This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
HELTER is a subject which comes directly home to every man who lives in the open country, and hopes to have a comfortable residence, with fields, orchards, and gardens, that may be cultivated with pleasure and profit. We fear that very many overlook this matter, in selecting and preparing their country residences. Elevated situations are generally preferred, and it is right they should be; such considerations as purity of air, facility for drainage, and a commanding prospect, have all too much to do with the pleasure and advantages of country life to be valued lightly; but whatever else we look for, and provide for, we should never forget to seek protection against prevailing winds, both for the dwelling and all that portion of the grounds to be devoted to the higher branches of culture. It matters not what latitude we are in, the necessity for protection exists. It may be much more necessary in one locality than in another, but nowhere that we know can it be dispensed with safely.
No man is so liable to err on this point, as he who has not been accustomed to country life - who has had no actual experience with the vicissitudes of climate and the destructive effects of high winds. He goes into the country in the midst of fine summer weather, when every spot is beautiful. An elevated site is sought for - one that commands a fine view, and is far above the influence of marshy vapors; such an one is found, and the dwelling is erected. Perhaps there is not a tree within half a mile of it; but that defect can soon be remedied by planting. Before the buildings are finished, however, the exposure begins to be felt - the winds blow fiercely, and the very house rocks on its foundation. But he perseveres - his house is completed and occupied. Winter comes, and with it biting blasts that penetrate every nook and corner. One room after another is deserted, and shelter is sought in whatever corner is least exposed. The dreary winter passes, and spring comes. A look over his grounds shows him nearly all his trees planted the autumn before are dead, frozen, and dried up.
Well, it was a mistake to plant in the fall - he must plant in the spring; and so the dead trees are replaced with living ones; but they, too, find difficulties to contend with from exposure, and half of them perish before midsummer. So it goes for a year or two longer, when very likely he becomes sick of such rural delights, and returns to town.
This is not a mere fancy sketch. We have seen such cases in our own neighborhood, and such may be found in all parts of the country. A gentleman of our acquaintance, some years ago fell in love with a country residence a mile or two out of the town in which he lived. It was the most elevated and commanding situation in all the country about, and in fine summer weather, as he took his afternoon drive, his imagination revelled in the earthly paradise he could make of it, were it his. Finally, he purchased it, and fitted it up for his residence; but he very soon found out that he had left some things out of account, and that many of the pleasures he had anticipated were more easily imagined than realized. It was a beautiful hill, to be sure, embracing in its view a large and populous city, several miles of a beautiful river, cascades, a distant lake, and some fifty miles or more of the most fertile and highly cultivated vallies in America. But the house stood upon its peak, and the winds from every point of the compass beat against it, as the waves do upon a solitary rock in the ocean; no shelter was there on any side. It was, therefore, not long before the novelty of the scene wore off, and the charm was broken.
After battling the storm for a year or two, the gentleman sold out, and returned to town thoroughly cured of the passion for a suburban residence.
Now, all this place wanted was shelter, which, under some men's management, would have soon sprung up; but this was not thought of. If one of the first steps had been to plant thick belts of rapid growing trees around the exposed sides, the place would, in a few years, have become habitable; and instead of being, as it now is, dreaded by all, it would have been one of the most delightful places in the country.
But our purpose at present is particularly to call attention to the necessity of providing shelter to gardens, orchards, and grounds of every description, when valuable crops are to be grown. We believe that every experienced and observing cultivator will agree with us in saying that this is a matter of the first importance. Our own conviction is, that, however it may have been heretofore, it will be just as necessary in future to provide shelter as it will be to have a good soil and give it proper cultivation. Every season's experience, and the last most of all, strengthens this conviction more and more. The time was when our hill tops were crowned with forests that stood like bulwarks to break the fury of the storm and protect our fields and gardens from its destroying influence; but these bulwarks are, in a great measure, demolished. The necessities of some, and the short-sightedness of others, have " cleared " the hills, and now the winds sweep over them with unresisted violence. People just begin to realize what they have done, and regret it when too late. " Our climate is wonderfully changed," they say; "formerly we had no such cold, blighting winds as we now have - no such sudden and violent changes of weather; our climate is much less comfortable, and cultivation, of many things, much more difficult than it used to be." The farmer complains that his winter crops are more uncertain than formerly.
When the snow falls, instead of affording protection to the surface of the ground, as it does in sheltered places, it is drifted before the wind, and piled up in heaps that melt only before an April sun. We see not only the snow blown off exposed fields, but the dried earth is actually drifted like the sands of an Arabian desert - the very plants growing in it scattered to the winds. See the destructive influence of the cold winds of winter and early spring upon the tender trees of our orchards, gardens, and nurseries I Cultivators in the prairie regions of Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, etc., tell us that they have nothing to dread so much as the cold winds of the winter months; and if they could only protect themselves against these, their country would be a comparative paradise.