Friday, May 23, 2008

Spring "Winters"

As I grow older (don't say a word!) I realize how blessed I am to live here, in Central Kentucky, among the knob regions where a large majority of us still cut our own firewood for winter and plant vegetable gardens.

There is plenty of "old" wisdom still around. But unlike the "old days" children rarely learn it anymore, opting to enjoy their Playstation 2 instead of learning how to patiently form a proper cedar whittling-stick or working on embroidery samplers or swinging that wood maul. And we let them.

Now, the old wisdom has to be searched out, like buried treasure. And there are fewer maps left.

For instance, I can remember quite plainly hearing the old folks speak about the various "winters" that would arrive in order each Springtime. My ex's grandmother knew every one of them. She and others who could've taught me have been gone for some time now.

So, like a proper researcher, I turned to the internet. What? No one else seems to know either! I've found others who are asking the same question and some who are offering obviously muddled facts, some of them weather experts! Obviously NOT folklore experts.

And there is a discrepancy about whether things bloom during the cold snap for which it is named or immediately after the cold snap occurs. I am of the camp (as was my ex-grandmother-in-law) that a "winter" occurs immediately before a bloom, announcing the upcoming event. I back-up this arguement with the fact that sometimes one winter will hit while the previous bloom is still blooming. For instance, the redbud tree will bloom over several weeks during which Dogwood Winter will hit and the dogwoods start blooming too. Both trees will change over to their leaves at nearly the same time.

WHY do you need to know the "winters"? So you know when the danger of frost is gone and you can plant your garden!

So here we is what I remember without a doubt plus what the older "experts" in this region tell me is gospel. Here are Kentucky's Spring-Winters in order:

Sarvis winter: The earliest cold-snap (usually early April) just after you have begun to think Spring has sprung! I don't have any of my own photos of the local Sarvis trees, but you can see the blooms at this link and read some interesting history of it's name here. Do check it out!

Redbud Winter: the cold-snap in mid-April immediately before the Redbud tree begins to bloom. Usually frosts.

Dogwood Winter: the cold-snap in mid to late-April immediately before the Dogwood blossoms fully open. Can still frost easily. (photo taken from the tractor during Dogwood Winter on our farm.)
I'm not sure about this next photo but I believe it may be in the same family as the dogwood.
Locust Winter: the cold-snap in late-April to early May immediately before the Locust tree bursts into bloom. Some Locust trees will bloom right before the cold-snap if they are in a sheltered area. It may frost in the low-lying areas but the ridge-top farms are usually o-kay.

Blackberry Winter: the cold-snap immediately before all the wild blackberry briars begin bursting with blossoms. (Like that little play on words?) We just had this one last week (mid-May.)

Chunk Winter or Linsey-Woolsey Britches Winter - the last cold-snap. You burn your last chunk of firewood or put on your warm pants! Usually at the end of May. This means you can plant your tomato plants now!
I don't own anything made of Linsey-Woolsey material. Marci says that it was made from both linen and wool fibers. She named two of her spring lambs Linsey and Woolsey.

With this one still to go, have you packed up your sweatpants too early? Are you almost ready to plant your garden? We live on a ridge-top so our garden is in the ground already.

I do hope you will leave a comment if you have additional information to add or feel that I need to be corrected. With what little brain I have, I did the best I could. lol!

1 comment:

Tipper said...

You know I loved this post!! I've heard of all the winters you mentioned except Locust and Linsey Woolsey. This year is the first time I ever noticed the blooms on the Locust tree-I have no clue how I've never noticed as there are tons around my house. The picture you weren't sure about-if it was a bush it might be a wild hydrangea. I have them around my house-but I couldn't tell for sure from your picture. Great Post!!!