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Why Windbreaks?

January 28, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome think bushes and trees are “unsightly.” “Fire hazard.” “Trashy.” In a time of green energy, green living and sustainable focus, this seems a double edged sword.

Of course they CAN be a fire hazard if not maintained and in a drought area. They CAN also save money on heating and provide shelter for wildlife. Here’s a few reasons why we love windbreaks, and why we use them.

1. Blocking wind saves on heating costs. The windbreak above is about 6-8 feet thick. It provides vast reduction in wind for the hoop houses without eliminating breezes in the summer that help cool those same shelters. Not only does this make a few degrees difference in temperatures, but it also reduces the cold wind on the home, reducing heating bills. This windbreak also provides shelter and housing for songbirds, squirrels and more. The larger tree has been a resting stop for owls that hope for a foolish animal to come out from shelter.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA2. Windbreaks are a boon to songbirds and other wildlife. The row of shrubs on the left is up against a chain link fence. It was taken on a cold day, with a dusting of snow on the ground. Not seen in the photos but heard are dozens of songbirds. Cardinals, wrens, sparrows and more. This screen is narrow, but reduces vision, breaks some wind effect, the crowns overhead block the view of owls and hawks of the birds in the pen and in the summer provides a welcome patch of shade for comfort year round. Mourning doves are in here regularly, and cardinals make their nests in the branches during warmer weather. Their youngsters are safe from cats, reduced visits by squirrels and in general they feel safe. They have water nearby and aren’t shy about grabbing the occasional morsel from the birds.

3. Windbreaks increase security and privacy naturally. They exist year to year, perfume the air with spring flowers and reduce what people see, while at the same time cleaning the air merely by existing.

4. Windbreaks help reduce water runoff, and help control odors. The screen above slows water movement, and uses that water to nourish the shrubs. It provides one last stop of any manure from washing away, collecting it for spring planting use as well as for the windscreen themselves. Thicker bands of trees and shrubs increase this capability.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA5. Windbreaks provide cooling in summer. While it makes the area a little warmer in the winter, it also insulates to make it a little cooler in the summer. During the hot weather two years ago,the use of windbreaks, misting system and fans meant losing no animals. They were comfortable at 90* even when the outside temperature was much higher. They aren’t closed up in a barn, but that would certainly be an option in really cold weather. The rabbits are tucked into their cages, with the protection of not only the hoop shed but the windbreak too.

Year round, a good windbreak can be a boost. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it’s true, but we love our greenspace dedicated to the windbreak. I like seeing the cardinals and songbirds visit. We put feed and water out for them, too, when needed. Come on spring!

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