Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Goodbye Indian Summer

My life in appalachia Indian Summer

I spent most of Saturday cleaning up around the yard. I picked the few remaining peppers-tomatoes-and watermelons, pulled up the plants from my raised beds, put away my handy dandy tomato stakes, rolled up the waterhose, swept off the porches, and cut back one flower bed.

I’ve been hearing about Frankenstorm all week-and while we don’t expect any of the storm-cold weather is on its way to western NC with forecasters calling for low 30s here over the next week.

As I worked outside I thought of the times I used to help Granny do similar tasks this time of the year. One blustery fall day I told Granny I felt like Laura from Little House on the Prairie getting ready for the Long Winter. She thought that was so funny-she still mentions it every once in a while.

Sandy, a Blind Pig reader, emailed me last week asking what I knew about Indian Summer. I’ve heard the term used for the type of fall weather we’ve had over the last few weeks or so: cool mornings-with warm sunny afternoons.

Seems like I remember an elementary teacher telling my class the pilgrims coined the term to describe the stretch of warm fall days which the Indians used to harvest their crops and the bounty of the land as they prepared for winter. I haven’t a clue whether that’s true or not-but I am pretty sure this weekend was my goodbye to Indian Summer.


Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.


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  • Reply
    Ima Colde
    October 28, 2012 at 10:00 pm

    and Robin N. I loved your explanation the best…I seem to recall something of that description in the corner of my mind about Indian Pipes along with the lazy Indian…
    I know that Indian Summer has to follow a hard frost or freeze…and it is usally between just before Halloween and the middle of November…I remember that final harvests were gathered right before Thanksgiving…when I was a pilgrim…
    When I was in elementry and junior high school…The time was for hayrides and weiner roasts..warm days and cool nights..
    If you are writing a book about Fall…Please don’t name it Indian Summer…There seems to be a zillion of them…
    I think Maple Slippery Slope would be a good one for one of our favorite commentors…Yep, LOL
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…Just got back from the Knoxville Wally World, its cold out. It is spitting somethin’..most likey rainy mist..but a few more degrees lower and it would or could be snow…ooooooo. Lookout, where is that Wooly Worm, I think I’ll stomp him with my Brogans…

  • Reply
    Gary Powell
    October 28, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    I’m watching the leafs fall ad waiting for the last ones so that I can finish cleaning the gutters on both my house and my mother’s. We brought my wife’s Christmas cactus in yesterday. They will bloom before Thanksgiving, but we have had them for years and enjoy them while they bloom.

  • Reply
    October 28, 2012 at 11:02 am

    Never knew how Indian Summer got it’s name. Think I’ve got the outside ready for winter and am already wishing for an early spring. Am not a winter person.

  • Reply
    October 28, 2012 at 10:44 am

    One explanation I heard as a child spoke of the term as an invention of European settlers liking the sometimes smokey days of autumn to the smoke of Indian raids. I read just now that the term traveled to England in the nineteenth century where it somehow became confused with British rule in India. Whatever the origin of the term, I love Indian Summer although I find it a bittersweet time.

  • Reply
    Robin Naneix
    October 28, 2012 at 9:50 am

    My dad told me it was the lesson for the Cherokees to avoid laziness. All the cherokee had their firewood put up, crops harvested, and all winterizing tasks done…except for one lazy man. Suddenly winter was upon the land. The lazy man begged the great spirit to give him more time to get his chores done. So the great spirit said he would smoke his pupe for se en more days and hold back the winter winds allowing the lazy man to finish his preparations for winter. At the end of seven days the great spirit finished his pipe Nd emptied his ashes on the grounds and the winter winds moved in. Where he emptied his pipe is where you see those Indian Pipes plants growing…the ones without chlorophyll but are not fingus.
    I have been the lazy indian in avoiding building a new chicken pen and now i will have to do so with frostbit hands!

  • Reply
    Bob in Young Harris
    October 28, 2012 at 9:05 am

    I had a friend back in Kansas where I’m from that insisted you can’t have Indian Summer until you have had a killing frost. Indian Summer often didn’t occur until mid-November. Maybe you don’t have to say goodbye just yet.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    October 28, 2012 at 9:04 am

    Tipper, it’s hard for me not to look at this time of year with sadness. It is so full of endings..the leaves go, the flowers go, the wonderful tomatoes go, the warmth goes, and the sunshine recedes. Now I know, intellectually, that nothing is gone, it’s just in another part of it’s process. But darn it, it feels gone and it looks gone. Perhaps my feelings are added to because November is the anniversary month of the death of two people who were very dear to me. I’m sure that adds to my feeling of loss this time of year.
    On a bright spot, there are always bright spots, and I’m grateful for that. I talked to the Deer Hunter at deer camp yesterday and he’s been busy canning venison. He is coming home today and guess what you are having for supper?
    I hope you can post on some of the venison canning. I’ve never seen a man who is so particular about cleaning the wild meat. He does all the processing of his catch and he is meticulous!
    My driveway is a sea of leaves. It’s time to start raking!

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    October 28, 2012 at 8:55 am

    A wonderful time of year. Clean up and start fresh in Spring.

  • Reply
    Sharon Schuster
    October 28, 2012 at 8:55 am

    I understand Indian Summer to be the return of unseasonably warm weather after the first frost. I always look forward to it and miss it when it’s gone because Old Man Winter is usually right on its heels. The next thing to anticipate will be those unseasonably mild 50 degree days (which we think are so cool now) sometime in winter. I have to say that I do like a March snow that blankets the ground but you can walk through in shorts under a warm early spring day sun – and it rapidly disappears. Then I’ll be forming the last snowballs, forgetting temporarily the hardships of winter. It will be Old Man Winter’s last hurrah. This weekend I have been preparing here in Maryland for ‘Frankenstorm’. A hurricane is never a welcome sight.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    October 28, 2012 at 8:44 am

    I found this at Wikipedia and they attribute it to the National Weather Service:
    An Indian summer is a period of unseasonably warm, dry weather, occurring after the end of summer proper. The US National Weather Service defines this as where the weather is sunny and clear, and above 21 °C (70 °F), after there has been a sharp frost; a period normally associated with late-September to mid-November.[1]
    It sounds like you have to have a “sharp frost”. I am not sure what differentiates a sharp frost from any other frost.
    Our forecast low in Jupiter, FL is 59 for tonight, so I don’t think we are going to see any kind of a frost.
    Our weather has finally settled down after about three days of wind and rain due to Sandy passing by us. Hopefully, this will be the end of the storm season.

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    October 28, 2012 at 8:37 am

    I have always enjoyed Indian Summer. I am in the foothills, so hopefully, we won’t have a freeze just yet. I am enjoying my Camillas and other flowering plants. The trees are leaving leaves all over the place. I do think winter is on its way. My heart and prayers go out to those who will be affected by the storm ‘Sandy.’

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 28, 2012 at 8:25 am

    If you know me, you know I tend to look at everything from a different angle than the mainstream. So as I’m readin I’m thinking “Reckon what do the native Americans call that spell of unusually warm weather we experience here in the late fall?”
    I know you have native American readers. Now, I’m wondering what they call it and if they think of themselves as “Indians.”
    While we are not supposed to get anything from the storm, I would like to get just enough wind to blow all my leaves over in the neighbors yard.

  • Reply
    October 28, 2012 at 8:24 am

    nice story here in newfoundland canada we have also heard of indian summers as a matter of fact we just had the longest and wormest and driest summer in years maybe it was an indian summer thanks for your stories we enjoy them

  • Reply
    October 28, 2012 at 8:04 am

    Tipper, I had been wondering about this just recently. I had even asked some ole timers (yep, still a few around older than me). I had gotten a few mixed answers about when it is Indian Summer and how to know if it is over. I have decided it is God’s way of giving us a last minute opportunity to prepare for the long Winter ahead. Maybe like that burst of energy given to a woman before childbirth.
    In some recent years it seems that we may have had two Indian Summers. In Four Season country I just enjoy it all.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    October 28, 2012 at 7:49 am

    I’d always assumed that Indian summer was American in origin up until this past week. I was over in England, and one of the fellows I was working with mentioned something about their Indian summer being over. Others in the group assented.
    It took me aback to hear these fellows use it, so I asked what they thought the source was. They insisted that it came from days when the British Empire extended to India.
    But they were apparently wrong, at least according to this:

  • Reply
    Tim Mc
    October 28, 2012 at 7:45 am

    Yea, hope Frankenstorm stays away, some of our guys are on stand by this week ready to head to the Carolinas, maybe even Virginia, if it hits. I’m ready for some cooler weather..

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