Bugs, dirt, camping, grit, wasp stings, bears, sunburns, rain, hail, trees…lots of trees! Good old tree planting eh, where to even begin!
Well I had such an incredible experience and rookie year out digging holes in the dirt planting lots of wee pine and spruce trees. Weirdly enough I actually quite loved it, which you don’t often hear from planters.
For those who don’t know what tree planting is…essentially in a nut shell you live in a bush camp with other planters (hippies) foreman (super rad bush people) and doggies…and well believe it or not you plant trees…loads of trees! You wear bags that you load up with bundles of trees, get a chunk of land and go at it with your shovel for a few months in the great outdoors. You get paid per tree, and if your lucky get to take a helicopter to work!
Essentially it’s a camp for a bunch of hippies in the forest…no we are not here to save the environment your essentially working in the logging industry putting the trees back in the land after they have been cut down, and it’s not some nostalgia of laying in hammocks and campfires…it’s getting your butt out of bed at 6am when it’s pouring rain, your sore, putting on your muddy shoes and dirty clothes you’ve worn for about a week and gearing up for yet another day with the trees.
Who I planted for– Next Generation Reforestation (NGR)
“may the forest be with you”
Where I planted– Northern British Columbia (Quesnel) and Alberta (Hinton, High Prarie, & Peace River)
Here are some things I loved about planting:
- The people–you are surrounded by a variety of incredible humans! Everyone from the planters to the foreman, and camp cooks are amazing. It’s a unique group of quirky, fun, chill, wild, hippie, strong, happy (most of the time) people. I met some rad humans and made a lots of great friends which made my experience that much better. There are people from all walks of life that all come together and plant trees. It’s pretty damn cool.
- The camp environment–this varies obviously on company and people…but I was incredibly lucky and had such a wonderful camp experience. Super friendly, good vibes and lots of doggies.
- Being outdoors–I looove nature so much! So couldn’t think of anything better then being outside all day everyday.
- The food–super grateful to have had outstanding cooks, seriously was the best to look forward to at the end of a tough day. There was also lots of great veggie options and such a variety! It definitely kept camp spirits high during harder times. So fresh and delicious, don’t know how I could have survived without great nourishment!
- The physical and mental challenge–I really love being able to push myself and my limits. It’s pretty amazing how much our bodies can adapt and handle physically if we put it to the test. It’s also all mind over matter, such a mental game everyday…getting out there doing the same motion essentially thousands of times a day for a few months…for some it can seem daunting (believe me some days each bag up of trees seems daunting) but just remember it’s all in your mind! You can make it as fun, hard or boring as you’d like. I liked to make it a game for myself and often treated it like a sport, getting in the zone and competing with myself. It was quite fun really.
- Appreciate the simple things like sunshine, wild flowers, wild berries or pretty scenery. It makes the days a lot more smily 🙂
What I found most challenging:
- Rain days—personally I really don’t like being wet and cold. So rain days or weeks can be a little challenging and miserable at times and camp moral/spirits can fall a wee bit low. You just have to accept the fact your working out in nature and you have to take what comes…smile and remain as positive as you can because you can’t change the weather. You just have to grab your shovel and keep planting. The rain won’t go away any faster if you don’t plant trees, so you better just keep getting them in the ground…and look forward to some warm tea and food at the end of the day! (That’s pretty good motivation haha!)
- Bugs (who does like them?)—they can literally drive you crazy if you let them…especially when there’s a swarm following your head for hours buzzing and biting you until you bleed. Again it’s one of those things you cannot really control, so you just have to accept it and keep moving! There’s lots of sprays and natural oils out there but honestly they don’t ever really work…so ya you just have to cope and keep planting.
- Balance–social life, time alone, going to sleep early for a goods night rest vs staying up and socializing. The works physically tough on your body so it’s important to find a balance between having fun and letting loose, and hitting the sack.
Tips for rookies
- Patience is virtue… at the beginning your shovel is going to feel strange, just the simple act of opening and closing a hole is a big deal. You are going to mess up…density, spacing, following your trees, flagging…there’s so much to learn it can be overwhelming at the start. It is not a race, so just remember that you will learn it eventually…after all you do get to practice it for hours everyday. So just have some patience and don’t forget to enjoy the learning process:)
- Don’t compare yourself….this is a big one especially being a rookie it is so easy to look up to other more experienced planters (vets), and other rookies.
- Don’t get caught in the numbers game, it’s easy to get sucked into comparing your planting to another’s…but just like life we are all humans and have our own DNA so we are all different. Embrace your uniqueness and let go of comparing trees, you will have a lot more fun!
- You will have bad days, accept and embrace them it’s all part of the game and learning process. You won’t be pounding and balling everyday!
- Do your best…yes that sounds lame and cliche but really that is all you can do, is get out there everyday and give it all you have. Try your best always and you will earn your respect.
- Don’t be lazy…it doesn’t help anyone and you may as well just not plant trees… if you want to be lazy get a desk job.
- Get good rain gear, trust me you’ll be grateful for a decent rain coat! I lucked out and found a great second hand Helly Hanson Workwear jacket, it was brilliant still in good condition for next season! Oh and never forget to pack your rain coat for the day even if it’s sunny!
- Get a wool sweater…the layering system will be your friend, and a good wooly is pretty nice to have when it’s damp, cold and wet.
- Socks…you can never have too many!
So are you thinking of tree planting?
Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise… lots of people will try and talk you out if it or warn you against it…which I don’t blame them for as it’s defiantly one of the most unique and challenging jobs, that’s for sure not for everyone! But if it’s something you are curious about or really really want to do, just dive fully in and commit! Go for it! I think you know yourself best so don’t listen to mine or anybody’s advice, this is your life, so do it if you’d really like! After all you never know if you never try…..and if you do go for it, well my friend your in for one heck of an adventure that’s for sure…enjoy the journey!
Happy tree planting from me to you 🙂