Tuesday, May 11, 2010

10th of May cold spell



My neighbor and I were talking while I plowed his garden in mid April...there was a cool spell going on, and I made the comment that there would be another cold snap, the dreaded 10th of May cold spell. I got an email on Saturday the 8th from Bob asking if Monday's weather, May 10th,  would be worse. The long and short of it was I built a "last fire of the season" Monday night, and it felt pretty damn good!

I first remember my Grandma Rachel talking about the 10th of May cold spell when I was a young'un. She also warned of the and the "Storms of the Equinox". Those came around the vernal equinox in March. This period around March 21st were usually accompanied by blustery weather,  occasional thunderstorm, and warmer, but torrential rain. It was a welcome harbinger to spring for me as a 10 year old. School would be out soon, and life could begin again.

Grandma Rachel lived her life Floyd County, Virginia, about 7 miles from the Blue ridge Parkway...no fit place to be in the winter!  Grandma  came South for Jan and Feb for the last couple of years of her life to depense valuable information and beat us soundly in any card game we cared to challenge her to. She usually stayed until it was warm enough to "open" the farm, which Uncle Albert did in late March.

I moved to West Virginia in 1964 to launch a career as a park manager, and ended up as mountain hippie/musician/farmer. It was there I learned what  the Storms of the Equinox really were.  Blustery, miserable winds, snow showers with alternating bright sunshine...each episode lasting about 30 minutes for two or three day! Temperatures would 75 one day in March; 30 degrees and snowing the next day. No fun, after a long West Virginia winter.  I was a transplanted Southerner, and cold was a 4 letter word!

April was pretty normal in West virginia, grass greening up, red buds blooming,robins and blackbirds by thousands. Then came May...

I know why May's Zodiac is "twins". Old Man Winter showed his butt one more time before retiring to colder climes. My first real knowledge of how frustrating the 10th of May cold spell could be came after I moved to the mountain. I kept an old sow named Petunia for comic relief. You couldn't keep her in a pen. She decided to reduce the pen to kindling and furrow in the woods by the "dog leg" field in early May one year. It turned off unseasonable hot... high 80's early one May! I had to haul wash tubs of water to keep Petunia cool after she cast 9 little piglets in the hot sun. I tried to convince her to bring 'em home, and she nearly tore my boot off!

I  had to go down the gap to Cut Off Store for something that day, and old Squire Hines said " them blackberries is blooming...gonna' get cold enough for a far (fire) this week, 10th of May cold spell"! My grandmother's words came back to me...and sure enough it snowed on the night of the 9th of May, about 1 and a half inches. Pretty to see, but messy as hell. Made me glad I still had the studded snow tires on the old Suburban. 

The old sow herded up her little piggies in the snow and broke in to the hay barn. She chewed up a bale of hay as fine as goose down and nested to keep  them piggies warm.  Spring returned the very next day. Me and ole Petunia learned something that year.. .10th of May cold spell is just that, a cold spell, and anything can happen to the complacent. Think about it next year and see if it ain't so...like the old song says, "How in the heck do the old folks know that it ain't gonna rain no mo"?

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