Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes Folklore

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Wood Smoke

My life in appalachia - Wood Smoke

Since we first started talking about firewood-its barely been cold enough to build a fire. But that all changed during the night while I slept. This morning it is a chilly 23 degrees in Brasstown with a bitter cold wind blowing.

The forecast is for the cold air to stick around for a few days, so it seems appropriate to continue our talk of firewood.

Folklore tells us the smoke from our fires can also foretell the coming weather.

The Foxfire Book says:

  • If smoke from the chimney settles on the ground it will be a hard winter
  • If smoke from the chimney settles on the ground it will snow within 26 days
  • If smoke rises on a cloudy day there is a good chance of snow

The various smoke folklore I recall hearing during my life-basically said if smoke rises from the chimney its a sign of good weather-if smoke from the chimney heads towards the ground-its a sign of bad weather.

Did Old Man Winter knock on your door while you were sleeping too?



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  • Reply
    susie swanson
    January 19, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    Old man winter’s been hard to find this year but that may change.. I hope not.. I’ve heard all of those folklores Tipper.. How about the one where if it clouds up over a frost it’s gonna be bad weather.. It was like that this morning…Susie

  • Reply
    Ed Myers
    January 14, 2012 at 8:49 am

    The fancy of smoke near the ground meaning something is conceptually interesting, but think about “our” pioneers and probably the originals, as well.
    Think shack/home. Cabins of old were drafty and lacked good chimney draw in many cases, meaning fireplace smoke settled in layers throughout the “house”.
    Think midnight, the cold without, the layers within, and the lonely mountaineer speaking secrets with the ghosts of the past.

  • Reply
    January 14, 2012 at 8:12 am

    Yes, he knocked and I didn’t answer. But he came in anyway! LOL

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    January 13, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    Cold, cold, cold!!! Spring yesterday, deep, deep winter today-I am so thankful I didn’t have to stick my head out the door. (And also so thankful to have Mitchell who has kept the wood stove glowing all day!)

  • Reply
    January 13, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    Never heard that about the smoke. Would be interesting to watch and record though, just for the heck of it. We experienced a cold snap here during the night with the wind howling like a banshee around the house. I thought, “Whooo boy, we’re in for it.” But today was sunny, although still below 40 degrees.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Kent Lockman
    January 13, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    Tipper, The high temp today is going to be 18 and with winds of 30 mph… is cold! The wood smoke settled on my old painted floor. I forgot to open the damper.

  • Reply
    January 13, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    Old Man Winter finally showed up overnight! We went from temps near 60 to a low of 15 last night. The high today won’t make it to 20 and we have over an inch of snow!

  • Reply
    January 13, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    I’ve heard most of the sayings about smoke from the chimney. However, last night if we had had a chimney the wind was so strong nobody could have seen it. As I lay unable to sleep, the wind was so strong and constant I remembered a poem I once found in a literature book one of my nephews gave me. Not being able to drop off, I kept thinking about the wind poem and it finally came to me. It was “Wind” by Ted Hughes. Funny what will go through your head when you can’t sleep.
    It has been windy and in the twenties today.

  • Reply
    January 13, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    Well little sister,
    I’ll take that any time here we haven’t seen above the low teens in day time and below zero at night right at this minute we are heading for 5 below zero.
    That not all that bad I have seen it down to 40 below here at night 25 below day time.
    So the life of a trapper.
    Sorry I have not been on for a while my Mrs is sick and I devote all my spare time to her care

  • Reply
    January 13, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    Yes Ma’am it did, wind chill was zero this morning!

  • Reply
    January 13, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    I got 2 1/2″ of snow sometime
    during the early morning hours.
    So while I was watching the news
    a friend called and I was a braggin’ about that big pot of
    snowcream I was gonna make. By
    the way, that foul language you
    might have heard probably came
    from the upper end of our county.
    I didn’t have any cream…Ken

  • Reply
    Ethelene Jones
    January 13, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    Spending a few days in the mountains of N. Ga., and after two rather rainy days, last night’s wind blew sleet and a little snow, but no accumulation. I think the wind blew it right away! Brrr! Cold in Epworth, GA today–twenties!
    Concerning the mountain sayings about smoke rising or hoverning near the ground, these lines do not applyTQ to wood smoke, but our mountain poet, the late Byron Herbert Reece, wrote these lines in his poem, “Choestoe–“The Dance of the Rabbits.” I love that poem and have quoted portions of it many times–parts I memorized when I was a teenager! Quoting his closing lines here:
    “Our land is summer leaves distilling birdsong.
    There is magic in the way the light falls
    Upon the broad leaves of the corn in summer,
    Upon the herd’s grass in the autumn meadows
    Whose seeded heads seem on a dewey morning
    To rise like slow smoke from a hidden burning.
    There is peace here, quiet and unhurried living,
    Something to wonder at in aged faces,
    These are not all I mean, but symbols for it,
    A thing, if one but has the spirit for it,
    Better, I say, than many rabbits dancing.”

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    January 13, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    OOOOOOOOOoooooooh, I forgot it was Friday the thirteenth..1/13/12…glad I’m home snug as a bug in a rug…LOL
    Thanks, Tipper

  • Reply
    Melissa P (Misplaced Southerner)
    January 13, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    And just the other day I was saying we’d had been enjoying a warmer, less-snowy than usual winter. That’s all gone by the wayside now. It was in the teens with blowing snow this morning. It’s still in the 20s now – and I doubt we’ll get above them for several days. Guess we’ll get a fire started when we get home. I’ll see what the smoke says and let y’all know if it’s right or wrong.

  • Reply
    Rose C
    January 13, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    Cold and a little snow! Winter is here!

  • Reply
    trisha too
    January 13, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Yes ma’am, it is cold here, and I do not like it . . .
    Hey, a belated Happy New Year to you, Tipper!

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    January 13, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    Interesting folklore! I would like to know more. However, right now I am in Northeast FL and it was 42 degrees when I got up. That is a bit chilly for here, but it is good for the citrus produce. A couple of weeks ago we had a freeze, not necessarily a hard one, but some plants got zapped. Thanks for the information!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    January 13, 2012 at 11:19 am

    Speaking of weather roaring through, we had two confirmed tornadoes here in WNC Wed night. One in Rutherford County and one here in Burke. Wasn’t far from my place but I didn’t get any damage. 15 people injured but no deaths. The path wasn’t very wide but it wrecked about everything where it hit. We rarely get tornadoes here and it is unthinkable in January but it happened.

  • Reply
    sandy kalvaitis
    January 13, 2012 at 11:04 am

    This is the first winter I have ever had a woodstove. I have really enjoyed learning about fire wood and smoke. Lucky for me the guy I bought wood from brought oak. I didn’t know there was a difference till you told me. Thanks for what you do.

  • Reply
    Uncle Al
    January 13, 2012 at 10:49 am

    23 and very windy in Franklin too. The wood will be burning for sure. We had a good dusting (maybe an inch or so) of snow. It just stopped and now the sun is out, but it is till quite COLD.

  • Reply
    January 13, 2012 at 10:10 am

    Boy did it! 18 degrees right now in the mountains of West Virginia with a chill factor of -4. Burrrr!

  • Reply
    January 13, 2012 at 9:55 am

    I was mowing the yard on Wednesday and buying firewood on Thursday. From a high of 70 on Wednesday to a low of 29 last night. I had a fire laid in the fireplace when my wife came home last night.

  • Reply
    January 13, 2012 at 9:53 am

    Our cold weather came in night-before-last. The wind was raw and cold all day yesterday. This morning it was in the low 20s but the sun is shining through some clouds and the wind is calm so far.
    I don’t know anything about weather predictions from smoke, but I think it looks homey rising above the house.

  • Reply
    January 13, 2012 at 9:53 am

    Old Man Winter didn’t knock at my door – he pounded on the walls all night, as well as whistling, howling and moaning through every chink and crack in the house! I suppose that’s what I get for living smack-dab in the middle of his stomping grounds!
    I have always heard that smoke rising straight up means fair weather too.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    January 13, 2012 at 9:52 am

    It is so cold here! Starting with the rain day before yesterday with the rolling thunder and temps started dropping…The birds were feeding like crazy…The wind blew in a very cold afternoon yesterday and by nightfall it was snowing…with winds howling all night…Its calmer this morning with a skif of snow about.. deeper in areas than others since the wind was blowing it around…
    The smoke from the chimneys didn’t know where it was going..up, down or sideways…LOL
    My observation when I look out toward the valley from my hill:
    If smoke it boiling from the chimneys…its doggone cold!
    Have a great day!
    Thanks Tipper….

  • Reply
    January 13, 2012 at 9:48 am

    lucky for us, our weather person was wrong, she told us to expect 42 at wake up today, it was 60 but now is 58 and that is our high for today and the 42 will be tomorrow. so we got a break for today.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    January 13, 2012 at 9:32 am

    Old man winter came through here last night too.
    The smoke settling to the ground is because there is warm air over colder air near the ground, atmospheric inversion. Hot air, carrying tiny particles, Smoke, from the “Chimley” rises but cools as it does. When it gets to the warmer air aloft it stops rising and continues to cool and settles back down. When there is warm air above cold air and there is enough water vapor in the air it forms drops that can freeze as they fall through the cold air if it is cold enough. Hence snow, sleet and freezing rain.
    So that’s the scientific explanation. The other explanation is my momma said it and she was hardly ever wrong.

  • Reply
    January 13, 2012 at 9:23 am

    I’ve never heard of the folklore surrounding wood smoke, but I sure do love the smell of it! 🙂 Winter came howling at our door last night…no snow, but definitely more seasonable temps out there today!

  • Reply
    January 13, 2012 at 9:20 am

    Here in my woods of Penna. the temps did drop down over nite and I did scramble out of the warms covers and lite me a fire—there however is no snow–we had lots of rain Wed afternoon and off &on yesterday–they say the week-end should remain cold with perhaps some snow flurries.. Are the signs that we were doing working out to be of value?

  • Reply
    January 13, 2012 at 9:19 am

    Clint-I believe things were easier for them to remember-because they had less distractions-no tv, internet, etc. Most folks had more time to ponder such things as well-there was no running the roads from daylight till dark-like many of us live our lives today. Also-the oral tradition of passing along folklore to the next generation was both a source of entertainment as well as a way to prepare them for living life : ) Tell the girls I said HELLO : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    January 13, 2012 at 9:12 am

    We had a couple weeks before Christmas that froze overnight but nothing since! I am actually watering the lawn and flower beds since we have temps nearing 70 and not rain since November. Sure would like some winter weather here. I am anxious for it to be cold enough for a fire here so I can watch the smoke. Happy Friday, Tipper!

  • Reply
    amy jo phillips
    January 13, 2012 at 8:34 am

    oh my did it!! I woke up to what I thought was a blizzard!! 🙂 I live in central Ohio and we get a lot of snow every year. This year however, I have no complants about it not snowing at all until last night. I guess it’s time for me to get my snow bootys ready!!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    January 13, 2012 at 8:18 am

    Tipper it’s in the teens here but no snow. Snow was forecasted here by the weather man. Guess I should have paid more attention to the signs than to the TV!

  • Reply
    January 13, 2012 at 8:15 am

    I want to know how everyone kept all these things straight. How did they remember them all?

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    January 13, 2012 at 8:10 am

    I believe chimney smoke, whether going low to the ground or rising straight up, is a good indicator of weather or atmospheric conditions. Least, people back in East Tennessee used to always comment on it but I never understood; if the smoke rises one day and a couple of days later it’s laying on the ground and in any given weather system the atmospheric pressure changes, at which point does one stake their final prediction about whether or not the winter will be mild or raw?
    I know one thing: I honestly haven’t seen the kind of cold we have right now in many a year. It’s bitter cold up here today; a raw, biting, bone-aching cold. And, it hurts to be out in it.

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