This past week, the thermometer read 37 degrees one morning. Yikes!
As soon as Dad awakened and came to the kitchen for breakfast (Poached Eggs), I hit him first with a statement: “It’s 37 degrees outside.” I then followed up said statement with this burning question: “Which Winter is This???” (extra Question Marks let you know the degree of burn!!)
Dad is not super-verbal first thing in the morning, so while I waited for him to put on his Thinking Cap (and drink his first (and only) cup of coffee (Folgers), I booted up my computer (a Dell) and searched online for some Answers.
Not surprisingly, the Farmer’s Almanac was very helpful in describing this time in mid-Spring in Kentucky as “the Little Winters.”
Growing up, I was familiar with Dogwood Winter, which I always associated with Derby Day because that’s when the dogwood trees were in bloom.
Of course, I had heard of Blackberry Winter and, my personal favorite, Linen Britches, which I kind of always doubted as real. “Linen Britches”?…..really?!
Spirea Winter follows Dogwood Winter as that’s usually when the Spirea bushes in Dad’s front yard are showcasing their beautiful white blooms. I am not sure anyone else recognizes Spirea Winter but us spirea enthusiasts.
These Little Winters are part of Kentucky folklore. And, that’s exactly how folklore takes root as it is history as it applies to you and your surroundings.
Next comes Blackberry Winter, which Dad thinks we have just experienced as the blackberries have been blooming.
There’s also Redbud Winter and Locust Winter, and not surprisingly, these periods in mid-April get their names from the trees which are blooming in Kentucky at that particular time in Spring (or so sayeth Bowling Green-based weather anchor Chris Allen on his cool Blog).
Here’s where a little research yielded some new information (to me) and a few more “Little Winters.”
First of all, I came across two histories regarding the origins of Linen Britches. You decide which is correct (and let me know).
Sandra Gorin, a Glasgow-based genealogist (and Kentucky Colonel), states that LB Winter refers to the cold spell which strikes just as clothes have been hung out to dry on the clothesline for the first time, and women’s linen britches have been frozen on the line. (My sister Paula thinks LB Winter is in mid-April).
The second history refers to LB Winter as the time when long underwear, also known as Linsey-Woolsey britches, have finally been packed away after a long cold Winter (like the one we just experienced this year). For the record, I just stowed mine two weeks ago!
Still to go are Stump Winter (when the supply of firewood cut for winter is depleted), and Whippoorwill Winter (when these birds fly back to Kentucky from their seasonal vacation in Mexico…..ay carumba!) This is usually in late May according to folklore.
At Groundhog Hill, the surrounding trees are mostly walnut, beech and one lone dogwood. The walnut trees have leafed-out, so I guess we are now past Walnut Winter (see! I just created a new Little Winter!) and can thereby just head straight on to Linen Britches…or Stump….or Whippoorwill.
I will let you know when I spot the first whippoorwill if you’ll do the same. That way, we can all collectively be on top of these Little Winters in our treasured Kentucky gardens.