Wedels’ windbreaks shelter farm acres
Johnny Appleseed had nothing on Arlene Wedel and her late husband, B.J. Wedel.
This year, Arlene Wedel will receive the windbreak award from the Leavenworth County Conservation District and extension office.
In 1948, when the Wedels moved to their farmstead on 246th Street southwest of Tonganoxie, there were few trees. Strong winds whipped down the valley.
"The first thing we did was plant a windbreak," Wedel said.
The Wedels obtained seedling trees from Kansas State University, and began installing a 300-foot-long windbreak about 150 feet north of their farmstead.
The windbreak consisted of a row of lilacs, facing the house, and rows of Russian olive, honeylocust, pine and cedar. On the north side, they planted coton-easters.
The trees got off to a good start.
"We didn't hardly water any of them," Wedel said. "We had enough rain back then that we didn't have to worry too much about it, in fact, we flooded almost every year."
Gradually, the trees began to break down, and they no longer protected from the wind as well as they had previously.
So the Wedels started up again.
"We replaced everything in 1984," Wedel said.
This windbreak, which includes the original lilacs, has rows of honeylocust, Austrian pines and eastern red cedars.
They got off to a good start, too, but during the heavy rains of 1993, some of the trees died.
The Wedels replanted the cedars, which suffered the worst.
Sy Nyhart, Leavenworth County extension agent, said it is not uncommon for windbreaks to need upkeep. All windbreaks require maintenance, Nyhart said.
"They're not there forever," he added. "They do have to be rejuvenated at times, or replaced."
For instance, he said that general maintenance of a newly established windbreak includes weed control.
Common methods include tilling between the trees, using herbicides, and sowing grass seed between the trees and mowing.
Wedel said the windbreaks have been well worth their efforts. She and her husband retired from dairy farming in 1989. For 10 more years after that, until B.J.'s death in 1999, they saw their new windbreak grow.
In part of the tree plantings, the farmstead looks different than it did in 1948, Wedel said.
"We've replaced every tree except the old oak tree," she said. "And it's about gone the wind's taken it."