Home's location in the middle of a field rustled up need for a windbreak

When Ted and Kathy Pilgrim decided to buy land with highway frontage for his taxidermy business and their new home, they chose a spot east of Park Rapids.

When Ted and Kathy Pilgrim decided to buy land with highway frontage for his taxidermy business and their new home, they chose a spot east of Park Rapids.

"We wanted highway frontage, but we built in the middle of a field," Ted said. "We had to plant trees."

He turned to Russ Johnsrud of the Natural Resource Conservation Service for help. Johnsrud explained the guidelines and recommended the right species.

In 1989, Pilgrim used a tree planter and put in two windbreaks, one on the west side of their land, strictly for protection of their home, and another to the north for wildlife.

The west windbreak that is about 600 feet long and 72 feet wide has six rows of trees: spruce, Norway, green ash, Amur maple, crabapples and caragana.


The wildlife windbreak, also about 600 feet long, has 14 rows with the same species plus shrubs and berry trees.

Ted said Johnsrud gave good advice when he recommended planting "whips," small diameter trees, rather than potted seedlings. The whips were less expensive and caught up to and surpassed the growth of six potted shade trees the Pilgrims planted elsewhere in the yard a year later.

The real key to a successful windbreak for Ted was preparing and taking care of the ground around the planted trees.

He sprayed the area with Round-up before planting to kill all the grass and weeds and disked the soil. Once the trees were planted, he disked between rows and tilled within the rows using a rototiller.

Ted said he only disked the soil between rows in the wildlife windbreak and he can still see the difference. "I didn't do as much and they didn't grow as well," Ted said.

"You can't plant them in sod," Ted said. "You keep the soil black so there is no grass and weeds to compete." For a few trees, wood chips would serve the same purpose, he said.

Ted fertilized the trees "a little bit," but didn't want to burn them. He also sprayed the spruce with Malathion for a couple of years to keep budworms out.

The Pilgrims also trapped gophers to prevent them from eating the tree roots.


In fact, Ted said, tending the windbreaks was a family affair, with sons Ryan and Eric helping with weeding and getting rid of the gophers.

"We ended up with a 90 percent survival rate or better," Ted said, adding the trees grew so well, he actually thinned some out and pruned others.

Looking back, Ted said, planting and maintaining the windbreak was well worth the work.

"I didn't know anything about it, but what Russ told us helped. I was a student who took his advice."

Four years after the windbreak was planted, Ted said, the snow started drifting in it and in six or seven years the trees were noticeably cutting the wind. "By 1998, it broke the wind a lot."

In addition to sheltering their home, Ted said he received many comments on how pretty the windbreak is, especially the Amur maple that turned bright red and orange in the fall.

The wildlife windbreak was successful also. "Does raised their fawns in it. They liked the thick cover," Ted said, adding they never had any problem with deer eating the trees. There was plenty of other food for them to eat and there weren't as many deer then as there are now."

Pilgrims sold their home on Highway 34 several years ago, and built a new one in a wooded area. He's been eyeing the landscape for places to fill in between the deciduous trees.


With all the people building homes in fields and other unprotected areas as they once did, Ted said he'd recommend planting a windbreak or two for their many rewards.

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