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.

Treeplanting to Die and Be Reborn?

I’m not sure who the “John” is who wrote this statement ahead of a Western Silvicultural Contractors’ Association strategy meeting, but he thinks the planting industry is in for some crazy times in the next few years.

“Let’s not forget that these mills had far larger margins to buffer the commodity market cycles than many on the silviculture service side do. And we are looking ahead at two of the worst years for growing and planting seedlings in two decades. With this in mind anyone who intends to stay in business through the next few years has a stake in how all of us collectively behave. It seems logical and necessary then for the industry to try and make sense of the future and seek some strategies to mitigate what looks like a potentially ruinous run. Broadly stated that is the purpose of this year’s summit and I would think figuring out how to stay in business over the next few years should be a strong enough incentive for most of us to attend this meeting.

Interestingly, not all the news is bad. Looking ahead three to five years it is possible to see a dramatic shift back towards a robust silviculture sector. It won’t be the same sector. In fact it might even be better, if not just more interesting. The province’s green house gas initiative, the potential funding streams through carbon credits, the possible redistribution of tenure, new emerging industries based on bio energy and the startling possibility that properly stewarding forests might be seen as an inherently valuable if not profitable enterprise on its own all present a sunny horizon for those of us prepared and preserved to appreciate it.”

40% decline in trees in the next 2 years!

I’m in Hamilton, crashing at the house of a planter who spent the summer working at a traditional BC plateau bush-camp operation. The stories she’s telling are, of course, great. My recent eccentric tangents in the industry aside, treeplanting really still is the same coming-of-age, challenge and perseverance experience it has been for so many cohorts of young planters. But maybe that is finally set to change up in the near future.

workwizer heroic overlook

Horrible Experiments, Gone Wrong and Right

Playlist

Audio:

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Swing-season radio, principally masterminded by un-dj janeboles. Good stuff, I promise.

Early Morning in the Prince George Save-On

“All this shopping sucks,
All these sickly white shoppers.
All this easy space, time unused,
My parts are healing that once were bruised.”
Love Song to Little Trees, Bill Crosson

Last Tree

last tree

Last Day

south jersey view

Special End of Season Special

Audio:

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The first 20 minutes didn’t get recorded. To duplicate the original experience, play The Israelites by Desmond Dekker, talk a bit, then play Reasons to Be Cheerful, Pt 3 by Ian Dury, talk some more, then Lay It in the Cut by Sharon Jones and Whole Lot of Walking to Do by Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. Then play the recording. Should be good.

Mountain Pine Beats Continue to Expand Their Range

The radio podcast has been updated with a couple of week’s worth of music from the clearcuts. And I’ve confirmed with the goods folks at CIDO that I’ll be doing a fresh show this Thursday. So they should let me in the studio this time. I’m planning an 1 1/2 hour Quitting for the Season, Possibly Forever Special.

Backyards of Creston

I first brought a camera treeplanting with the goal of photographing people working, to round out the normal planting shots of hotel rooms and bars. But there’s nothing wrong with party photos.

toby, louie and cc in the backyard

Left to right: Toby, my crewboss; Louie, fellow treeplanter formerly of the Hungarian Olympic rowing team and despite any rumours you may have heard of him pulling knives in dicey moments at the bar, a really lovely gentleman; C.C., fellow treeplanter among many other things, who claims to have never logged any of the trees he’s planted but who knows people who have. Elk shot, boned, carried out of the bush and bbq’ed into burgers by Cassidy, fellow treeplanter, not in photo.

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