Monday, April 4, 2011

MAINERS CHOICE: Yellow or White Snow?

MAINERS CHOICE: Yellow or White Snow?

Copyright 2011 by Lori-Ann Willey

We’ve all heard our parents and elders say things like, “Don’t eat the yellow snow.” And off course, they say so with a giggle as if it were some big joke. We had dogs growing up so I readily knew what that yellow snow reference was all about…piss. Of course, they never said things like, “Don’t eat the brown snow” did they? Not once was there ever a reference to dog poops as “pinecones” either. Maybe it didn’t need to be said. I mean really, who goes to THAT extreme to mention such things? Oopsie. There I go again. We all know my actions aren’t quite meant for society, but my thoughts aren’t either?

Therefore, we all know to stay away from the yellow stuff, even though during times of severe dehydration means to somewhat replenish our thirsty cells with such things as traces of nitrogen, potassium, and calcium. So, how bad could that be? No, I’ve never done it, and I wouldn’t suggest you try it either. I’m just saying in dire life/death need, it is an option.

What this means is that the white snow is OK? Sure! Why not. What’s better than a flavorless slushless slush puppy? Unlike yellow snow, I’ve probably eaten more white snow than I’ve eaten ice cream in my life. I’m not much of a fan of the flavored stuff people buy in stores, and would rather “go natural” and eat natures frozen stuff in original form, AKA: snow. It’s cheaper, so if you are on a budget, or want to go “all-nat-ur-al” that might be a solution for you.

Eating snow has its downside, as it is not only flavorless, it doesn’t’ provide some of the much needed minerals our body needs. Many of you probably aren’t aware of just what those are. I’ll be brief, and then go onto the purpose of my post here today. Eating snow has no nutritional value whatsoever. It not only lacks much needed elements and minerals our bodies need to stay healthy, it also collects air pollution as it falls through the skies, and we’ve all heard of acid rain, right?

Mother Nature’s “Dandruff” as we sometimes referred to as snow as kids, contains germs. Yes. I said it. GERMS! It also carries bacteria, and as mentioned above acid rain which contains such things as sulfates, nitrates and lead (previously from gasoline), but know what? I also regularly drink our lake water that comes from melted snow. The same water that fish spawn in, as well as crap in, not unlike any other creature that happens to be in the water when that need arises, or all those animals and birds, etc, that simply plop their duty as they walk around the woodlands nearby. It all minutely goes into the water with the rains, spring runoffs, etc. It’s diluted enough for me. I hadn’t thought of it much before, but it must give natural spring water that unique taste that I like so much? (said with a chuckle).

So, other than all that above, let’s imagine that white snow is just that. It’s white, so what could be lurking in there so small that it generally goes unnoticed unless in the masses?

When I was young, one sunny spring day, our family went for walk in the woods. Trampling through a foot or more of snow was nothing for us and as we got heated from the exercise, it was nothing to reach down and grab a handful of snow and nibble on it as we walked. Always cold and always refreshing, it took several nibbles of the granulated stuff to quench one’s thirst, but our goal was more to moisturize the mouth more than to replenish lost fluids from sweating.

Upon our return trip, we simply followed our footsteps back towards the house with us girls leading the way this time. Nearer to the field, we came upon our footsteps that were no longer white, but blackened almost totally. I had never before seen this happen. Plopping down on my knees and bending over to get a closer look, I ran my fingers through the tracks and like shards of metal as a magnet draws near, almost instantly less than half of the black things disappeared. I was in total awe as I continued to poke my fingers into the footprints. The more I played, the whiter the snow became.
My parents caught up with us and found us with our faces close to the snow looking rather intently into all the indented tracks. It was then that I learned there was such a thing as a snow flea! That was just so very cool for me, but I remember thinking that I knew what fleas were and I didn’t like them jumping all over me, getting in my hair, clothing, etc. and I knew for sure that I didn’t want to bring them home to our dogs. My parents reassured us that they weren’t those kind of fleas at all.

Snow fleas are very tiny and somewhat hard to see with the naked eye and unless you know, what you are looking for you won’t readily see them, but instead pass them off as woodland debris particles scattered by the winds, tree bark if you will. I’m guessing that most of you probably won’t even take the time to look for those fleas. I’m sure some of you will have that handful of snow, and then feel that overpowering need to sift through the snow grains for that one snow flea that may or may not be in there…somewhere.

If this is you, let me play out a generalized conversation between us for a second.

ME: (a chuckle on the outside, but giggles uncontrollably on the inside) “You are outside. You are contemplating on eating some snow. Now is not the time to debate vegetarianism.”

YOU: (Scowling defensively) “Who said I am a vegetarian? Maybe I am instead….c-iv-il-iz-ed!”

ME: (Almost sympathetic for my accusation) “OK, so you aren’t a vegetarian. I get it. Take your time. (Pauses for a few seconds, then chuckles) If it makes you feel any better, when you are crunching down upon the snow, you don’t taste bugs, and if you let the snow dissolve in your mouth, (busting a gut laughing) you will not feel the fleas bouncing around your mouth either.”

YOU: (Rolls eyes, throws the snow at me and stomps away.)

OK, so I had to have a bit of fun there, but in all honesty, to this day, I look forward to this time of year and intentionally look for areas of blackened snow just so I can watch the fleas collect by the hundreds of thousands. Do I reach over and eat that snow? Nah, I’ll simply reach over to where the snow looks its whitest and snack on that snow instead. Mmm. There’s something to be said about that flavorless flavor.

Though insects are nutritional in their own right, as they provide calories, protein, iron, carbohydrates, etc. and they are more nutritious and better tasting than that yellow snow, but I think that is left up to the individual’s personal preference myself.

So, yellow snow, or white snow?

Below is a bit of information about snow fleas (AKA springtails). Go ahead and take a minute to read about them. I find them rather fascinating myself.  If not, please skip to the bottom and visit our links or leave a Comment if it'll let you.


Springtails are small insects that live in/on damp soils and are most numerous where there is dead or decaying natural debris such as rotting vegetation, as they feed upon decaying plant matter and rotting wood. They are most often found in areas of high moisture, but not so much in saturated conditions, as they too need to breathe a bit without a struggle or simply drowning.  They often eat the fungi such as around the base of a tree in the woods. Their population numbers can reach into the tens of thousands per square yard! That’s hard to imagine, I know, but it is true and I am hoping to be able to get some photos for examples to show.

Like all insects, springtails have three pairs of legs, but what makes them different, among other distinctions, is one that helps them with their name. They thrust their bodies into the air. Like all other creatures in survival mode, this helps them make a fast escape from any of their predators. This action results in the springtail catapulting into the air up to about three feet away.

Sometimes springtails can be found outside in the springtime here in Maine and probably other states nearby as well. The snow flea is a particular species of springtail; it is one of the few insects that can be found active on snow during spring months. As soon as the ground begins to thaw in late winter or very early spring, the snow fleas become active. Their dark-colored bodies are noticeable against the white background of the snow and they often collect in large numbers. There is no need to be alarmed, despite their abundance, they are harmless.

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