Solutions for Self-Reliance

Windbreaks or Gone with the Wind?

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I learned early on that wind matters.

Here’s why: I received my professional pilot training in West Texas.

If you haven’t been there before, the flat terrain of West Texas produces lots of wind.  Enough wind to make learning to fly jets a significant challenge.

The wind of West Texas has other surprises.  It produced a couple of tornadoes and a single three-day dust storm while I was there.  The dust storm looked a little like the picture to the right as it approached, but red.  If you have ever lived through one, the dust gets into everything.  It can even get inside your freezer, yuk.

Anyway, I developed a deep respect for the wind while training in West Texas.  A respect that paid off by saving my life more than once during the rest of my flying career (in the Middle East and other garden spots).

This leads back to the topic of this letter:  Wind matters.

 

The Negative Impact of Wind

Here’s why wind matters to you and me now.  Let’s skip the positive roles of wind and focus on its (currently) more numerous negative effects.  Wind negatively impacts us in following ways.

  • Increased damage.  Extreme or steady winds can do significant damage, both to you and your property — from direct damage to soil erosion to drifts/debris to wildfires  Unfortunately, we’re going to see an ever-increasing amount of wind damage in the future.  Climate change is going to shift the atmosphere into overdrive as it tries to smooth heat distributions.
  • Increased energy use.   Steady hot, cold, or drying winds can cost you money and sap your resilience.  How?  Winds can drive up the costs of heating a home during the winter.
  • Increased water use and reduced crop yields.  Winds can rapidly desiccate plants and drive up water usage.  They can also make the production of some vegetables impossible and lower yields by twenty percent or more in others.
How to Slow Wind
The solution to negative wind is to use windbreaks to slow or redirect its flow.  What’s a windbreak?  A windbreak is a barrier that blocks or redirects the flow of wind.  Windbreaks are commonly:
  • A line of trees or bushes.
  • A dead hedge.  A pile of dead brush that blocks wind.
  • Man made walls, berms, and fences.
How to install a Windbreak
There are lots of interesting methods.  Almost all of them suggest that you observe the landscape first to really understand how wind energy flows across your property.  Once you have an appreciation for that energy flow, you can start to plan:
  • Orientation and distance.  In general, your objective is to plant or build the windbreak perpendicular to the prevailing winds you want to slow.  Also, plant them as close to the area or structure you want to protect as you can without adding fire risk.
  • What to use.  If you are protecting a home, use trees that will grow to a height similar to the height of your home.  If you are protecting a small plot garden, use bushes or hedges.  I would avoid man-made barriers, except for berms, because of the costs of maintaining them.
  • Dual use.  Only use trees and bushes that are wind resistant and assets to your property.  Think in terms of multiple functions.  A windbreak that also bears fruit or nuts adds value.
Anyway, this is a rich topic with lots of variation.  More later.
Your more than willing to help nature along analyst,

 

JOHN ROBB

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