Everybody was quiet and the air was full of snow, God turning the globe upside down.  You feel this great whoosh, this great whisper all around you.”   ~ Garrison Keillor, A Prairie Home Companion

Many years ago, I received a great gift from my wife, a handmade, leather bound almanac simply called The Land Book.  In this wonderful record of life, we note gardens, wildlife, special events, and weather — including the first snowfall.

We have seen snow as early as October 28 and there are two notations of no snow at all.  The first snow of the year is about as magical a gift that nature provides.  The white ice instantly transforms a landscape and our lives.  Snow is really when winter begins, despite the date.  Routines are thrown out the window and everything slows…in a good way.  School is cancelled.  We see road speedsters drive a bit more slowly, while runners become walkers.  Most dogs seem to want to frolic outside as soon as possible.

All of the world comes to a hush.  Snow is not loud rain or wind, but the quietest of weather.  It provides a ground blanket and except for the hooting owls, I’ve heard little from the nature minstrals since the snow visited three days ago.  And snow sure makes us appreciate warmth: whether from a fireplace, hot drink or a pile of wool blankets.

While we wish the snow never fell on roads, this white miracle performs numerous benefits:  it zaps insect “pests” and other forest health sickeners.  A slow snow melt means water trickles gradually into the earth, percolating through the soil and refilling our aquifers, providing water for our drinking supply.

The extent to which snow insulates depends on its depth.  Temperatures underneath a layer of snow increase two degrees Fahrenheit for each inch of accumulation. Because the soil also gives off some heat, the temperature at the soil surface can be much warmer than the air temperature. A study done at minus 14 degrees Fahrenheit found that the soil below a 9-inch deep snow registered a surface temperature of 28 degrees.

Melting snow provides needed moisture to many plants. Even dormant plants continue to lose moisture as water evaporates through their branches. Evergreens, which keep their foliage throughout the winter, are at even greater risk of injury from lack of moisture.

While the soft drink Snapple boasts that it is the best stuff on Earth, we really know this accolade is all about the sweason’s first snow. ~