Monday, December 29, 2008
In The Land of Wind
Sunshine today after a shock of bad weather.
Driving to work this morning I marveled at the flooded nurseries and farms. Ice ponds covered the landscape, sealing crops of blueberries and rows of evergreens in several feet of dark blue ice.
The paradoxical thing about an early thaw is how emotionally tumultuous it is. One minute it's the picture-perfect Christmas/Holiday winter wonderland, tickling our senses, fulfilling our need for a dose of seasonal sentiment, and the next minute we are hoping the roof holds through the night.
In the last three days we have gone from snow globe perfection to flooding, freezing rain and 50 mph winds. In the country where I live there is open land, quite a lot of it, and little to mitigate those very strong gales. On my property we have been planting trees for 11 years. Not a single growing season has passed without adding trees to the landscape, and I intend to keep this up indefinitely.
Trees make the best sort of wind-breaks imaginable. Frequently you see rows of trees planted in farmer's fields in a straight line. In fact this is quite the opposite of how it should be laid out for the technique to be of value. Planted this way in single file, side by side, trees actually increase wind severity (picture an arrow hitting a brick wall and then moving up, over, and then slamming down directly on the other side of the wall, ouch).
When trees are planted in an alternate zig-zag fashion the gust of wind will shatter, thus weakening the force (picture the same arrow splitting apart into multiple, smaller arrows when it hits the wind break).
On a farmer's field, incorrect planting of windrows is detrimental to the soil, exacerbating soil erosion. On the home front it is darned irritating, not to mention destructive to anything in the garden that is fussy, tender, delicate, weak stemmed or top heavy.
Despite the inconveniences of strong winds we'd be lost without this force of nature. Plants depend on wind for seed dispersal and insects take advantage of gentle breezes to increase their distance, allowing them to visit more flowers, thus increasing genetic diversity. In the big scheme of things on planet earth, wind has a big hand in shaping all creation.
Hindu mythology describes a triad of gods - creation (Brahma), destruction (Shiva) and preservation (Vishnu). In order for the universe to work, all three of these deities must remain mutually inclusive.
In short - and the myriad Hindu gods are not easy to summarize - the eternal cycle of creation/destruction is kept in check by a very good governor who flies through the clouds on a giant eagle named Garuda. Incidentally, Garuda is thought to have taken nectar from the gods and given it humans!
Gardeners, are you paying attention?
Wind is a magnificent thing.