Finally we're getting down to some serious planting! There were definately some environmental challenges this week: freezing rain, followed by rain, followed by hail, followed by blackflies followed by more snow. Coupled with this were the usual biginning of the season aches and pains as planters' bodies slowly adjusted to the rigours of the job. There surely were a lot of tired, sore and shivering employees up in the bush these past ten days.
But this was also the week that many rookies finally started making money. Crews began to bond, comraderie began spread and serious numbers of trees began to be planted. Camp production topped 70 000 trees one day this week! Weather systems pass, aches heal and bugs... well, they get squished. Most planters take the tough conditions in stride, their rotten experiences becoming a source of pride. We can overcome anything if we just put our mind to it! With this can-do spirit we push onward, deeper into the contract...
Accumulating snow made us call one planting day early, and another day the plant was delayed in the morning for several hours. Of course, the frigid conditions were no match for the indominable enthusiasm of the treeplanters.
It will be a white Christmas after all! Oh wait, it's the 21st of May....
Sleep in Day! Two inches of accumulation led to a two hour delay to our workday one morning. The snowflakes were thick and heavy, leading to several tent collapses! But as it was the middle of May the accumulation quickly melted, although it continued to fall off and on throughout the day.
The camp still sleeps beneath a blanket of snow.
Watch a 28 second VIDEO CLIP showing our camp in the morning (6.5 MB download).
The rotten weather made for some treacherous conditions on the logging roads. Water logged roads became quagmires if not just outright ponds, which made getting vehicles stuck exceedingly easy this week. Once the soft mud grabs your tires it pulls your tail end right off the road.
Matty's little manoeuver around my partially stuck bus resulted in exactly two stuck vehicles and precisely zero free vehicles to tow us out.
The tree truck from another angle. It was actually hung up on the bed, with the wheel dangling in the mucky water. A lot of digging and a little towing and both vehicles were free within half an hour.
And finally, after the weather, after the sticky commute, what sort of work awaits us? Planting trees, of course. Lots of them (those of you in the business please pardon the pun). The blocks this year have tended so far to have a great deal of slash (that is, parts of trees laying about), but the soil has been deep and plentiful for planting.
Here Tom braves the sleet to display his planting prowess for the camera.
In some places there is a great deal of slash on the block. We discourage planters from jeopardizing their safety by clammering over dangerous slash piles, but the mantra of A TREE EVERY 2.3 METRES is hard to forget once it has been drilled into you.
An industrious rookie finds a pocket of soil amidst the slash.
Most of the land on this contract is scarified, which means that it has been plowed by a giant piece of forestry machinery called a skidder. The type of scarification we're working with this year is called "furrows". Essentially the skidder path creates pairs of trenches of exposed mineral soil that criss-cross the cut. So long as the mineral soil is in fact exposed and the process doesn't deposit too much slash debris over the land this process greatly facilitates the planting process.
Giver, one of my vets, flies along a creamy furrow, planting a tree every couple seconds.
See Giver in real time action in this VIDEO CLIP (5 MB download).
The trees we are planting this year arrive in bins. Each bin has 48 bundles of 15 trees each, adding up to exactly 720 trees. These are delivered to the block by the treehandling truck (when it's not stuck) to points along the access roads called "caches". This cache has been exhausted, so all the bins have been stacked and the garbage tied up neatly ready for sweeping.
Krazy Katie demonstrates good cache maintenance habbits.
Tree bins are immensely useful things. When they are empty they are good for keeping your gear dry in the rain, and they are surprisingly comfortable to sit on. Creative planters also find other uses for them.
C-Bass demonstrates less admirable cache habbits. At least he has kept his Personal Protective Equipment on.
This season Personal Protective Equipment (PPE for short) is mandatory at all times on the block. It's hard to force a creative bunch like treeplanters into such a conformist mould, however. Hey, at least they're wearing it... Now if only they would put that much effort into planting trees!
The Tweedles are back and they've recruited a new member...
At the end of the day the crewboss must tally up everyone's numbers for the day and put them into the pay book. Every crewboss has their own system. Here veteran crewboss Sean Hickey demonstrates his "Fistfull of Tickets" method accompanied by the fool proof "Arm Write" tactic -an infaliable combination. I'll stick to my tacklebox, thanks.
Sean Hickey and his legendary fistfull of tickets.