Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Flashback: Treeplanting

So admittedly I haven't been doing much other than hiding out inside in the air conditioning since Fringe ended which is really kind of boring. I am really really boring sometimes especially after doing a lot and I kinda feel like I have been going since July started. Oh yeah it's August! wtf?! August already? I haven't even had a chance to make it out to the farmer's market this summer. One could run themselves ragged and broke trying to do everything that this place has to offer in the summer. But for 2 summers the husbie and I treeplanted. I have mentioned it before and it is/was a big part of our lives. I thought I'd do a little blast from the past treeplanting style.

This is probably my most favourite picture of the 2 of us ever. This was close to the end of contract on our first season. We were good planters by this time and making good money. I also think we look sooooo young and we were given this was 5 years ago.

Taken on the same day on the same block. Block is planter slang for a cut block or the area that the trees have been removed from. You can see that husbie is planting a mound. This means that the ground after it was cut was prepped with machines for planting (also called "reclaiming"). You are supposed to plant your tree in the very top of the mound. Prepping typically happens in the spring and the trees don't get planted until late summer so in many cases the mound are hard, dried out clay that isn't the easiest to plant. We were in way Northern British Columbia here, closer to Alaska than home.

Treeplanting is all piece work meaning you get paid per tree. Typical tree prices range from the grabbing ankles 8 cents to the decent 12-15 cents. I believe these were 10 cent trees which I think is a fair price for prepped ground. So how much money you make is all dependent on how hard your work and how good you are. Oh and you have to pay camp costs every single day. $25 a day for your food and fuel. This means that essentially the first box of trees you plant for the day is totally free. You carry a box of trees on your person in your bags, you plant or "bag out" then head back to your "cache" and "bag up" again. Repeat for the whole 11 hours.

Bagging up, this is husbie on the very very last day of the first season. These were 15 cent trees if I recall correctly. There were also wild blueberries on the block that I spent a lot of time eating. Boxes of trees have about 12-15 bundles of 10 trees depending on the species being planted. You load your bags with plugs to the front on your "feeder" side (the side opposite your shovel hand) for easy tree grabbing. We appear to have been planting white spruce that day.

Ridiculous us at camp in our first season. For part of this season we actually lived in a camp ground at the back which was pretty nice, luxurious in fact compared to other camp set ups.

Some blocks are really remote and that means it would be too long of a walk or quad ride in so they heli our asses in. SWEET! We did heli work in both seasons and we actually had the same pilot both years. (love you Phil thanks for not killing us!)

View from the heli...yes it is a picture of a picture...gmafb. Planting was the first time husbie had been in a heli and he had to conquer a lot mentally to do but I was so proud of him

We heli'ed into this block fulled bagged (trees already loaded in our plating bags..not a typical practice) THEN we had to walk 15 minutes into the block (Phil dropped us on a lease site, the heli can't land on the block, too much loose shit could get sucked into the blades and motor) fully bagged with all our gear. Times like that fucking sucked. But there is beauty everywhere

We were planting/reclaiming ground after a forest fire. People think planting is just going into a flat field and putting the trees in. 1 out of 10 times it's that, more often it's going to be something nasty and awful like this. Do you see the little blue flags? those show yourself and your fellow planters where a tree has been planted because you have to plant them at a proper distance from each other. Too many or too few trees in a "plot" (a test circle basically) can fail the whole block. Block fails no one gets paid. No one gets paid everyone is pissed. You only get paid to plant them once so you better fucking do it right. Ground like this pays more because you can't plant as fast. This was probably 15 cent ground although if I remember correctly we fought for 18.

The technical name for this is shit all over the block "schnarb". You are still expected to plant this space and plant it correctly in a rather expedient time. Typically heli blocks are a one day affair. Phil isn't cheap so you need to work, work fast and get out because there is no "special missions" to come back for (special missions is slang for going back to finish part of "piece"...a piece is your area on a block you are "cut"/given a piece to work.) This day really sucked if I recall.

In our second season we though we could hack it with the big kids in interior B.C. Tree prices are higher but ground is much much tougher. We were used to what we called endurance planting...planting on mostly flat northern ground where you can pound in 3000 trees a day. Interior is much more challenging and we weren't even planting half that. This is near 100 Mile House in the interior. The sad part was this place had the best crew boss ever. I actually kinda choked up when we told him the interior wasn't for us.

We went back to Northern Alberta where the prices are lower but the ground was what we expected and what we knew how to make money on. This is a cache. Tree boxes are under the tarp to keep the trees dry and cool. This was an especially sloppy day that had a massive walk in. You have to carry everything you will want/need for the whole day. This includes all your own water. On hot days you are carrying 8+ litres of water, plus food, plus rain gear, duct tape, bug spray and whatever other crap you think you will need.

This is from the same day. Sometimes the ground gets really mucky. The mud in Northern Alberta is really really really sticky and clumps on your boots and shovel. That mud adds about an extra pound to the shovel and when you are lifting and striking it into the ground 3000+ times a day that is a lot of extra weight. I love my shovel, I miss it. It's a WorkWizer with an ergo handle. That thing was my baby.

First day of the ANC contract. ANC is a pulp and paper mill...Do not get any happy ideas that we are reforest to save the planet or anything hippie dippy like that. I believe ANC supplies the paper for Time magazine. This contract required us to wear hard hats. A total pain in the ass. I love this picture of my crew.

Bagging up again. Different block from the one above. This one was massive and went on forever like tens of kilometres. It was actually still being cut at the front and we had to drive though to the back to start planting. We could hear the fellerbunchers going while we worked (feller-bunchers cut down and bundle trees together watching it work is like being a fairy in FernGully when Hexxus escapes, it is rather sad and frightening to see up close) Husbie and I planted together right close by each other 90% of the time and bitched when we didn't.

Season 2! We are working our asses off and love it!

My highballer. Highballer is slang for a very good tree planter, someone who is always putting up big numbers. Hot and sunny days like this are less than ideal for planting. The best weather to plant in is something that is too cold while you are standing still, overcast with a light breeze. Hot days absolutely kill me.

Crew plating or "cattle plating" basically instead of individuals each getting a piece cut for them you plant with all your people in a big ass line. Fastest take the tree line and you follow the person beside you's trees. This is not anyone's favourite way of planting but it has to be done sometimes.

When you are on a block there is no taking cover. You are at the mercy of Mother Nature and that whore has burned me more than a few times. This is was the second wave of a storm that my crew had gotten soaked in the first part. We literally saw it coming towards us as we were planting towards the truck but rain is faster than planters legs.

Me in our hippie van that we lived in for all of our second season. R.I.P Tradesman B200. That van had a 440 small block and was a BEAST!

This was home for the last part of our second season. We were living on lease site right beside a newly built gas pipeline that we had to drive over multiple times a day and we were half a k away from a refinery. Thinking about all this now scares the fucking shit outta me, big time. But it was just an accepted risk we took at the time. Mmmm mud pit. You just wear cheap rubber boots or your plating boots all the time. The big tent on the left is the mess tent or where you eat, trailer is the cook shack and those round things hold all the water for camp. Shitters were dug out back near the trees. Half the time I just peed in the bushes by the van.

You also have to unload a "reffer"...Reffer is planter slang for a refridgerated semi truck that delivers all our trees from the nursery. The semi pulls up, blasts his horn and then everyone reluctantly trudges towards it to unload it. I could break down the fine details of the positions and politics of unloading a reffer but it would only entertain the husbie and our friends who have planted. There are on the semi positions like "goalie"...someone is throws the boxes from the back of the semi and slides them to the front. Someone is at the back to stop of the boxes from sliding right off the semi...that is "goalie" position. A human chain is made to remove the 4000-7000 boxes from the reffer then they are all opened up and lined up in the shade tent. The 2 black things flanking the semis are shade tents. Because we were camped right on a fresh pipeline the semi was too heavy to drive over it so he had to squish between camp and the tiny logging road.

Working hard or hardly working? I always positioned myself at the end of the human chain inside the shade tent and this is actually a hard spot because you have to open and line all the boxes up neatly for easy counting.

Transportation is always white quad cabs. Those things on the back are F.I.S.Ts Forestry Insulated Seedling Transport. That really beat up looking truck closest to the camera was my crew's truck...of course.

For haha's this is me planting mounds on a excruciatingly hot day in my first season. Outfit breakdown...on my head a white t-shirt sleeve stolen from my friend who was ripped them off so he could plant sleeveless. These were the best headbands, tank top is walmart, merino wool long undies are MEC, gaiters are MEC, plating bags are Bushpro's specifically adjusted for me (which involved taking the screws out and moving the bags), shovel is a WorkWizer, planting boots are Raichles the best fucking boots on the planet and worth every penny.

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