don’t hire me, I love planting!
you have to hate and love tree planting at the same time – about the ugly sides of a beautiful job . . .
I came to Canada two years ago and set up my tiny tent in a shitty basement apartment in Toronto. simply because I had no furniture. I was about to start a job as a cook in a hip, fancy, vegan restaurant, when a friend told me, that if I’d want to discover the ‘real Canada’, Id have to go tree planting.
two months later I’m working my ass off up to ten hours every day planting tomatoes and potatoes and picking spinach on an organic farm near Peterborough. my boss Pete planted about 35 years ago, at a time, when – according to him – all operations where ministry work, paid directly by the government and they would put not more than 800 trees / day into the ground, but still making a hell load of money.
that has drastically changed he said to me, giving my first very helpful advice: ‘work hard, but don’t walk into a season with too high expectations, might get disappointed’. before I left he gave me an ancient looking planting bag from the 80s, wishing me farewell.
the second very helpful advice came from a friend I had met years ago in Germany. He has been planting forever and he said ‘the only thing you gotta get into your brain is to plant a tree wherever you go, never dead walk’.
with these two tips in my pack, I jumped on that wild train, that took me through my first two season full of adventures in Ontario and later BC.
In both provinces the advice my friends gave me got me pretty far in terms of planting efficiently. I learned not to aim for the money, but for beating myself and the ‘Vets’ I was chasing – that worked and with that strategy usually comes a decent paycheck.
I also had to learn, that shit gets handed down in every industry. I’ve seen a supervisor admitting planters got rights ((which (on posts) were falling off the bulletin board)), but if you’d claim those ((e.g. after days of driving up to three hours (one way) to the block)) you’d get fired.
crew bosses themselves told me, that they let their ballers go wild, even if they don’t meet specs, or quality, because the rest is supposed to come up with enough to statistically have a good chance to reach full pay –
I joined a contract two shifts late last spring where my crew boss was chasing me a quarter of the day, trying to make me plant faster. while I was focusing on getting the right quality level, I walked over other vets’ land wondering why it looked like in Ontario – trees slutted in, pieces that looked like somebody was digging for gold, leaving a lot of shit behind. a few days later the camp faced a shut down, no more new blocks, before we’d fix our fuck up. the idea of ‘fixing up’ five blocks – of course – backfired right away with a client asking how we ‘possibly could repair a gigantic mess like this’. the consequence came in form of a monstrous rock-block with apx. 300.000 trees punishment.
even just being a second year worker I know about how important it is to feel out what a client wants and how to start into a contract slowly, instead of letting a horde of planters off the leash.
after that event I’ve seen the management firing people, saying about them ‘his/her trees were like a ‘window to the soul’, whereas the roots of the mess lay within the leaders of the pack – what a disaster.
going tree planting feels like a romance. it’s passionate, exciting and beautiful, but it can be pretty dirty too. you’ve gotta learn how to work around lies, false informations and wolves in hippie coats.
if I would meet the one, who brought up ‘shut up and plant’ I’d slap them. it’s a great thing to push your limits and to go through full a circle of a mental break down to get to new heights and to experience what body and a brain can do to you, drugs never could. the 30 seconds of pleasure when you pee your tights in icy rain are priceless. coming home after a painful, but good day, squeezing puss out of your ankle or loosing the second toe nail early in the season makes you almost believe you’re bad ass.
my problem with that bloody phrase is, that it gives too many idiots, who become ‘management’ and hence a tiny piece of the power-cake, a few words to silence fellows, who dare to speak up: don’t complain, eat shit, you’re not important to the whole.
there’s bad planters out there, but there’s also a lot of bad crew bosses and even worse supervisors – and bad cooks too, haha.
I met a guy in a gloomy hotel-bar in the woods in Ymir last November. he’s been planting for almost 20 years and he gave me my most recent lesson about the job: ‘it’s like in every industry on this planet. the key is to find the good-spirited people, whose goal it is to hand down as much as possible to the planter instead of bullshitting their workers’.
the job is one of the toughest in the world, it takes a lot, it gives you a lot. I’ll probably never understand, why I have to pay for being out there. I’ll never understand, how assholes get to manage camps or run crews, but I got these comprehensibility problems with other industries too.
the 30 year old planting bags ripped after half a season. I fixed them, they ripped again. I refused to use new ones and got sore all over. it didn’t matter, I just wanted to finish my mission with that junk, because I was wild.
all the bad things about the show feel weaker when you hate … and love tree planting.
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