I haven’t left my house in over four days. The storms that have been coming through have been rough, to say the least (a total of five downed trees on my street alone). I’ve been without power a few times in the last week, and the roads just haven’t been clear enough to risk venturing out. The creek doubled in size and volume overnight, and the flood waters washed down some heavy debris.
On the bright side, I’ve had four un-interrupted days of work on the last draft of Scold of Jays, which will be going out to the layout designer- ON TIME! YAY!
Last year I tagged four trees on my property with teal spray paint because I knew they were hazardous to the power-line, and neighborhood. With help from neighbors we were able to take two of the trees down to prevent any accidents, but the last two were positioned in a way that could potentially cause a power-line failure. So, responsibly, I called the power utility and asked them to come trim the trees, or cut them down.
When they came out, they declared the trees safe and sound, “good healthy trees”.
I insisted they come out and look again, since I’m an hour out of town, and when the line goes down it’s not easy to get here in a storm, and one of those trees has the potential of leaving my whole neighborhood without power for some time.
They came out again. Again they declared the trees sound. I argued that it would make more sense to have them just take the trees down when it’s not already an emergency, than have to do it in a storm or in the middle of the night. Still, they refused.
So then I asked if we could schedule a day to turn to the power off, lower the lines and let ME cut the trees down. (I have a chainsaw, and or I could hire a professional). They refused to turn off the power or lower the line. Said it wasn’t necessary, then went on to let me know that if I tried to cut the trees down and caused any damage to the line I would be responsible for all repairs. “If the tree falls on its own, it’s our responsibility to fix the line. If you do it yourself, or have someone else do it, you pay the damage fees.”
Hmm. Do it myself and risk a catastrophe, or wait for the inevitable?
I didn’t have to wait long. A year later, one of the two remaining trees I flagged as dangerous fell in a snow storm. It snagged the power-line, ripping it down the road as it fell—then that power-line snagged a neighbor’s tree down the road and pulled their tree down as it tangled and tipped over from the weight.
No power. Freezing weather. Snow storm. Two massive trees across my only access road out of the hazard zone. It’s midnight. Backup generator not installed yet. Can’t walk to the neighbor’s house who has a generator to stay warm…because the road is covered with live power-lines.
Switch out phone lines from cordless to hard-line. Call emergency utility number and politely explain that even though it’s midnight, I have no alternative heat source, and it would be very nice if they could help me out.
Let’s be honest. I didn’t say it so sweetly, and it took all my theater training not to rip a new bunghole open on the poor dispatcher answering the midnight call. After all, he likely wasn’t the one who turned down my request to remove the tree in question, not once, twice, but three times. Not his fault, no reason to eviscerate—plus, trying not to piss off the only people who could now be of service.
Snow coming down hard outside, nothing left to do but pour a shot of vodka, snuggle the dog, and wait it out.
The utility did make it out an hour later and set about cutting a path through the downed trees. The night was full of the roar of chainsaws, which I’m sure my neighbors appreciated. Power was restored by 4:30 am, and my heat finally kicked on.
I didn’t sleep through the floodlights on the road, chainsaws, giant cable winch and diesel engine rigs. But once the heat kicked back on, I was out like a light. Woke up groggy, but warm. Thankfully.
Moral of the story? Well, living the wilderness life is a challenge. You can foresee some problems and try to prevent them—but when the people who are in a position to be helpful refuse…it’s in my best interest to next time, just do it myself. (They got lots of overtime from the utility company to come clean up this mess, meanwhile my whole neighborhood was impacted, and I was freezing. Glad you could get some extra bank though, guys.)
Then, three days later another tree fell and took out the same power-line just a few hundred yards up the street from me. Seriously? During the storm I also lost a tree near the dam of my creek, and the tree next to the bee hive (Borg Station#2) split in half and fell across the hive.
This summer will be the year I do some serious tree clearing.
It also really reminds me that the whole reason I set out to build a self-sustainable lot was to be free from the vulnerability of spotty service in general. To be able to be in a position that my power, water, and other resources were within my own ability to maintain.
Luckily, no one was injured by the falling trees, or the live power-line. It was lucky there weren’t a dozen other outages that would have put us at the back of the repair list that night. It’s lucky there wasn’t property damage, it missed the house and the car (the beehive was empty, thanks to the bees absconding last October. No bees were injured in the collapse). Would it have been nice if the whole situation had been avoided by taking the trees down a year ago? Sure. Shoulda woulda, and all that.
But it does inspire me to get a move on and figure out a better way to being self-sustainable, and being more prepared for emergencies. (IE: get the generator installed).
Wilderness living can feel a bit overwhelming sometimes. There are nights like the one in question when curling up with the dog and a stiff drink that I do briefly wonder what the hell I was thinking.
But then the sun comes out and the snowy landscape through the picture windows reveals the peaceful forest. The snow and ice mute all the sounds and there’s just an epic blanket of calm.
I sit with my coffee and my current manuscript and stare at the wonderland outside. Yeah. Still wouldn’t have it any other way.