Welcome to the 35th Episode of Trees & Lines: Fresh Perspectives on Utility Vegetation Management!
Trees and Lines Podcast – Episode 35
Episode 35 Transcript
Philip Charlton: Welcome back to another episode of The Trees and Lines podcast. On this episode, Bob Allen, Manager of Vegetation Management for Eversource, New Hampshire joins us again to talk about Saluting Branches, Eversource’s work with the development of utility arboretums and their 30 under 30 initiative. Have a listen. Hope you enjoy.
Today, we’d like to welcome back Bob Allen, the Manager of Vegetation at Eversource in New Hampshire. Welcome back, Bob.
Tej Singh: Welcome, Bob.
Bob Allen: Thank you, guys. Happy to be here. Happy new year.
Philip Charlton: Appreciate you coming back. We were talking about so many different subject matter or different topics last time. It really was interesting, and I don’t think we fleshed out some of the ones that piqued our interest, so I do appreciate your coming back. When we were wrapping up last time, we were talking some about what I thought was a pretty unique thing you have going there in New Hampshire, something I hadn’t heard about before on distribution, really what amounts to a demonstration site. Tell us a little bit about the utility arboretums that you’ve established.
Bob Allen: Thanks, I appreciate that opportunity. In 2012, I was working in New Hampshire. I came up here in 2009 from Connecticut, and I was on the Community Forest Advisory Council, which is a state body. We met often at the Urban Forestry Center in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. In 2012, we had a huge windstorm come through and knocked down a grove of mature spruce trees that really changed the whole outlook of that property. You could see the water where you hadn’t been able to see it before. But it opened it up right next to the parking lot where there was a whole area that we could do something with.
The Urban Forest Center and the Community Forest Advisory Council got together and decided to come up with some ideas. The first one that really rose to fruition was, let’s do a utility arboretum there. Some folks didn’t know what that was, but other folks did and thought it was a great idea.
What we ended up doing was clearing an area, putting in two poles, and running a de-energized primary line between the two poles. We selected 20 trees that we thought would grow near the wires without getting into the wires and thought it was a great opportunity for us to help with folks when they pull up to the Urban Forestry Center. It’s right next to the parking lot.
They host a lot of other classes there. There’s lots of wildlife and ecology classes there. Folks that might not be thinking about planting trees every day like we might also might once in their life decide they need to plant a tree or there’s something that happened near the wires, and their tree came down. This was something that we thought, well, we’re going to get a lot of people to see this property and learn without really anybody forcing it on them.
They can go and walk through it and see it on their own, great demonstration site for all four seasons. Oftentimes when people go to purchase a plant, they look at it online and they see a little picture of it and go, oh, I really like that. Or they go to a nursery and they see it in a container or a ball in burlap. It’s hard to imagine what it’s going to look like in your house sometimes or in your yard.
Four seasons, you can do that at the utility arboretums. You can walk through them and say, what does this tree look like in fall foliage? What’s it look like in the spring? What birds and butterflies might it attract? We thought of it as a really good idea, and I was very proud that we were able to work together with it.
It was a true coming together of groups. It was the state of New Hampshire with the Forest and Lands, which is a group that has a utility or an urban forester. There was also the U.S. Forest Service with their urban forestry group. Asplundh Tree helped us with it, and our line department actually set the poles and ran the de-energized line.
It seems like it’d be simple to do two poles and one line, but we had to write up a lot of jobs and convince a lot of people that this was the thing we needed to do and find ways to fund it. But not that it was an expensive proposition, but it was just something we hadn’t done before. Under the guise of education and innovation, we thought this is something that we should do and help the community out and help the profession out by having an opportunity to look at these trees near the wires. So we did, and it’s been very successful.
One of the things I realized about my own talents as far as what trees grow best by the wires is I picked one or two that got a little taller than I thought they were going to get, and they’re up in the wire, which is great for me because I think that’s a demonstration site. That’s something we hoped we could learn from. Will this tree actually stay at 25 or 30 feet like it says in the book, or will it get bigger?
I oftentimes referred to Dr. Michael Dirr, who’s one of my favorite people on the planet, and he wrote a manual, Woody Landscape Plants, which is a very famous book for landscape architects. But he says, Bob, trees don’t read books. Just because it says it’s going to be 25 feet tall, it doesn’t mean that’s what it’s going to end up at. That’s a really cool thing for us to learn from.
That was the first arboretum we built in Portsmouth, and it’s still there in 2012, 11 years later. We’ve renamed ourselves; we’re a public service in New Hampshire in those days, then we went through the merger that we talked about last time, and it’s now Eversource.
Tej Singh: You mentioned it’s been super successful. Can you define what the measure of success is for the arboretum? Is it foot traffic? Is it a measure of planting post, a viewing? What are your metrics for defining success?
Bob Allen: Sure. That’s a that’s really excellent question, something I haven’t really thought about. But for that particular one, the feedback we get from the folks who work at the Urban Forest Center about the different groups that come in there, and there’s a lot of garden clubs that visit the Urban Forest Center, and that’s become something that folks look at, and they haven’t really thought about trees near the wires.
I’ve become a speaker to garden clubs. It seems like every year, I do more and more of them partially because of the utility arboretums. I love trees, and I like talking about them. As you guys can see, you put a microphone in front of me, it’s hard to get me to stop. I think foot traffic is certainly something, but it’s mostly the feedback that the Urban Forestry Center gets on how great it is to be able to see those trees near the wires.
Tej Singh: Got it; for context and for a deeper understanding of how to manage those type of trees and its relation to its space.
Bob Allen: Yes, and also, we have them all tagged with little placards in front of them as to what they are. That helps people, too, because you’re driving down the street, you see something, a flower, and you think, that’s a really cool plant. I wonder what it is. These ones, we have some flowering shrubs and flowering trees so folks can look at it and determine if it’s something that would fit in their landscape.
Tej Singh: Bob, on something like that, an arboretum, and maybe this is too specific, but what do you think the total cost of setup of something like that is, ballpark, and then the ongoing cost to manage something like that?
Bob Allen: We have four arboretums now and all of them cost different because they’re all different sized. Some of the land might have been already being used for wires. For that one, I would say the poles, they’re probably $400 to $600 apiece. We were able to have our line department set them, so there were some internal cost there.
The trees were actually purchased by the state, by us, and by contractors who wanted to donate to it. As I said, we have four utility arboretums now, and all four of them, that has grown in each one. There’s been more and more folks that want to donate trees to it to be part of it, to be able to take their crew to it and show this is something we were involved in.
For that particular one, I guess a ballpark, I would say we’re probably with the 20 trees at $500 apiece, $10,000, and a couple of poles, some signage, so you’re probably looking at between $10,000 and $15,000 for that one.
Tej Singh: Got it. Is the land leased or owned?
Bob Allen: It’s all on the Urban Forestry Center grounds. They do the maintenance such as any pruning that might be needed or mowing and watering. It’s been a very good relationship because they’ve got interns on occasion that work there, and it gives those folks a chance to be exposed to it and learn a little bit more about the trees. I think that was definitely the cheapest one we did the first one because it seemed like such a good idea.
I guess I’ll go a little farther into the fact that after we had that merger with NSTAR and NU, we had our first all-hands meeting with vegetation management. Our director at the time, Vera Admore-Sakyi asked if I had a place in New Hampshire where we could have the meeting. I said, sure, let’s do it there at the Urban Forestry Center, so we did. She was very impressed with the utility arboretum. She said to me, I want you to build one of these in Massachusetts and one in Connecticut because I think it’s a great idea and I think it’s something the company should be behind.
I told her, I think it’s a great idea, too, but I really just covered New Hampshire, so I don’t think I’ll be able to help you on that. A month later, she gave me Massachusetts, so I had Massachusetts and New Hampshire where I was able to work to fulfill her vision.
Tej Singh: Has this been something that’s nationally started to gain some attention, and you think this will get picked up by other peer utilities?
Bob Allen: Sure. I think there are ones that probably existed before ours. I know that there was something in, I think it was Virginia Tech area or West Virginia that somebody was doing one down there as more as a research site. I don’t know how much more it’s grown. I expect, as William mentioned, we’ll be writing an article for the UAA Magazine. I think that will help a little bit with people learning more about it.
It’s such a nice commitment to your customers and to your communities because it’s not a big investment. It’s there year-round.
Philip Charlton: I was going to say, how do you drive people to the site?
Bob Allen: Sure. That’s an excellent question. So for the next one, thankfully, we were able to build that at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. I looked around and talked to lots of Massachusetts tree wardens looking for a site, and we didn’t find one in any particular town park.
UMass Amherst, which I don’t know if you guys are familiar with it, but it’s a beautiful spot and a great campus. The whole campus is an arboretum. They have an area called the Agricultural Learning Center, and that’s 40 acres. It’s devoted to research, to student gardens, to bee study, and there’s some livestock on it as well. There was this open area next to a gravel road. They really hadn’t done anything with it. They had pushed rocks and dirt into it, into the side of the road, and just hadn’t really thought about using it for anything.
Dr. Dennis Ryan, who led Stockbridge School of Agriculture, talked to me about it, as did Dr. Brian Kane, who’s still at UMass. Dr. Ryan is retired, and we determined that would be a great spot for a utility arboretum, but it needed a lot of prep. So we went in there with the Asplundh crew and cleared the area.
We worked with the UMass Grounds crew, and it’s probably one of the nicer ones. When you think about how it was built, because it’s got apprentice linemen that helped build it, they couldn’t have built it if it were live. This was stuff that they wouldn’t have been talented or trained enough to do yet. They were able to build the utility arboretum at a university where kids are learning every day. The apprentices were learning. I thought it was just a really super situation for us, and again, another great partnership between public and private
We ended up at that utility arboretum with seven poles and a thousand feet of wire. The really nice thing about that is that it was all new, so we could design it any way we wanted, and we have poles with three-phase cross arms on a three-phase spacer cable. We have a transformer bank on one. We have a pad mount transformer that is also on the grounds. We go from three-phase to bare wire to covered wire to spacer cable down to single-phase down to secondary.
If somebody was coming to look at it, what we had envisioned was a tree warden who wanted to save a big tree but didn’t know that you could maybe engineer the wires around that big tree by putting them on an alley arm or on spacer cable. We wanted to be able to show that as a way to help educate landscape architects, tree wardens, and folks that might be looking to save trees, mature trees that were part of a development or part of a situation where they might be in the way of something new coming in. This gives people a lot of chances to think about what tree, right tree, right place and how to work the wires around the tree.
Tej Singh: I take my boys to this local arboretum; it’s beautiful. But obviously, they don’t have this set up inside. But it’s quite a bit of land with lots of different types of vegetation. If you get a random call from somebody at an arboretum in Houston, it’s because I was shaming them for not having this set up. So you might have to do something in Houston as well, Bob. Lead the way.
Bob Allen: Yeah, I think that’s a great idea. The one at UMass, I’m very proud of, the company’s proud of because of how it all came together. We were able to put the apprentices down there for a week, building, and they’ve got so much great experience. It was just bare ground that we had cleared. We took some great pictures of it. The students helped us plant the trees. The grounds crew helped us. There were two professors there teaching classes about planting while we were there. It just became such a wonderful communal effort for all of us to work together to get to this point, where it really is one of the nicer ones I’ve seen.
There are about 70 trees there now. What we do is measure the trees every year to see how much they grow, try to do some research on whether they’re the right tree in the right place, and whether it’s the right soil for them. Did they get enough water?
We did do some zone pushing, and by that, I mean you take something that is supposed to grow farther south and push it into a more northerly area. We did that with crape myrtle, which is not considered a western Massachusetts plant. That’s generally down south. We brought that up. We planted one, and it died back all the way to the ground the first year, came up with a rosette the next year, grew a few feet, and died back again.
Four years into it, it’s now, I don’t know if I’d call it a viable plant yet, but it’s still kicking, and I think that speaks to the plant’s resiliency for one, but also the possibility that the climate is changing a little and that some of these things that have been southerly plants are moving north and some of our northerly plants, such as white birch and sugar maple, are tending to move even farther north. We’re seeing that, which opens up for landscape architects a whole different avenue of plants—some mid-Atlantic plants that might be able to be used in New England now. I look at it as a research site for that, seeing how these plants actually do there.
Philip Charlton: Wow, and putting it near the university, it’s a recruitment tool too.
Bob Allen: It is.
Philip Charlton: Maybe some of these graduates won’t be able to say, I never heard of utility, arboriculture, or forestry.
Bob Allen: Right. We left a couple of large, mature trees there to show what can happen when a tree gets in the wires. It’s dead; it’s a de-energized facility. But we thought if we left these large trees there, we could then come and show the students how to take a tree down near the wires, how to prune it near the wires, and maybe get some students up in the air in our buckets.
We haven’t accomplished that yet. We’ve done several training days there with different tree contractors, and some folks from Eversource, and some municipalities have been there. Because it’s de-energized, you can put the bucket truck up, and you can gauge how far away the guy is from the wires. It’s a good training method for people like spotters to be able to determine if the bucket is getting too close.
So really, stuff that we didn’t think about when we were thinking about building a utility arboretum has become enormous for what our contractors use it for. We had a two-day session there this year. We’re going to have a three-day session in 2024, so I’m pretty excited about that.
Philip Charlton: You can leave some heavily pruned trees to show them why you don’t want to have too tall a tree out there.
Bob Allen: That’s correct. We actually planted two sugar maples and two oaks underneath the wires. We’re using growth regulators, one as a control and one being treated to see if we can show how fast those will grow with growth regulators and without growth regulators.
Tej Singh: What has somewhat impressed me about this whole initiative is it’s a forward-thinking initiative. It’s not part of what you do as a core service to your footprint and to your customers. It’s an added expense, but it has a lot of qualitative benefits, of course. It’s an investment in the community. It’s an investment in the future generations that are entering the space.
One of the things that I’ve been coming across a lot as I’ve been on my travels and speaking with several utility leaders is that it’s a tight environment. It’s an inflationary environment with a lot of regulatory scrutiny on utilities, making everything a cost conversation. Yet you guys have made these commitments and made these investments. Talk a little bit about the culture of Eversource. What allows your specific utility to be committed to these things despite being in these complex financial times?
Bob Allen: Well, hopefully the tree guy can answer this question. That’s a pretty big question. In the regulatory environment, I think folks in New England, it’s pretty densely populated and we have lots of trees. The regulatory environment, they’re concerned about how best we trim the trees and curtail costs whenever possible on trimming trees.
I mentioned that last time we talked about the various bugs and diseases that were affecting the forest. So looking to plant trees that might not be ash, hemlock, or pine trees that are being affected by these bugs and diseases, I think the regulators look at it as a pretty, like you said, forward-thinking idea. Let’s put something else out there so we’re not killing trees. If these trees are only going to get 20 to 30 feet tall, then that will reduce our costs in the future as far as trimming goes. Is it a drop in the bucket? Perhaps at this point, perhaps in my career, but I think long-term, the smaller growing trees we have out there adjacent to the wires, the less trimming we’ll have to do.
As far as the greater question about sustainability and how we look at our role in the community, we certainly believe strongly that we are leaders in looking at the environment and working with the environment. Our folks in the veg group are all arborists. We’re all trained. We’re all college-educated. Not that that says you’re going to do it right, but it helps to show that the commitment is there. We’re all part of our statewide arborist associations.
We’ve done this poster behind me: 30 under 30, which is 30 trees that only grow 30 feet tall. When we sent that out to 1200 garden centers and nurseries, and actually big box stores—we also sent it to 500 town halls in our franchise territory—and the idea was, if we can put it up in a town hall or at a garden center, it starts with planting a tree is the headline; planting a tree. That gives you 30 trees that only grow 30 feet tall. It’s got a little bit of information about each one. Maybe it attracts birds or it has a great fall color, whatever it might be.
In New England, people love maple trees. Maples are part of our whole thing with maple syrup and the fall foliage. We did this poster alphabetically by botanical name, and acer is the genus for maple. So the first five plants on this are all maples. You think, how are you going to have maples that are only going to grow up to 30 feet tall? Well, there are several, and we have them on this poster. I think that’s a commitment to the sustainability part of showing that we think about what else can work in this environment. If we all plant ashes, pines, and hemlocks, we’re going to have fewer trees because they’re not going to survive these impactful diseases and bugs that are affecting them.
Additionally, we’re looking at another series of posters that we’re hoping to do. We did something called the Pollinator Roadmap, which was a trifold. We also sent that out to all the nurseries and towns, and it just showed pollinating plants or plants that are good for pollinators that you could put in your garden or in your in your town if you had a park.
The next thing we’re looking at are reptiles and amphibians that exist on our rights of way. Most people are looking up when they’re walking in the right of way. They’re looking at what the wires are and where the trees are, but there’s a lot of things that are on the ground: turtles, snakes, amphibians, and salamanders. We want to make sure that we’re managing not just the wires; we’re managing that ecosystem as best as we can.
The fact that the company supports these initiatives speaks an awful lot about our goals and our thoughts about the environment. We want to be somebody that can be looked to as somebody that helps manage the ecosystem as opposed to the historical, oh, he’s just a utility guy. No, we’re looking at trying to be part ecologist. I think the best thing we could do is blur the edges between horticulture and ecology. If we can plant the right tree in the right place and have it be part of the ecosystem that is necessary and helps with the pollinators and the other birds and stuff that exist in that right of way, that would be tremendous to me that we could actually make that commitment, and we have.
Tej Singh: That’s amazing.
Philip Charlton: You’ve personally made a commitment, right?
Bob Allen: I have.
Philip Charlton: Are you willing to show us your commitment?
Bob Allen: On the plan before you plant?
Philip Charlton: No. Yeah, show me your arm.
Bob Allen: I figure if I’m going to go talk to everybody about plan before you plant, I should show–
Tej Singh: That’s awesome.
Bob Allen: –plan before you plant, left forearm. It’s an acorn tattoo, and it’s surrounded by the words plan before you plant. That’s not something new. People have thought about plan before your plant, and right tree, right place. But it really becomes an important message when we look at all these trees that are dying in the roadside forest. It’s something that I thought I had to show my commitment to. The company is showing a commitment to me by allowing us to build these utility arboretums.
I think it’s important that I walk the talk. What are we going to plant to make sure that we can sustain the roadside forest and that we can sustain the birds and butterflies that might be relying on the forest? Granted, it’s an arboricultural thing, planting one tree at a time as opposed to a forestry thing where you’re planting thousands of seedlings, but I think the fact that we look at what is the right tree in the right place.
I remember working for the city of Springfield back in the ‘70s in the forestry group, and we would plant sugar maples and oftentimes they were touching the cable TV wire when we put them in the ground, which was just to me, it wasn’t going to make much sense because they were going to have to be pruned at some point. But those were the trees we could afford with the city’s budget and people wanted sugar maples, so we put them in.
Now you go to the city of Springfield, and through a lot of evolution, they are planting hardy rubber trees. You call me up; they’re planting lots of bear fruit trees and stuff that just makes a lot more sense for under the wire.
Tej Singh: You mentioned that some of the trees that have been victim to insects, bugs, and all this stuff, is that is that a new phenomenon? When those trees were originally planted, were those insects a consideration, or was that something new that developed within the ecosystem? What’s to say that some of these new plantings aren’t going to face a similar risk?
Bob Allen: You’re right. They might face a similar risk at some point. We can’t guarantee that they won’t. We do some research on what they’ve been affected by so far and whether it’s worth it. Are they going to be vigorous in the landscape? If they’re not going to be vigorous, then we’re just going to add to the problems.
Gypsy Moth, which is now called Spongy Moth, was released, and I forget the date, but it was in the late 1800s or early 1900s. It was brought over here as a way to, I think, hybridize with another moth and make silk quicker. It escaped and loves oak trees, and it has had a population explosion and crash that was cyclical for 7 to 10 years, and it’s been in New England and other parts of the country since the 1900s. We experienced a big problem with it in New England the last five years; it’s gotten better in 2023. It was better in New Hampshire, but has been very bad in Connecticut and Massachusetts.
All the ash trees that are here are susceptible to the emerald ash borer, but that was not a bug that was in the United States until the early 2000s or late ’90s. I’m not sure exactly when it came, but the feeling was that it came in some pallet wood shipped over into Michigan, and it’s just been released and just continues to grow as far as the amount of damage it’s doing.
The white pine, I think, is somewhat struggling because of the climate, because of people pressure diseases, and because of the many bugs that affect it. It’s a dominant species. There are a lot of them. They’re tall, and they’re attractive to lots of insects that are looking for food. I think that’s something that’s just more what you’re talking about—that it just came out of the ecosystem and was just determined that it was something that could feed on these pines. But the gypsy moth and the emerald ash borer were introduced species to the New England forest.
Tej Singh: I wanted to shift gears and talk a little bit about Saluting Branches. Do you want to you want to talk a little bit about that and let our audience know that initiative and its impact?
Bob Allen: Sure, thanks for that. Saluting Branches is a wonderful organization. Every September, for the last nine years, 2024 will be the 10th year, a group that was started by a fairly small group of dedicated arborists who thought they should do a day of service to veteran cemeteries. A lot of times, the cemeteries do not have a budget for tree work. Therefore, they’re mowing a lot. There’s a lot of grass in cemeteries, but some of these trees are not being taken care of.
This group of really forward-thinking arborists thought there was something we could do. We can help. We can just donate our services. I think there might have been less than ten cemeteries in the first year. If I’m not mistaken, it’s over 100 cemeteries, and it’s in every state in the nation and a couple of places off the continent that they’re also doing it.
I was fortunate enough to be involved. Eversource has supported it for nine years in all three states. Bourne National Cemetery, down on Cape Cod, is the second-largest veteran’s cemetery in the country, next to Arlington. There’s so much land and trees and work to do down there that we have been there every year for nine years, improving the safety and health of the trees.
This past year I was involved, and I was very fortunate to be the site leader at a place called Cathedral of the Pines in Rindge, New Hampshire. It’s a veterans’ memorial. You can have your ashes buried there, so it is a cemetery too. It was started by a family whose son was shot down in World War II, and he was going to build a house on the farm property. They had a memorial the next year, after he had not come home. The local folks in the southwestern New Hampshire Monadnock region saw this, and some other folks who had lost people in their families asked if they could join in. It’s been over 75 years now of annually celebrating our fallen and also our veterans.
It is also a natural place. It’s a really cool location. It also suffered from a huge storm problem in 2008. We had a huge ice storm up here and knocked out 75% of our customers for up to two weeks. I think everybody came back on Christmas Eve in 2008. But what it did at the Cathedral of the Pines was knock down over a hundred large pine trees that had blocked the view of Mount Monadnock. It opened this up, and now you have this beautiful place where there’s an altar that’s nondenominational. The whole thing is nondenominational, but several presidents have sent a rock or a stone from their home state, and that’s been incorporated into the altar. The altar, when you’re looking at it, you’re looking at Mt. Monadnock behind it.
It’s a very spiritual, very restful place. We were able to go there this year with over 80 volunteers, which I think was the largest this year. We had two cranes and several bucket trucks. Nobody had ever done this type of work at this property because it’s a nonprofit. They really pick up things when they fall, but that’s about all they’ve done as far as tree work goes. So we were able to really transform the property. I’ve never been prouder to be an arborist than I was that day to see everybody work together. All these different companies that oftentimes are competing for jobs against each other, all working together, professional, and safe. We didn’t have one incident with safety.
We did some really amazing work. I thank the folks at Saluting Branches for picking that site because it’s tremendous that we can help these places where families go to visit their loved ones, and they can see maybe a little hint of beauty every time we do something out there. We also planted some trees. I think that’s becoming more of a thing at Saluting Branches because we’ve been working on a lot of these places and now, we’re planting trees. I’m really happy to be part of it. Thank you for asking me about it. It’s something that I think all arborists are happy to be part of when they can, and I hope it continues to grow.
Tej Singh: Yeah, what better way to honor those who have gone with such a gesture? It’s such a representation. It’s such a memory—something that continues to grow and something you’ll always see and remember. It triggers a thought. It’s just fantastic.
Bob Allen: Yeah, and with the teamwork and camaraderie that you would expect the folks in the military to have experienced, we’re showing the same type of teamwork to do things together, people from all over that maybe never met each other before and are working together. I was very impressed with the professionalism of the group.
Tej Singh: My business partner, our CEO, served in the Navy and in the Presidential Guard. We get very excited about initiatives like this because it’s giving back to a community of folks that are doing such wonderful things for our country.
Philip Charlton: I do have a question for you, Bob, because somewhere in our discussions we talked about that we always like to end with what do you suggest for those that are coming behind us. I know you’ve talked some about don’t stop learning, so you can share that encouragement to some of our younger peers. But also tell us, how do you apply that to yourself? How do you go about continually learning?
Bob Allen: A great question, Phil. I think I wake up every day, first off, happy that I’m waking up and going to work. I really love going to work. I look on the way in to work; has something changed? I’m oftentimes at a desk; I’m not out in the field like I would like to be. So if I’m at a desk, what can I learn today? If I take a lunch break, I might take a book off the shelf and just try to learn something. But oftentimes, it’s what I saw on the way in. I saw a bird or a tree that was showing some kind of coloration that I didn’t expect it to show. It causes me to start researching what that was, maybe on the way home. If it’s not dark, I’ll stop and take a look at that and see if I can figure something else out by walking around it.
I think that the spark of continuous learning is really a commitment to yourself. We can all go through life and survive or exist, but really trying to make yourself better, trying to be a person who can be thought of as someone who can help. I really like helping. One of the things about Saluting Branches that I really got the most joy out of was seeing people help each other and help this day turn into a huge success.
I have a huge library of tree books, and I don’t know that I’ll ever read them all. It doesn’t stop me from buying them because I just know there’s something in there that someday I’m going to open up a page and go, wow, I wish I had known that 20 years ago. But if you’re committed to a field or even where you live, if you have a commitment to a place, I think it’s incumbent upon you to continue to show energy into bettering that place as best you can and bettering yourself as best you can.
I think the energy that we bring to any kind of get-together or any kind of work is incumbent upon us to bring that energy. If we just expect somebody else to bring it, we probably aren’t going to learn much that day. You have to have the attitude. They say that the only thing you can really choose is your attitude. That might seem a little trite, but it’s the truth. If you go into something just, I don’t know if I want to go to this meeting today, you’re probably not going to get much out of that meeting. Most people are going to wish you weren’t there. But if you go into it thinking, wow, I’ve been to these meetings before, but maybe I’ll get something out of this one different if I can meet somebody different, talk to somebody, and learn something.
I think that’s what I would suggest, Phil. The best thing to do is just keep that open mind and open eyes and open ears and try and figure out: Is there something along my path today that’s different than it was yesterday? And if it is, is it worth my energy and time to go investigate what it is? More often than not, it pays back tenfold if you do invest the time and energy.
Philip Charlton: As I look at who I personally look to as the industry leaders, they’re always learning and always seeking to learn. They’re also always giving back. I saw both of those in you, Bob.
Bob Allen: Thank you. That’s very kind and generous of you.
Tej Singh: Bob, thanks for making time. This is part two. Part one was a great conversation. Part two, we got a chance to build on it and get to know you on a more intimate level. You’re doing some amazing things, and we want to continue to hear more, so hopefully we can do an update with you in six months or a year and see the continued development of some of these great initiatives.
Bob Allen: Thank you. I’d love to be part of that with you guys again. I really appreciate the opportunity, and I thank you for hosting me and giving me a chance.
Tej Singh: Of course. Thank you. I appreciate it.
Philip Charlton: Very good. Thanks, Bob. I appreciate it.
Tej Singh: Yeah, thanks, Bob. Happy New Year.
Bob Allen: All right.
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