Happy New Year!

Welcome to the New Year! It’s going to be an interesting year from a number of perspectives. I’m really looking forward to seeing the changes and I hope that you are too! Make sure you subscribe to my blog to keep up with all of the new material I provide with greater ease. A subscription will automatically send a synopsis of new content directly to your e-mail, which will make it a lot easier to determine whether you want to follow a certain post (and it’s associated comments).

The computer market will continue to move away from the desktop toward all sorts of mobile devices. Of course, this will make browser-based applications become even more popular because you can achieve the same look and feel no matter which platform you use to interact with the application. I’m not saying the desktop is dead, but look for browser-based applications to take on added importance. In some respects, browser-based applications can still be limited, so you’ll continue to see the desktop used in situations where a user must interact with complex data from multiple sources.

Self-sufficiency is going to take on added importance as well. There are a number of reasons for the increased participation by people. Of course, the economy continues to provide ample reason for many people who are looking to ways to make their money go further. A lot of people are starting to realize that self-sufficiency also comes with substantial health benefits and is also good for the environment. In fact, except for the time commitment and the requirement to learn new skills, self-sufficiency has a lot to recommend it. I’m planning to provide more emphasis on self-sufficiency in the coming months.

My blog will also feature some of the additional kinds of content that you’ve come to know and love. I’ll be posting a number of reviews and a bit more of my poetry as time permits. A few posts on writing technique are almost a requirement. A number of you have sent e-mail asking about my crafting. A few personal issues have kept me from posting on the crafts that I enjoy, but I plan to address that particular need soon. I hope that you continue to enjoy my blog and will let me know the sorts of content you’d like to see at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com. In the meantime, Happy New Year!

 

Making an Opportunity from Falling Trees

No matter where you have them, trees eventually fall. Parts of our property are heavily wooded, so falling trees are expected and happen fairly often. Winds will blow a tree down, lightning will crack it, insects will kill it, woodpeckers will weaken it, or old age will simply take it. No matter the cause, the tree lands somewhere and in most cases, the landing is benign from our perspective. However, we recently experienced a less benign falling tree. The woodpeckers had weakened it, birds had nested in the holes, and carpenter ants had drilled a hole through the center. A lightning strike and high winds finished the job. After the storm we got up to see a rather large tree draped across our rabbit hutches.

FallenTree01

 

Most of the pictures in this post were taken by my wife, Rebecca. I greatly appreciate her help in putting this post together.

Our first thought was that the rabbits had escaped their hutch or were possibly dead. Amazingly, the rabbit hutch held and the rabbits were safe. The main problem was that we couldn’t get to them to feed them.

FallenTree02

Unfortunately, cutting up a large tree is hot work and the heat index was well over 100 degrees that day (into the danger zone of the heat index chart). Let’s just say that it was sweaty work and leave it go at that. The tree was poised like a giant spring. The main trunk was actually split in two, but it was butted up against the rabbit cages in a way that didn’t let it fall completely, so I had to cut the tree with extreme care—starting with the branches.

FallenTree03

As I cut the branches, I separated the parts that I would later chip from those we would dry for firewood. The larger pieces were cut into lengths for stacking.

FallenTree04

After a while, all of the branches were cut. The tree was as safe as I could make it. However, the main part of the trunk was still braced against the rabbit hutch, so we still couldn’t get to the rabbits to feed them.

FallenTree05

The most challenging moment came when I had to release the spring holding the trunk against the cages. The cut was extremely dangerous because I had to cut the tree enough to release the pressure, but not so much that it would flip in some unexpected way. What I needed was a slow release of pressure so that the tree would come to a safer position. I made the cut and the tree slowly started to move as expected. The spring completely released itself and the piece I had partially cut ended up standing straight in the air before falling to the ground.

FallenTree06

I still have a lot of tree to cut, but we’ve managed to make use of everything. The pieces of the tree I have already cut up are stacked and drying nicely.

FallenTree07

We also obtained a large stack of branches.

FallenTree08

A lot of people would create a huge brush pile from the branches and burn them. However, doing so is really bad for the environment and wasteful of a useful part of the tree. I’m currently chipping the branches up and using them for mulch on our grapes. The mulch will keep the grapes moister, reduce watering costs, and make the grapes more productive because they won’t be battling weeds.

FallenTree09

In the end, what started as a disaster turned into an opportunity. Not every act of nature turns out this way, but we try to make the best of every situation. When did you last make an opportunity out of a natural event that started as a negative? Let me know at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Working from Home

I heard an interesting statistic on the radio this morning—most Americans would be willing to take a 5 percent pay cut in order to work from home. I’ve been working from my home for 25 years now and must admit that I really wouldn’t want to work anywhere else. However, I started thinking about the whole concept of a pay cut after the radio announcer finished and thought that we’re looking at the issue from the wrong perspective. Sure, the 5 percent pay cut is real, but is it actually a pay cut? Let’s examine that for a moment. The 5 percent pay cut to work at home would result in the following savings:

 

  • Reduced driving needs, which means lower insurance
  • Less gas used
  • Less wear and tear on the car
  • Lower cost, more nutritional eat-at-home lunches
  • Less need for expensive clothing
  • No day care required
  • Less time wasted in travel (and time is money)


In short, from a financial perspective, both the employer and employee come out ahead. However, the benefits of working at home only start here. This is just the tip of the iceberg. If you’re an employer, you want your employees working at home. According to Business News Daily and many other sources, employees who work at home are significantly more productive in the right circumstances. So the employer not only saves on the pay required for a work at home employee, but also gets more for the employee’s efforts (assuming that the employee is actually working and not getting distracted). (In addition, there are other financial benefits for the employer such as reduced absenteeism and reduced infrastructure requirements, such as desks and office space.) Because working from home is becoming more of a reality for many Americans, a number of authors have taken a stab at making it work out better for everyone involved:

 


The one essential tidbit of information that you should glean from most of these posts is that you need some sort of schedule. In fact, a few of these sources actually draw you a picture of a schedule. Having goals that you want to meet each day is an essential part of the work at home experience.

There is no doubt that the effects of working at home extend well beyond the benefits that both employer and employee can obtain. Working at home can be better for the environment because the worker isn’t driving anywhere. However, whether the environment gains or not is really a matter of the environment in which the employee is working. A basement office using incandescent bulbs, a plug in heater, and old computer equipment is hardly energy efficient and could actually end up increasing the employee’s carbon footprint.

The health benefits of working from home are also well documented. Employees who work from home are less stressed, eat better, and spend more time doing something other than driving a car. The mental and physical benefits of working in a familiar, cozy environment make it possible for employees to live better lives. In addition, even when an employee does get sick, it’s often possible for the employee to work part of the day, rather than miss an entire day at work, so the employer gains as well.

I’m not a parent, so I have no personal experience with child rearing. However, in researching work at home statistics, I did run across a few articles that suggest work at home parents actually give their children a better chance of performing well later in life. I’d be interested in hearing from people who have significant experiences one way or the other—especially in situations where one child was raised at home and another in childcare.

Will working from home work for everyone? The answer is absolutely not. Certain professions require that employees still trudge to work. In these cases, working as close to home as possible will still save travel time, wear and tear on your car, reduce insurance payments, and still benefit the environment to some degree. Working close enough to walk to work or use public transportation is even better. However, some people will continue to go to work at a factory or office somewhere, no matter how much technology progresses.

If your employer doesn’t
offer work at home, create proposal that makes it more likely that the
employer will at least consider allowing you to do it. Everyone
benefits!
Do you think you could perform your work at home? Are you doing it now? Let me know your thoughts on the whole work at home question at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.