Anatomy of a Windbreak

The view from the top of the hill is amazing, looking out onto Kachemak Bay and the mountains and glaciers beyond.  But the wind constantly whips through, gaining speed as it rushes to get around the buildings.  We were challenged to find a way to slow the wind as it approached, provide shelter for birds and small animals, privacy from the neighbors, and add beauty and diversity to the hill of fireweed. We learned that a windbreak that is 40% permeable is the most effective at slowing wind.  A solid piece of wood or glass would merely cause the wind to gain speed as it moved over it and tumble to the ground in a spiral on the other side.  Likewise, a windbreak that ramps up gradually rather than sending the wind straight up and over will cause less turbulence on the other side.

We assembled outside with our shovels as Rick oriented us to the “nursery.”  Saplings too close to the road or bushes on the trail that had been run over by the four-wheeler but refused to die.  In 30 minutes our army of 24 collected a huge array of plants; alder, white spruce, birch, spirea, black currant, wild rose, and elder burst from the wheel barrow.  We stomped a path through the fireweed that would be our windbreak line, dug holes, planted, mulched with the fireweed we had to tear out, and protected the birch and alder from moose with spiny dead spruce branches.  We brought in soil from the forest floor to inoculate our new trees with the proper microorganisms. Less than an hour later, the last tree was planted, and we gave our project back to nature to work the real magic.

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