BUSH CRAZY: A GUIDE TO TREE PLANTING IN CANADA
Nov 29 2010
WHAT'S IT LIKE TO BE A TREE PLANTER?
Don’t be fooled by tree planting. Don’t let it get its twiggy little grip on you and suck you into a never-ending cycle of planting and fucking around until there’s nothing left of you except a hunched over, scarred up, sun-weathered sack of bones with no real skills. There’s a reason tree planting started out as prison labor in New Zealand--it fucking sucks. What’s so bad about planting trees? Try planting 3,000 of them a day in the freezing cold, soaking wet, with 50 lbs. of trees on your hips, walking up hill, knee-deep in mounds of branches and thorns. Oh, and it’s muddy too, you woke up at 6am and all sorts of things that bite are covering you like a carpet, including wasps. Tree planting does this sneaky thing of blowing chunks, while having this uncanny ability of storing very quickly in your long-term memory. In the fuzzy, nostalgic part of your brain. It reaches a point of enthusiastic obsession that really pisses off all your non-tree planting friends, until, if you make it that long, years down the line you learn to know when to shut the hell up.
At a party recently I overheard a bright-eyed bushy-tailed 20-year-old looking dude talking way too excitedly about the job. I ran into him in the bathroom line and surprised the hell out of him by guessing that he was going into his second year of planting. I in turn, was completely unsurprised to learn that he plants for one of the shittiest companies out there in the worst possible province. Idiot.
Tree planting is like summer camp for young adults with intense manual labor, and you actually get paid a shit ton if you’re any good. You are organized in crews (usually 6-12 people) instead of cabins, and you are led by a crew boss, not a counselor. Camps are comprised of a bunch of crews managed by an all-powerful supervisor. The greed manages to make the bad days worth it, and the parties and social scene put it in the "good times" category of your memory.
THE EVIL FORESTRY INDUSTRY
Canada is a natural wasteland. Logging roads form endless mazes to the middle of nowhere, logged barren blocks stretch as far as the eye can see, and countless smaller ones litter the landscape. Tree planting is pretty near the bottom of the rung in the mega empire that is the forestry industry. Most forestry workers, like loggers, get paid a hefty living allowance per day for working in remote areas, but not tree planters. Tree planting is conveniently targeted at the precise age group that is stupid enough to actually pay camp costs of at least $25 per day just to be allowed to plant.
The most common misconception about tree planters is that they are a bunch of dirty hippies. The dirty part sure is right, but any true hippie would cry and self-mutilate themselves with their shovels for every tree they put into the ground. Those little trees are going to be growing their entire lives with the sweet, high-pitched sound of saws in the air and then chopped right back down. Not only that but copious, disgusting amounts of fuel are wasted on every level of the forestry industry. The sheer amount of wasted wood on cut blocks could fuel all of Africa until the apocalypse. So hippies and environmentalist would sleep much easier if they strapped themselves to a giant cedar tree or something.
CHARIOTS OF GLORY
There are many modes of transportation used to get everyone to the accursed block. Many fool you into feeling important and glorious.
Crummies: These should be illegal. They are giant metal boxes attached to a truck crew cab. They make you feel like you are doing prisoner work. There is zero communication between the driver and the captives. These things have been known to rattle the hell out of planters’ already failing brains. I once had to go to work in one of these that had the font door held shut with a rope. The seat bolts came loose, tossing us around down the bumpy logging roads, the back seat was caved in, and there was a hole in the floor above the back wheel where a steady stream of dust and water came in.
School buses: You know your company is really shitty if you have to go to work in one of these. For some reason these bastards are good on back roads. They make you feel like a worthless tool and somehow make you hate life more than you already do when you are shivering on the squeaky faux-leather seats.
FISTs: Every tree planting company needs a bunch of these. They are regular six person truck cabs with a giant cooler stuck on the back to keep the children aka baby trees cool. FIST stands for something, but who the hell knows what.
Vans/Excursions: Except for when they get stuck, riding in a van to work is living in the lap of luxury. Hello heating, a real sound system and sweet, sweet naps. Sometimes there are even seat heaters. Oh my!
Helicopters: Poor little tree planters can’t help but feel like heroes when they are dropped off in a thundering whirl of debris on a cut block so remote no human will set foot there for decades. Sometimes you can get the heli pilots to scare the shit out of you by doing tricks! Otherwise, the novelty wears off when you realize that heli work wastes so much time that your daily wage gets cut in half.
Rolligons: This thing is a monster truck with hubs so huge a family of midgets could fit inside. It’s a hard-core crew cab with a cage in the back that makes you feel like you’re off to a concentration camp. It drives impossibly slow and rocks so hard that people sitting in the middle all of a sudden experience a situation not unlike the sleeping pile in the Where The Wild Things Are movie. It’s used when access is so shitty it would be cruel to make the planters walk.
Quad: I never tire of seeing five full grown men all piled up onto one tiny quad. These are used mostly to deliver trees, but if you’re lucky you can get a ride in or out of the block instead of walking. Crew bosses enjoy spending hours getting these bitches unstuck.
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