Recipe: To plant a tree by Robin MacDonald
Take one tree in hand. With your foot, screef away the ‘litter layer’ and make a ‘C’ cut into the soil with your shovel. Place the pod into the ground making sure that it sits vertical. Close the hole with your hand creating a vapor seal around the pod. Be sure that the lateral is visible and that the tree points to the sky. Space the next tree 2.2 meters away. Repeat 2000-4000 times per day for 3 months.
Caution: Rain, hail, snow, wind, small bugs, big bugs, round bugs, green bugs, rotting logs, swamp, sun, stinging metal, poison ivy, bears, and rocks will interfere with your work. Be patient. All these elements will pass. Or not. Whatever. Deal with it. You can’t bring your mother to the block.
5:30am: Wake up.
I open my eyes, unzip my sleeping bag and am greeted to a new day by the bitter cold. I look at my alarm clock and the temperature reads, “2 degrees Celsius”. I think it’s mocking me. I put on 2 wool sweaters and leave my toque on. I find my crew at the mess tent and pound back 2 sausages, pancakes, porridge, eggs, coffee and water. I’ll need the nutrients to make it to 10am when I’ll down a PB and J sandwich; the first of three I packed for lunch.
With eight of us packed into a Ford 350 Super duty pickup truck our foreman, Dave, hits the gas and we’re rolling down a logging road. Most in the truck use the drive to catch a few extra minutes of sleep before the official start of the workday. Although, if you ask me, work at this camp begins when I wake up.
Today, we’re only driving part of the way to the block. The access road has been deactivated and will be flown the rest of the way via helicopter. We pull up to a flat spot on the road where the chopper will be able to land and begin to unload the 20,000 trees our crew will plant that day. The chopper buzzes overhead, pulling up dust and debris with its huge rotors. It lands on the road in front of us and I think this is so cool. Loaded up with our daypacks, shovels and 4-6 liters of water, the first 4 board the chopper and head out. The ride today will take us over two mountain ranges in the Rocky Mountains of northern British Columbia. White caps, river valley’s and pine and spruce forest fill the landscape.
After we land someone says, “I think this is what the army must be like.”
For the next 8 hours we plant as hard and as fast as we can. We put our heads down and ‘pound!’ With the planting bags filled with 400 trees they can weigh 40 pounds or more, although, we never did break out a scale. At 4:30 we run out of trees and the helicopter returns to take us back to the trucks.
Arriving back at camp, we’re covered in blood, sweat and tears. Mud sticks to our skin and is caked under our nails. We head straight to the kitchen for dinner. This is our reward: a hot meal and maybe even a hot shower (if the pump is working) at the end of the day.
After dinner we sit around the bonfire, sharing stories of the day, complaining, laughing and bonding. At 9 o’clock, people start to head back to their tents. Only 9 hours until we get up and do it all over again. Today, I’m physically drained. I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow and dream of helicopter bugs, buzzing around my ears while a bear sits on a stump in front of me reciting poetry. I think the bush is starting to get to me…
Be sure to check out “The Nata 2007 DVD Trailer” by Justin Cheshire here:
Photos provided courtesy of Devin Glage, James Herbison, Gwyneth McMillan and Mary Smith.