It makes no sense.

We are not likely to recoup the money it takes to buy and install solar.

We’re too old.

But we did it anyway.

Solar array on garage roof.

Solar array on garage roof.


South-facing roof with panels.

South-facing roof with panels.

Our next door neighbors went first.

They were in their eighties!

When I saw their solar panels going up, I remembered a proverb:

A society grows great when old men plant trees under whose shade they know they shall never sit. Click To Tweet

A modern way of talking about this kind of investment is the concept of the triple bottom line:

Simply put, this kind of bottom line has to benefit people, profit, and planet.

We chose a local small business to install the panels. 

We will get a tax credit and lower utility bills.

And the next family to live in this house will continue to benefit.

We have planted trees for the shade of others,

just as others planted for us.

What are you doing for the sake of the future and the planet?

Let’s share our ideas and multiply the value of the triple bottom line!

Shirley Showalter


  1. Sarah Buller Fenton on July 15, 2019 at 5:02 pm

    We live in my grandparents’ house built in 1913. My grandfather used to say, “Leave it for the next generation” when he talked about upgrades and repairs to the house. However, we can’t allow ourselves to do that. With an eye toward the future, we have put in the most efficient furnace possible, quickly replaced the 100+ year old trees that have succumbed to wind and age and tightened up this old house, fixed leaky windows and added insulation. We’re trying to figure out what else we can get by with doing, since the implementation of new village zoning rules (not particularly homeowner friendly). Curt is also teaching/helping our son do the same with his little townhouse in Harrisonburg. “Teach your children well….”

    • Shirley Showalter on July 15, 2019 at 6:29 pm

      I’m sure the next generation will appreciate all the upgrades, Sarah. And good for Curt for teaching the children well. That’s one of the best things we can do. It’s pretty amazing how much work there is in regular house maintenance, let alone renovations and improvements! May you get to see your new trees grow tall!

  2. Linda Gartz on July 15, 2019 at 5:24 pm

    It would be impractical to set up solar panels on the house we live in. It’s too large. But I recycle every single thing I can. Only one nearby grocery store now takes plastic bags, but I do my best to avoid taking a plastic bag and try to remember my reusable ones (and Whole Foods only uses paper now, which I use for my recycling). We replaced all the windows on the house when we bought it with no leaks and added insulation throughout as we could. I try to buy as little as possible from Amazon so we don’t get all that cardboard and plastic stuffing – getting worse: thicker and thicker. We support the Nature Conservancy and Nat Geo, both of which protect our environment. Thanks for putting this post up.

    • Shirley Showalter on July 15, 2019 at 6:36 pm

      Yes, these are wonderful ideas, Linda. Windows and insulation really help cut down on fossil fuel use. We use much less plastic than the average American, but it’s still too much. Did you catch this podcast about recycling? Sobering, to say the least!

      Great to support the Nature Conservancy and Nat Geo. Great triple bottom line organizations!

      • Shannon marling on September 8, 2019 at 10:30 pm

        Hi, I’ve been doing some geology on my grandparents, your last name some how comes into play. Grandfather surname 1874 Salmon and Grandmother surname Guinn. Also the name Vandiver is connected too. Can you please help me? Only if you know something. Thank you

        • Shirley Showalter on September 18, 2019 at 11:54 am

          Sorry, Shannon. None of those names show up in our genealogy.

  3. Marian Beaman on July 15, 2019 at 7:33 pm

    What a bold move to save our planet, Shirley. I applaud your harnessing solar energy even with a large up-front expense. Today my move was minuscule by comparison, using wind power to dry a few laundered items. It would have been easy to press the drier for 20 more minutes; instead I hung a shirt and some washcloths from the arms of a shepherd’s hook near the patio, not enough to alarm our picky HOA. (Instagram may help you visualize this!)

    Our recycling bin holds twice the volume of the trash can. And I sometimes walk to Aldi with my recyclable grocery bags. Collectively, we can make a difference, even with small changes.

    P. S. I tweeted your proverb.

    • Shirley Showalter on July 15, 2019 at 8:52 pm

      I like to hang laundry over the deck railings and furniture too, Marian. I especially love what the summer sun does to white cottons.

      Thanks for tweeting the proverb. It’s one of those that pop up with different attributions on the internet. Usually they say it is a Greek proverb.

      Yes, we all do our small part. Biking and walking make great modes of transportation.

  4. Loren Swartzendruber on July 15, 2019 at 7:49 pm

    Excellent example, Shirley and Stuart. Reminds me of a generous donor to Hesston College who told me about planting hundreds of walnut trees—when he was in his 90s. There was no chance that he would live to see them grow to maturity but he did it for the next generation.

    • Shirley Showalter on July 16, 2019 at 7:29 am

      Love the story, Loren. And I think it is wonderful that you are now combining your love for education with your love for the environment by working to tell the story of solar panels to principals and presidents.

      I would love to see those walnut trees now.

  5. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on July 16, 2019 at 12:05 am

    Good for you two, making our planet a better place for the next generation!

    • Shirley Showalter on July 16, 2019 at 7:29 am

      Just paying a little rent for the space we take up. 🙂

  6. Erma Martin Yost on July 17, 2019 at 10:21 am

    In Jersey City we lived in a brick row house with a south facing back wall, and in 1980 we installed a two story Four Seasons greenhouse, creating an “envelope” covering the second and third floors with passive energy. On sunny winter days it could be zero outside but the peak of the greenhouse would reach 90 degrees. From sunrise to sunset that heat was convected through the entire three floors, and the furnace turned flat off. On summer days, ceiling panels created shade on the south wall. Now, living in Carlisle we have too many large trees to take advantage of solar energy, but all new energy efficient windows and appliances help reduce consumption as well as insulation blown into hallow exterior walls and the attic. Recycling everything possible is important but I also try to not buy items in containers that can’t be recycled. Home canning and freezing summer produce helps with that one.

    • Shirley Showalter on July 17, 2019 at 12:45 pm

      I remember that greenhouse. You and Leon are so creative and have always been great on the three R’s: reduce, re-use, and recycle. I confess that I don’t do much canning and freezing. But I did make a peach shortcake and processed a peck of Lodi apples into applesauce this week. That made me feel virtuous and was even more yummy with all my labor in it. 🙂

  7. Joan on July 18, 2019 at 5:01 pm

    Going solar is one of the best things you can do. So is planting trees. Here’s to saving the planet so that our young ones have a world to grow up in.

    • Shirley Showalter on July 18, 2019 at 5:44 pm

      Amen, sister!

  8. Laurie Buchanan on July 19, 2019 at 1:29 pm

    Shirley — I love this post! Your thought process and actions bring to mind the Seventh Generation philosophy of the Iroquois Tribe:

    “Seven generation stewardship is a concept that urges the current generation of humans to live and work for the benefit of the seventh generation into the future. It is part of the Great Law of the Iroquois.”

    • Shirley Showalter on July 19, 2019 at 2:56 pm

      Yes! We have not done a good job of remembering this wisdom, so we have to help each other do the bits we can. Perhaps the day will yet come when the first nations peoples help us rebuild a more sustainable world.

  9. Melodie Davis on July 19, 2019 at 8:54 pm

    I see this is still getting comments so maybe I’m not too late. As you know we did solar a few years ago and are very glad we were able to do that. On other fronts, I’ve been thinking alot about children and what we give and impart to them for future generations. Hub and I had the experience this past week of both helping with a half-day day camp for children with various issues related to autism–organized by a Showalter from Broadway no less, Scott Showalter who was teacher of the year in Rockingham Co. I plan to write about this daycamp at some point too. We did not know any of the children to begin with (my husband helped for two weeks) and we loved how the camp emphasized unconditional love and positive communication skills: thanking people, being polite, listening to others with our whole attention. These surely also go to help our planet be a better place long into the future.

    And here’s the link to our solar install if anyone is interested in learning more:

  10. Shirley Showalter on July 20, 2019 at 8:25 am

    It’s never too late to share a great experience. Thanks, Melodie. I hope readers who are considering solar check out the link above. You give great detail on how the system works and what you are saving. If we stay in our house to ages 84 and 82, we will hit break even, according to the calculations from the installer. Could happen.

    Your experience in the camp sounds wonderful. Sounds like another blog is simmering!

  11. Mary Ann Niemczura on September 11, 2019 at 10:32 am

    I love your solar panels! We plant trees each time one comes down either in a storm or died of old age. We won’t see the full height I am certain, but whoever lives here next will find that we insulated with a new roof, in the attic, new windows and siding. Now basement work to insure the next owner won’t have water problems. We care for our home and land with loving care. And we have a vegetable garden plus an herb garden and can harvest what we have planted and give away what we cannot. Blessings!

    • Shirley Showalter on September 18, 2019 at 11:34 am

      You have made so many contributions to a better world through these investments in the future, Mary Ann. Thank you for reminding us of the many opportunities we have to plant trees, literally and figuratively. Blessings on your travels and on your future writing. You sound like such an interesting person on your blog!

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