I’d want a much larger solar array to keep my batteries fully charged more of the time. That would require more sunlight than woods tight against the house allowed. Which got me thinking about how trees break in the woods.
The scramble for sunlight causes forest trees to grow tall as fast as they can. That growth means they are thinner and more brittle than suburban or park trees that tend to be wider and stronger. When our maple trees fall, they rarely uproot. The wind works on weak spots and breaks them fifteen to twenty-five feet above ground, toppling the top forty or fifty feet of tree. Usually it’s a north or northwest wind that does the damage. I’ve been lucky and had only one tree hit the roof. The metal withstood the blow with only a minor crease. Dozens of trees had that roof in their sights, and it was only a matter of when (not if) one would make a serious dent or punch through the roof.
Taking down the threatening trees would open a solar window for a pole-mounted array to augment the panels on the roof. A win-win. Except, our attitude has always been to keep as many trees as we can. We (and our animal visitors) were accustomed to having trees close in around our house and might not like the change.
When I considered the pole placement, another idea popped into consideration. I could create a larger landing area for storing trailers, the wood splitter, Bobcat attachments, brush hog—all implements I didn’t have fifteen years ago.
I suspect I am like many people and make incremental changes to accommodate circumstances as they arise. Over time, those individual decisions accumulate to create creeping inefficiencies. Because each change is small and the modifications occurred over years, they each seem right. Only when I step back and view the larger picture, do I see the mishmash I’ve developed.
Deciding to proceed with the new array, I placed the order and faced preparing the site. The Bobcat did much of the work: hauling logs and brush, excavating stumps, taking down part of the hillside, moving rocks, and digging a hole for the pole. By the end of September, the trees were down, the solar array was up, the larger landing created. The clean-up continues. Light floods an area previously shaded. If it ever stops raining and we see the sun, my batteries will experience extra juice and the generator can relax from its duties.
The birds adjusted without issue to the new birdfeeder locations. One black-capped chickadee was so blasé, it remained on the sunflower seed feeder while I moved it! When all the trees were present, it was difficult to follow birds as they flitted from branch to branch. Now with a more open space, I can watch them fly in and out of the birdfeeders; and it’s much easier to see the juncos and sparrows foraging on the ground.
At night, I experience a larger portion of the sky. Working up the firewood in the landing is simple with the added room.
Taking time off from writing to perform weeks of physical labor provided another bonus. It recharged my personal batteries. Instead of each day being caught in a familiar daily work cycle, it allowed me time to think about what was working and what wasn’t. It served the same purpose as a vacation, which I haven’t taken this year because of COVID-19.
This taking time off, stepping away to view the larger picture, looking at a problem from different perspectives is not a new concept for me. I know its value. What I keep forgetting is to intentionally create opportunities to incorporate it into my life. Sometimes, I’m lucky and stumble into it, but I should include it more naturally.
What about you? Have you stepped back and evaluated your life and work during this year of surprises? What did you discover?
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James M. Jackson authors the Seamus McCree series. Full of mystery and suspense, these thrillers explore financial crimes, family relationships, and what happens when they mix. Furthermore, a novella is the most recent addition to the series. You can sign up for his newsletter and find more information about Jim and his books at https://jamesmjackson.com.