I have a hard time believing I am still here. I know that this feeling is shared by most of us who have been tree planting for so long. This job is cult-like and pulls us in every year. Those who know me know to take this with a grain of salt; but this is definitely my last year. I will most likely do Forestry work of some kind next summer, but not this.
Last year was a banner year for mental health. This made itself known when during planting season I kept a relatively positive mental attitude. This year I am in high spirits, but with a fatalistic frame of mind. On the plane I day dreamed about coming home; the food, the friends and my rooftop patio. I know the feeling of relief that home brings all too well. Unfortunately, it is May 1st and there are some months ahead of me.
The first two weeks are always the hardest. Day one is always the most awkward. Now it is day 9 and the rhythm has come back to my weary legs. I will go into further detail in a later entry but this year we are with a new company and things have been pleasant. Moreover it has made me realize the ways in which our old company took advantage of us.
The heat is insufferable. 30C on a clear cut with dead grass and no shade is insufferable. As of this writing it is May 9th and the central interior of British Columbia is boiling. In contrast, this time last year the lake at our campsite was frozen over and we had to take time off due to snow. This heat is a dry heat that manages to hit you like a wall. It burns you in spite of the UV70 sunscreen and UV30 shirt you have on. It turns your jug of water into steam. It means your body stops producing urine and so you do not pee for 6 hours, even after consuming 4 litres(1 gallon) of water. It hurts your head and makes you dizzy. It makes you contemplate spitting against whatever little wind there is in the hopes that it will come back and hit you in your face. The snow capped mountains in the distance become objects of hatred and jealousy. We do not like the heat.
It is mid-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. I’ll layers this section the same way you should layer your clothing. 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!).
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.
It comes as no surprise that certain experiences associated with tree planting get blocked from my mind. And what I do remember, is remembered in an ephemeral, dream like way. I can think of the rain, but the misery and cold don’t come through. I can remember the heat, but the exhaustion and dizzy spells are overshadowed by the joys of the lake. Campfires, nights in town and the food shine through the mess and act as the gauntlet or Rubicon that all negative thoughts must attempt to filter through.
The bugs however, are instantly erased and forgotten the minute I sit on the plane which brings me home. It is not that they are easy to forget, rather they take such a toll on our psychological well being that they are best forgotten; stored away in the dark recesses of our minds. This is all to say that the bugs are back. Today was flying ant day and the experience of having hundreds of ants landing on you, locked in a feverish love making session is well, traumatic. Add to this the thousands of mosquitoes, no-see-ums and black flies and a small part of you begins to die. I now understand why the Soviets in the Gulag system would use insects as a means of torture. The upside to this all is when through the silence of the woods you hear people scream “fuuuuuuck!!!”.
It has been a busy week. Good weather and lots of planting. Late days make writing hard but I have much ranting to do about the industry and the treatment of planters in my next update.
I will also have to write about the marriage proposal that occurred on our block this week!
The weather this week has been incredible. From our frozen camp-side lake and snowstorms, it quickly transitioned to some of the warmest planting days I’ve experienced. Though its effects were not made known to me immediately, the sun took its toll on my body. By the time I reached my tent that night I felt dizzy and began seeing double. This followed me into the last day of the shift and was relieved by a cold lake and water.
A theme I would like to explore this season is the effect on mental health that planting fosters; both negative and positive. It is not a subject that is often discussed however when one spends hours alone with nothing but your thoughts, you come to know things about yourself you may otherwise not have known, let alone wanted to know. While I find myself being a great orator in a grand conversation in my head, my thoughts meander from money to love to heartbreak, food and home. If I have ever left home with a problem, 2 months of grueling work has solved it. I transport myself to an environment that is so incredibly difficult and different that it must shock my brain into reorginizing itself. I cannot imagine what kind of person I would be without having become a part-time tree planter.
Two glorious days off in a row. Food becomes our priority; snacks, pizza, ice cream; warm showers our oasis and the grocery store as our Mecca. You learn to love your tent and sleeping bag in a way that most people could never love a bed. Likewise you learn to love grocery stores, fast food, motel showers and dive bars in a way that those in your normal life could never understand.
You’ll have to excuse any delay in updating my blog this planting season. Long shifts and spotty internet are making it difficult. However, I have a backlog and will push them out whenever possible. This year has brought many changes and will result in some interesting projects in the year ahead. Apart from shooting film all season, I am also recording hours of audio in the hopes of putting together a pseudo-radio documentary. As for changes, all the foreman save one are rookies(and planting friends from my crew years past) and our supervisor is my foreman from last year and planting friend Dani. Our camp has two supervisors looking after two separate groups of people.
Two supervisors with two separate philosophies and views has made life interesting in camp. While it does not affect us very much, it has made me realize the disconnect between the decision makers and those actually planting. The smallest choice of say a day off or dinner schedule can impact our moral and work in great ways.
The second day of our 5 day shift was cold. My piece(“block” is the clear cut we are planting and “piece” is the divided section each planter gets) was up a long hill and the very top left me alone in such a serene environment. I found myself in front of a snow covered road beside a forest of spruce. The view behind me was that of a lake and an endless valley. I kept thinking about my old babysitter who used to take my brother and I to the arboretum in St Anne De Bellevue. In the winter we would walk and feed the birds from our hands.
The downfall to working in a valley or amongst mountains is that the weather can take drastic turns for the worse. The upside is that from our vantage point, we can view the weather systems approaching and know to prepare for a storm. One day saw 3 storms move in; anything from light hail, to a short blizzard. When we returned to camp, a new system brought a huge blizzard that left our tents covered in snow.
Day 3 of our second shift started with heavy snowfall in the morning. When we got to our block, the snow made it impossible to plant. So we made a giant fire on the logging road and hung out till it melted at 10am. Apart from the morning, it was a terrible and hard day. I yelled a few times and threw my shovel in order to vent throughout. I always appreciate leaving the relative warmth of a Montreal spring for the Canadian north. Our campsite faces a beautiful lake and for our first week it was frozen over with a thin layer of ice. Snow still lines most of the logging roads we drive through.
Season 5 Tree Planting pictures: New foreman, new supervisor, new crew half way through, lightning strikes and pretty much the same old.
Those who know me, know me well enough that when they hear me say “I will never plant another tree in my life”, I am clearly lying. I have been guilty of this repetition after almost every year of planting and come March, I begin anticipating the season ahead. Last year really should have been my last. It was a tough season; with many changes, life-threatening experiences and less money. Yet, here I am, making mental lists of what I’ll need when I fly into Prince George at the beginning of May. The simple answer to why would be: no full-time positions at my work + another full school year ahead = a desperate need for money.
However, the answer is always more complex. I never wanted to be a planter for this long. I still remember the third day of my first year like it was yesterday; freezing cold, slipping down an embarkment during a snowstorm that ended up cancelling our day. I wanted nothing more than to quit and be done with it. And, this is what most people in my life expected me to do. So six years on, what happened?
The pragmatic answer is that I started planting when I wasn’t in school and now that I’m in school, I rely on that source of income. I’d rather spend my summers in Montreal, but planting affords me a certain luxury that is hard to give up.
In my 5 years as a planter I have been fortunate to meet some incredible people. When you spend 2-4 months living, sleeping, working and eating beside the same people, emotional bonds are hard to break. We come from across Canada and apart from the occasional visit, this is the time we get to spend together.
The experiences I’ve had planting pale in comparison to my daily life of school and work. Bar visits and fights, close encounters with bears, being struck by lighting, visiting the Yukon, hiking mountains, being in an environment that few have experienced, dealing with the scary characters that make up the Canadian north, etc. With certain exceptions, I’m glad I went through what I have been through.
Moreover, it is more of the small things; sleeping in a tent, the wildlife, the smell and feel of dirt, the food, the quiet drives and anticipation for the end of a long day. I’m a real sentimentalist apparently.
Finally, if all goes well, this short season of 1.5-2 months will finance a short July/August trip to Europe with Tracey.
I think it normal for everyone at some point, or quite often, to think “what have I done or experienced that is of any value up till this point?” It would be wrong to say that the thought does not enter my head every so often. Thankfully, this unhealthy train of thought is susceptible to simple reflection and I realize that in between my boring life of University, video games and slight socializing, I have had some experiences which people could write short, badly written novels about. Most of these experiences come thanks to my summers tree planting or the little traveling I’ve done. Some stories will never escape my lips(or at the very least never be written on this blog) and others I think I will begin to share. I want to write these here for no other reason than as a way to remember these exciting moments in my life and as an appreciation for the art of creative non-fiction.
Part One – Thomas the Cook:
There is an old tree planting dictum that states: “the cook is your best friend”. This is even more so true when one has dietary concerns. Being friendly with your camp cook can mean larger portions, faster seconds and their willingness to make you delicious food in lieu of a special diet; in my case veganism. A cooks job is not an easy one; Up at 4am, short nap in the afternoon and then cooking/cleaning from 3pm till 11 or 12 at night. So imagine cooking for a camp of 30-40 people while having to prepare a separate meal for one or two people. Needless to say, I’ve stopped short of bribery to ensure the cook and I get along. The camp cook serves several important functions in the life of the tree planter aside from providing sustenance; they are the largest morale boost short of the hottub on a day off. After working for 10 to 12hrs in the bitter cold and rain; burning 2000-3000 calories, food becomes our oasis. Some of my fondest memories these past 5 years involve food in some way. Cold, soggy fajitas after a 17hr day and a third degree burn or eating lasagne with Sam in our work truck at 11pm after we rescued a badly injured Elizabeth and rushed her through 100km of logging roads to the hospital.
In my 5 years of tree planting, 4 have been nothing short of spectacular in regards to the cooking. Teresa, Jen, Abe, Katherine and Vanessa have been amazing cooks and people. Teresa in particular will always hold a place in my heart. Teresa was the cook that people warned me I would never have. She went out of her way to make everyone happy and ensured we were well-fed. Smoothies every morning, sushi, fresh bread and soup every night. We had it far too good to be perfectly honest. I landed in Prince George at the beginning of my third year and found out Teresa had moved on. This is where the story of Thomas the cook begins…
Our camp converged on our yearly orientation meeting in Prince George with rumours swirling. Teresa had left, the new cook Thomas seemed really nice, he used to own a vegan restaurent in India and was a vegetarian cook from Ottawa. I couldn’t have been happier. In the dank conference hall of the German owned motel we were in, my eyes focused on a tallish man with a moustache and fedora, arms crossed and sitting on a table facing the crowd. This was Thomas and when it came time for him to address the crowd, his kurt, brutish manner managed not to betray our expectations for the summer ahead. As is my custom, I approached Thomas after orientation in order to introduce myself and offer to help out in any way, considering my dietary limitations. His response: “Vegan? Yeah. We’ll see what happens.”
His lack luster cooking did not however, betray his cold response. For a cook claiming to have owned a proper vegan restaurant, his use of canned food and frozen vegetables lacked quite the imagination. While the meat-eaters enjoyed their steaks, et al, the vegetarians and vegans were stuck with repetitive, terrible meal choices. I went to bed hungry more often than not and our displeasure became very apparent. Three weeks into our season and we began to witness the crazy side of Thomas. His wonderful assistant quit in a stream of tears after having obscenities hurled at her and Thomas barely spoke a word to anyone in camp. So now that Thomas was the only cook in camp, the food situation for the vegetarians became worse than it had been. By this point, Thomas scared us to the point where no one dared question his cooking and morale was low. Do not forget the point to which food plays a critical role in our lives. We stopped speaking of food on our rides home except to complain or express pity for the vegetarians. The atmosphere in the mess tent was sullen and bleak. Our oasis of food was revealed to be a mirage, an illusion of Teresa and a joke on the word edible.
After another meal of frozen vegetables and unpalatable goop, I hit my breaking point and took up our case with the camp supervisor, Jim. Upon our return to camp after our day off, I saw Thomas unloading the food for the coming week. I was walking towards my tent when I heard a whistle followed by Thomas calling my name. I met him behind the school bus kitchen where I met him sitting on a ramp, slightly elevated above me.
â€œWhat is your problemâ€ He asked, cold eyes locked on me.
â€œAre you such an ass that you couldn’t talk to me about my cookingâ€
â€œWell you are not the most approachable person AND, it is Jim’s job to deal with thisâ€
â€œWhat’s wrong with my cooking? You’re the ONLY person who seems to hate it. I asked all the vegetarians in camp and they love my cooking!â€ – Thomas was an intimidating figure. The majority of people who told him his cooking was decent had done so out of fear.
â€œThat is not what I have heard. You feed us mostly frozen veggies…etcâ€
â€œWhy the fuck did you go to Jim?â€ His hands were gripping the edge of the ramp and his body kept lurching towards me.
â€œIt’s his job, calm down Thomas. What is your problem? Stop yelling.â€
â€œProblem?â€ He brought his face down within centimetres of mine. â€œYou want to see a fucking problem? How about I headbutt you, then you’ll have a fucking problemâ€
I don’t exactly remember what happened next but visibly shaken, I most likely uttered something embarrassingly awkward and walked away. I made my way across camp to a work truck in which sat Sam and Tim. As I explained to them what had just occurred, voice trembling, we noticed Thomas sitting inside a truck opposite us. He sat staring, not moving a muscle except to slowly drink from his beer. He sat there with his gaze fixed for the next half an hour. The next morning I nervously waited in line for Thomas to serve breakfast. Thomas looked me in the eyes and said:
â€œSince you’re so special and have such special needs, I’m not going to feed you.â€ That morning I had no breakfast and that night, my friends had to sneak me my supper. This ended the next morning when Jim exchanged choice words with Thomas.
This is where the bi-polarity of Thomas and his insanity took new and different turns. Thomas, now forced to feed me, refused to look me in the eye as I refused to look in his. Slowly he began to alienate more and more planters. Dani and Jess incurred his wrath and he began to loudly complain that we were not holding our plates high enough for him to properly serve us food. The strangest thing during this time was that Thomas began acting like my best friend. Huge smiles, friendly greetings and a vast improvement in the quality of my food. I was perplexed. Though our relationship had outwardly improved, his manner became more inexplicable. Thomas began sleeping inside the kitchen bus. When informed of such a health hazard, he set up his tent on the roof of the bus and someone caught Thomas filling up our camps juice reserves with lake water instead of the purified water at hand. The nail in the insanity coffin however, was his behaviour when left alone. Joel, a planter, had injured himself and spent his days doing menial tasks in camp. Thomas would sporadically sneak up behind Joel, laugh maniacally in his face and walk away in silence. Or if they were to pass each other, Thomas would literally scream gibberish in Joel’s face and then continue on his way.
With the culmination of these events and the inability of our company to find a replacement cook(something I still take issue with) a meeting was called. Instead of our usual meeting in camp, Jim made us drive several kilometres down the road, so as to speak privately with the 50 of us. We aired our grievances, spoke loudly over each other, expressed our fears and were eventually told that we would have to deal with him for our final 3 weeks. With one week left to go in our season and Thomas appearing as normal as he’d ever been, he just suddenly disappeared. Our season was going to be extended by an extra week and Thomas had already booked his flight home. So a day before his flight and with a week still left in our season, he “fell off a ramp and injured his back” and had to be driven into town. What a mess. The season ended with a great cook who was forced to leave her other camp.
There was a polarity to Thomas that spoke to a severe mental illness. He had reduced an assistant to tears several times over, threatened me with physical violence and refused to feed me only to reverse course and act as my best friend two weeks later. He smiled at us one day, scowling the next and abused his authority in hazardous ways. Three years ago, this was one of my first encounters with the rope-walk of mental illness and how poorly that reality co-exists with a broader reality. The world of the mentally ill does exists in an alternate universe, albeit one that runs alongside our own. This is something I would later see in myself and in many others. Thomas taught me valuable lessons in diplomacy and stress, as well as in how to deal with psychosis in the work place. In much the same way that my worse days as a tree planter begat life lessons and positive memories, this episode has turned into a great story to tell as well as a lesson for our entire camp and more importantly, our company.
I’ve only started sifting through this summers tree planting pictures but so far, I’m pretty happy. This picture in particular may be one of the best pictures I’ve ever taken.
There is little that frightens me while tree planting. Being the tallest object in a clearcut, holding a metal shovel and standing in boots with metal spikes during a lightning storm however, does.
This is all to say, we’ve had a lot of rainy, wet, cold days this year. More than I can remember. We’ve had two days cancelled on account of snow, one of those days occurring only 2 weeks ago. The last 2 shifts planting in Quesnel, BC had rain falling on us each and every day. The problem with this is that after two days of rain…all the clothes are soaked and cold with no hope of drying.
Planting itself has been good this season. Too good. We spent those two rainy shifts planting trenched land(lines of dirt in neatish rows that require no thought) and most of us planted very high numbers. I broke my personal best and collapsed from exhaustion 200 trees away from a planting milestone.
I cannot properlly express that feeling of exhaustion to you. You stumble and talk to yourself and cannot think straight. It is a paradox in planting; if you don’t take breaks to eat during the day you’ll have more time to plant but if you don’t take breaks to eat you won’t be able to plant.
We are now in the surprisingly sunny Vanderhoof region of British Columbia and one day in I am looking forward to a day off.
I believe lifestyles that are based on a strong social aspect or common cause are the most difficult to leave. When I am in camp on a sunny day, surrounded by friends and not planting, I find it hard to think about saying goodbye.
The job itself is easy enough to imagine leaving. The people, lifestyle, my tent, campfires, occasional adventure and landscape however, not so much.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the comfort of a warm bed in a warm room in my lovely city as much as anyone else but I’ve come to really love and be comfortable in a tent.
The outdoors are another aspect of my life I can be geeky about. I went for a true-blooded city boy to one who can talk your ear off about tents and raingear material and hiking, etc.
When this is over, I mean really over, I don’t know what I’ll do with myself!? Maybe a bike tour next summer? Maybe a month on the Appalachian trail?
A lot of people have asked me about my Australia plans. As I expected, things are up in the air. It’s still a good possibility but certain aspects of the trip have not fallen into place. Updates will follow and regardless of what happens, an adventure is sure to come.
The old saying If only I knew then what I know now is rarely more accurate than in the tree planting bubble. There is a wealth of information available on the internet but making your way through it without reference and arriving at a practical conclusion is next to impossible. If I had listened to some of the older members of certain tree planting message board 5 years ago, I wouldn’t have brought an iPod with me! How ridiculous that would have been in retrospect. There are essential items that I have done without for 4 years and it has always been at the expense of comfort and warmth. There are essential items I’ve had from day one and I do not know how I could have lived without.
With this in mind I’ve decided to make a short list of the items I believe to be absolutely essential to a productive, warm and comfortable tree planting season:
-Tent: People survive perfectly well with 50$ Canadian Tire tents. They are waterproof and offer the headroom most technical tents lack. But all it takes is one snowstorm, one windstorm or a deluge of rain to level your tent, leaving your expensive goods soaked or broken. Spend the money on a 3 person tent from a reputable company, take care of it and you’ll have it for years to come. During a heavy snowfall 2 years ago, my 250$ MEC tent was one of the only tents to not collapse overnight.
-Rain gear: My first year tree planting, it rained for 21 days in a row! It sucks to be wet and cold, I cannot tell you how much it sucks to be cold and wet. Spend a little bit of extra money on good rain gear. Don’t buy 50$ plastic crap and don’t buy a cheap poncho. Seriously. You need something that will keep you dry after a full day of torrential rain and something that will breath during those sunny gaps. Good rain gear will also cut the wind and keep you warm(I wear a fleece sweater underneath my jacket and bike in the winter). Gore-Tex or other membranes are probably your best bet but if you cannot afford it, there are less expensive and great alternatives(North Face Hyvent or MEC Yoho as an example).
Also, it’s a good idea to bring an extra jacket. A 60$ K-Way packs up super small and is great for emergencies. I lost my rain jacket 2 weeks into my 2nd season and can clearly remember hiding behind a giant spruce tree with my hands down my crotch, shivering furiously for an hour. This was followed by a moment of madness and the stripping off of my clothing for the rest of the day.
-Sleeping Bag: A synthetic -7C sleeping bag with a fleece liner. Do it.
-Sleeping Pad: 4 years of tree planting and I have never owned a proper sleeping pad. You’ll usually find me running to the dollar store a few hours before my flight to buy a 1$ “yoga mat”. I am an idiot, don’t be one too. Because your body squishes the insulation on the bottom of your sleeping bag, you end up losing a lot of heat through the ground. A good sleeping pad will insulate you, keeping the cold away. Buy a short pad with an R-Value of at least 2.5 and you’ll be set.
-iPod: Anyone I’ve met who didn’t bring an iPod or an MP3 player larger than 4gb’s, either regretted their decision immediately or were of a disposition that edged closer to ‘sociopath’ than anything else. Music is a lifesaver. You are alone for 8-12 hours a day and without music you will find yourself going mad. An upside is that music blocks out the sound of mosquitos. A down side is that is also blocks out the sound of that wasp nest you just planted your shovel into. Bring an extra pair of shitty headphones and make sure to store your MP3 player somewhere clean(I wrap mine in clear lunchbags and duct tape).
-Fleece/Layering: It wasn’t until last year that I discovered the magic of fleece. Cotton is the worst material you can have in the woods. When cotton gets wet, it gets cold and stays cold. Go to Value Village and buy a fleece zip-up. Fleece and wool help regulate your body temperature and stay warm when wet. I winter bike and wear a fleece zip-up with a waterproof hardshell and wether it’s 0C or -40C i’m always warm and dry. Learn to layer properly with the right material and you will have a comfortable season.
-Gloves: My biggest issue are my hands. They get insanely cold and I become insanely miserable. I would recommend keeping a pair of gloves in your day bag to warm your hands up during breaks and I would recommend wearing a warm and waterproof glove on your shovel hand.
-Frisbee: One half entertainment and one half dinner plate. Enough said.
Money is always an issue. Most people who tree plant are poor students and it can be hard to justify spending so much money on gear. Look at it like an investment. Spend the money on good gear, pay it off during your first season and you’ll never have to worry about it again.
I’ll add to the list if anything else comes to mind.
There is always a silver lining to bad situations. If the tree planting motto is Hurry Up And Wait, it could very well be followed by Don’t Panic.
For those who are thinking of going tree planting or are waiting to start their first year, let me tell you that patient is the only real virtue in the north; and money…is money a virtue? You will no doubt be told that you are absolutely starting your season on May 5th. You will almost certainly book your flight with this information in mind only to be told several days later that you are in fact, only starting on the 9th. You will call you airline and indignantly agree to the 250$ re-booking fee. The ultimate kick in the metaphorical testicles will be when the very next day, you’ll receive word that you are in fact starting on the 10th; information which could have saved you 150$ had you known of it the previous day. You will no doubt begin to experience odd heart palpitations and an Arkansas tornado season style headache. Be prepared.
The silver lining of course is that this will give you a few extra days to prepare for the long summer that awaits you.
This is all to say that yes, I am returning for a 5th season. A 5th season! This year though, I do not plan on staying long. The sunny beaches, burning barbies and Foster’s of Australia(<3 Chris) are calling my name, as well as the possibility of spending a good part of my summer in a rather beachless Montreal. It has been a wonderful year so far. School went extremely well and I spent the last few months working with some great people in a camping/outdoor goods store. The latter has given me the technical know-how and confidence that I lacked in previous years. As such, I feel that I am going to at the very least be a little warmer, dryer and comfortable this season. New and lighter coat, new bag, new sleeping bag, less clothing, less camera gear, warmer socks, fleece, fleece, fleece.
Welcome to the land of grown ups. We all leave our homes, live our lives, do terrible things, good things, things we want to forget or capture and 3 months later, we return to another form of our grown up lives.
If you are a tree planter/forestry worker or are thinking of joining the ranks then it’s important to note that this job requires a complete interruption of all normality for the summer and each subsequent summer you return, and you probably will return.
Relationship? It’ll end. Friends? You will return to them with stories they can’t relate to and experiences you’ve missed out on.
As pessimistic as this may be, I do truly believe that the positive aspects of this job and experience have greatly outweighed the negatives. My friends are still my friends, I’ve gained a lot of experience and have many stories to tell on top of making lot’s of money, new friends and getting in shape.
I must say, we’ve got quite the motley crew working right now. We are a bunch of dirty and tired broadcast sprayers and we have not spent much time in civilized society(and this dirty 20$-a-night motel is not civilized)
When one of our crew members parents heard of our plight, they did the unexpected and invited us all over, all 16 of us, to a BBQ at their family home.
Boy, what a ratty bunch we were, I cannot stress this enough. We rolled up, dressed in our Sunday best. A ratty pair jeans and a black polo, the nicest western shirt Fuz could find, a Canucks shirt and a black Hot Water Music shirt(the band, not a Bukowski reference)
Merlot(pronounced: Mer-lot) was served, steaks were cooked for each of us and we succeeded in not being a complete embarrassment in the civilized world. We all walked around afraid of staining the white carpets, swearing in front of the parents, who swore more than any of us and we all made sure to use our forks and knives.
I don’t know if I’ve ever felt like such a fish out of water.
Flying from Vancouver on a small plane powered by propellers and flying low, the landscape is littered with fire lines. The 400 fires, most of which are burning in the area I’m about to go work in, have left the air smokey and barely breathable.
We were all laid off in early July and I went back to Montreal for a much needed break. I biked, saw friends and ate too much food.
Now I am back in British Columbia to spray herbicide into clear cuts, a job that isn’t as evil and awful as you might think(and we should discuss the reasons why tree planting isn’t wonderful for the environment one day)
There is a saying in Forestry and speaks volumes; “Hurry up and wait”. We spend so much time waiting, sitting in motel rooms, drinking coffee, flying across the country only to find out that work doesn’t start for another 4 days and none of it is paid. But when you do work and life is miserable and you are dreaming of home but you remember how much money you’re making, it’s all worth it.
So far I’ve flown in, had a day off , floated down the river on a mattress, worked one day and now have another day off.
We had a 3 hour drive yesterday to get to a cut block. We drove into the mountains and passed by little towns with three residents, closed down mills, general stores that have been long abandoned. Even in bigger towns in Northern Canada you realize how unpredictable life and money are. These cities have been built on the back of a dying industry and little by little, the jobs and people leave. These small, quaint, lovely towns suffer from drug problems, theft, prostitution and violence that only gets worse as the market plummets.
It began with a dull pain and was promptly filed under the “it must be a bug bite” category. After our final planting day in Vanderhoof we took our day off in Prince George and spent some much needed time doing absolutely nothing.
When a bump appeared above my bellybutton and the pain continued, I became worried. We set up camp in Hixon, I planted for two days and was told to stop working until I could see a doctor. So I spent a boring day as a tree checker and grabbed a ride at night into the Prince George Emergency Room.
I entered the Emergency room and signed in with the nicest and admirably patient nurses I have yet to meet. Passing two elderly woman on a stretcher as I went to take my seat, they whispered, “Boy, he’s gonna be here a long time”
It may be a function of an emergency room at 10pm but a room of such sickly people, I had yet to witness.
There were the sickly looking native woman, the sickly looking mustached man, the sickly/pasty looking kid, the obese woman squeezed into chairs, the football jock with a concussion and the constant flow of homeless men. All the while the silence is pierced by the television playing some insidious kids show and the room is made unbearable by the stench of booze.
Before my eyes have time to adjust the sickly/pasty looking kid gets to his feet and projectile vomits onto the sickly looking mustached man. This is the point where I realized would be in for a sad and long evening.
Two hours pass and people have come and gone. The sickly/pasty looking kid has vomited several more times and replacing the obese woman in front of me is a prison inmate and his prison guard. While the prison guard keeps making little remarks about his companions lack of freedom, the prison inmate, while mild mannered, keeps loudly referring to the prison guards salary and current overtime status. This goes back and forth for most of the night.
The football jock was knocked out and does not remember anything from that day. The entire night he repeats the same four or five lines ad nauseum.
“The only thing I remember was watching the UFC last night.” “When does our season start again?” “I feel like I just woke up from a dream.” “It’s funny because I normally have a great memory.” “I watched the UFC last night but don’t know who won.” “My memory is normal so good, this is frustrating.” “What day is it? When does our season start again.” “All I remember is watching the UFC last night.”
At midnight as I’m left wondering, ‘If the kid vomiting over everyone and the jock with a terrible concussion haven’t seen a doctor, when will I’?
I finally get called in and am told not too worry, to return to work but to keep an eye out on my issue and return if it gets any worse. So the doctor doesn’t know whats wrong with me but it’s not a herniated muscle, which would require surgery. He seems to want me to leave his examination room asap and with good reason but I left with the good news I wanted. Good enough I guess? If I am dead within the week from internal bleeding, we all know who to blame.
He asked the question knowing that no matter the response, the follow up would be the same,
“Ever shot a gun?”
The answer was no and the follow up was, “Well do ya wanna shoot one?”
Mike, missing front teeth, built solid and lacking in the ability to include the letter G at the end of words like ‘fishin’, ‘shootin’, ‘goin’ and his two friends had decided to join our camp as we celebrated our night off. Natives of the Nazko Valley, we met them with certain apprehention but mostly thought nothing of them.
Mike led me to his truck where his two friends we sitting inside. Obviously drunk at this point, Mike pulls out a .303 rifle, loads it with a bullet and hands it off to me. This was probably when I realized that maybe these weren’t the type of people who should be handling firearms. Any doubts in my head were quickly erased as I watched all three of them do excessive amounts of cocaine. Being the friendly folk that they are, they offered and I flatly refused.
“Anyone here do hard shit or are they all pussies smokin’ weed? Tell them we got extasy for sale”
My nights sleep was lovely and included getting woken up at 4am by gunshots, yelling, threats of fire, threats of theft, fist fights and car tires screeching off.
This was a week before our 6 day shift to end our first contract. Our final day ended in a small blizzard but was made up for by 3 days in the city and a hottub at our motel.
We find ourselves in Vanderhoof for this contract and can be found at kilometer 124 on the Kluskus. This puts us 2hrs away from the nearest town.
The atmosphere in our camp is tense. If an Elementary school Model UN Club and the participants of the Special Olympics formed a group and were given pointy sticks and duct tape, it would very much resemble our camp rivalry. We are divided into little suburbs of tents and war has been declared between my Republic(led by me) and Fuzistan(which is led by Fuz and includes Zakrak and Timdia)
It started with me stealing Fuz’s flag, was followed by Fuz spreading toilet paper around my tent and ended with me locking Fuz out of his tent. While a treaty was brokered for night off, I fully expect to come back to the burnt remains of my tent later today.
The sun was shining on the day I left. Running to the bank and dollar store before heading to the airport left beads of sweat running down my face. Even as thunder clouds started making noise in the distance, I relished in the warmth of my Montreal home knowing full well that the one place in the country not enjoying the same treatment was where I would be spending the next 3 months.
And how right I was.
The mornings are cold. The mornings are cold enough to freeze the water in our bottles, freeze the pipes carrying our dish/shower water, cold enough to freeze wet dishes together and leave a thick coating of frost on every truck window. We don’t expose our hands and most of us drink the awful coffee not for the taste but so our hands can touch something a little warmer than the inside of our pockets.
While the mornings are hard to bare, the days have been nice. You quickly undress as you begin your day and apart from the few flakes of snow, we’ve been lucky enough to see mostly sunshine.
We have a lot of new people in our camp this year. It’s really interesting to watch them plant and think: “was that really me?”
The best thing about having a camp of rookies is that everyone gets along. No cliques are made, everyone enjoys the campfire and tries to remember everyones names(this is with the exception of one crew which has completely isolated itself from the rest of camp for whatever reason)
And it should be noted that unlike last year, the food in great and the cooks are wonderful! While I hoped to really focus on life as a vegan tree planting, I have not made that a focus on this blog. The first 2 seasons we had a wonderful cook who really took care of me as the only vegan. Last year…well I will sum up last year with a quote from the cook to myself:
“if you think we have a problem, I’ll fucking headbutt you, then we’ll see who has a problem” Needless to say, we didn’t get along and when he didn’t refuse to feed me, I still ended up going to bed hungry.
This year has seen a return to the great food one should expect from the cooks. The soups are vegan, the bread is vegan and delicious and the options have been wonderful.
I was visiting MEC today with some friends, buying some stuff for our bikes and other tidbits(it’s so easy to spend too much money at that store) when I overheard someone talking about going out planting. We chit-chatted for a while and I got too thinking that I haven’t mentioned the fact that I’ll be leaving for season four of tree planting in a little over a week. Season four, can you believe it? I can’t. It seems like yesterday that little, overweight Jeremy nervously planted his first tree. I still remember the first piece of land I ever got. It was a beautiful, flat, trenched piece. I had no idea what I was doing and planted against the trenches. For those reading this who have no idea what I just wrote, sorry.
I leave on May 3rd and I have so much left to do. See doctor, see friends, get gear in order, fix tent, etc. All of this with an exam next week(on my birthday!)
As usual I will be writing throughout the season and this year promises to be good. My writing skills have greatly improved, I will still be dealing with being a vegan tree planter, I’m in better shape going in than ever and fingers crossed, will make good money.
Another season came and went. This was probably the most unique season I’ve had. It was definitely the season with the most work although I did hate my life a lot less and we all had some really interesting adventures.
This year I tried doing two different things. For one I tried telling a story with my writing. I wanted something funnier and more descriptive, not the “on X we did Y” style of my previous years.
And secondly I wanted to really capture the emotions, people and lifestyle that lends itself to these summers. I took a lot of portraits and tried to have a camera on me(both film cameras) at all times.
I hope you enjoy the results: Click here to see pictures.
Today we were rained on twice, I got stung by a wasp, I fell a lot, climbed a few rock cliffs and fell into a swamp up past my knee’s. We also had to re-do 3 hours of work apon the owners request. Best 100$ I’ve ever made!
While staring at the white wall in front of me, the brown linolium flooring with it’s burn marks and the hosptial bed most likely dating back to the Korean war underneath me, I find myself missing the warm and friendly glow of my stereo system.
When I’m lying on my floor late at night, the jazz quietly overtaking my room, I fall asleep to the warm glow my amplifier emits. The light hits the floor, my dirty clothes, the magazines and books and exposes the raised area’s of my blankets.
I miss this and the sounds of John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong that make me feel like everything is just a little less futile.
As a town of 400 people, Bear Lake, BC has only one transexual prostitute. A number much lower than most towns in Northern British Columbia I imagine.
This being my second year in Bear Lake, I feel like I know this town well enough to avoid it at all costs.
Last year my experiences broke down to three seperate incidents.
The first occured as I passed a room and watched the owner of this motel, a middle aged Native Charles Bronson lookalike, call his son a “fuckin’ idiot’ before pushing him and threatening to smash his face in for accidentally breaking an oven.
The second involved finding out that the toilet water leaked into our oven whenever someone flushed.
The third was while we were tree planting last year and we were camping beside the motel in the attached camp grounds. I was camped beside the highway, fast asleep when I was awoken by the sounds of a group of young kids belonging to the ‘Bear Lake Krew’.
My anger turn to pure amusement with the loudest of the gang yelling,
“I swear to god, if Clarisa opens her fuckin’ mouth again I’m going to kick her fuckin’ ass”
My headphones were promptly inserted after the same girl yelled,
“The first two times I got pounded…it hurt and I didn’t even enjoy it!”
From Bear Lake we will be moving to Houston, BC. A town with the world’s largest mill and a population just as interesting as say…the world’s largest mill. Till next time…
I don’t now if I’ve ever wished for winter or a cold, cold death more than now.
For over a week now tempuratures in Northern British Columbia have surpassed 30 degrees. This was more than ok when we had time off and floated down the Nechako river, but when you’re spending 8-10hours a day outside, slowly moving through cut blocks, I manage to quickly think of all the winter activities I normally loathe.
Wake up at 5am. Get to the cut block for 7am. Work till 2pm and then go back to the motel with dreams of the river, only to fall asleep and wake up in a pool of sweat. I’ll shower to cool down, position the fan beside me and from 3pm till bedtime at 11pm, I lie down, turn the TV on and do not move.
I feel like this would be the life i’d lead if I moved to Prince George and ended up in a trailer home. With my dog rusty and a wife beater tan that speaks to my ‘Bud’ friends.
And now we start spray. Wake up at 4am. Drive to the cut block and strap 45 pounds of herbicide to your back. Run up and down a hillside and hope to not die, or get chemical in your eyes.
The upside is that I’ll make more money doing this for 3 weeks than I’ve ever made in my life.
With all this in mind, I’ve booked my flight home, my school application is in the mail and I’m appetite for G-Tao is as strong as ever.
“Ok! You wait right here!” her eyes furrowed.
“Don’t you move young lady, just don’t move” she relaxed her glare and immediately took off into the approaching darkness.
Ten minutes later, she reappeared and we kicked ourselves for going through that red light. The red light and sign that told us to wait for the pilot car to come take us across the mountain pass.
“Let this be a lesson to you, never cross the red light. There has been an accident up ahead and that fellow crossed the red light.”
Leaving us feeling guilty, the plump woman walked back to her truck and we began to follow.
The accident was fairly serious and involved a Diesel tanker truck upside down, it’s payload of diesel spilling all over the ground and the driver stuck upside down in his crushed cab.
Now I understand peoples need or want to help(I even left the car to see if I could help them contain the spill) but I feel like it’s less altruism and more of the selfish ‘hero’ thing for most people.
A word to American tourists:
If the tanker is spilling diesel at an alarming rate, don’t try and pry the door open.
If the driver says he is “ok”, don’t try and pry him out. You could break his neck.
On a final note to “Norm”, the construction foreman, if the diesel is pooling around the driver and a lightning storm has started, pulling the metal door open with your truck might create a spark and well, isn’t the safest idea.
“Just pray to god, that’s all you can do”
She ends with, “Don’t you worry though, Norm is here, he is the foreman and he knows what to do”
As we quickly back our car up 500meters from the accident and wait, our minds couldn’t help but flood with visions of the impending explosion.
Dawson City is truly the biggest tourist trap a current mining town could ever be. Among the gift shops and ice cream parlors, drunk old men harass the pretty girls and you start wondering who exactly feels most out of place here.
1/4 of the buildings here lean on a 45degree angle and not a single road is paved. Although the music festival blends in a folksy, gospel, jazzy, dancy sound, a walk through the beer gardens would have you thinking otherwise.
At times when I would get lost in the mood and feeling the town gives off, a shirtless, flip-flop wearing “Chad” would pass me and call me a fag, or a homo and proceed to hi-five his friends and walk away. By the time i’d forgotten such incidents and i’d begin to romantically look at the 100 year old churches and old whorehouses, a group of kids would walk by me and in a drunken stupor, begin to fight.
This probably best describes much of the atmosphere of the music festival and town, it should not overshadow how truly amazing a weekend we all had. The music was overwhelming and the music workshops were amazing. The food was great and the town was beyond rustic and beautiful. Top that off with a long but enjoyable ride(with a stop at the Liard Hotsprings) and i’m already thinking about how I can do this again next year.
For now it’s back to work. My flight home has been booked and so now I need to concentrate on making as much money as possible in the little time I have left.
Till next time…
Like little kamikaze fighters, they attack. The swerve right, then left and when you are not paying attention, wham! Bug in the mouth. They are relentless, fearless and at the very least, incredibly annoying! If it’s not the mosquitoes, it’s the black flies or the horse flies or the wasps. And I don’t know what it is but they seem to always go for the same targets, the ears, nose or mouth.
Planting is done with. There were rumors of a summer plant in Alberta but I don’t see much hope of it. So for the past week or so i’ve been sleeping in a motel in Quesnel, spraying Herbicide. It’s called “Basal Spray”(Pronounced: Basil) and you put on a clunky plastic pack, cover-alls and gloves(which all make you look like a ghostbuster) and you go to 3 or 4 year old planted cut blocks and you slowly walk around squirting herbicide onto tiny aspen tree’s. It’s incredibly slow and boring but the money has been much better than planting on some days.
I’m not sure if I miss planting yet. I enjoy plantings solitude and the fact that all I do is listen to music, stick 300 or so tree’s in my bag and ignore everyone for an hour at a time. With Basal you don’t listen to music and you are always working beside 3 or 4 other people.
The upside, because there is one, is that I am being forced to be social and I really liked the people I work with. And…I get to sleep in my own bed every night and get to take a warm shower.
And on a final note, planting did end really well this year. Our last contract was on old farmers fields. I beat my record for most tree’s planted in a day and I made good money doing it, we all did.
Tomorrow, Soili and I leave for the Yukon. I am going to the Dawson City Music Festival. I’ll be gone for a week or so and then it’s right back to work. I am beyond excited to be able to take some time off work and to get to explore a place i’ve never been to before.
I promise to update more and expect pictures soon!
Something incredible has happened to us wonderfull tree planters. We have 2 days off…in a row! How strange.
My plan for the day is to buy a notepad because what always happens is that I spend 10 hours a day with nothing to do but think and the second I get in front of a computer, my mind goes blank. So I really need to start writing things down.
For lack of anything interesting to say, apart from that it was a super long shift, camp drama became overwhelming and that we really partied hard last night, here is a video that describes exactly how I feel about my life at the moment:
Welcome to another year of tree planting. Another year of 6am wake up’s, sore feet, tired minds, thoughts of money and rain and snow.
This being my third year, it feels like nothing new. It feels like I was here yesterday when in fact, sitting in the UNBC computer lab in Quesnel, my memories take me back to 3 years ago.
It’s been a weird mixture of emotions going in. On one hand I feel extremely homesick. I know what i’m in for this year. It’s going to rain, it’s going to get hot and my hands and body will hurt. At the very same time, 1 week in, I don’t want this to end. I will have some amazing times with people I only see once a year and who I may never get to see again. There will be trips to the lake, random moments in trucks, wildlife that beats Montreal’s by a long shot.
Things are different this year. My first year was hard yet everything was new. My second year was hard emotionally and was always being compared to the first. Now this year things feel a lot more settled. I am in no way the worlds best tree planter but I don’t feel so awful. The rain sucks but it’ll pass, the bugs aren’t out yet and if i’m cold, I know to just move. Yet the days seem to be passing by much slower.
This has been a weird first week. It’s been nice seeing everyone again and my crew has lucked out and gotten great land.
The greatest part of the week has got be the snow. It has snowed almost everyday our first shift. While it snowed on our third day I was beside the treeline thinking to myself that this felt very much like being in New York on a brisk christmas day…while being chased by a mugger.
On a final note about the snow, this morning we woke up to about 5-7cm on fresh snow! Some of our tents caved in and we had to cancel planting for the day because you just can’t see the tree’s you’re putting into the ground! So i’m in a warm building about to go into a warm pool and i’m going to forget about where I am for an afternoon. Well…i’ll still be worrying about money.
Most listened to artists of the week:
The Get Up Kids,
This American Life Podcasts
It’s all over for another year. I am writing this from the Prince George airport, waiting for my flight to Vancouver to arrive.
I am sorry about the lack of updates this past month but my life has been focused on work. Since I last wrote(from McBride) there have been a ton of great things, terrible things and great stories.
After planting in McBride three of us from Jwatts crew joined up with another crew and did some herbicide spray in Revelstoke. We were working under 500,000 volt power lines spraying herbicide to kill all the plants which may grow tall enough to touch the power lines. This was some of the hardest work I have ever done but I made really good money considering it wasn’t full broadcast spray. And in retrospect, rapelling done a cliff with 60 pounds straped to your back and nothing to hold on to was pretty fun and if anything, it made summer plant seem that much easier.
So I am currently writing this from a little cabin the the mountains beside a tiny mill. Sounds pretty romantic doesn’t it?
This past week we’ve been in Mcbride, BC, about 2 hours away from Jasper and it has been one of the most interesting and hardest weeks of my life.
This post is going to come off as negative and it is for a reason but there has been some really good times. So let me set it up.
Spring plant ended last week and what tends to happen is that you get a giant break inbetween spring contract and summer. You can take a break like I did last year or you can work and luckily my crew has found work finishing up contracts for other companies(we’re still working for Spectrum but Sprectrum is acting as a sun-contractor)
So we got sent to Mcbride and we really had to no idea what was coming up. Regardless we got to stay at a small cabin with two bathrooms and a huge kitchen and we actually had beds to sleep in and the town was right beside us. The downside to this is that we had to buy and cook our own food and you spend so much money on food. Aswell, when you just spent 10 hours planting in hell, you do not want to cook your own food…you want it ready for you and you want a lot of it.
So we get to a clearing on the first day and we got to take a helicopter to the block!!! I was so excited. The road up ahead was full of huge holes and rivers and it was a 2km hike to the area we needed to plant so we had to take a helicopter in. We land and the only thing we see around us is a raging river, massive snow capped mountains and forest. To our disappointment, we found out that we had to plant the forest…up the mountain. Usually they clear cut area’s and then get rid of the vegetation before it’s planted. In this case the loggers came, cut down only the biggest tree and all vegetation was left. So we are planting a forest, uphill and there are tons of weeds, devil’s club(a spiny vine that grows in patches and lodges it’s needles into you) and trap doors(when you go to put your foot down on what looks like solid ground and you fall through a hole)
I cannot give this justice. It was the toughest planting i’ve ever done and it was harsh. We went from planting 2000-3000 tree’s a day to struggling to plant 500-1000. We normally get 11cents a tree for normal to bad land and here we were making 24cents a tree! Imagine hiking up the rocky mountains, straight up, no path with 60 pounds on your back…oh and for anyone who has planted before, we were planting 132 boxes of spruce!
To make it that much better, it took us much longer than we originally thought so after the second day we didn’t have a helicopter anymore and we had to do that 2km walk in. Everytime we had to cross this river and everytime the current got the best of me and glacier water rushed into my boots. Did I mention the bears?
All in all it’s been a good week though. We made no money, froze in the rain and planted some of the worst land you can plant but we stayed in a cabin instead of our tents, we spent this week in the rocky mountains and believe me…it’s so beautiful here and we got to hangout with just our crew. Mcbride might eat the souls of tree planters but I don’t regret coming out here.
From here on out it’s a little uncertain. We still have a week till summer plant and we hopefully will find some more planting work and if not we can so basil spray for a week. After that I think i’ll go do summer plant. I think I can make ok money and that is important. I also don’t want to leave my crew early…we’ve had a lot of good times this year.
I stayed up till 1am last night writing out what I was going to talk about here and I completely forgot my notepad in the motel room!
It was quite the interesting week…infact i’d say it was one of the most eventfull weeks in recent memory. Snowstorms, hospital visits, money and golf.
It was a 5 day shift that began with a snowstorm and ended in a snowstorm. Day 1 we arrive and it’s snowing outside, we hike in 2 km and get to work. We made tons of money. Day 2 was really nice except for the rain and we made tons of money. Day’s 3 and 4 we took hour long breaks, sat down for most of the day and made little money and day 5 was spent making tons of money again.
Day 2 was a fill plant. So a fill block is an area of land that was once planted and for whatever reason many tree’s died. Your job is to go in and fill those holes. Sometimes you need to put in 300 tree’s and sometimes 20. Either way you get paid as if you had planted all the tree’s that are already there. I planted around 2000 tree’s that day and made 3 times more money than what I planted.
Day 5 was the last day of our spring contract so the entire camp planted together to try and get rid of the extra tree’s lying around(about 60,000 tree’s) We get to our block in the morning in a huge snowstorm and the ground is completely covered in snow! Luckily the skies cleared and it all melted but it made for an interesting couple of hours. Normally on the last day of contract you make very little money because everyone is competing for tree’s and no one really wants to work but I actually worked hard for the first time on an overflow block and made decent money.
The craziest part of my week would have to be my trip to the hospital. On day 2 Sam and I were trying to finish up our peice on the fill block at around 7:30pm when our foreman drives up to us and tells us to get into a car, drive back to camp and get help because someone had flipped a quad! It turns out that our checker(the person who checks our tree quality) was going too fast on the quad, hit a rock and flipped the quad over the road. A few of us were there and we put her on a stretcher and Sam, Ailin and I sat on the floor holding her down as Nick drove us out of the bush and to a hospital an hour away.
So spring plant is over but planting is not. Infact we have some exciting times ahead. Today the whole camp is going golfing on the company and that should be a blast and in 2 days time my crew and a few others leave for Fort Mcbride, BC. We are going to be staying in some cottage near a mill and it seems that we will be taking a helicopter to work in the mornings! It’s going to be tough land but we are going to get to take a helicopter to work! It’s a 100,000 tree contract on rough ground so it should take us a week to finish and then I might go and try to find spray work and make ridiculous amounts of money(you might notice that i’ve mentioned money a few times and it’s just because we got paid and it’s on my mind)
It was brought to my attention that my blog tends to point out the negative aspects of this job(thanks) Michelle. Although this job is not easy, it is obviously worth it. If you can deal with the bugs, the extreme cold, the extreme heat, the physical aspects and the misery of a cold long rain shower, this job is do-able. And even with those hardships comes friends and trips to the beach and golf games and good food. The good times definitely outweigh the bad ones. Plus…just think about the money! The money is good.
So let’s talk about weather. It’s been nice in Montreal I see. Sunny and hot. I hate you all.
This week started off with a snow storm! It hailed all day and then as we were finishing off a block it just started snowing and hailing so hard. We are walking out of the woods when all of a sudden lighting hits our block, followed by the loudest thunder i’ve ever heard! We all dropped our shovels and ran for the trucks.
So that was that and it was followed by two great days and that all ended yesterday. We were planting up high yesterday and it was cold. Normally you work up a sweat and take off layers very quickly but I had a sweater and jacket on all day. At around 12:30pm it just started pouring rain and the wind picked up and it was terrible. My hands went numb and I had to take shelter behind a large tree for several minutes to let my hands warm up(it didn’t do much good)
The rain let’s up a bit but it’s still drizzling, cold and windy and all I see are Tim. Dilon and Will all wearing nothing but underwear and screaming out loud. So what is a sane person to do but join them?!? So here we all are during one of the coldest days of the year, in the rain almost naked, running up and down this hill screaming. It definitely turned into a great day. It was so terrible to start with but with everything when you are out here, it can quickly turn into an amazing day. And now I lived it and have a great story to tell.
So spring plant is almost done. One shift left and then my crew is going to go do some small planting work and other odd jobs for the company. I think i’ll be sticking around trying to make as much money as possible untill August. Spectrum is a great company to work for because once planting is done you can do so much more work that pays even better then planting.
So we have a 5 day shift coming up and I will be sure to let you know how it goes very soon. …Enjoy the warm weather!
I am still alive. I am in a lot of pain but still alive…
A lot has happened over the last two weeks. We moved camp first of all, which led to a wonderfull 3 days off! We are now planting off the Kluskus, near Vanderhoof…the worst fucking town ever! I hate that town so much.
Since we’ve been there the weather has been so terrible. It has been super cold and it hailed on us for three days in a row and even snowed yesterday!
The upside is that we got our first paycheck! It’s alll worth it for that paycheck. It would take me 2 and a half months of work back home to make what I made in one paycheck here. I love bushwork!
I haven’t mentioned the wildlife yet. It’s amazing to go from a city where you see nothing in terms of wildlife to seeing what I see daily. On the 2nd day of this shift I saw a Moose, Fox and Bald Eagle and we just discovered that 4 bald eagles are nesting right near our camp. I’ve also seen so many bears that i’ve lost track of how many.
I miss home but i’m considering staying even longer now. Who knows? I will hopefully update some more in a couple of days.
First of all i’d like to apologize for my short entries. It’s tough to write a comprehensive report on a crazy week in 15 minutes. I have a lot to talk about and do nothing but think all day but it really is hard to remember it in a rush. First let me talk about this week.
We worked for one day this week and then we had a day off due to the fact that half of our tree’s were frozen. It sounds amazing to have a day off but it means no money that day. On top of that, we ended up working an extra four days afterwards! So this six day week wasn’t much fun but we did get to finish early on some days and explore a cave at an active volcano and go swimming on top of a mountain. And today we spent four hours in a swimming pool/hot tub/steam room and we are all ready to go to bed!
As of now my summer is really up in the air. It looks like spring plant will extend to July 1st which would great and then who knows?!? Summer plant is an option. I hated it last year but the extra 1000$ might be really nice. And I could always go do other work for the company and make some quick cash. I really want to be out of here by mid-july so that I can go spend a few weeks by the beach but I really need money.
My body is falling apart. I’ve lost a lot of weight and i’m much more toned but I can barely open my left hand, my legs are cut up, i’m limping from a giant cut on my right toe, I rolled my right ankle and I have some sort of internal injury in my left ankle. It’s going to be a tough summer.
So again, this will be a short one. But apreciate it because on my day off I ran all over town looking for internet access to write this.
What a week! It started off with two trucks that got stuck in impossible mud. One of the trucks didn’t get unstuck untill 3pm(it got stuck at 9am) The past two shifts have been insane when it comes to trucks breaking down or getting stuck. Literally every day it’s happened at least once.
One the way home from that block we saw 6 bears in 15 minutes including 3 cubs!
The physical damage to my body is insane. On the second day of our week we had a really rocky block and by the end of the day my wrist needed to be bandaged up and both my hands were bleeding! And the weather has sucked aswell. Yesterday it rained so hard and I had no rain gear. I spent a good 30 minutes under my tarp shivering and wanting to cry and go home. Regardless, in the past two days i’ve made more money than a 2 week paycheck back home.
Our last block was all burnt and creamy and we all beat our personal best’s! I planted 2315 tree’s in one day! My goal is to hit 3000 by the end of the year, although 2500 would do aswell.
On a final note, a tree planter near our old camp last year was killed after her truck rolled and she was trown out. Fucking scary. Fingers crossed for a safe year for us.
First of all…two complaints. 1: It’s so fucking hot here! 2: I forgot my journal full of things to write about so this entry might be a little short(I also only have 10min to write it)
So our first shift is over and what a shift it was. It feels nice to be back and it’s great that there are so many familiar faces and the new ones are really nice. Our camp is really small this year with only 48 people.
It’s been really rough planting wise. I was really cocky and expected to just pick up from last year and kill it but that is not how it turned out. I’ve been hitting 1200 tree’s every day but everyone else is already past 1500. Regardless, the money will be coming in and i’ll be making much more than last year. Oh…and my plots and tree quality are perfect so that helps.
I also cannot believe how unprepared I am this year. I didn’t bring a warm coat, sunscreen or bug spray and i’m freezing at night! The upside, sort of, is that it is so much warmer this year. Last year when we would wake up our tents would be covered in ice and your hands would freeze is exposed. This year it’s been so warm and the nights are much more bareable.
So this week…it rained for 2 days straight and on the second day our ATV broke down and 5 trucks got stuck in the mud including our only 2 trucks. On day 3 our SUV ran out of gas in the middle of the woods and two trucks broke down on the highway(one lost it’s breaks) and yesterday our SUV got stuck in the mud again. This the joy of tree planting. If it’s not the bugs(which are out already)
it’s the trucks and if it’s not the trucks it’s the weather, etc, etc.
This is it for now, I promise a longer update in 4 or 5 days.
This is it. The new season is almost here. I fly to Prince George tomorrow, spend what will be a wonderful night at the Camelot, take my last shower for the week and on Sunday we drive to Quesnel and set up camp and we start planting on the 12th.
It’s been an interesting year and I wasn’t sure if i’d goÂ backÂ but the thingÂ with tree planting is that ifÂ you don’t go back for at least a second year it’s a waste of timeÂ and money. By the second year you’re much more experienced and you will makeÂ tons more money. At least that is what i’m hopingÂ for.
I was thinking of everything i’m going to miss while i’m away and i’ve reassured myself that most of it is superficial crap that doesn’t matter anyways such as certain TV shows, my laptop and the internet. But I am going to miss my friends and I am going to miss a warm bed, my bike and not having an aching body every morning. And I am going to miss cooking and baking but hopefully like last year, i’ll even find the time for that.
So the plan is that I will be blogging throughout the summer. I will try my best to update every day off but sometimes time just doesn’t allow it. Please check this blog every couple of days, leave comments, send me emails and give me some feedback. Here’s to a good summer…
I’ve finally done it! After 6 months i’ve finally finished the tree planting pictures I took this summer and uploaded them! These pictures are by no means winners. They were shot with an unfamiliar camera in an unfamiliar area and most of them were underexposed. Nevertheless, they help in documenting an incredible experience and I hope that you enjoy them!
TheÂ picturesÂ areÂ availableÂ here:
Sorry but this is going to be a short one!
Summer plant sucks. Well it does in certain regards and it really awesome in others.
My original J-Watt crew got split up. Bronson and myself got sent with a pretty sweet forman and everyone else got stuck with another forman. I’m happy that I didn’t get put with that formanÂ becauseÂ myÂ formanÂ isÂ veryÂ similarÂ toÂ ourÂ oldÂ one but it sucks to have been split up from my crew! At least we still hangout in camp and on days off.
The other sad news is that the crew that we were closest with got sent to another camp!(Marshmellow to Hot Chocolate: I miss you! haha)
Summer planting is sweet because the camp in smaller, everyone is closer and our camp site is sweet! Summer plant sucks because you are planting in stomach high weeds and grass, the land sucks and so far tree prices aren’t too great! I also got attacked by 2 wasp nests in 1 day!
sorry that I cannot write more but my internet time is going to expire and we all need to head back to camp! Bigger update next week.
The past two days have been filled with anxiety and excitment. Excitment because we all can’t wait to get back to work and make some money but anxiety because things have been turned upside down.
Our foreman will not be returning to work because of his torn MCL. So we will all either be split up into new crews, hopefully put in with a crewboss that we don’t know but who seems like a sweet dude. Some of our crew are leaving early because of this and none of us are too excited.
We are here to plant and I will suck it up if worse comes to worse but if we do get the crewboss that none of us want i’m worried about fights and not getting tree’s when we need it or not knowing whats going on with tree prices etc etc. From what i’ve heard this person is not the greatest rookie foreman.
Banff was a blast for the most part. We camped all week and I got to meet up with old friends. That place is such a fairytale. Beautifull on the outside but it has a subtle darkside to it. It was great to see old friends and it was so much fun hanging out with my close friends from back home. Snuck into a bar for La St. Jean which was sweet and ate so much junk food.
Foreman drama aside, i’m very excited to get back to work. There is something to soothing about tree planting. You put your bags on, turn your music on and go! Summer contract looks a bit short this year though so i’m thinking about doing a week of work afterwards. That extra 500$ or so could go a long way…especially since my way home will consist of 1 plane ride and 3 buses.
See you in a week.
What a crazy 2 shifts! I cannot even explain or begin to remember half of what went on.
I can telll you though that spring plant is over! I’m in Prince George waiting for my 10pm bus to Banff.
The first of 2 shifts started off with us visiting of huge waterfall lost in the woods. I’ve never seen something so big before. It obviously doesn’t compare to say, victoria falls but since i’ve never been to victoria falls, it blew my mind.
The first shift was actually pretty uneventfull now that I think about it. The block that we got lost trying to find that I wrote about in my last post but sort of sweet. I broke my PB on it! I planted 2105 tree’s. Considering that only 2 or 3 rookies last year broke 2000 tree’s, i’m pretty stoked on it. But tree planting is hardly a satisfying job because my only thought afterwards was, “I could have so gotten 2200!”
We almost got to go on a helicopter! We were told that we could but at the last minute they made us walk in and they sent in all our tree’s and bags with the helicopter. That block turned into such a gongshow. We planted 18 000 tree’s on that day only to find out at the end that we only needed to plant certain coloured area’s but we had started planting the entire block.
We went back two days later without a helicopter and tried finishing it up. Unfortunately 1 bagup in our forman flipped the quad and tore his MCL! And on the third day we tried finishing it our quad fell over a cliff!
The good news about this week was that my good friend Bronson flew in and started working! It’s nice to have a familiar face here but weird to see it in an unfamiliar place.
He broke 1000 tree’s on his third day!
The last two days of this shift were also gong shows! We went to this sweet block and I raced a checker. I did a 330 tree bagup in 45-50minutes! I almost died at the end but it was fun to plant while running and jumping.
Yesterday was intense. We woke up to rain. Driving to our first block we hit a snow storm. We finished out block and went to the first overflow block(when a contract is at it’s end, everyone in sent to an overflow block to plant the rest of the tree’s) during the drive it was sunny outside. Once we got to the block it hailed and then rained for most of the day. It was a painfull day. No one knew what was going on and we all just wanted to go back to camp and eat.
The 2nd overflow was worse but so much fun. The land was creamy and every crew was there. People were jumping each others lines and I raced people and the tree’s were so bad and the density was horrible but we all wanted to go home. By the time we got home it was 10pm.
So now it’s our week off and i’m headed towards Banff. Summer plant looks like it’s going to be hard work but it’s going to be so money!
Hope everyone’s summer is going well and I will update soon!
Hello folks! What a week.
Sorry for the lack of updates but we ended up in Vanderhoof last week and that town has no internet access.
Where do I start? Well we moved camp again. This time we are closer to Vanderhoof on the Kluskus road. My tent faces a giant meadow with a river flowing the middle of it. So amazing.
Last week was the beginning of the gong show. We had a 14 hour day! 14 hours of non-stop planting. And to make it worse we were planting a giant gully. We didn’t get home till 9:30pm.
We then moved camp in roughly 5 hours and went to Vanderhoof. What a shit town. I normally love small shit towns but this one was beyond me. I think my distaste for it comes from the fact that I ate Oreo’s and Strudels of a day and a half because there was nothing else for me to eat. Although I learnt from that mistake and i’ve started buying soup and veggie dogs for my days off.
All was good and this week started out well enough until about two days ago. We woke up and finished a block that we weren’t able to finish the night before(because it would have been another 9pm night) and I got 150 tree’s into the ground. We then drove to our new block but got lost. On our way we popped a tired. We changed the tired but it was also flat. Jess drove back to camp and came back two hours later with a new tired that didn’t fit. So we all pile into the suburban but we still can’t find the block. Finally at 4:30pm we threw our arms up and spent the rest of the day in camp.
Yesterday went well on the planting side but our truck’s radiator blew, it got a flat, the burb got a flat and the quad’s two front tired went flat.
This is tree planting for you! And it also rained all week.
I wish I could write more but my time is about to expire. I hope all is well and much love to everyone.
Day off! I went and purshased a hammock and a giant water jug. Both will serve me well.
I am currently at my friend Soili’s house and it’s pretty awesome. I made an apple pie for her and Ashley and Soili’s family and dinner is being made.
This week was the first week of working 4 days with 1 day off and it was quite lovely. Yesterday I just died. It was so hot outside and we were planting such bad land that 3 times during the day I would take my shirt off at the cash and just nap. I still planted 1300 tree’s so i’m not too upset. I also beat my personal best again this week, I planted 1820 tree’s up from 1730! Very happy with myself. And it rained all day that day.
Last week we had two days off and it was great. We stayed at the Camalot Motel which had a pool and hottub! We spent the day pawnshopping and had a wonderful conversation with a scary biker. At night we went out to Sargent’s and danced up a storm.
I cannot wait till we get another 2 days off.
So I realized that nobody really knows what my day consists of. So here is a breakdown of a normal day for me.
I wake up at 5:45am and kick myself for coming out here. At 6am I force myself to get up, put some shoes on and head to the mess tent. I make my lunch which usually consists of 3 sandwhiches. maybe a wrap and leftovers from yesterdays meal. I grab snacks when vegan ones are available and tons of fruit. After making my lunch I head for the breakfast line. I get some fruit, oatmeal and when available I grab a ton of potatoes and tofu scramble.
We go to our team’s pickup and head to our block for the day. I get to my piece of land, bag up with my tree’s and start planting usually by 8am. Every hour or two depending on how many tree’s I bagged up with I go to my cash(the place where you store your tree’s) and take a food break, bag up and head back out. 10 hours later it’s time to go back to camp and we head home for a huge supper, a cup of tea and i’m usually in bed by 9pm. It’s amazing how much we eat and the cooks are amazing. Regardless of how much I eat, I lose it all. I’ve definitely lost tons of weight in the one month i’ve been here.
4 days ahead of me and it looks like it’s going to be a hot week! I hope everyone is doing really well and I will update as soon as I can.
So it’s been a while! We worked for 5 days and then had a day off and we were supposed to only work for 3 days and then have 2 days off but our contract was extended and that is why i’ve been slow on the updates.
Nevertheless, I am currently in Prince George. We moved camp yesterday to somewhere between PG and Vanderhoof. The camp is not as pretty as our last one at Marmot Lake but it’s still nice. I set up my tent right above a raging river and I have some awesome people around me.
The past two weeks have been insane! I have so many stories and i’ve forgotten most of them unfortunately but i’ll try my best.
We had some pretty good blocks(the area of land you plant on) and some bad ones. The good ones were amazing. No slash(debris) and it was all burnt. I planted 1730 tree’s in one day last week which is my personal best. Then two days ago we had to plant what is called an “overflow block” which is where you put any extra tree’s at the end of a contract. We pretty much had 40 people planting on one small piece of land which was completely covered in slash. The best part though was that under the slash was about a foot of snow and ice!
The day that I reached 1700 tree’s was a weird one for weather. Sunny skies one minute and then it would hail, then rain and snow. For three days in a row it hailed on us. It definitely makes you hate your life a little.
Two nights ago was our night off. We had a giant bond fire, played guitar and everyone got drunk. We had some Modest Mouse sing alongs and someone gave me a harmonica so I spent the night playing it. That night was also ladies night and everyone was treated so a very sexy(this is sarcasm) show by our very own ‘Midnight Kodogon’.
Right now I am in so much pain. Both my wrists have the starting signs of tendonitis. My ankles are swollen, my lips are cracked, my knuckles are bruised and my back hurts.
Mentally it’s even tougher. You wake up at 6am, it’s cold and your body hurts. You put on your wet boots and try and eat breakfast. You get to your block and you load up pounds and pounds of tree’s onto your back. You dig your shovel into the ground and hit rock after rock. It’s lonely and your tired. This job is mostly mental.
As hard as this job can be and as shitty as the days get, the good makes up for the bad. After a bad day you come home to a giant meal and everyone makes a fire and you play music and tell stories and try and get a good nights sleep and you make peace with your world.
I am also very lucky to be working for Sprectrum. The company had a bad rep for a while but they really do take good care of us. My foreman is awesome and it’s just a nice enviroment to work in.
Sorry if this post is a little boring. I plan of keeping a little journal with me now so that I can actually remember what goes on in my life.
Hope all is well with everyone and since we now will be working 4 days on and one day off I will update soon.
It has been a little while but i’ve almost literally been in the middle of nowhere. I’m currently in Quesnel, B.C and we are planting in a town called Nasco.
I’ve been planting for a week now and it’s my first day off. So far it’s been pretty good…I guess.
For a rookie i’m doing pretty good I think. 1200 tree’s on my second day. But our third day was hell. I woke up in the middle of the night to rain. At 5:30am when I woke up for the day the rain was just as hard. As we started making our way to the block(the area you plant) it started turning to snow. By the time we got to our block we were in the middle of a snowstorm! I planted from about 7:30am till 9am and just gave up. I finished my piece of land and went in the truck and gave up. About an hour later I was talked into going back out and start planting my new piece of land. It was fucking hell but I couldn’t help but laugh because I was in the middle of nowhere planting tree’s in a snowstorm…how ridiculous.
The mornings are really cold and my sleeping bag is really warm but once you get going it’s fine. The work is hard but not as hard as I thought. You get a flow going and it makes the day pass by really quickly.
Aswell…the food is beyond amazing! The camp cooks have made such an effort for me. It’s more amazing when you think that the camp has 100 people in it.
On a final note, nothing is better than tree planter lingo. Screefing, slash, throwing a plot, throwing 5′s and 6′s, blocks. It’s a whole other language.
Well I want to write more but my time is almost up here. I just wanted to let everyone know that i’m alive and doing well. I will try and call people when I can and write as soon as possible.
What a day I had yesterday. I left for the airport at 9am. I flew to Toronto with no problem whatsoever. In Toronto I boarded another plane at 12pm. Before leaving the pilot informed us of a mechanical error and that it would take an hour to fix. 30min later he informs us that we will now need to leave the plane because the parts needed are in another city.
So we change gates and I befriend 3 fellow planters, 2 of which are planting for the same company as me(Luke, Diane and Steph) At the new gate we are all told that the plane is smaller than the last and not everyone will get on. Luckily since our seats were near the front we got on.
As we left Toronto we passed by a hangar with a burnt up plane outside.
The upside to our new plane was that we all had TV’s in front of us. The downside was that myself and my 3 fellow planters missed our connections in Prince George. And…we all had people waiting for us at the PG airport. We decided to wait till the 10pm flight which was booked solid to see if anyone could get a seat on it. We were told to pick up our luggage and re-check it if we did get on. We were given a meal voucher aswell for 12$. We went to pick up our luggage where we were told that they would hold on to it for us and if we didn’t leave Vancouver our luggage would stay there until the next flight we could get on(this is an important part of the story.
So we ate tons of food and watched the game and everything seemed to be getting better. 10pm came along and only 2 seats were available. Diane and Luke took them and Steph and myself decided to take the free hotel room that was being offered(Travellodge) and spend the night in Vancouver. We went to pick up our luggage which should have still been in Vancouver but apon arriving at the front office we were told that our luggage was well on it’s way to Prince George!!!
Pissed as we were, we sort of laughed it off and went to the hotel. We each had a room and I quickly passed out after having spent 15hours traveling.
So we got a free supper a free breakfast and a free hotel room. not bad…
I’m in Prince George at the moment. I’m staying at the dorms at UNBC. I have the day off tomorrow, we set up camp of friday and start work on saturday. My crew looks pretty sweet and i’m excited to get started.
My camp is going to have free internet somehow so hopefully i’ll update this weekend.
Take care everyone.
So it’s 8am and i’m very tired. I should get used to this feeling though. I’m packed but I feel like
i’m missing 1000 things.
I know i’m only leaving for 3 months but i’m going to miss everyone so much. I’m also going to miss TWIGS and a warm bed. But i’m going to have a blast this summer and come back with tons of cash and lot’s of stories.
I’m going to listen to so much Greg Macpherson on the plane.
I leave Montreal at noon. Stay in Toronto for 2 hours and then fly to Vancouver and I finally get to Prince George at 8pm(Pacific time) From there i’m going to get picked up by my boss and then it’s off to a sketchy motel for the night. Tomorrow i’m assuming that we will be setting up camp and we will be having some sort of orientation and then on the 3rd work starts!
It’s currently 3 degress in Prince George with light snow falling. No rain in the forcast though and sunny skies for the rest of the week.
Well goodbye for now, wish me a safe flight and expect a post very soon!
This is my tree planting blog. For those who do not know, tree planting is a primarily canadian enterprise where people live for months on end in small tents(and sometimes hotel rooms) and plant tree’s all day. You are paid per tree thus you want to plant as many tree’s as possible. You wake up at 5am, put on your cold wet clothes and go eat a massive breakfast. You then walk, drive or take a helicopter to your block of land, bag up with a 100 seedlings and get to work. 10 hours later you head back to camp for another giant meal. You plant in the rain, snow and 40 degree heat. The season lasts 40 to 70 days.
Tree planting is regarded as the hardest job both mentally and physically in Canada and is on the top ten list for the same world wide.
When I first began researching tree planting I found it really difficult to find blogs.Â IÂ desperatelyÂ wantedÂ toÂ knowÂ whatÂ IÂ wasÂ gettingÂ myselfÂ into
andÂ ateÂ upÂ anyÂ andÂ allÂ information
I found. ThisÂ is why i’ve made the decision to make this blog open to everyone instead of private or friends only. I hope to inspire or scare away people who are thinking about tree planting, entertain people with what i’m sure will be interesting stories and keep my friends and family informed with what it is I am doing.
One of the downsides to tree planting would have to be the starting costs. Usually you are not provided with anything. Here is a summary of what i’ve bought and their costs:
Tent: 250$, Sleeping Bag: 130$, Boots: 150$, Duffle Bag: 30$, Day Pack: 45$, Shovel: 60$, Planting Bags + inserts: 100$, Extra’s(duct tape, water bottles, gloves etc…): ???$.
One of the upsides to tree planting would have to be the food. According to everyone i’ve talked to, you eat better than you ever have in your life. Every camp has a handfull of cooks whose job it is to feed you as much as they can.Â AÂ treeÂ planterÂ willÂ burnÂ 3000Â caloriesÂ aÂ dayÂ soÂ it’sÂ veryÂ necessary
toÂ getÂ backÂ allÂ thatÂ energy.
For those who do not know, I am a vegan(someone who abstains from consuming or using any animal products including eggs, dairy, leather products and any animal bi-product) This will hopefully not be a problem with the cooks but i’ve had my assurances that it won’t.
Anyways, I leave for Prince George on tuesday at noon. This is looking like it will be an exciting summer and I hope you enjoy reading this blog and please leave comments or feel free to send me an email!