Never Again: Tree Planting

Never Again: Tree Planting

image It is almost too cliche to mention, but I seriously think my plane hit a pothole leaving Montreal. I am in the plane right now, my first of three before taking a Greyhound for six hours tomorrow. I always forget that my method of travel borders on insane. That is to say, so many of the people I work with in British Columbia have only to worry about a 45 minute flight or a six hour Greyhound to their destination. I have nine hours of flying, an overnight stay at a friends house and an early bus from Prince George to 100 Mile House. On top of that, I have to figure out how to kill another four to five hours while I wait for my foreman to pick me up.


Tree Planting Nutrition Guide

Tree Planting Nutrition Guide

tree planting nutrition

There are a thousand different ways you can pack your lunch on the block. It seems almost stupid to even write about it. What you eat though has a huge impact on everything you do. It’s something super simple, but can make a huge difference over your whole season.

Eating right will give you the energy to keep planting fast. It will speed your body’s recovery, keeping you feeling fresher longer into the season. And it will power your immune system, so you’ll be laughing when that inevitable camp cough comes around.


Grey Nuns

Grey Nuns

Grey Nuns: On tourne la page

A project by Andrea Aarsen, Virginia Noel Hodge and Jeremy Cohen

“Pour nous, ça va toujours rester la Maison Mère. Un petit village.”
“To us, it will always be the Mother House: a little village.”

In 2004, an historic building and an important part of Montreal’s religious and architectural heritage changed hands when Concordia University announced that it would purchase the Grey Nuns Mother House, located north of Réné-Lévesque Boulevard between Guy and St. Mathieu streets. The Sisters of Charity of Montreal (“Grey Nuns”), a religious congregation founded by St. Marguerite D’Youville in 1738, originally purchased the land in 1861 and opened the Mother House ten years later. At the time, the Mother House was a rural summer retreat from the bustle of the old port. Since then, the building housed the Sisters while also being the site of some of their social initiatives, including a hospital and an orphanage. The Mother House was named a historic site in 1976. This past March, the last remaining Sisters left the Mother House and moved to a retirement home in the Rosemont borough of Montreal

Though several existing projects present the history of the Grey Nuns and explore the architecture of the Mother House building, this is the first project to record and preserve the personal stories of the Sisters who lived in the Mother House. For many Concordia students, knowledge about the Mother House and the Grey Nuns who lived there has been acquired secondhand. This project is intended to allow the Sisters to speak for themselves, using their own voices to tell their stories. In the wake of their recent move, we were lucky to receive the opportunity to talk with several Grey Nuns Sisters about their lives at the Mother House and their experiences adapting to life at their new home. These conversations provide insight into the transformations occurring to both religious places and communities in Montreal today.


“Qu’est-ce qui nous manque aussi, c’est les fêtes qu’on avait à la Maison Mère.”
“What we also miss are the celebrations that we had at the Motherhouse.”


“J’aime beaucoup la Maison Mère, mais j’aime prier ici comme à la Maison Mère.”
“I really do love the Mother House, but I can pray here as well as I can there.”

“J’ai pas le temps de perdre ici, je trouve toujours des occupations constamment.”
“I keep myself busy here and I always find ways to occupy my time.”

“Je suis partie, je suis partie.”
“I have left, I have left.”


We conceived of this project in the context of some concepts that were introduced to us in our course, “Religion and the Public Sphere”. In Robert Orsi’s introduction to his work Gods of the City: Religion and the American Urban Landscape, he describes how sacred places and congregations have increasingly been displaced in North American cities to make room for urban renewal projects. The Sisters of Charity of Montreal have always been associated with urban life and as such have experienced multiple displacements, their move out of the Motherhouse being their most recent and, presumably, their final displacement. Orsi also writes about the “Garden City ideal” movement that emerged in the late 19th century, in which the cultivation of urban green spaces “would provide city people with the salubrious physical, moral, and spiritual benefits of regular contact with the natural world.” We were interested to see how the Sisters’ narratives would fit into such discussions of the benefits of gardens and nature within the city, given the differences between the environment surrounding the Motherhouse and that of the Square Angus retirement home.

We also considered the shifting ownership of the Motherhouse building in the context of the larger trend of repurposing both secular and religious spaces. In Montreal, one can witness previously secular spaces being used for religious purposes (ie. storefront churches), but it is becoming increasingly common for historically religious spaces to be used for the purposes of secular institutions. The transformation of the Motherhouse from a religious to secular space also speaks to contemporary discourses on secularism in Quebec, and the irony of preserving the facades of historically religious buildings.
Lastly, in conducting our interviews with the Grey Nuns Sisters, we wished to explore the notion of topophilia – a strong attachment to place – and the distinctions made between space and place by geographer Yi-Fu Tuan in his article “Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience”. We wondered whether the Sisters would exhibit a strong sense of attachment to the Motherhouse, or if their sense of “place” and community would be transplanted to their new home. According to Tuan, humans wish to turn “spaces” into “places” by attaching meaning to them, but there is always an ambivalence towards “places” as they can be contested, people can be displaced from them, and they are always in flux. With our project, we sought to pursue these ideas of displacement and attachment, given the Grey Nuns’ relatively long history of living in the Motherhouse.

Further Resources

About the Grey NunsAbout the Mother HouseAbout Concordia’s New ResidenceGrey Nuns Project(Fine Arts Department, Concordia University), Virtual Preservation InitiativePreoccupations Photographic ExplorationsSister Constance McMullen in the Motherhouse: A one-act play 

The Motherhouse in the media: CBCGlobe & MailMontreal Gazette

*** This project was for a Graduate Seminar held by Prof. Hillary Kaell and TA Eleni Prsarudis. The project was completed by myself, Andrea Aarsen and Virginia Noel Hodge.

The Environmental Impact of Funerals Illustrated – Infographic

The Environmental Impact of Funerals Illustrated – Infographic

It is often said that death is a cycle whereupon the body, carbon and a person’s essence are returned to the earth. What this maxim forgets to include is 6 billion tons of concrete, 800,000 gallons of Formaldehyde, and enough wood in one year to build 4.6 million single family homes!

Qeepr will be donating 10 cents for every Facebook “share” of this post during through to March 28th at 5pm EST to The David Suzuki Foundation.
Share it HERE:

The Environmental Impact of Funerals
The Environmental Impact of Funerals Illustrated – Infographic

Tree Planting Supplies

Tree Planting Supplies

tree planting gear

With the 2014 season coming up, here is a quick reminder of what tree planting supplies you will need! It is end of March and most veteran tree planters are solidifying their summer plans and making quick check lists of needed supplies. If this is going to be your first year, you surely must be losing your mind trying to figure out what to bring. Many of you are poor students like myself, many of you have never really camped or spent considerable time outdoors. So in order to avoid the many mistakes I made my first year tree planting, I present to you a quick list of tree planting supplies in great detail:

60/70 Litre travel pack. Even if you are to pack minimally, you will come back with more than what you left with. The Value Village in Prince George is your best friend. You will not be moving your gear around very much so a big pack is not very cumbersome. Pack considering what you will wear on a 5 day shift(chances are you won’t change your pants or shirts very often), days off, cold weather, warm weather, when you sleep, etc.
Duffle bag. This will carry your sleeping bag, tent, boots, shovel, planting bags, etc. MEC, REI or Outbound make durable and inexpensive duffle bags. Don’t buy one from a mall luggage store.

Shoes. Sneakers for time spent in the city.
Rubber boots. Those cheap boots you can buy at Canadian Tire are great. Anything light and waterproof. You’ll want to wear something other than your planting boots around camp or to and from work and if it’s raining, shoes won’t cut it.
Caulks. Pronounced “cork” these are large orange rubber boots with steel spikes lining the bottom. They are heavy and relatively expensive at 120-150$ but the freedom to run over wet logs and not slip is worth the weight and cost. Not everyone likes these boots but they are hassle free.
Hikers. If corks are not to your taste, get a solid pair of hikers. They should be waterproof(Gore-tex, eVent, etc). Don’t go cheap; stick with brands like Lowa, Mammut, Scarpa, Vasque. If you buy hikers, you must buy waterproof gaiters. They will help keep your feet dry and prevents dirt and sticks from getting into your boots.

Tents. You are going to live in your tent for months at a time so don’t go cheap and don’t go small. A 3 person tent is ideal as you’ll be housing yourself and your gear. Some people buy “mansions” but they are hard to put together, take up a lot of room when moving and do not stand up as well to wind. DO NOT buy a tent from Walmart/Canadian Tire. You will regret it. Tent design from mid-range manufacturers are essentially the same so most brands you can find at an outdoor retailer will be great. Go to a store on a quiet day and ask the salesperson if you can set up a tent or two with their help. Make sure it is easy to set up, has a low profile and a decent vestibule. If you cannot afford a footprint, buy a blue tarp from the Dollar store to put under your tent(not forgetting to tuck any visible parts under your tent). I’d also advise buying a tarp to put over your tent as it will prevent sun damage and give you extra rain protection.
Sleeping bags. After tents, the most important gear you’ll own. Again, don’t go cheap and don’t go for anything less than -7C(19F). MEC and REI both sell really decent sleeping bags that are relatively inexpensive. Down or Synthetic? Down is a great form of insulation, is very light and very compact. The downside is that if your bag gets wet, you’ll get cold and it will take a long time to dry. Synthetics are warm, bulkier and not as light. However the differences between the two in terms of warmth and compactibility are becoming negligible. If wet, synthetics will keep you warm and dry fast. IMO, go with a nice synthetic or a hybrid. I’d recommend buying a liner. It will keep you from having to clean your sleeping bag and it will add much needed warmth. My -7C bag alone leaves me shivering most nights but with a Sea To Summit liner, I’m toasty warm(ish).
Mats. People have a hard time justifying spending money for a good mat. My first two years I slept on dollar store yoga mats and I cannot stress how terrible that is. MEC and REI sell reasonably priced mats although the price of Thermarests seem to be dropping as of late. Go with a 3 or 4 season mat with a R value of 2.5 or higher. The R Value is the measure of insulation and the higher the number, the better the insulation against the cold. You crush the insulation of your sleeping bag when you sleep so a bad mat will let heat escape and cold get in.
Pillow. Bring a pillow case, stuff it full of your clothes and bam! you’ve got a pillow.

Baselayers. Let me begin with a warning: do not ever, ever let cotton touch your skin. Cotton clothing retains moisture, gets cold when wet and offers no protection from the elements. In heat it isn’t the end of the world, but even on a summer day rainfall and cotton are a terrible duo. Baselayers are the foundation of your clothing system and when it gets warm, can be worn by themselves. If money is no issue, buy baselayers made from merino wool. Otherwise, synthetics offer a great alternative. The downside to synthetics is that once bacteria has a chance to bond to the plastic fibers(and they will eventually) the smell becomes unbearable and requires constant washing. Merino wool can be worn many, many times before needing to be washed. What I typically do is use merino for my upper body and synthetics for my bottoms.
Fleece/mid-layer. A heavy fleece is very necessary. Even if it is too hot to plant in, you’ll appreciate it on chilly mornings and for your cashbreaks and any walking you have to do. I would buy either a light fleece or a light-breathable softshell jacket to actually plant in when it is warm enough to not have to wear a shell.
Waterproof shell. You absolutely need a waterproof jacket. I lost my jacket near the beginning of my 2nd season and the cold and pain experienced is indescribable. If money is no issue, buy a jacket made with Gore-Tex Pro shell. Their Paclite line will probably not withstand the rigor of the job. Any 4 season membrane will do the trick. If money is an issue, just stick with non-membrane jackets from well known brands. There are a few that sell decent jackets for around 130$. There are days where it will rain heavily for 8+ hours. You need a good rain jacket. Rain pants can be useful but they can also be cumbersome and will easily rip. I have a pair on hand for those days of 8+ hours of rain. Membrane or not, please wash your jacket properly and often.
Gloves. This is hard. There is no happy medium with gloves. Your hands will get cold and it is always a terrible experience. I typically carry 4 pairs with me at all times; curved neoprene gloves, liners, light fleece gloves and the garden gloves most people use for planting. The neoprene gloves are great for your shovel hand as they stay warm when wet. The liners I wear under the garden gloves as they help keep my hands warm and the fleece gloves are my apres-planting gloves.

The Little Things:
Bug spray. Watkins is probably the best; spray or lotion. Get something with a high DEET count and bring two. If you are afraid of the chemicals for whatever reason, I wish you luck. Those “natural” or citronella bug sprays are beyond awful.
Utensils. Buy utensils that are unique or make them unique. People always steal utensils in camps but having unique ones can help you find them again. You can buy plates and bowls at the dollar store…or buy a frisbee! Frisbees make great plates due to their size and shape and alternatively, they make great frisbees!
Headlamp. Flashlights are for suckers. Petzl and Black Diamond make great headlamps and they are very, very practical. Buy one that allows you to adjust the brightness.
Day pack. You need a daypack for your lunch, jacket, etc. Get something large and waterproof if possible. If you don’t have a waterproof bag, buy a waterproof cover! Trust me on this one.
Music player. Bring your iPod and you’ll never feel alone. Even if you’re one of those people who doesn’t listen to music, pack it full of podcasts and books and it’ll make the day go by faster.
First aid. A little first aid kit in your day pack is always a good idea. Something that includes an emergency blanket and matches. It is very, very rare for anything to happen that would require using these things, but i’ve heard stories…
Sewing kit: It sucks to buy that 100$ merino baselayer only to have it snag on a branch.
Thermos. I love my Primus flask. Having a hot coffee at mid-day is a great luxury.
Books. Don’t anticipate having access to a library or bookstore(Books & Co. in Prince George is a must by the way). Bring something small and easy to read. Don’t expect to have the ability to understand Quantum Mechanics or thermodynamics at the end of a 10 hour day.
Knife. Everyone should own a small knife. There are many uses for it in the bush.
Duct Tape. Bring two rolls or one big one. It is incredibly useful for reasons I will not mention but you’ll find out quickly(thanks Andrew!). Protip: wrap your duct tape around a #2 pencil in order to save space.
Watch. You do not want to be the last person in the truck at the end of the day, nor the last person in the truck at the beginning.
Sunscreen. Take it from someone whose shoulder once looked like the aftermath of a nuclear bomb blast, wear sunscreen and apply it often! Even on cold days, the sun’s rays will get you.

Remember that there is a fine line you must walk between owning nice things and bringing nice things out to the bush. Nice things get ruined easily tree planting so buy products that carry good warranties.

Tree planting supplies

Slippery Slope, or Progressive Leap? Quebec’s Euthanasia Bill 52

Pulling the Plug on Life Support

I wrote an article for the website about Quebec’s Euthanasia Bill 52 that I am very happy about and I figured I would share it here:

Recently the Quebec government in Canada proposed legislation guaranteeing a patient’s right to access doctor assisted suicide. Bill 52 is not the first time such legislation has been proposed in Canada or the United States. In fact, New Mexico became the latest State to enact such a law (pending appeal), joining Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. This divisive issue makes for a heated debate amongst those who consider themselves “pro-life” or “pro-euthanasia”.

Stepping away from the vitriol, we examined the issue from both sides. These are the arguments for and against Bill 52.


Material Goods

Material Goods

I sold one of my cameras yesterday and in typical fashion for me, it made me think about how this action relates to a bigger picture. It also must be exam time because I am procrastinating writing by writing.

I have an unhealthy attachment to material goods and as such, selling this camera was a positive action. It was cathartic in so many ways. The camera is a Yashica Mat LM from the 1960s and I bought it about 9 years ago in London, Ontario. It took me a while to remember how I had procured this camera. I sold it to rid myself of something I didn’t use very often and because an extra 200$ is an extra 200$. However it took me a few months of wrestling back and forth to finally sell it. What I thought about today was where did my hesitation in selling this camera come from? What makes this piece of metal(and by the way, I own another Yashica TLR camera) special? What causes attachment?

First, what makes this camera special? My answers to that question would be: it was one of my first camera purchases and that the pictures I have taken with it remind me of a time long past. So, what does it matter that it was one of my first purchases? I didn’t keep my first banjo and I have no idea what the first book I bought on my own is. Music and literature make up part of my identity in the same way photography does. It seems silly to imbue this camera with a sense of specialness for something as mundane as when it was purchased. It took me an afternoon to remember that I had bought it in London, Ontario! Secondly, is it the camera itself that reminds me of the past or is it the pictures I have taken with it? The pictures itself are my reminders and as pictures are an outcome of a process, any of my cameras are capable of this.

Where is the hesitation aside from this? It really is a number of things, all irrational in their own right. What if this camera is unique? What is the value of this camera skyrockets in the future and I miss out? What is my other camera breaks and I’m left with no camera? This fear of missing out or fear of the unknown is beyond silly, however it informs much of what I do. So selling this camera was a way of letting go of this. Would I be upset if this camera was some rare specimen that netted the new owner a lot of money? Yes! But honestly, that chances of that happening are slim to none.

We form attachments to material goods, considered commodities, by turning them into singular objects. This camera, one of tens of thousands like it made, transforms from a commodity by virtue of my imbuing it with meaning. This isn’t a bad thing and we all do it but we are not, or should not be slaves to our material possessions, no matter how attached we believe ourselves to be to them. At least this is how I would like to think…serenity now…