It comes as no surprise that certain experiences associated with tree planting get blocked from my mind. And what I do remember, is remembered in an ephemeral, dream like way. I can think of the rain, but the misery and cold don’t come through. I can remember the heat, but the exhaustion and dizzy spells are overshadowed by the joys of the lake. Campfires, nights in town and the food shine through the mess and act as the gauntlet or Rubicon that all negative thoughts must attempt to filter through.
The bugs however, are instantly erased and forgotten the minute I sit on the plane which brings me home. It is not that they are easy to forget, rather they take such a toll on our psychological well being that they are best forgotten; stored away in the dark recesses of our minds. This is all to say that the bugs are back. Today was flying ant day and the experience of having hundreds of ants landing on you, locked in a feverish love making session is well, traumatic. Add to this the thousands of mosquitoes, no-see-ums and black flies and a small part of you begins to die. I now understand why the Soviets in the Gulag system would use insects as a means of torture. The upside to this all is when through the silence of the woods you hear people scream “fuuuuuuck!!!”.
It has been a busy week. Good weather and lots of planting. Late days make writing hard but I have much ranting to do about the industry and the treatment of planters in my next update.
I will also have to write about the marriage proposal that occurred on our block this week!
The weather this week has been incredible. From our frozen camp-side lake and snowstorms, it quickly transitioned to some of the warmest planting days I’ve experienced. Though its effects were not made known to me immediately, the sun took its toll on my body. By the time I reached my tent that night I felt dizzy and began seeing double. This followed me into the last day of the shift and was relieved by a cold lake and water.
A theme I would like to explore this season is the effect on mental health that planting fosters; both negative and positive. It is not a subject that is often discussed however when one spends hours alone with nothing but your thoughts, you come to know things about yourself you may otherwise not have known, let alone wanted to know. While I find myself being a great orator in a grand conversation in my head, my thoughts meander from money to love to heartbreak, food and home. If I have ever left home with a problem, 2 months of grueling work has solved it. I transport myself to an environment that is so incredibly difficult and different that it must shock my brain into reorginizing itself. I cannot imagine what kind of person I would be without having become a part-time tree planter.
Two glorious days off in a row. Food becomes our priority; snacks, pizza, ice cream; warm showers our oasis and the grocery store as our Mecca. You learn to love your tent and sleeping bag in a way that most people could never love a bed. Likewise you learn to love grocery stores, fast food, motel showers and dive bars in a way that those in your normal life could never understand.
You’ll have to excuse any delay in updating my blog this planting season. Long shifts and spotty internet are making it difficult. However, I have a backlog and will push them out whenever possible. This year has brought many changes and will result in some interesting projects in the year ahead. Apart from shooting film all season, I am also recording hours of audio in the hopes of putting together a pseudo-radio documentary. As for changes, all the foreman save one are rookies(and planting friends from my crew years past) and our supervisor is my foreman from last year and planting friend Dani. Our camp has two supervisors looking after two separate groups of people.
Two supervisors with two separate philosophies and views has made life interesting in camp. While it does not affect us very much, it has made me realize the disconnect between the decision makers and those actually planting. The smallest choice of say a day off or dinner schedule can impact our moral and work in great ways.
The second day of our 5 day shift was cold. My piece(“block” is the clear cut we are planting and “piece” is the divided section each planter gets) was up a long hill and the very top left me alone in such a serene environment. I found myself in front of a snow covered road beside a forest of spruce. The view behind me was that of a lake and an endless valley. I kept thinking about my old babysitter who used to take my brother and I to the arboretum in St Anne De Bellevue. In the winter we would walk and feed the birds from our hands.
The downfall to working in a valley or amongst mountains is that the weather can take drastic turns for the worse. The upside is that from our vantage point, we can view the weather systems approaching and know to prepare for a storm. One day saw 3 storms move in; anything from light hail, to a short blizzard. When we returned to camp, a new system brought a huge blizzard that left our tents covered in snow.
Day 3 of our second shift started with heavy snowfall in the morning. When we got to our block, the snow made it impossible to plant. So we made a giant fire on the logging road and hung out till it melted at 10am. Apart from the morning, it was a terrible and hard day. I yelled a few times and threw my shovel in order to vent throughout. I always appreciate leaving the relative warmth of a Montreal spring for the Canadian north. Our campsite faces a beautiful lake and for our first week it was frozen over with a thin layer of ice. Snow still lines most of the logging roads we drive through.
The sun was shining on the day I left. Running to the bank and dollar store before heading to the airport left beads of sweat running down my face. Even as thunder clouds started making noise in the distance, I relished in the warmth of my Montreal home knowing full well that the one place in the country not enjoying the same treatment was where I would be spending the next 3 months.
And how right I was.
The mornings are cold. The mornings are cold enough to freeze the water in our bottles, freeze the pipes carrying our dish/shower water, cold enough to freeze wet dishes together and leave a thick coating of frost on every truck window. We don’t expose our hands and most of us drink the awful coffee not for the taste but so our hands can touch something a little warmer than the inside of our pockets.
While the mornings are hard to bare, the days have been nice. You quickly undress as you begin your day and apart from the few flakes of snow, we’ve been lucky enough to see mostly sunshine.
We have a lot of new people in our camp this year. It’s really interesting to watch them plant and think: “was that really me?”
The best thing about having a camp of rookies is that everyone gets along. No cliques are made, everyone enjoys the campfire and tries to remember everyones names(this is with the exception of one crew which has completely isolated itself from the rest of camp for whatever reason)
And it should be noted that unlike last year, the food in great and the cooks are wonderful! While I hoped to really focus on life as a vegan tree planting, I have not made that a focus on this blog. The first 2 seasons we had a wonderful cook who really took care of me as the only vegan. Last year…well I will sum up last year with a quote from the cook to myself:
“if you think we have a problem, I’ll fucking headbutt you, then we’ll see who has a problem” Needless to say, we didn’t get along and when he didn’t refuse to feed me, I still ended up going to bed hungry.
This year has seen a return to the great food one should expect from the cooks. The soups are vegan, the bread is vegan and delicious and the options have been wonderful.
I was visiting MEC
today with some friends, buying some stuff for our bikes and other tidbits(it’s so easy to spend too much money at that store) when I overheard someone talking about going out planting. We chit-chatted for a while and I got to thinking that I haven’t mentioned the fact that I’ll be leaving for season four of tree planting in a little over a week. Season four, can you believe it? I can’t. It seems like yesterday that little, overweight Jeremy nervously planted his first tree. I still remember the first piece of land I ever got. It was a beautiful, flat, trenched piece. I had no idea what I was doing and planted against the trenches. For those reading this who have no idea what I just wrote, sorry.
I leave on May 3rd and I have so much left to do. See doctor, see friends, get gear in order, fix tent, etc. All of this with an exam next week(on my birthday!)
As usual I will be writing throughout the season and this year promises to be good. My writing skills have greatly improved, I will still be dealing with being a vegan tree planter, I’m in better shape going in than ever and fingers crossed, will make good money.
I found this roll of film the other day and I was at a complete loss as to what could be contained on it. Was it porn? How could it be porn? What would the film lab think if they found porn on this roll of film? Oh god…should I just throw it out and forget it even exists?
Anyways, I got it back and it turned out to be from 2 years ago. I shot one roll of film with my Holga while tree planting and completely forgot it existed.