We finally got a few inches of wet snow on unfrozen, bone dry earth and the temperatures have meant that much of that snow has soaked into the ground.  This is particularly evident in areas with leaf, grass, or other organic litter.  Field grass, which was desiccated, has been softened, its light gold color picking up some deeper brown and ochre shades.  The same effect has occurred in the woods: walking in the woods a few days ago was a noisy exercise, more reminiscent of mid-fall, today the rustle of leaves is muted and replaced with either the muted footfall or the crunch of ice. 

Late winter or early spring snows on partially thawed ground have long been called the poor man’s fertilizer.  It turns out that there may be some validity to this, as (if the conditions are precisely right) the moisture and possibly some of the nitrogen compounds carried in the snow may be leached into the ground in a slower and more effective fashion.  Certainly, several rounds of spring snow is better than solidly frozen ground, large amounts of snow, and then an abrupt, fast thaw.  But that may have more to do with the amount of water which is effectively absorbed into the ground rather than running off, and less to do with the chemical compounds in the water.  Still no matter the science, the ground today has a kinder feel.