I just took a trip out to the farm with my cousin The Singing Farmer. We met with four gentleman tasked with digging up almost half a mile of a shelter belt to make the way for a oil/gas/waste water pipeline. The pipeline is to connect the oil well on the home quarter of the farm to a network of pipes stretched across a few townships. It all goes to a compression station about two miles south of the farm and then into another bigger pipeline. By cleaning out the tree row and putting the pipes where those tree were frees up the land to farm once all the fuss was done.
These tree rows were originally put in by my dad and my uncle. The idea of having these neat rows of tree out here on the prairie is that they stopped the soil and seeds from drifting when the prevailing winds start gusting over thirty miles an hour. I’ve seen entire crops lost because the wind went into overdrive for a few days and the fields had just been seeded. There’s nothing to do then but reseed your land (an expensive proposition). So we had a lot of shelter belts on our farm. But now those trees are quite old and the ones bordering the oil well site were dying out even before they drilled for oil. I’m sure the salt water spill probably killed the ones in the photo above.
My cousin practices no-till farming, which is all the rage here. One advantage to no-till is that we don’t experience losing top soil to those ridiculous winds. So tree rows are becoming a thing of the past. It’s a shame in a way. They broke up the singular nature of the plains and gave habitat to a lot of wildlife. While we have no plans to eliminate any more trees on the farm the ones we’ll be losing in a few weeks are going to give us back some valuable acres.
The temperature today is in the low 40s but that damn west wind was gusting nearly to thirty. It still had plenty of sting to it. I had a heavy hooded sweatshirt over a long sleeve t-shirt and it was slicing through that like I was wearing madras. I noticed that as we stood out on the open the guys we were talking to started angling their backs to the wind and pulling up the hoods on their sweatshirts. “Thought it was supposed to be spring here” one of them said. We all chuckled. You can plant trees, change your farming methods, or turn your back to the wind. The wind gods of the northern plains laugh at it all. They are eternal and they will be raging across this land long after we’re gone, just like they did before we were born.