, the blush of Redbud dotted hills.

Spring had officially arrived.

The last freeze of the season?  I doubt it.  The last cold snap? Nope.

Time to finish garden prep?  You betcha! It’s time to plant garden peas and lettuce.

Springtime marches toward Summer.  We’ve 4 Spring Winters to go.  Time will pass all too quickly as the days grow longer and outside demands grow heavier.

Now…if the rain will just hold off long enough….  My to do list just grew longer and more urgent.

Autumn Falls

This year the Autumnal Equinox falls on Tuesday, September 23 (2014) UTC.  That’s Monday, September 22 at 9:29 PM CT.

For over a week, I’ve marveled at the growing shadows as the sun slips lower in the sky with Earth’s Autumn attitude growing more each day.

Crisp, cool mornings have graced us and reminded us that Summer has gathered her floral skirts and departed.

Fall is upon us and will soon cover us with brilliant throws and carpeted lawns, freeing us from Summer’s chores.

I sense my mind changing gears – from Summer’s greens to Autumn’s golden hues – from hot and humid to cool and breezy – from picking, pickling and processing the garden to plucking it up and turning it under….

Outward focused for many months,  I now find myself looking within.  Within my house to see what needs to be done to prepare for cold Winter days.  Within myself to unclutter my life and my surroundings.  Within my life to cull that which hinders and to prune that which is no longer productive.

Busy, over packed Summer months with their long sun-filled days offered opportunity to stretch myself to near breaking.  Now, Autumn begins the task of closing out and shutting down, calming and settling, bringing an end to the maddening pace Summer’s long days encouraged.

I greet Autumn open faced and open handed.  With a backward glance at what was Summer’s blush, I step fully into what falls to me as Autumn showers me with a renewed sense of being and the promise of becoming more fully who I am.

Days are growing shorter.  The long nights are coming.  I’ve had long Summer months to prepare.  Did I do enough?  Did I learn enough?  Have I prepared enough?

One thing I know – I did not take enough time to relax and enjoy…enjoy the flowers outside my kitchen door, the hummingbirds at the 4 o’clocks, the Goldfinches on the Zinnias, the wonders in the garden, the miracle of growth, the grasshoppers and the stinkbugs and all their intricate parts working in harmony, the cries of the cicada or the call of the WhipporWill, the cool breeze on my sweaty face, the green of the grass or the earthworm drummed up by my digging.

Take time to smell the roses – I did that once or twice.  The memory of their scent lingers still…I wish I’d slowed my pace and quietened my activities and spent more time seeing and smelling and enjoying and less time doing, doing, doing.

Autumn is fleeting.  Too soon Winter’s blast will drive me indoors, halt the roses’ bloom and freeze colors to dull brownish black.

What can I do today that will open wide the door Autumn offers me – the door to opportunity, to productivity, to joy-filled living, to insight, to clarity, to the appreciation of beauty in the world around me?

Autumn falls upon us without preference or prejudice.  It is what it is and glories in all that it offers.  I don’t know about you, but I’m going to slice off a big chunk just for myself and squeeze all the good out of every day for the next three months!

And, I’m going to celebrate the departure of Summer and the arrival of Fall by taking a 15 minute break right now…pouring myself a steaming cup of black coffee…sitting in the sun on my back porch…enjoying what is.  I owe that to myself…to Summer’s pleasures and Autumn’s promise.

Excuse me while I turn off, unplug, and step outside to become a part of the change that’s taking place around me.

Happy Autumnal Equinox. 😉

Blackberries are Blooming

Blackberries are blooming. The forecast calls for a definite cool down later this week.  What does that mean?

It means the final winter of spring is upon us.  Blackberry Winter is arriving mid May.  It’s time to put away your winter wear and drag out the shorts and short sleeves.

Summer is just around the corner.

Personally, I am sad to see Blackberry Winter arrive.  I’d like to sloooowww down the days so I could enjoy the beauty…the fragrance…the breeze….  I’d like about 5 more hours in my days – all of which could be spent outside doing what I love…gardening and yard work.

My family probably wishes I had 5 more hours in my day to attend to housework.

Hahahahahahahahahahaha…like I would spend it indoors cleaning when I could be outside?

Um…no.

Come on, Blackberry Winter.  I’m as ready for you as I’m going to be.  I hate to see you come because when you go Summer’s heat will be only weeks away.

May Day

May Day, also known as May 1, is a Spring holiday in many parts of the world (especially in the Northern Hemisphere).

I can never remember dancing around a May Pole, but I can remember the liberation May 1st brought me each year of my childhood.

You see, it was on May 1st that I could take my shoes off and run barefoot without my mom’s fear of me catching my death from the cold ground beneath my bare feet (or my fear of being caught sans shoes).

I can still remember the delight the tender soles of my bare feet felt as I slipped them into the cool clover.  And, I recall the longing I felt to unburden myself with all that confined me and embrace my natural side and become one with nature.

(Oh, how I envied Eve and The Garden she experienced.)

Of course, I didn’t wait until May 1 to remove my shoes and run barefoot.  May 1 was the day I was allowed to do so.  Away from home, if I chose to take off my shoes in the dead of winter and wade in the creek or walk through the clover in early March, I could do so at my own risk of injury and discovery – and of being told “I told you so” by protective parents.

The act of taking off ones shoes and walking barefoot before May 1 was frowned upon. And, coming home with what appeared to be a bee sting or cut on the bottom of my supposedly shod foot was an opportunity for inventive thinking on my part (aka lying) more often than not.

May 1, 2014 is not my first day to go barefoot this year.  No…I stepped outside and dashed to the garage sans shoes on January 1 and most days following no matter the weather or the temperature.

This year, May 1 marks the transition from Spring’s manic weather swings to a more sedate and settled routine that will easily slip me into Summer’s mode of living.

The gardens are planted. A pattern of yardwork has been created and much of the ground work done (baring any unforeseen issues or crises).

Today I will step barefoot into the lush cool clover (watchful for honey bees, of course) just beyond my back step and relish the memories of childhood for a brief moment before I get on with life as I live it now – ever mindful of the call to return to The Garden and the simplicity of life there.

Locust Winter Ushers in Strong Storms

Wednesday, I was surprised to see that Black Locust trees had bloomed.  They were full of leaves and covered in white racemes. Three days prior (Sunday) they had barely begun to leaf out.

What a difference three days made.

Several mornings midweek saw temperatures hover around 43.  Locust Winter had arrived.  But, as these late Spring winters are, it was just a breath of fresh air before the temperature soared once again into the 80’s.

Thursday night storms rolled in and rain fell…a lot of rain.  Newly planted gardens #1 and #2 drank in the water and pink-eyed purple hull peas popped up out of the ground.

Today, I had planned to plant okra seeds, but after looking at next week’s forecast I’ve decided to hold off…several reasons…may wish I’d waited to plant both gardens….

Initially, I’d thought I might wait until late next week to plant okra – after the next round of severe weather (forecast to arrive tomorrow and linger into Tuesday).  From the forecasts I’d seen overnight temperatures next week wouldn’t be low enough to discourage the okra from sprouting. (Okra is notoriously slow to sprout, often taking 10 to 14 days. Soaking the seeds overnight in warm water will encourage them to sprout quickly and lessen the possibility of rotting.)

However, it now appears that we have a period of a few days next week when daytime and evening temperatures will be cool.  These few days will follow three days of heavy rain and violent storms…little chance of solar heating to warm the ground between cold downpours that will chill the ground. AND, if the forecast holds true, any seeds I plant may be washed away in the 3 inches of rain expected.

By Wednesday morning I may be waving goodbye to gardens #1 and #2 as they float away.

Mom and I discussed gardening and Spring’s winters. She said Locust Winter hasn’t come…that it will snap after the next front comes through.  I disagreed, saying it had already come and okra could safely go into the ground.

It looks like I was wrong.  I sure do hate admitting that to her. 😉

These Spring Winters are confusing but one thing is certain.  Whatever cold snap(s) we have while the Locust trees are blooming will be called Locust Winter by folks around these parts. And, these same folks will be looking ahead to the winter that announces warm weather is here to stay – Blackberry Winter.

(Of note: I hear the racemes of Black Locust are edible…. Not sure I would care to try them since the pods and seeds are toxic. However, the seed pods of Honey Locust, which blooms at about the same time as the Black Locust apparently can be eaten. Take care, though…the thorns on both are vicious!)

Spring’s Confusing Winters

While out and about with Mom last week we noted the Redbuds in full bloom – gorgeous deep pink – and Dogwoods, showing their first bright flash of white.

“This must have been Redbud winter that we just had,” Mom commented.

“Um…you said Redbud winter arrived two weeks ago,” I cautiously reminded her. “Dogwoods were coming into bloom.  Are you certain that wasn’t Dogwood Winter?”

“No, it’s not Dogwood winter yet,” she assured me.  “The next cold snap will be Dogwood Winter.”

And, so it appears Dogwood Winter is NOW upon us. (It was 36 degrees when I greeted the day and tonight the temperature will drop into the mid 20’s.  That’s a little BRRR for mid April.)

I’m sure in another week or two a new cold snap will slip in after a cold front and chill us again.

If Locust trees are coming into bloom, then it will be Locust Winter. And, if not?  Well…I don’t know…just consider it a reminder that Spring can be confusing at times.

Apparently there is a cold snap that occurs as pear trees are coming into bloom.  And, another that occurs when “Tulip trees” are in full bloom (usually a killing freeze).  And, there’s another that occurs when pear trees are in full bloom, just as peach begins to bloom.

And, as Redbud begins to show color, there’s a cold snap and when it’s in full bloom (I suppose that’s when Redbud Winter is declared)…another. And, at some point between Redbud’s first blush of color and its full glory, Dogwood begins to show color and we have another cold snap.

And, then when Dogwood shimmers full and white, there’s another Winter and we (apparently) declare it Dogwood Winter.

It gets a bit confusing…all these cold snaps. I’m not sure how cold it needs to be if we’re to declare it a Winter.

As we leave April behind and slip into May, things will get a little less confusing as temperatures rise and the promise of Summer can be heard clicking her heels as she steps closer with each day’s move on the calendar.

Spring’s Winters…they are dependable…coming about every 10 days it seems.  Call them what you will…they keep us guessing – about what to wear, when to plant….

They make life interesting, keep us on our toes, and remind us that we aren’t in charge or in control.

Oh, better cover up your tender vegetation tonight…forecast is for a hard freeze. 😉

Happy Dogwood Winter!

Spring’s Tease

A couple days of warm sunny weather teased me into thinking Winter had packed up and slipped out.

All to quickly, I was ready to haul out the plants I’d stored in the garage and shop for tomato plants.

A walk around my neighborhood provides a needed reminder that Spring may have arrived on the calendar but Winter has not yet released its grip.

Bradford Pear trees are in full bloom.  I suppose the cold snap we just experienced corresponds to them. Dare I call it Bradford Pear Winter?? 😉  (Mom says it’s Redbud Winter because Redbuds are just beginning to break bud.  I’ll stick with pear…when redbuds are in full bloom we will have another cold snap….)

Ahead of us lie Redbud Winter, Dogwood Winter, Locust Winter, Blackberry Winter…Cotton Britches Winter –  no, Winter is not yet done with us.

After spending over 30 years in South Georgia, I still expect Spring-like weather to be deeply entrenched by now and for Summer to be just around the corner.  I grew up here and lived in Tennessee for over 20 years – and have been back for a year and a half.  But, still I find myself reacting as though I’m in the rush to get it all done by April 1.

I need to slow down…breathe easy.  Relax.  Spring is only a few days old. There are still frosts, freezes and even the possibility of snow before all is said and done (and planted and pruned).

Providing myself time to simply enjoy the season and my place in it is important.

Perhaps…as important as all I might accomplish.

Spring sprang, or has it sprung?

Can it be?

Are we already two days into Spring?

Winter has been cold and long…Spring seems late in some ways…early in others.

I’ve watched the buds on trees swell to near bursting. I’ve counted the days and kept a check on night temperatures.

Spring’s arrival signals the rapid march toward Summer.

I ask myself, “Am I ready?”

Physically? Mentally? No!  I’m not prepared.  I’m not ready.

I need Spring to wait…another week or two.

Slow down. Chill out.  I’m…not…ready…yet!!

Got a long to-do list and can’t get it done if time continues to march on.

March. That’s a good name for the month that ushers in Spring!

Excuse me while I put on my yard shoes. Gotta check the peach trees…three sprayings to prevent worms…gotta catch the blooms at just the right time…. Slow down, Spring!  Give me time to tie my shoes!