Column

Safety

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I suspect you might be a lot like me when it comes to driving.  You’ve spent most of your life driving vehicles, covering many thousands of kilometers of gravel road all over the province. You’ve had no serious driving incidents, and consider yourself a good driver. 

Let me explain why this is the perfect time for you to take a driver training course.

Pines

Issue

It’s the hot smell of dirt that gets me most.

The snot in my nose bonding to rock dust and building a cast.

Sometimes I think I could puke from the feeling of my nostrils closing in.

Next comes the feeling of it in my throat as it cracks too.

My brow is a ledge for sweat, my clothes permeated with salt and moisture.

Water escapes everywhere, indifferent, not pausing to clean me off on its journey away from me.

It only leaves a sticky mat of fabric and human mud as my suit for the day.

I’ll drink more, every hour or so, to keep up the dress.

A Whirlwind Tour of Western Canada

Issue

For many people, October means crisp fall days and explosions of colour among many of our favourite deciduous species.  For reforestation contractors in British Columbia, it also means “viewing season,” as the provincial government, through the Ministry of Forests and BCTS, releases contracts for tender for the following spring and summer planting seasons.

Notes from the field

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No planter can deny sharing in our collective “what good is this job?” cynicism. We’ve all taken pleasure in the rants and criticisms, minimizing our status to ditch digging labourers.  And let’s face it, some aspects can leave you broken and bound to the quick-money, seasonal lifestyle. But after this last winter, I have a new appreciation for the hard and soft skills I’ve earned from my time in the bush.

Planting for Pemba

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Those of us who have worked in silviculture know it as an industry that cultivates a unique and incredibly valuable combination of skills. Consider the conditions; unpredictable forces of nature, physical, emotional and mental fatigue and stress, community dynamics, logistics, remote locations and the repetitive nature of the work. Those who thrive in this environment may move up to management positions or develop their own contracting companies.

A tree planting misadventure

Issue

Widow-maker: nickname used to describe a falling snag. Snag: a dead or dying tree.

            East of the Rockies there is a stretch of Albertan forest familiar to tree-planters. After a brutal day of planting white spruce and pine in an overgrown, thorn riddled, wasp infested, three-year-old fly block somewhere between the swamps of Swan Hills and the sweet canola fields of High Prairie, we were waiting there impatiently for the helicopter to come.

Block Head

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            Planting finished over a month ago, but the residue lingers. Tendonitis in my right wrist, for instance, flares any time I so much as touch a tennis racquet. For a while I had a terribly imbalanced tan (dark upper body, pasty bottom half), but August’s sun cured that. I still catch myself considering a price tag in terms of trees—a tank of gas is a bag-up, rent is a good day’s wage. These effects come and go, but the deepest stain from my five-month planting season has been neurological: my brain is tough as a callous.

A Word of Advice

Issue

Out of breath and exhausted, I struggled from step to step as I planted my first bag up of the morning. After days of sleeping in my tent, only waking up for about six hours each day, I wanted to get back out and try to plant. I couldn’t string a sentence together without gasping for a breath, and my body seemed to be in the grips of a flu, unlike any I had previously experienced.

Planter's Exodus

Issue
Synopsis

Planter Shelby Leslie provides insight as to why it is so hard to retain an experienced tree planting work force.

Planting has been my primary source of income for the past eight years.  I started off a wonder-struck idealist at the tender young age of 17. I’ll admit, most of the wonder, and a good part of the idealism has been ground out in these past eight years.  Yet I come back year after year, for better or for worse.  Planting enabled me to travel the world, and fund my education.  It has provided me with the economic freedom to do as I please and for this I am truly grateful.