Photos From our Treeplanting Cameo

We took Audrey and the Westfalia up to the clearcuts around 70 Mile for a brief visit to a friend’s planting crew. Jane experimented with planting with a baby strapped on. I took the opportunity to take some photos of people actually planting in their land, while not under pressure to be planting in mine.

I also took the opportunity to shoot treeplanting with a serious prime lens — my dad sent it for baby portraiture, but frankly 55mm is better suited to the cut block then the nursery. On the down side, I don’t know how to use a serious prime lens. But it was fun.

A small gallery of photos: Planting ’12.

My Photo On Treeplanting Book Cover

I’m pleased to report that a photo of mine is going to be used on the cover of this new book:

Eating Dirt cover

That’s Jane schlepping in across the scree slope at the top of a truly nasty block on the Bluebird road outside of Creston. Looks pretty good to me. And I like the font.

The book is by Charlotte Gill and presumably has its roots in this award-winning short story. It should be out in a few months. I gather there’s a lot of back-and-forth in book publishing, all of which takes time.

Treeplanting Video Past & Present

I don’t know how I didn’t know about Do It With Joy, a 1976 documentary about one of the first treeplanting crews working out of a hand-hewn camp up the Nass Valley, organized by Dirk Brinkman in a giant beard, and featuring some kick-ass mattock and blues:

The film was made by Nicholas and Simon Kendall, among others. It’s a gold mine of imagery from the foundational era of treeplanting, and beautifully bearded.

“Everytime I meet someone who’s really messed up in their head, I often think wow, what that person needs is to go treeplanting, that would be a really nice gift for them.”

Pauline Kendall
(who I think hauled a load of compost from our overstock pile a while back)

correction: Glada McIntyre (thanks Carole)

An updated version, with where-are-they-now interviews (and hopefully better quality) might be available from Orca Productions. If it is, we’ll be holding a viewing at the house sometime soon.

Here’s a 1987 CBC report, which catches up with Dirk Brinkman, who has swapped his beard for Bill Gates glasses and is tapping away at an Apple IIe, trying to figure out how to increase treeplanting production to meet the growing late 80’s demand. If he only knew I would arrive 13 years later, he wouldn’t be so stressed. It also features this haircut:

“Back in British Columbia, in the hills southwest of Vanderhouf, blackflies and mutiny fill the air”

And 35 years after we started, here’s a prime example of the recent surge in digital-facilitated planter-made clearcut reportage: Faces and Hands, a series of short vids by Millefiore Clarkes being distributed by Peppermill Records. The episodes will show up weekly on the Peppermill site. Here’s episode one:

Back from Treeplanting

My treeplanting contract, being just a very small one, has ended. I am back in Vancouver and happy to be here.

Our planting crew, being just a very small one, is pictured below. Thanks to Mike Cawley for the picture. Absent from the photo are Mike and our rookie Drew.

Cypress Consulting treeplanting crew photo, May 2010.
Deva, Peter, Marie-Christine, Me (below), Rich (above), Andrew, shovel.

That’s me modeling a pilsner, energy drink of choice in the Northlands.

As anticipated, it was indeed as close to coastal planting as I’ve come. Most of the crew were coastal vets, according to them the cutblocks weren’t much different from what could be found around, say, Bute Inlet. Although they also pointed out that the extremes of slope and slash size weren’t as extreme as true coastal extremities, and that the rain was coming in from above rather than from sideways. Which is fine. Close to coastal style planting is as close as I ever want to come.

The buddhists say that self-awareness allows you to suffer and yet not truly suffer. That occurred to me once or twice when I was working through the worst of what was indeed pretty bad land, and finding myself mentally in reasonably good shape. I guess there is some benefit to being a planting vet, namely that you can get through more treeplanting with equanimity intact. I wish I could say the same of my shins.

Tree prices were high, crew and company were good, and camping out on the Dinwoodie homestead was fun. My back feels a little funny, but I’ve got some more jingle in my pocket and I’m home in the city. And I get to swagger around here pretending to be a treeplanter back from a contract. Two weeks of slash climbing is a reasonable price to pay for these privileges.

A Few Treeplanting Photos

I’ve posted a few photos from my current little treeplanting contract. One more shift to go.

forgive the cliche

Once More Unto the Bush, Dear Friends, Once More

Every year, at the end of the treeplanting season, I tell everyone I might be coming back again next year. And every year I know in my heart that no, that really was my last contract.

Maybe I’ll feel the same way at the end of this season, because off I go again.

The last couple of years were short seasons for me, but this year it’s going to be really short. 2 to 3 shifts, as part of a six-planter contract working out the back of somebody’s house in Rosswood, north of Terrace. Nothing like the 90 day, multi-company seasons of yore.

View Larger Map

This will be the the closest I’ve come to coastal planting, which I foreswore many years ago as a pass-time for crazies. But I’m told the land isn’t too bad, the blocks aren’t too steep, the views are good and it’s 28 cents for straight plant. I’ll find out soon enough, for better or worse. Two summers ago my knees started to go, and last year I got tendinitis for the first time. What fresh wonders of terrain and physical decay are in store for me this year? Surely nothing can go too badly in two shifts. I could stand on my head for two shifts if I had too.

And then I’ll be back! And looking for summer-time fun and grownup work in the grand old city of Vancouver.

British Columbia, where the blocks are as steep as the prices


Soundtrack for the Hiring Season

The treeplanting company I’ve lately been working for seems to have folded. Who knows, maybe that is the final nail in the coffin of my treeplanting career, which has been drifting off to sleep asymptotically for years now.

Regardless of my own summer destiny, I’ve been fielding the occasional email from rookies and vets who are bound for the block this summer, and are looking for references and advice during this, the hiring season. I don’t know how much advice I have, but I can at least offer “Gorilla Warfare“, LazzaGun Soundsystem’s latest treeplanting themed musical concoction, which arrived today in the email. Be warned, the language is as salty as the planting day is long.

Gorilla Warfare(MP3)  by  Lars Zergun

You may remember Lars from such bygone hits as 2007 Pounder Mix and Welcome 2 Treeplanting 2012.

Why Not To Be A Treeplanter: Me

I love that’s article on the “Top 10 Worst Reasons for Wanting to be a Tree Planter” starts off with a photo of me.

By the by, Dave Robinson took that photo of me, shortly after I took this one of him.

No High-Lead After All

I’m feeling a little sheepish after posting dramatically about that steep clearcut, and then not actually getting sent there the next day. So I thought I would defend my honour by pointing out that last spring we worked a near-vertical high-lead block that was frankly worse than the one currently in play. Here is proof:

lining into the elevator shaft

Instead of the high-lead block, I ended the shift on a little crew tasked with some fill planting. It was good fill: a 10 year old plantation with big trees and clear sandy substrate in between, which makes for some of my favourite work; swooping from spot to spot, lining up likely microsites while you work through the maze of existing trees, heads-up spatially-aware cardiovascular planting. We were also getting $0.25 a tree, which is pretty damn good. I will stoop for quarters.

Our spring trees are all planted, and we’re currently prorogued, waiting for the summer trees the mill has on order to get going again. Something tells me some of those trees may yet be going into that big steep block.

A View to a Hill

Today our crew’s block faced across the Nelson pass at the block we’ll be planting tomorrow.

tomorrow's block

The other crew was already working on it when I took this picture through a break in the rain, so you can just make out their truck parked at a landing on top of the block. It’s deep, I would estimate 120 trees from road to farthest treeline. It’s a high-lead cable block, so it’s likely well over 60 degrees steep, just as steep as it looks. Access is only from the top, it’s wider at the bottom than the top, it’s too steep for an ATV, and last I heard the guy we normally hire to hike trees into the remote corners of our hilly clearcuts has a hole in his foot from ill-fitting shoes.

Today was a good day. Tomorrow should be interesting.

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