Kooteny Coastal, Season II

Well hi Internet, how have you been?

I’ve been treeplanting. I missed writing the traditional “I’m going treeplanting” post, mostly because my idle thoughts about planting became serious thoughts and then a bus journey over the space of just a few days. But here I am now, back in beautiful Creston BC, daily plunging my shovel into the clearcuts borne by the Selkirks and the Purcells. The Kootenay valley is as summerish and splendored and cross-lit as ever. Last year we stayed at the Valley View Motel, which represented a major upgrade from my usual tent-bound treeplanting existence; this year I’ve upped the ante again and I’m rooming in Ilana Cameron‘s beautiful Victorian home with a valley-facing porch and groomed gardens that a Buddhist nun visits each day on her morning walk. Or so I’m told, I haven’t seen the nun, but I have seen the porch and the mountains.

I’m working once again for Caliburn Contracting (not to be confused with Caliburn Siliviculture, which is a different company also run out of Creston, although C.S. owner Kent did very kindly let me stay in his Vistaliner for a week). Caliburn Contracting is now run by Susan White, since Jim White’s passing last year, and Daryl Fyodorivich is handling daily operations. Caliburn remains very much a townie operation, really the antithesis of the deet- and testosterone-soaked summer camp planting experience I grew up with. Not that we don’t plant trees, but we’re also focused on getting our grumbling pickups back down the mountain in time to get the squash planted in the garden and getting ourselves into the bank or the post office or the liqour store before they close so we can have a beer on the porch with our cheques cashed and our mail mailed and watch the squashes grow in the evening sun. During the working day we’re also concerned about not having too many pieces open, or too large of pieces open, and not having too many blocks open, and all that together means that we necessarily plant less trees than we would if we were as gung-ho about production as a squad of early-20s university kids and quebecois ex-fruit-pickers yearning for cash as much as glory. But they’re good trees and paid well.

The work itself is the same Kootenay Coastal mix of good weather and steep blocks that I remember from last year. Some mosquitoes appeared yesterday when we got high enough for it to be cool enough for them — 1700m — and they didn’t make me nostalgic for working in the Athabascan muskeg at all. It’s been much hotter in the valley this year, but most days are tolerable in the mountains. The blocks seem to be shrinking and shrinking and getting higher and higher. I’m told this is a result of the local mills questing after the more remote prime wood in the hopes of scraping a little profit margin out of the tight markets, and it’s sad to think of the biggest trees getting cut for not even much money. It also makes block access and management tricky. But tree prices somehow remain high here at Caliburn, even as the stories come in of them melting away around the province. So I’m still making a little cash. It sounds like Caliburn Contracting may not be making bids next year, although personnel from both of the Caliburns will likely still be in the market.

For now I’m fine. We’re already entering the very last few shifts of the short season. The weather is cooling off in the valley, and there was a concert and a jam last night, and tomorrow is another planting day, and then we’ll see what happens, and then I’ll be back on the coast with my calluses and my pay.

jerry working up crackerjack

Jerry working up a little ridge somewhere around here.

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