Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Dog Hair and Spruce Trees

We've been enjoying beautiful weather the past few days with clear or mostly skies and high temperatures in the 60s. Lows have been below freezing, but not very much below. In fact, it's been so nice that by mid day a touch of bug dope becomes a very good idea. The mosquitoes are taking the opportunity to hatch and fly out in search of a blood meal.

I'm really surprised that my dogs haven't started shedding their winter coats yet. When they do you can be it will be a real mess around here. While they are blowing their coats I try to brush them out at least once, and usually twice each day. Every time I do there is so much hair blowing around that it looks like a dog or two exploded.

So, if they aren't blowing coat, what does this post have to do with dog hair? Well, it is a bit of a stretch, but here we go.

I live in a predominately black spruce forest. In fact, behind my house there is a stand of doghair spruce. It is called "dog hair spruce" because the stand is so thick that one can't walk through it. Almost as thick as a dog's winter hair.

Black spruce forests are "fire dependent" forests. Forest fires is a normal part of the life cycle of black spruce. Basically, black spruce are born to burn. That's fine in a wilderness setting, but not so good if your home happens to be located in the midst of a forest that MUST burn in order to sustain itself.

Alaska is very prone to wildfires, in large part because we so much forest land that is fire dependent. In fact, the only natural disasters that are likely to cause my home problems are earthquakes and forest fires.

One way to help protect a home from forest fire is to create a defensible space around the home. My project of the moment is thinning out that dog hair spruce behind the house to do so. I spent nearly all day yesterday, and all of this morning on the project, and I'd estimate I'm maybe half finished. I hate to take out too much, as the whole point of living in a forest is living in the forest. On the other hand I'd hate to lose my home and stuff to a wildfire if I can avoid doing so. It becomes a bit of a compromise that creates a lot of work. I hope the investment in sweat equity is never needed, but if it is needed I hope it is sufficient.


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