- Replant Forums Highballer
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i was whining about work in my backyard being handed off to a company that i loathe. i know that those planters will get paid far less than i would have, and they dont really deserve that, for the most part.
you certainly seem to know alot about me and the company i work for, and i think i have a good idea who you are as well. if you want to call me out and make it personal, dont be a coward and hide behind a username. post your real name and the name of your company, and im pretty sure i can highlight the same sort of double standard in your words that you seem so eager to decry in mine.
get as riled up as you want, just stop talking out your ass.
I am that foreman, running off with my crew to work in a good friends camp. Which is why many of my Coast Range posts now consist of single words. I'm not about to bad mouth or bash but many of posts were pre 10cent trench days and I don't feel they represent whats happening now.fluffer wrote:
The planters and crew chiefs were all great, without exception, and the cooking was absolutely amazing. But the lack of reality from the camp supervisor, with the crew chiefs having to tow his line, was just messed up. The entire crew, without exception, is ditching CR to work at another company this season, to demonstrate how cohesive the people were and how dissatisfied they were.
Yes last year was a shit show, I really hope with the feedback recieved after that season things will be much better for everyone in 2012 but my crew and I are greedy little fuckers, so north we go.
I called you a whiner and you called me a coward! No problem! For me this is not personal! I have simply noticed over time many mentions of your employer that seemed to represent a one sided view of what he offers. I have many accounts from many people describing his work practises and ethics as less than ideal! I don't see the need to make mention of all the issues iv'e heard over the years as I know most people browsing this site won't be hired by him and don't need any discerning information.
However there are a few contractors in the North West, including me, who do not hold your boss in the highest regards. I could itemize and reference many actions that have been on par with some of the less desirable companies. If you really think I am talking out of my ass then email me and me and I will enlighten you! I have many people who you know and worked with who are seconding me on this!
You are just a worker and he pays well (for the most part)! Fair enough! There is more to the equation than this simple reality though!
Someone called you on your postings. Suck it up. Osprey has low bid some of "your" local work! Big deal! Stephan has low bid many jobs away from other locals as well!! Big deal.
- Replant Forums Highballer
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- Joined: Sat Dec 10, 2005 3:36 pm
- Location: Haida Gwaii
Tnalp wrote: I have many people who you know and worked with who are seconding me on this!
i dont doubt this for a second, but these same people will second you on these sorts of sentiments, and then turn around and call stephan for a job.
ALL the contractors in the northwest you speak of are exactly the same. including yourself. this really is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. nobody in this business is a shining paragon of integrity ALL the time. its business after all. i can only measure these sorts of things by how we are treated as employees, and i stand by my choice.
that being said, i can think of times when stephan has been underbid by rainforest... but you dont see me on here comparing rainforest to coast range or osprey.
i may have taken some of this too personally, but alot of the discerning information you were tossing around got my hackles up. my bad, ill suck it up.
anyhow, discussing this on a thread about coast range is akin to attending a climate change conference in china and complaining about smoke coming from windmills in holland. that may be a clumsy metaphor, but im no poet.
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Whenever things went wrong in the bar that I ran, everyone blamed the Dutch. No real reason for it, and I can't remember why it started, but it seems like a tradition worth carrying on.anyhow, discussing this on a thread about coast range is akin to attending a climate change conference in china and complaining about smoke coming from windmills in holland. that may be a clumsy metaphor, but im no poet.
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Her comments were in response to this:eisan wrote:I am that foreman, running off with my crew to work in a good friends camp. Which is why many of my Coast Range posts now consist of single words. I'm not about to bad mouth or bash but many of posts were pre 10cent trench days and I don't feel they represent whats happening now.
Yes last year was a shit show, I really hope with the feedback recieved after that season things will be much better for everyone in 2012 but my crew and I are greedy little fuckers, so north we go.
fluffer wrote:The planters and crew chiefs were all great, without exception, and the cooking was absolutely amazing. But the lack of reality from the camp supervisor, with the crew chiefs having to tow his line, was just messed up. The entire crew, without exception, is ditching CR to work at another company this season, to demonstrate how cohesive the people were and how dissatisfied they were.
I suggest you work for a company that doesn't leave hundreds of thousands of dollars on the table by brutally lowballing public bids.As a crewboss, my ultimate vision is to make tree planting as profitable as possible. I am always working tirelessly to improve my own bottom line, which means I need to do even better for my crew.
- Replant Forums Highballer
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- Joined: Sat Dec 10, 2005 3:36 pm
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Did you know the crewboss who's going to Winfirm with their "crew" didn't even finish as management last season with Coast Range? They had their entire crew taken away from them. Did you get that side of the story Mike? Didn't think so. Well I have it because, unlike you, I was there. That crewboss couldn't cut it and unfortunately their weakness imprinted onto their crew and they didn't produce.
You're a solid pounder Wainwright and if you saw the land that crew was on you would've laughed all the way to the bank. I was on a couple of their blocks and I blew right past them while they were making excuses.
All you other Coast Range haters, you know nothing about us now, you're still bitching about the way it was 10 years ago for Christ's sake and mostly because of what you think you heard someone say once. Well I was there. I made money then and make even more now. The difference between us is I'm still here now and I love it, because I know the new Coast Range. You don't, so shut the fuck up.
- Replant Forums Highballer
- Posts: 410
- Joined: Sat Dec 10, 2005 3:36 pm
- Location: Haida Gwaii
on a more serious note, mr. boot is trying to do some hiring here, and i think we're all making that a little less possible for him. i actually feel bad about this, so when you read this scooter, maybe you could move some of these last posts over to a more appropriate thread? mr. boot shouldnt have to suffer for the views of a jackass like me.
First - When I told Garth I was leaving he said I would always be welcome back, I even did some viewing for him after I quit. I care for the company so much I missed amazing skiing to drive for ever (3000+km) and walk through blocks using my own vechicle without getting truck rate.
Second - Skywriter don't bitch out Mike for talking about things he doesn't know about if you're going to go ahead and do the same thing. You have no idea why I stepped down from running my crew, I was more than glad to do it. It wasn't worth it for me to foreman at CR. They don't pay enough. Wainwright has that right. I have ran crews, even entire brushing operations in the past with great success. I wanted to plant, I love planting and you can't plant at CR if you have a crew.
Third - I have my entire crew returning besides Fluffer there, I know for a fact that CR generally doesn't have that kind of return rate. That must say something about my ability to run a crew.
- Replant Forums Highballer
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- Location: amongst the trees
... and they are bidding even lower than the "old" Coast Range ...???
How is this making it a better place to work???
I don't know who Skywritter is, I did PM him or her to try to hash this out. I know how it looked at the end. I didn't care, as long as my crew had a home and I could plant, and not worry about dealing with upper management (supervisor, not Garth, Garth is great), I would stick it out, and thats what I did.Greg wrote:pretty intense skywriter. you sound like you are old school. was it strictly a difference in styles between the two of you? eisan, sounds like you are happy to move on. what was the foreman pay structure at CR? what about at windfirm?
I have so much respect for Garth, the owner of Coast Range, and will not bad mouth the company itself. It is a decent company, I've had a lot of fun, I've eaten great food. The people are great, but it is what it is, it's a great place for rookies to run trenches, and loyal vets to screef away for 13 cents. We (Skywritter and I) seem to have very different ideas about what we'll put our bodies through for a few hundie. I've been around the company circuit, I went to CR for 13c+ trenches a few years back. Stuck around during the 10c trenches because I'm a silly girl, lucky for me I was a faster planter and still made decent money.
I was given a better opportunity (higher commission and I can plant and claim my trees plus commission, no claiming trees at CR) plus my crew gets an addition 25 days of work with an optional 3 weeks of day rate at the end, higher day than I've ever seen at CR. No screefing, no drunk trenches, no half trenched land that you're getting paid prepped prices on. And Zap, who I'm working with at Windfirm is all about respect, something I didn't get at CR from my supervisor.
I honestly hope that Coast Range has an outstanding season, Garth sounds like he has a good handle on what went awry last season and he and the management are all over it. I have so many friends there and want them all to have a fun season and make some coin.
Thats that, I have worked for worse companies, I've worked for better. If you're looking for work and like fast ground, I'll reccommend Alex. He is awesome, they have a great cook in camp, hard working supervisor, Alex himself is one of the greediest boys I know, and at CR the only way for a foreman to make coin is if their planters are, so he'll motavate and work his ass off for you.
As highballers struggled to make $250 in some of the most jungly land imaginable near the latter part of our season, the message relayed to the camp by the supervisor was that upon completion of that portion of the contract we would all be 'real planters.' That's pretty funny to hear from someone you have likely planted several hundred thousand trees more than in your career. In fact, it's too funny - so funny that I doubt many of their managerial staff, nor better planters, will ever be returning.
Great people, great parties, great camp atmosphere, but this will be the last time I leave thousands upon thousands of dollars on the table by working for these guys. The many $400+ days I have had here are simply not outweighed by the equal number of abysmal days in which you break yourself to not even make $300 after camp costs. Good luck and good riddance.
Vets - stay away, unless you are looking to fill out your EI hours near the end of the season.
Rookies - welcomed with open arms. Come plant your shitty trees here
I'm sure most who read these boards actively are blissfully aware of what a company such as this leaves to be desired, but thought I'd reiterate some recent experiences as this is quite a large (near ~140) company and very little has been said about their operations over the past several years.
Too long, won't read:
Prices: Started decent, nose-dived, then randomly good blocks mixed with garbage that mostly served to agitate the people who didn't get them.
Camp averages: Started in the $200-$250 range, slid to the $150-$200 range, with a few random good days.
Food: Started with medicore quality and limited portions, then went to excellent quality but really struggling with running out of things. $28.35/day camp costs, and they accidentally charged on days off/full camp costs on partial days all over the place, had to fight with them about it a bit. No dinner on Day 4's by the end of the season, with often bad logistics for getting people into town and to dinner.
Days: Often random long days, pulling in 6:45am-7:00am to 6pm as a short/normal day, but a lot of 7pm, 8pm, 8:30pm returns to camps. 8 hours on payroll for insurable hours. Lots of random part days, too, including a 5 day shift with 3 part days.
Logistics: Bad, except my foreperson was phenomenal.
Professionalism: Generally non-existant. The people were nice, but the average age for the camp might have been 23, and there might have been only 1-5 people over 30...including management, who were also young.
Party atmosphere: Excellent. Definitely not lots of drugs.
Turn over: Massive.
Land: MacKenzie overgrown and sometimes compacted brush for 12-13-14 cents. Sometimes okay, usually not, and then those random MacKenzie sand creamshow blocks, 2-3 of those popped up near the end, still for 12-13 cents.
Coast Range started out better than I expected, not deserving the flak they get. Then they proved to be like many other companies of their tier, but not noticeably worse. I am also at this point arguably super bitter, super jaded, and mildly to moderately depressed, going on more depressed into the late summer plant...so bias and colouring. I got lots of offers for summer work, but went with Coast Range because they were 1) across the street from me in Merritt 2) giving a week break in the summer plant, which I wanted.
These are only mildly edited versions of the e-mails I sent to my parents. I have no intention of planting in Canada again, and since Coast Range is such a legendary company, I feel pretty good about posting them openly.
Saturday June 13th, Day off 28.
I work for Coast Range now. Maya, the foreman for coast range, who proves to be awesome, texts me and tells me our goal is to leave at 8am, so I head over there at 7:45am with my gear, and they're loading one of the fists. They've been getting back at 9pm, working late days to try to finish the contract on time (which I think results in more fatigue and slower planting and reduced production than working normal days and chilling out, but whatever).
Yesterday their short day was interrupted by several hours of heavy snowfall. They had to wait in the trucks for it to melt, and didn't end up getting back until 6pm, which is hardly a short day. The end result, is they're all burnt out and still working on packing and cleaning, and some of them partied last night. I help empty a fist, load it with a BBQ, a bike, peoples gear, help people do dishes, clean out the trucks, and generally make myself helpful...and that still only takes until 9:30am, so I sit and read for a bit while people finally get together.
We leave at 10am...and make 3 stops in Merritt for random things and don't actually get going until near 11am. With 7.5 hours of driving to look forward to, that's not actually terrible. I'm writing this at 1pm, and we've passed through Cache Creek, Clinton, and we're ~10 minutes from 70 mile. So making good time.
The suburban has a bit of speed wobble on the highway, and people are worried it needs repairs. It's just a bit of speed wobble. It's been a while since I've been in a suburban.
The people in the sub with me are:
Liz: 2nd year with Coast Range, driving. She went to Queens for Political Science and History.
Val: 1st year, our safety officer, she has Wilderness First Responder, which is ~24 hours longer than the OFA3. I'm wondering if WorkSafeBC sees them as interchangable. She is from London but living in Ottawa/Pembroke, and cycles all winter long.
Ben: He planted 3 years in Ontario/1 year with Rhino, took a few years off, and planted in Scotland. He knows the people I planted in Scotland with, too. So this is 5th for him
Jeremy: 1st year, and his first time out west. Quebecois. He's visibly enjoying the drive, with an enthusiasm which makes me look out the window and pay a bit more attention as well. I sometimes forget how beautiful the things I do are.
I have almost as much experience as the rest of the truck combined.
Coast Range is the sort of company where people take towels and pillows from the hotel (it's borrowing!) laugh about leaving messes (we don't have time for that!) in the hotel. I can already tell this is going to be entertaining. Professionalism, yo.
100 mile and it's 2pm. We stop at Subway. 335Km to PG, then another ~1.5 hours to camp. 7Pm camp? I realize all my camping gear is in a truck behind us, so....8pm camp set up?
We get to PG at 5:30pm, and go to a mall for dinner (I get a sub). We wait for the other truck to arrive, which then has to stop at a liquor store, then a mcdolands, then a gas station. We finally leave PG at 7:30pm, which means we'll be getting to camp and setting up at 9 or 9:30pm. Hopefully it's still light out.
We finally get to camp at 9pm. It is still light out. I set up my tent and unpack my gear, mostly. People are drinking around the campfire. I go to bed, and people shoot fireworks off.
Tree Planting: Shift 25: Coast Range
Sunday June 14th, Planting Day 72
We're working a 4 day shift, day off, then a few more days. At least 3, possibly 5. Our 30 planters (13 female, 17 male; 2 full time foreman, one planting foreman, one checker, so 27 planters) have 300000 trees which is expected to take 6-7 days (~11100 each, or ~1600-~1850 each per day). Then possibly helping other crews finish their trees in the area.
We go to a block that is 10 minutes away. Brief camp meeting. Breakfast is done by the restaurant, we're at the Windy Point Inn. There is a trailer that is used for miners, and a restaurant and gas station and small convenience store.
Breakfast was scrambled eggs, bacon, sauasage, pancakes with berry compote, and oatmeal. It was mediocrely done. Lunch table had apples and oranges (but no bananas), sandwhich stuff, and small baggies of trail mix --- no cookies or other “block treat.” It's a little weak. Dinner is shephards pie, salads, macaroni and cheese, and carrots, and is actually good, though they run out of food --- one or two people end up with the restaurant throwing them together something swiftly. No dessert except yogurt cups.
The block is overgrown and fairly slashy, and a bit stick matty- and duffy. We're planting 8's with 2 meter minimums, which at this point for me feels like “OH MY GOD, TREES EVERYWHERE” after planting 7's with a 1.5 minimum. But we plant a long day, and I'm in the mood to work, and I have a good day of it, partially because we work until 6pm. It's originally priced at 13 cents, and gets bumped to 14. It's windy and cool, with mixes of sun and cloud where it gets warm, but it's pretty much a perfect day for planting.
People talk numbers here. Lots of 1st year, 2nd year planters, which makes it happen more. The block was 68000 trees, we had 27 people, and there are ~7 people going back, so it's taking 34 planter days – 2000 tree average, or ~280$/average. Which is actually higher than I would have guessed (maybe it'll go slightly under allocation). Also, they decided to bump it when it would have been a 250 average. Apparently this won't go below 13 cents, and last time I worked it there were some very nice blocks at 11 and 12, so this could go way better than expected.
I like the people here. People say wow when I tell them I've been planting 8 years, which is hilarious, and debate the merits of planting without gloves (hint: don't). I don't highball the camp, but I'm probably close, and later find out that I did highball the crew.
Monday June 14th, Planting Day 73
Wake up. Breakfast is similar (eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes with berry compote), lunch (no cheese for the sandwhiches, muffins instead of trailmix, sliced carrot, and melon slices). Dinner is ham and scalloped potatoes and macaroni and cheese and salads, and is pretty good. There are 8 large-ish donuts set out for desert, which leads the first 8 people (myself included) to assume more would be set out, so we each took them. It turns out they were planning on giving just 8 donuts as desert to 30 planters, which is silly. They should have at least been cut into quarters in advance if that was what they were thinking. For 25$/day, thus far it's a bit on the mediocre side, but not awful. I've seen worse.
We get a small speech before going --- this is the time to make money, seasons drawing to a close, etcetera, you guys are all doing great work, a handful of small quality things to keep an eye on (apparently people were planting 11's, which basically requires busted minimums too, which seems hilarious until I find out in BCTS Kamloops, where half the crew was, they were planting 12s...so accidentally doing your last contract's density isn'tthat odd). Also, party theme ideas for day 4 evening, because part of what this job is about is the partying (right guys!?)
As far as speeches go, it's not offensive and kindly delivered, which makes it better than most planting speeches I hear.
I get sent to finish the previous block. I finish my piece at 1pm, do 1 bag up in the next piece with Franco, who, within 30 seconds, asks me what I planted yesterday. In a lot of places, that would be considered crazily rude, but here everyone talks numbers. I tell him I find it odd, and say I'm not particularly competitive --- he is quick to say the same, that it's just another way for the young guys to keep their motivation going. I tell him, but I really don't care what other people are doing --- I care what I'm doing. A few trees in the next piece, and another bag up in another piece with Ben, who within 2-3 minutes asks me what I've got in thus far today, which makes me laugh, which is mildly annoying, at which point it's 4pm and we've finished the block. We go to another block in the area (~5 minute drive) and I get sent in to plant with Joe Luis, who just got here today. Joe Luis, remarkably, doesn't ask me anything about my numbers. He's got a long narrow finger, and we end up finishing it perfectly at 5:45pm, both of us bagging out and needing just one more bundle to close it, one of the cleaner closes I've had.
His dog runs up and licks my face every time I bend over and plant a tree for about 10 trees, which is hilarious. We end up loading up Joe Luis truck to get people off the block (he came in for a half-day, he just got here) because one of the other trucks is cleaning up another block.
It is brutally hot. 24-26 degrees, pure sun, on a long day --- 7:45am-6pm in that sun. Tonnes of people here are using milk jugs for water, which is dumb because they break so easily. The end result is tonnes of people don't have sufficient water on any given day because their milk jug broke, or because 4 litres of water just isn't enough for 10 hours of high paced labour in the sun. I drink 6-8 every day, for sure.
A lot of these people are burnt out and not staying for the summer plant for various reasons, which seems ridiculous when they've only planted 30 days.
Tuesday June 15th, Planting Day 74
Breakfast and lunch are the same as yesterday. Dinner is a stirfry, which is okay, potatoe wedges, salads. The food continues to be mediocre. Our camp meeting re-inforces the idea that we should be planting good quality and not J-rooted 11's. It's basically entirely the other crew, not our crew.
I've finally gotten our crew's experience down: 4 rookies, a 2nd year, a 3rd year, a 4th year, 2* 5th year, and 3* 8 or 9th year --- but that's the foreman, plus me and a vet from Zanzibar, also named Mike, who just got here, who ends up being super fast and solid...but eventually loses motivation, like everyone else at Coast Range.
That's slightly more experienced than I expected. This resembles Dynamic relatively closely, except a less professional culture. People write tally numbers into a book and people regularly look to see what other people planted --- everyone talks numbers. Super competitive camp. I find it vaguely uncomfortable.
We go to a new block, which is farther away (20 minutes instead of 5) and a ~15 minute walk in. The piece I get cut is massive --- 220 trees to the back. I bag 400's (heavier than I like) and still plant only 2-3 lines across the back each bag up. It's long and narrow, so I bag out at the back, and lose 6-7 minutes coming back each bag up, which is annoying. I lose focus bag ups 2-3, but regain it for the rest of the afternoon with the help of music and some cooler weather.
The morning is super hot and buggy, but in the afternoon some rain starts moving around and wind starts picking up. Things get damp but not super wet, except boots in the grass. This block is much like the previous ones --- overgrown, a fair bit of slash, but again, quality is STD --- straight, tight, and deep. Basically brown side down.
I get quite bad stomach cramps towards the end of the day, something I've not had before. I imagine it's related to the exceptionally mediocre food --- possibly a lack of something essential that I was supposed to be getting and previously got from bananas (which they apparently are getting tomorrow, finally).
The crew and camp average seems to be around 2000, which is also way better than I expected. But there is a lot of variance --- people are burnt out from the long days, and then randomly get competitive. People putting in 800 tree days, and then 2000 tree days (I almost wonder if there is stashing involved, but it's probably just general sloppiness).
I have my first moment of frustration when we get back --- everyone is leaving their gear in the truck for the time being, and mine is buried at the bottom, and even opening the truck to get it is going to cause everyone's gear to spill out, which one guy requested not be done because then it will get wet, but nobody wants to take their gear, and then there have been problems with people losing gear, apparently.
Every company I've ever worked at has been out of the truck, immediately grab gear and bring to tent. That's how you keep track of gear. Leaving it in...what if the foreman wants the truck for later? That's probably how gear gets lost. It seems silly. So I dig through for 5 minutes, rearranging stuff, to get my gear. But now I'm just going to always load last so it's easily accessible at the top.
Wednesday June 16th, Planting Day 75
Breakfast and lunch are the same, but dinner is the best yet --- spaghetti and meat sauce, which actually really tasty and really well seasoned and well done, plus garlic bread, salad, and veggies. I wonder if the lack lustre desserts (they put out yogurt again) is in hopes that we'll get snacks from the store they run. I'm refusing to buy anything there as a matter of principle as a result.
We have another camp meeting. They talk about quality for a few minutes yet again, and say we're going to stop an hour early, and that trucks can go directly to Mackenzie for a liquor run if people want. We go and plant. A mix of sun and cloud, it continues to be super buggy (two girls on our crew, both get ripped up and have blood and bites all down their face, ears, and neck). I resist wearing bug spray and just keep moving, though I have started packing a bottle of deet in case I get desperate.
I carry a radio all day, since I'm the only OFA3 on the crew today, and there are bears everywhere. Our normal OFA is off with another crew. I start the day bagging up 600 trees (which is super unpleasant) and dropping silvicools in the back of my piece once I get to the back. Then Maya, the foreman, carries two boxes back. It is probably one of the largest pieces I've ever worked. There was a bear spotted at my cache. At the end of the day, Aaron comes and helps for a couple bag ups.
We walk out (most people slightly late, of course), and then take a few minutes to gather firewood. For a moment, it seems like both rucks are going to go to Mackenzie, but then a bunch of people just get people in the other truck to buy them stuff, and our subruban goes straight back to amp, which I'm happy about. We're the first ones back by a good margin and I go get a shower, nice and hot, good water pressure ,before dinner. Apparently later in the night they cool down.
One of the planters walks up to me at dinner says I had a really good day yesterday, planting 3700 tress. I tell them nope, that's the other Mike. But it's so weird that anyone would do that, but it's considered normal here.
I try really hard to stay up and drink around the campfire and party with everyone (which Maya really wants, cause crew bonding and all that shit), but when it starts to rain heavily 9:15pm I only manage to stick it out another 15 minutes, and go to bed.
Still, first shift done. It's been a pretty good shift.
Thursday June 18th, Day Off 29
I wake up at 9am, look around --- both the suburbans are gone, which is odd, since last night our 3 drivers had said 1) Ones wants to be drunk all day, 2) One is going planting and 3) One isn't waking up until 10am, when we all agreed to go in.
As people slowly wake up from 10-11am, it comes out that one of our drivers is well known for erratically just grabbing the sub and running off without anyone, with no consideration of anyone else. So I end up getting breakfast at the restaurant, which I was trying to avoid.
We finally leave for town at 12:30pm, and get in at 1pm. People want to leave by 3pm, but I negotiate leaving at 5pm. I'm trying to sort out my week off and things.
Tree planting: Shift 26
Friday June 19th, 2015, Planting Day 76
It is raining, and it rains hard all day. 30-50mm, would be my guess. It is cold --- 5-6 degrees, and the tall grass and bush results in water draining into you after you walk through, which makes things totally frigid.
I continue to plant the same piece. I plant it all day. It gets a bit better as the piece moves forward. I keep moving hard to keep warm, but tonnes of people pit in substantially smaller numbers than previous days; I do about the same, as I usually do.
We're supposed to stop planting to walk back and be at the trucks, ready for 6pm. I am, Zanzibar Michael and his girlfriend are, and nobody else is. The first pack of people come out around 6:10pm. I get out of the truck to try to get people organized to leave, but the end result is the first two trucks to go, I don't get seats in, even though I was the first person out. I'm cold, I'm wet, and I've been waiting for a long time, and I get super annoyed. We have another suburban ready to go, at which point they randomly can't find the keys for 10 minutes.
We finally get driving at 6:30pm, back to camp at 7pm. I take a shower before dinner and put laundry in, and get to dinner at 7:25pm, at which point, the cook is basically out of food. I get the last of everything, and she ends up making more of something for the next couple people to eat. She's grumpy about this, but for 25$/day, we're already getting sub-par food and no dry tent, which they legally are obliged to have (but don't).
Maya apologizes to me for the late move out, and warns 4 people on the crew for repeated punctuality problems. She says it's been driving her crazy all season, but seeing people on the crew who really got it (me and the Zanzibar vet) while still putting in good numbers really drove the point home.
I'm not optimistic either way. One guy is nice and kind-hearted, but disorganized. One guy doesn't care about people other than himself. One guy is greedy for more trees, and the last guy walks around in a haze all the time, as if he's high --- I think he regularly is. He is the camps drug dealer, though he seems to really struggle to keep track of who he's given stuff to but waiting for money.
But at least the day is over. One planter forgets his bags this morning, and has to drive back for them.
Saturday June 20th, 2015, Planting Day 77
I return to the same piece for the 4th day, and finally finish it in the morning. It stops raining, but the plants are all wet, so my pants and boots get soaked anyways. But the end of the afternoon, there is a hint sun.
When I finish my first piece, I get moved down the road to a piece that is comprised primarily of rehabbed road and burns. It is very good. We're trying to close the block, and people are starting to move around pieces, so I plant harder than usual to try to make the piece finish, and to finish the good stuff before people get there. I get a few more planters, and we finish the piece at 6:05 and I get a handful of trees in the next piece over. Finish 6:10pm, walk out, and we're the last people --- a bunch of people from my piece didn't even want to bother bagging out and coming to the next piece to finish their trees, which seems odd to me.
The end result is I planted 35 minutes later and a decent chunk more trees, and still rolled 5 minutes earlier than the day before. One planter nearly hits her personal best.
A bunch of people party that night --- which definitely does not involve drugs in any way shape or form, as those are not permitted at coast range, and drink for a while. Someone oversleeps this morning and doesn't get up, and gets driven in for a part day at 10 or 11am.
Sunday June 21st, 2015, Planting Day 78
We're going out for a half day today --- one foreperson says 1000 tree average, another says 1300, but he might be exaggerating slightly to keep us working hard. Our overflow block is super close, 5 minute drive, 10 minute walk in. I'm at the very back, and planting just after 7:30am. I get a small piece, and share it with one planter, which goes well, then we get the German guy as well, and the piece closes up super fast. Then I go further back and put a few trees in, and then by the time I'm into the front, all the fronts of every piece has been cut off, but several backs are still open. I go through pieces, making sure they actually close, while people get shuttled to the new block --- getting shuttled forward early with ensure you make more, so people abandon half-done pieces to handfuls of rookies who don't know better, which is douchey, but again, this is a competitive camp.
Our first overflow block is nicer, land wise, duffy and wet, but much less green and overgrown. It's supposed to hold us for the day (~28000 trees) but by estimation takes maybe half --- 28ish planters for 2 hours (500*28 = 14000). Part of that is large slash piles that haven't been burned, and part of that is swamp, and part of that is people doing a poor job around slash. But still, that's wildly under allocation.
The second overflow block is similar to the first; nicer than the blocks we've been seeing, and supposed to go way higher allocation. We're supposed to have lots of room, we end up finishing that block, too, after a couple hours. One foreperson tries to get us to cut a series of small strips of pieces, which of course results in random pieces with cut off fronts, but the end result is there are enough people desperate to squeeze trees in that everything gets filled. Then we “push the treeline” where we go to the areas of the block boundary and add a few trees to get rid of our loose trees. People are often lazy about getting right against the block boundary, since it's the slashiest areas, so when we have a few trees left over, that's one way we make them fit.
Someone oversleeps again and doesn't make it to the block. This seems to be a common occurrence around these parts.
I am in a super good mood all day --- basically manic. I haven't had a total gong-show of a close day all season --- it had to happen eventually. I was ready to take it a face value, amusement wise, and I did.
We finish at noon (it's been overcast, with bits of sun all day), get back to camp at 12:15pm, and I am packed and ready within 30 minutes. I go get a shower, clean out the sub, run into a foreman who tells us that everyone is supposed to be ready at 2pm, though he'd like it to be earlier, and for me to tell everyone. I tell everyone 1:45pm, but 2pm at the latest. People are actually ready at 2:15pm, and we actually leave at 2:30pm, with word to be in PG at 4:30pm at the Pinecrest Centre, and then aiming to be at bush camp at 6:30pm. I end up helping with garbage in my clean clothes, which annoys me slightly.
What annoys me more than slightly is our driver's driving. On the way up I noticed it was bad, but this time around it was down-right frightening. Speeds hitting 140km, occasional wheel kicks where she makes sharp and abrupt corrections, and within 10 minutes she tries to make a pass in a tight area, doesn't have time before the blind corner, and thankfully ducks out of it, with only ~20-30 seconds to spare as a truck comes around the corner. Which wasn't too bad, the sketchier one was on a clear away with a dip, she started a pass, but hadn't seen the top of a truck in the dip. I snapped at her to back out of the pass, and she did, thankfully. She probably heard the fear in my voice.
I tell our foreman when we stop, and she talks to the driver. She apologized for scaring me, and promised to be more chill, which she was the rest of the drive.
Our OFA3 is super good. She is super good. Well organized, helpful around camp, brings extra food and water, keeps on the important safety points, punctual, just ontop of things and over-all competent.
We stop in PG at 4:30 and get rolling at 5:15pm, because apparently that's how long it takes people to stock up on cigarettes and alcohol and snacks for 3 days. I don't even get out of the truck. I mow through most of this season of a legally purchased DVD television show.
Our 2 hour drive to camp takes 4, because when we get to the bush road junction, instead of going south, our leader accidentally leads us north a full hour and back. We end up getting there just after 9:30pm, eating dinner and setting up camp, and I'm in bed just after 11:30pm, offering slightly more than 6 hours of sleep (my watch alarm is set for 5:45am, since this is a 100ish person camp, and I want the extra time in the morning to get things together).
Monday June 22nd, 2015, Planting Day 79
This is a bring your own dishes camp, which they forgot to mention. The end result is people just take each others dishes. Bringing your own dishes is apparently a sanitary thing, but you think if they were worried about that, they'd have a proper 3 sink set up – soap, bleach, rinse. They don't. They're missing the bleach, which is sketching me out because I've never seen a planting company missing the bleach. We're also washing in non-potable water, which I imagine I shouldn't be that concerned about, since I'd only be ingesting trace amounts.
We have a camp meeting. Instead of the 3 more days that we're originally anticipating, the camp supervisor, Bryan, says it might take as many as 4-5. I tell him I have a flight at 3pm on the 25th, to which he tells me that I need to find my own ride in, despite our previous supervisor saying that I could book it and they'd make sure it would be respected. This is one of the most douchey moves I've seen in a long, long time.
They also couldn't find our block last night (they tried to go and do a midnight set up) and it requires chain-sawing through a forest to find access, so we have our leave pushed to 9:30am. I feel not terrible when I wake up, go back to bed for 2 hours, and feel awful when I wake up. I figure it's just due to the late night, and go to the cut block.
The contract is no boot close, they want the trees shallow (tops flush with decaying humus layer), loose (which is good, since we're hand closing), and it's a fill plant through beetle-logged forests, so it's somewhat complex to look at it. The land itself is a bit rocky and compacted, but over all, very good at 17 cents.
While they're doing the pre-work, I'm having trouble standing.
I get cut in first, and I still feel awful. Planting, I feel like puking every time I bend over, dizzy, nauseated. I can't remember ever feeling this bad planting. I don't even managed to finish my first bag up of 320 trees (in 2 hours) --- I go and take a break for an hour, eat slowly, and plant the remaining few trees and call it a day and nap in the truck the rest of the day.
When I get back, I eat dinner (which is super unfun and unpleasant, forcing food down when you don't want to), take a graval, and go straight to bed at 8pm, and sleep hard until 6am the next morning. It's sunny and hot all day with brief showers in the afternoon.
Tuesday June 23rd, 2015, Planting Day 80
I go out and plant, partially because I'm feeling better, and partially because with only two more days here, it sort of doesn't matter the rate at which I recover, and it sort of does matter how many trees I get in.
It's at 2 hour drive. I'm cut in near the middle of the pack, and start planting at 9:30am. I feel less awful than the day before, but still not good, but I push through it all day. The crew has ~1500- tree average (at 16 cents = 240$/average), and finishes at 6pm on the dot, though we're all asked to tree-line probably ~100 trees per person. My piece is a long narrow finger, but the land is softer and less compacted than yesterday. Honestly, it shocks me that this camp was struggling hard with this contract, since it seems pretty good to me.
We actually get driving back at 6:40pm, and get to camp at 8:40pm, which is unpleasantly late. I keep trying to find a ride in, and word comes out that we're finishing tomorrow, and there will be a big party tomorrow night. Good, should be no trouble catching my 3pm flight, right? I ask my foreman if she'll be able to drive me in around noon...and she says she doubts anyone will be safe to drive by noon when I need to leave, much less having camp torn down.
Which is a pretty substantial shock to me, that things went from “Oh yeah, we've got your back” to “We'll all be too busy getting totally shit-faced until 7am” in the course of a few days. I look around for a ride, and find out some people are leaving tomorrow in the morning or the evening, but I can't seem to figure out which and everyone has gone to bed already.
Wednesday June 24th, Break Day 1
I wake up, feeling slightly better, get breakfast, get ready to plant. Bryan says we're finishing today. I again ask about getting a ride into town tomorrow. Bryan says nobody will be available because it's too early, and there is someone leaving right now. So I tell my crew good luck, tell our exceptionally competent OFA3 that I am dropping my stuff beside her tent, and frantically pack up.
I initially felt super disrespected that nobody would have my back enough to get me to my flight the next day, especially because it was a dramatic reversal on the words a week before. But they did get me there; just not on the timing that was optimal for me. And I need to understand the places I work; Coast Range, for all the work is still good at this point, is not a professional environment that cares about respecting planters --- it's main goal is to keep enough of a party spirit going to be fun and keep people coming back. And while the money is say, equal to Dynamic when I was there, I would never work at either of those places again, except for a summer plant.
Also, the drive in was super interesting, which helped. Harmon, our driver, had worked for Coast Range for 10 years, done some viewing and bidding. In that time, coast range only had 4-5 coastal contracts, which makes me curious about how they got their reputation for ruining the coast. (Coast Range has a reputation as one of the worst companies in the industry, something which isn't at all being reflected by the show I'm working for). There was a native guy who had 14 years Ontario experience, including long seasons, April-October. It was his first year out west, and wasn't going well --- he was leaving because someone told him that no one in the camp liked him and he was a pain in the ass to work with. He seemed overly negative the bit I interacted with him.
Harmon also taught in the North West territories for the year --- he was just coming out to the camp to party for a couple days and help out. This was his first year off planting in 10 years. We knew lots of the same people.
The drive out took a full two hours, and I got dropped off at the PG Airport to see if I could change my flight --- unfortunately, it would be ~125$ to bring it up to that evening, and that would have required me overnighting in Vancouver as well, so I just bussed downtown and checked into a hostel for the night. On the bright side, I quite enjoyed the cool little hostel in PG --- the people running it were super interesting and friendly, there were a whole bunch of planters hanging around on break (Spectrum, Folklore), went to a good bar and had a social dinner, and slept 12 hours and was finally starting to feel better.
Thursday June 25th, Break Day 2:
I woke up late, walked to a grocery store to get food for the day, bussed up to the airport and caught my flight. It's a smaller plane.
I'm not going to detail this entire week off. It was wonderful, and a strong reminder of how Victoria is paradise.
Sunday July 5th:
I hook up with the camp. A planter who I knew from Folklore 4 years ago is here, which is hilarious. All my gear got into the right truck by the compentent OFA3 planned, except my planting bags, shovel and boots, which hopefully are already in Maya's trailer. I'll be very upset if they aren't --- the OFA3 said as she was loading, there was a bit of fuck around as people kept unloading the truck, she had to return and replace my gear in it 3 separate times for some reason.
We are camped north of MacKenzie on the city side of the massive lake, apparently 1.5 hours, for just one shift or so, then moving camp, which is mildly annoying. They're doing it at the start rather than the end, because if they do at the end, everyone will leave.
A bunch of Coast Range planters didn't come back, and they've hired a bunch of new people. I imagine this contract will still see a bunch of hemorrhaging.
We get to the new camp, and my bags, shovel, and boots, are not there. There is a bit of fuck around, but I get spare bags and shovel. I can plant in running shoes + gaiters on this sort of land, though I imagine it will be brutal on my feet. It's only a 3 day shift followed by 2 days off (the second is a camp move). I feel super disrespected by the fact that they were unable to get my bags, shovel and boots into the right truck. That's probably nearly 300$ to replace the full set, and I strongly doubt the company will reimburse me for that. All because a supervisor wouldn't let a truck leave camp early on a day off so I could go catch my flight and personally make sure my gear got into the correct truck, because nobody would be sober. My foreman is going to go to Bryan's camp on the day off and see if she can find my gear, but by that point I imagine scavengers will have claimed it --- though the shovel has a left hand twist, which I imagine will fuck with someones head.
I talk to people --- coast range --- tonnes of rookies - 2nd year planters, just with coast range, or people with slightly more experience + ontario. But it's definitely a 1-4 year range, by a million miles. A good friend of a good friend from the coast shows up, and a girl from my hometown in Ontario of ~600 people is in this camp as well.
On which note, the camp is (by my rough count at a meeting) 62 people --- ~36 guys (6 of whom are named Mike), ~26 girls. We're camped right on Willinston lake, north of MacKenzie, which is beautiful --- sunset on the mountains. Unfortunately, we're only here for 3 days, then back to somewhere within a few kilometers of windy point.
On the break, I was telling someone about coast ranges terrible reputation, and saying gladly, that they hadn't done anything to warrant it. They said “Well, let's hope you don't see how bad it can get.” and I laughed.
This is how bad it can get.
Shift 27: How Bad It Can Get
Monday July 6th, Planting Day 81
I wake up at 5:45, pack lunch and eat breakfast, which is better than ever --- the lunch table has the usual array of veggie sticks, (weak) trail mix (mostly chips and pretzals, less dried nuts/fruit unfortunately), block treat (4 layer cookies which are amazing), apples, oranges, bananas, and sandwhich spread (though in this heat, I take PB&J, because a ham sandwhich that has been sitting in the sun for 5 hours before you eat it at 1pm can be pretty horrifying).
Breakfast is eggs, bacon, fruit salad, muffins, granola and yogurt. It's reasonably well done, though some of the eggs are slightly under done.
Originally last night two reefers were supposed to get in. One didn't show up, at all, so we couldn't plant (the first reefer had just pine, and we're planting a pine/spruce mix). So we did safety stuff and fire procedure and general useful officious stuff reminding people of important things, which took until 8 or so. We left at 10am, and I was thinking about going for a nap...
But I ended up a long walk on the beach. I talked to some people (I'm having a surprising amount of fun in this camp, and my desire to be social is way higher than usual.) including a guy playing a blowing-keyboard of some sort. It's really quite a beautiful and peaceful morning. The sun on forests on a lake under mountains --- reminds me of home, the people and place I'm direly missing even after a week of refreshing presence.
People play music --- Wagon Wheel – guitar, banjo, percussion, harmonica, fiddle, voice.
It's not the right place for me, but it is still a beautiful place.
And then we plant trees.
We unload the reefer, which is totally silly with 70 people (my preliminary count is 38 men/32 women, though I think I missed a couple, possibly, and a few people arrived after the meeting). Some Hybrid 17 people I know were here, who I first met...when I worked for Dynamic doing this exact summer contract 3 years ago. Lots of people know my Scotland crew, and a few have done Scotland plants). There is an Australian, an Estonia, and 6 of the 38 men are named Mike/Michael/Mikel (the Estonian guy).
I've been around enough to have connections basically everywhere, it seems.
Then we do a quick quality meeting (hot lifted trees-elevated tarps-only unbundle 2-same specs as before, otherwise). We're planting 10's with a 1.6 meter minimum, which is way better than planting 10's with a 2 meter minimum. (10's is target spacing of 2.35 meters, so any time you're doing 10's with a 2 meter minimum and there is a lot of obstacles, it's moderately annoying.)
We get to the block and I'm planting at 12:10pm --- it's already hot. I'm wearing already beaten up running shoes which swiftly become ridiculous, a shovel with a twist in the wrong direction and a massive blade, and bags with a nice seat-belt replaced buckle but a shoulder strap that no longer holds weight, so I knot it in approximately the right place.
The front of the piece is excellent, I narrowly avoid a wasps nest on the opening line in, and the back is a slashy hill full of blowdown, but I clean that up mostly in the first bag up. The soil is legitimate sand, and it's a little overgrown, but the land is probably on par or marginally better than the previous blocks, but 1 cent lower at 13.
The heat, and frustration at my gear situation, slows me down a bit and tanks my mood (planting in running shoes that swiftly resemble open-toed sandles is a bit sketchy, especially through elaborate blowdown). On the other hand, Maya, incredibly, somehow cheers me up by her presence, and throwing a few perfect plots. But...she just has the right attitude. She is super frustrated about my gear, too, and wishes things were better organized. But instead of shrugging her shoulders and saying “That's planting” or “It is what it is” she actually makes notes and tries to change things, and tries to fix things. I have deep respect for people who challenge the culture of complacency.
One guy puts in 2200 in the 5.5 hours of planting we have, which is impressively motivated for a half day. I don't really know him much at all, though --- our crew has several new people (8+6+2 = 16?).
Numerous people encounter wasps and are stung.
A girl on our crew is supposedly deathly allergic to wasps stings --- full anaphalatic (how do I spell that?) shock.
This is not going to go well.
In the evening, I jump in the lake immediately --- it's cold for my taste, but still the fastest way to cool down. It's probably in the 30 degree range for most of the afternoon. Even the half day feels exhausting. I work on talking and meeting people, but they start to blur together, and I confuse details from one person to another --- I've probably done 25 intro conversations in half as many hours.
Dinner is excellent --- chicken alfredo shephards pie, salad, and a curried squash soup with foccacia bread, and berry crumble for desert. I hang out with people and watch the sunset on the lake, then go to bed.
Tuesday July 7th, Planting Day 82
Breakfast is perogies and sausage, which I like slightly less (though I ate 4 perogies. They are still unbelievably mediocre dough and potato balls. Why do people love perogies?). We can't leave at 7am, because one of the suburban seats is down and nobody knows how to get it back up (it turns out the hatch is in the trunk, under all our gear). Nobody knows who set it down. We eventually figure it out.
I'm planting by 7:40am. The first 2 bags ups go well (I dodge my first wasps nest, putting a tree beside it and escaping as I hear the buzz), but the 3rd I finish my piece and move to join a piece with a rookie of 11 days experience, which is a total fiasco. They left substantial wildlife tree patches on the piece, which all blew down, making it pretty chaotic, but it's also more overgrown, less sandy, and the front is somehow planted out (of course). I hit 3 more wasps nests, all of which I manage to avoid being stung on, though on each one I get the tree in the ground, hear the buzz, and start running without closing the hole.
Of course, lots of other people have been stung, some numerous times. And at 1pm, our foreman drives up to Bailey and I...the girl who is deathly allergic, has already been stung. She's been hit with two epinephrine pens, and is being rushed to the hospital, with her friend for support and our OFA3.
The idea that it was acceptable for her to put a shovel in a ground wasp infested cut-block 100kms of rough bush road away from a hospital is pretty insane to begin with. She thought “She'd just be careful.” Luckily she got there before the epinephrine wore off, but she's not coming back. It's just flabberghastingly stupid. I'm surprised Coast Range even allowed it to begin with. The liability...
Not even done a full day of planting, and we've already lost someone.
It is scorchingly hot --- 30 degrees by 10am, 35 for most of the afternoon, 30 at 6pm when we're driving out. I get the OFA3 radio for the afternoon, and I'm struggling with the heat and the difficult piece, but in a bit better mood than yesterday (I borrowed boots from Zanzibar Mike and straightened the shovel using a drill), plus planting with our newest planter, who is picking up things reasonably quickly, is amusing. What an awful place for a rookie of 11 days --- she gets a minor case of heat exhaustion. Numerous people get pretty beat today --- I drink in the vicinity of 11 litres of water, and only piss a couple times --- but can wring sweat from my hat.
If it stays like this, it is going to be an outrageously harsh summer plant.
A couple of the crews are on a block that wasn't slashed at all for 14 cents, which is apparently terrible --- a 5th year vet even admitted so, That being said, she'd only planted Ontario + Coast Range, so it's sort of hard to tell the competence, but you know, whatever. Several crews are already under the perception they're getting screwed on day 2. I've heard a couple other people say they were super impressed by their land, and that it was an incredible creamshow, which is interesting.
I get the OFA3 radio and hear the quality checkers talking --- someone I don't know is planting 14's and J-roots, and density is slipping up in open areas and down in slashy areas, but of course, it doesn't average out. If this contract starts having quality problems, add in the heat and the wasps, it could hemorrhage badly. I put sunscreen on every bag up, and my neck burns anyways.
I jump in the lake again, and it feels even more icy by comparison, but hot again once dried off.
Dinner is caesar salad, sweet lentil salad, shepherds pie, bread and a creamy vegetable soup, and a chocolate cake with a peanut butter icing which is unbelievably delicious.
I sort my gear and go to bed earlier than I have been, after writing this.
Wednesday July 8th, Planting Day 83
Wake, move slightly slower than yesterday --- the camp is out of bananas, oranges, and apples --- I've a single left over orange, I grab the last banana, and there are 6-7 apples left, of which I take three. Numerous people don't get any fruit. For 28$/day, this is a travesty.
Breakfast is pancakes and scrambled eggs which were apparently omelets, but none of the fill made it to the edges and by the time I got there all the middle had been creamed out. This camp has 70ish people, who probably eat like 100 or 120ish people, with just 2 cooks. That's kind of nuts. 1 cook per 25 planters.
We drive out, going to a new block that is supposedly going to be better. It isn't. Overgrown, flat, but a thin layer of slash and clay in the soil that makes it hard to get the shovel in --- harder because of my borrowed shovel that is slightly too large for me. I'm planting by 8am, and it is already terribly hot. On my opening line in, I hit 4 separate wasps nests, but none the rest of the day, and I yet again manage to avoid getting stung.
Everyone around me is screaming all day, however --- numerous people got stung numerous times.
This section of the contract is 380000 trees with 65-70 planters – 5430-5850 trees a piece, at 13-14 cents = 705-820$ shift earning. Even at the highest end of both ranges, on a 3.5 day shift, that says 120$ for the half day, 233$ the rest of the days, for camp average. At the low end of that range...105$ for the half day, 200$ for the rest, camp average. Those are very bad camp averages. For some reason, these trees come in 5 separate reefers, each of which they don't really know when will arrive. This costs the mill and the company totally unnecessarily, and some of it really should be shoved back at the Nursery. Apparently request orders have been screwed up for a lot of people all season --- several nearby companies forced to take 5 day breaks due to lack of trees. I wonder if this is fall out from the millions of trees that died in the south interior, or something unrelated?
I am very demotivated --- the wasps, heat, borrowed gear, missing my Victoria life, not having a sense of needing this money direly (I've enough for the year saved) I'm trying to dream up toys to buy to motivate me --- I need to look at fancy electric bike upgrade kits on the day off.
It's going to be a tough 4 more shifts.
Our foreperson is apparently sick, but trying to keep anyone from knowing it because she still wants to work super hard for us. The foreperson job seems to be consistently marked by overworked, overtired, overstressed underslept requirements for months on end. I'm glad I didn't do it ever. That being said, it is clear that she's on a bit of a shorter fuse than normal today --- she's frustrated that numerous people are putting in low densities. She gets to me and gets perfect 10's (of course) and is pleased. She's also annoyed that people aren't bringing enough water and she has to run around refilling peoples water jugs --- which is totally fair. I bring 11 litres, drinking 9, giving away 2, being totally out of water at 5pm (which is when we stop, fortunately, instead of 6pm. In the heat, we're doing slightly shorter days, which is appreciated).
One rookie on the crew has to replant for low density and is pissed, and talks about how bad a foreperson our foreperson is. I tell him I disagree totally and think she is super solid, which I actually do. It is exceptionally rare for me to defend management as a general rule, but for some reason, I'm really on Maya's page. She's a similar attitude to me --- she actually tries to get planters to do season-write ups the way I do. It's crazy!
But anyways, I point out that she's doing a good job, and the situations are often way more complex than they seem. He asks why we get 13 cents for something identical or worse to that we got 14 for a couple weeks ago --- I explain the bid price, 26.6 or whatever it was, and say they can only really give half. He asks why, and I point out all the overhead --- foreman wages, gas, truck rental, insurance, line of credit to pay wages, etcetera. He asks if I think Garth is making sick money --- and I tell him probably not off this contract, and explain how 80% of the trees planted in BC go in in May and June, and the other 20% occur during February-March-April-July-August-September-October, and the competition that results in lower prices.
I think I'm finally at the point of peace of understanding.
I talk to Maya for a while --- she asks me what I think of Coast Range and how things are going. I'm remarkably honest about a lot of things --- she is too. Dinner is a decent stirfry salad, soup (which is excellent vegetable noodle), croutons for the soup and salad, rice, and a delicious set of lemon squares for desert.
Numerous people have moderate cases of heat exhaustion. Several people have substantially swollen body parts --- a foot, a hand, an eye.
I place fruit into my dry bag the night before and leave it in the mess tent, just in case it runs out again in the morning (yes, I'm that shady). Hang out for a bit, play guitar and go to bed.
Thursday July 9th, Planting Day 84
Wake, go out planting, rumours abound. Me and another guy and I go back to our piece, and my motivation is better than it was --- and the front of the piece is nicer than it was. I've got the OFA 3 radio and tag, because our insanely competent OFA3 is taking the day off sick (about time), so I hear the radio chatter all day.
It's highly amusing. The guys refer to helmets as brain buckets --- “Need a brain bucket for that quad?” Maya says killing it, which I've taken to gently teasing by following it up with “slaughter. Mass murder everywhere.” At one point were talking on the radio, and she says killing it, and I respond killing it, and then our checker who I don't know at all, Lyndsy, chimes in with a third “killing it.”
I finish the piece without hitting another wasp nest, making it 4 on the line in and 0 in the rest of the piece, which is crazy.
I go to join two others from our crew planting a still relatively big piece. Maya, brilliantly, doesn't cut up all the land available, so she manages to keep us having a relatively clean day while everyone else cattle plants all over the place --- there is another foreperson who I hear on the radio who says he has 4 per piece by 9:30, when me and the first guy are just getting to finishing our piece. BCTS was supposed to give us an overflow block, but refuses, because a block from our spring BCTS Mackenzie work gets a low density fine (which I'm not really sure how happens, given that we are doing our own pay plotting and the overwhelming problem that entire contract was people planting crazily high densities).
That's an incredibly stupid and dickish move, because at best it is going to leave us transporting trees hundreds of kilometers to put them in blocks after the camp move, and the jolting and heat isn't good for fresh seedlings, and at worst the trees get “treelined”, planted at high densities along the tree line, and sometimes deep into it.
But then they relent, and give us a small (4000?) tree overflow block, which one of the forepersons takes to the block at about 1pm, and those people plant until 6pm. Other people stop planting at 12:45pm and go back to camp. At 1:30pm, I'm finished a piece, and on the way to a new piece, I get an offer to go home, which I do --- I've almost planted what I did by 5pm yesterday. People arrive 2-3-4pm.
One planter, a 5th year vet has to go to the block from 2 days ago, because he somehow was planting 17's instead of 10's. That would involve trees ~1.4 meters apart instead of 2.4 meters apart. He justifiably thinks the problem was just getting heat exhaustion and confusion and not realizing what he is doing, which is a realistic concern. The other checker finds a 20 somewhere.
I go into the water (it was again crazily hot today), which persists in feeling cold (I don't really like cold water), but it feels less wrong than usual. Then I go and nap for 2 hours before dinner. Dinner is taco night, which is good, and I actually party --- 2 beer drunk and stay up until midnight with two days off to look forward to. A sign is put out during dinner --- 8am breakfast, 9am personal teardown, 10am camp meeting, 12:00noon leave camp. People joke that they won't have to wake up until 10am.
Friday July 10th, Planting Day 85
The title of this day should signify something going significantly wrong, because it should read day off, but instead reads planting day. Hilarious, eh? I think they call that foreshadowing.
I wake, get breakfast, which is nice (and the cooks getting rid of left overs) --- berry pancakes, muffins, grilled cheese, eggs, and since I'm one of the first ones up, it's hot and there is tonnes of everything and pack a bit of lunch (2 pb&J wraps, 2 left over apples, a couple left over block treats and some left over trailmix), clean up my gear, get packed up. I'm totally ready to go by 9:45am.
The horn is blown for the 10am meeting, which happens at 10:10am, and ~50-75% of camp is actually up to. One planter from our crew is hilariously drunk and bizarre. (oh yeah, a bunch of people deftinitely did not do MDMA last night, because drugs aren't allowed in camp), and people consider a 24 pack a normal nights beers...oh, and they built a raft, and then lit a fire on it, even though there is a fire ban, because it was in the lake. Then there were fires on the beach, which the supervisor had to grumpily come put out --- he said he doesn't want to deal with a 10000$ fine, which is realistic), two from our crew don't make it out of bed.
We tear down camp, and it goes relatively decently. Maya loads the remaining 11200 trees that didn't fit into the overflow block into her truck, and another meeting is called at noon, with camp totally torn down. People's personal gear is packed up and waiting for Lyndsey, the checkers truck. The meeting announces that BCTS has given us back an overflow block, and they need 18 volunteers to do the 11200 trees.
4-5 people are quick to volunteer. I quickly calculate if my gear is accessible, if I have sufficient food and water. I ask who is running it, and of course, it's Maya. I step into the center of the circle as the 6th person.
Getting 18 is pulling teeth, and they don't --- 17. The cooks whip up lunch for us, a suburban is emptied of gear, and we drive off. We get planting at 1:45pm (what happened to that hour and a half? Waiting, dealing with gear, then driving there, looking at the block --- Maya doesn't have a map, doesn't know the anything about the block, just “km 78 on the main line, on the left side.” Luckily, it is both pretty good, they give us 15 cents, and everyone else gets to deal with setting up camp.
It is crazily hot, as per usual. Different degrees of destructive heat, but each day is mind boggling in a different terrible way. I get a piece with this guy, who is just weird, apparently one of the crews high ballers. He's slightly faster than I am in my highly unmotivated state and with the wrong gear, which isn't impressive, and then when the piece is close to finishing, he does something incredibly stupid. The piece needs ~120 trees, and there are three of us including him. He bags out, takes the box, and doesn't come back in --- he walks away. He doesn't check if we have enough trees to finish (which we don't) --- I was bagging just behind him for the 3 bags, which he should have noticed, and either way, he should have stayed to finish. Just trying to hoard trees --- this is a competitive person. The end result was when he got up to the cattle plant he had to give a bunch of trees away anyways.
The planting takes from 1:45pm-4:45pm, and I get a ride into town with Lyndsey, the checker, and another planter. They're both super cool and I really quite enjoy the 2 hour drive to town --- I was originally going to pull out my laptop and watch TV, but I just chatted with them, about the industry, gossip, etcetera.
When we get to Mackenzie, we were planning on going to Ronnies Cafe for poutine, but is closed...but the owners are standing outside, smoking, and see 15 hungry planters pull up, and they say they could do poutines (but not full menu) for us. So we go get poutines. It's actually really good. 7-8$ for full sized servings of good quality poutine in various flavours --- mexican, chicken or beef chili, bacon, baked potato (sour cream, green onion, other stuff), spicy, etcetera. Apparently they have great burgers, too, but they aren't doing them. Still, it's pretty awesome.
Maya goes back to camp for some gear, says she'll catch up to the convoy. She never does. She says she'll buy us all milkshakes, but at 8:15pm, we have to get going, and she is still on the road --- we radio here, and have a broken conversation where we vaguely manage to hear she is okay --- though I'm curious as to what happened, as there was some weirdness about 4 quads (there were supposed to be 2), and on the radio we heard words like “fucking quads” and “jack up my truck.” But when we asked “Do you need help?” she got out a “no.”
At Windy Point, people pick up personal vehicles. Camp is ~5 minutes from there --- some people get cell reception, I do not. I set up gear and go to bed.
Tomorrow I actually get a day off. We work a 5 day shift, of which, 3 are part days.
That's how bad it can get.
Folklore, 2011: http://tinyurl.com/anl6mkd
Saturday July 11th, Day Off 30
Maya got to camp, supposed to pick up 2 quads. There were 3 quads there. (They bred!). The quad trailer doesn't fit the hitch on her truck, so she instead tries to put one quad in the back of her fist, but it has wooden sides slightly to narrow for any of the quads...so she (somehow? I don't even want to picture how this was achieved without killing her) managed to jack the quad into the back of the fist on an angle. Then she got a flat, and someone had switched out her good jack with a weaker one. Which was why she didn't get to buy us all Milkshakes.
The planter I knew from Folklore 4 years ago quit, went to Artisan, hoping it'd be better. It might be. A few other people arrive, a few other people leave. It's going to be a revolving door of incompetence sort of contract, it seems.
My day off is excellent. We're slow getting off to town (11am leave), do laundry, have breakfast/lunch, then go to the library and do a bunch of work on school stuff --- apply for student loans (not because I need them, but I need the student loans to get the bursaries which I would like), apply for bursaries, etcetera. We head back to camp at 8pm, stop for icecream which takes 15 minutes somehow, and get back at 9pm.
Some new people join camp. Apparently the official number is 80, with 70 planters and 10 management.
Sunday July 12th, Planting Day 86
I wake up, and I'm told that they've found my gear in Bryan's camp and hope to get it tomorrow night. I'm pleased, and a bit surprised --- I expected people would have scavenged it already. I guess the notability of it prevented people --- my gear is super unique. Left hand twist in particular is rare.
Breakfast, they run out fruit, as seems to be a trend. It's a 1.75 hour drive, which takes almost 2.5 as Maya has some tire and truck trouble --- a loose wing nut, a log stuck in the wheel hub. We get planting just after 10. We're planting BCTS Prince George instead of BCTS Mackenzie, which means there is a new contract with new specs, for about 6 days. Except, instead of a pre-work, Foster announces that the quality is “pure mineral soil, and straight trees, otherwise the same, oh, and no planting in front of slash piles/5 meters between and off the back, have fun dead walking.” The mill representative doesn't work on Sundays.
Even if he has 70 planters starting to plant.
So, fucking, terrible, it hurts.
So we get to the block and are looking at it and saying “Ooooh, cream.” It looks beautiful. Low slash, no greenery. Slash piles everywhere, which is a pain in the ass, but we're back to a density of 8's, which I prefer.
When I get planting, my first shovel strike is rock. As are the next dozen. It's pure rock. The mineral soil here is a gray, gravelly soil that is difficult to get a tree into. To make things better, we're planting 10-30% 512's, trees where the plug resembles a soda can, instead of a marker (the usual size). Usually these get a 3-4 cent price boost, but they don't do that here, apparently. I swiftly forsee people not taking their fair share of 512's.
I've seen rock before. I've planted rocky blocks. But the combination of solid rock + no F layer planting whatsoever makes the block difficult. I have a frustrated day, but Maya cheers me up. The crew of 13 puts in 14600 trees = 1123 each = 175$ average, and that's including our 4% vacation pay. I think about quitting, but when I talk to Maya she is understanding, and tells me to do what I think is best, but that she'd really like me to stay, and to not let it get me down, take some deep breaths, look at the mountains, and remember that it's just a job. Which is one of my lines. She is really, really, really, good.
Several people replant today for high density --- 13's and 14's, which is totally insane. I don't want to plant this block at all, and people are putting in high density? It's like a sick joke.
Apparently one of the crews has decent land --- soft but slashy. But that's my favourite kind to work.
We get back at 7:15pm, and the cooks don't put out dinner until 8pm, when more or less everyone is here. That's crazy. I don't want to eat dinner at 8pm, I want to be working my way towards bed at 8pm. I don't see what desert is.
Monday July 13th, Planting Day 87
We get to the block earlier, just before 9, and I'm planting by 9:15. The extra hour manifests itself in a handful of extra trees over the day. I work the same piece all day. It rains barely today, though apparently camp rains a fair bit. But stays overcast and cool, mostly.
The checker comes out today, but doesn't do a prework, since he isn't in until later in the morning. He goes on the piece next to mine, but doesn't look at mine. Neither does Maya. Word gets passed around that we can plant in smearable red rot, and that we have some leeway (1 finger? 2?) on F-layer planting. Basically, the specs might be total gibberish. It's ambiguous to me if I'm getting them right, or working far to hard for each tree, or not trying hard enough. That's a shitty place to be in.
My mood persists in being discouraged all day. I'm supposed to get help in my piece, but they don't make it there until 4:30pm. We stop at 5pm, and get to camp at 7:15pm. Other crews aim for a 6pm stop, but the second crew to get back gets back at 8pm...and the rest filter in between then and 9!!!pm. That's totally insane.
What's more insane is the cooks won't put out food until a few crews have gotten back. So we have soup and bread, but tonight dinner isn't out until 8:20pm. That's fucking bed time, mother fuckers. I stay up for desert, which happens at 9:15pm (are you joking?).
The cooks apparently get only ~5-6 hours of sleep a day; 10 or 11pm-3am, then an hours nap in the afternoon. There are only 2 cooks for 80 people, which is wrong. It's 2 cooks per 25. They should have a 3rd cook. Apparently they're way over budget, but apparently their budget is 13$/person, which is too low --- industry standard is 15-20$. That means of our 28$ camp cost, 15$/person over 70 people (~1050$) goes towards cooks wages (250$/day + bonus, apparently), plus gas/whatever. I've never heard of a cook budget as low as 13$/person. No wonder the trail mix has lots of cheap filler (pretzles, cereal) and is short on nuts and dried fruit.
Apparently one of the nearby camps working this contract had an 8 day camp average of 500 trees a day. That's minimum wage top-up area, if they weren't artificially deflating EI hours (they give 8 hours a day for our 10-12 hour days).
On the drive home, our new driver and I talk a lot. He knows my coastal buddies from this spring, who will be here near the start of August when they drive their Folklore trucks back from Alberta. He also knows my Scotland crew. Small world. And then eating dinner with the crew, and talking --- one planter and I have a great laugh over fake metaphors --- I say eat a kitten, then “it's a metaphor, like walking on watermellons.” And keep going from there, and she joins in --- “fits like a three fingered glove on a three-fingered man, the bee's wings, smooth like a table with three legs.” and soon enough we're howling with a desperate, staving off despair sort of laughter.
One of our planters says he's forgotten how to laugh.
I go straight to bed after dinner. But somewhere in the mix, I resolve to stay until August 9th, at the latest. Apparently 10-15 people plan to leave for Arts Wells on (on the 31st ), and some people have August 1st as their end date.
As things are going, I could see things going straight into September.
Though apparently there is a contract due date of July 31st, after which fines are 10000-25000$/day for going over. Either things are going better than they seem, or they'll hire more, or the other camp is killing it (that's a Maya-ism).
Monday July 14th, Planting Day 88
We wake up and go out to the rocky block once again. Half the crew goes to a different block, so I end up with the OFA3 radio, since Maya is spending most of her day quadding on the block, and not checking on us. After my first bag up, I radio that our cache will need a few more trees around noon (at about 10:30am). I keep planting my piece, and we finish the cache and Maya is trying to get the guy on the block to bring us trees, but he's cutting it close and she's starting to worry that we'll wait.
He shows up at 12:05pm --- I had finished the last of the trees, got back to the cache, but hadn't had a chance to eat a snack yet, so that's pretty solid.
We finish our area at around 3pm. Everyone is discouraged in an incredible way, and numerous people are talking about quitting. I get hit by a manic amusement phase abruptly --- partly because of a radio conversation --- this is audit day, and all the head checkers are out. The head checkers have a conversation with the forepersons, saying how they want the pay plots done. Maya radios Lyndsey, who is currently doing pay plots --- and says “So...Lyndsey, would you like to hear what the checkers are saying about how they'd like pay plots done?” (after she'd done 20-30). She responds “Hmmm, yes, that might be useful.” In a dry, sarcastic voice. Then 5 minutes later --- “Guys? Is someone coming to talk to me?” then 15 minutes later “So...what were they looking for?” Then nothing.
That amused me deeply, as did cattle planting. We got moved to a piece on another foreman's section of the block (I hadn't even met this foreman to this point). He says “Yeah, hopefully you guys will be able to finish with 2 ballers”. I get into the piece, and am told there are 3 of Scott's planters in the piece. I start working it, and immediately see 2 of his planters. I ask where the 3rd guy is. They don't know. I ask how long they've been in this piece. This is day 3.
To be clear, that is numerous acts of insanity. For the piece to be big enough that 3 people wouldn't see each other over 3 days. And for the fact they wouldn't have gone looking. So I take my 250 trees and do a single line to the other side, and finally find the 3rd guy in the piece. For all Scott's hoping we'll finish it, we'll be way off. Way, way off. He radios me literally 5 minutes later, and says “So, Mike, I know it's a lot to ask, but when will you finish the piece?” And I quickly caught it and said “Nope. About 1000 trees left.” to which he responded “Holy shit.”
3 days. None of the planters had a clue what was in there, the foreman had no clue what was in there. The first person who thought to put in the work to actually sorting it out was me, after 3 days.
I was amused.
I get a ride home with checker Lyndsey, who I really quite enjoy. Another planter in the truck with me has a bad tennis elbow is just working through it. I tell her not to take it too glibly, especially since this is only her 3rd season. We get to camp at 7:30pm, and right as we're rolling in, there is a radio call --- “Anyone for Coast Range?” Lyndsey tags it after 10 seconds, and they respond “We've got a pair of planters bags here.” They're my bags. This crew was going to PG for the night off, and they brought them to drop off at our camp. We meet them at windy point --- and everything is there. Boots, bags, shovel. Even zip ties sitting in the back bag and a half roll of blue flagging. Not a single item missing.
I'm pleased. I thank Lyndsey profusely. I return peoples gear to them, and that alone means I'm basically last for dinner (which is served early, at 7:45pm). Basically everything has almost run out, but I get the last dreggs of soup, last dreggs of pulled pork sandwhiches, and last dreggs of salad. There are still a couple people who still haven't eaten --- forepersons, mostly, who I don't know what gets done with. When they set out desert, it lasts for all of 20 or 30 people over ~5 minutes, and then is gone.
They're having moderate-substantial food problems. Quality is good, portioning is problematic. I go to bed swiftly after dinner. My earlier goal of hanging out every night swiftly lost in the post-7pm arriving in camp. It has rained every night this shift, but been overcast and mix of sun pretty much every day.
Monday July 15th, Planting Day 89
Wake late, breakfast and lunch are thinned out substantially. Muffins are gone, fruit salad is gone, breakfast ends up being just a bunch of squares of egg-potato-veggies which aren't particularly good (except avocado, which makes me happy). Lunch – no block treats, trail mix finished. They're struggling substantially, because it's only 6:25am, and there are probably 10-30 people who get there after me.
We have a camp meeting --- price on the blocks from the last 3 days have been adjusted to 17 cents and 18 for the 512's/donkey dicks. That's still vastly lower than the 3-4 cent difference that is industry standard, and that price moves the block average from 170$ to maybe 200$. Which is still too low, but less horrifying.
Some of the crews go back there (which I feel really bad for) and the rest of us go to a block much closer (~35 minutes away). It is more normal for the area, and priced at 14 cents. It's not particularly good, but it is far less awful than the previous blocks. We get planting at 8:30am, and don't quite end up waiting for trees, but it gets close with partial bag ups at one point. Maya lets me know that we've got 30 planters for 40000 trees, which means a short day, and a 1333 average (at 14 cents = ~190$ average. Which at a good company, would be noon. Here, we finished at 3:30pm).
It seems like I can't get through a day of planting without listening to music, which is not a great place to be in.
We finish planting at 3:30pm, get to camp at 4:15pm, and head to town at 5:30pm. When we woke up this morning we were all told that we weren't getting fed dinner because the cooks needed time off. Talk about short notice. So we did a crew dinner at the pub, which was awesome, except for me agreeing to DD, because “let's all have a few responsible drinks with dinner” turned into ~15 pitchers for ~12 people. Numerous people got totally wasted, and ended up having to more or less drag him out of the bar at 10:30pm, which was way later than I wanted to get back to camp. I was planning to drink and hang out for a bit, but by the time I got done the drive (chain smoking and deafening music) I was annoyed and tired and just went straight to bed.
Thursday July 16th, Day off 31:
Wake, breakfast, head to town. Food, chilling, dealing with some school stuff. 12 more days.
Planting: Shift Oh God Why am I not done yet? (Shift 29)
Friday July 17th, Planting Day 90
Wake, breakfast. We go back to the same block from day 4 of last shift, but the other side of it. We're supposed to have a few more trees (39000 with 26 people, or a 1500 average). It's better than it's been, the land being slightly cleaner, slightly less overgrown, and less rocky, and I'm in a bit of a better mood. I'm planting with a guy from Estonia, who is totally fine to work with. I find a wasp nest, but avoid getting stung still. I might be the only planter in this camp who hasn't been stung, possibly multiple times.
We get two more in to finish the piece around 2pm, and it's looking like the block is going substantially under allocation and closing early. Then we get cut into a small piece at the front, and our crew pulls out at 3pm, with all our pieces done. There was another opportunity to go to a different block for one hour and do a single bag up...but it turned out nobody wanted to. A bear was spotted on the block, and one planter got sick.
We stopped for beers, then stopped for ice cream, courtesy of Maya, who said if she couldn't give us a full day at least she could give us treats --- I think she might not have noticed that exactly 0 of us wanted a full day, (except possibly one guy). We were back in camp by 4pm, with the 2 beers from Maya, then I split one of my beers with Val as pay back for the previous shift (a Phillips chocolate porter), I ended up drunk before dinner on a day 1. I've only been drunk once previously at Coast range, and that's probably the first time in 8 years I ever drank heavily during a shift. We ate chips, listened to music, and talked. Maya called it a safety meeting --- I suggested mental safety. Other crews got in at 5-6-7pm.
Checker Lyndsey, who I like, was there with us, and we were all sort of sitting on a giant black tire from some huge machine hiding-ish from the supervisor, hoping he wouldn't notice we were back so early. Some supervisors get antsy about trying to maximize planting time, especially when we're behind on the contract, but he seemed chill about it (also, Lyndsey the checker apparently has to work like, 18 hour days, every day, and so she seemed happy to catch a break). It's sunny and warm.
I went to bed swiftly after dinner. I don't get any desert, but apparently it's good. Crew plants 16k with 11 from 8am-3pm = ~240$ average (after 4% vacation pay). Solid for a short day.
Saturday July 18th, Planting Day 91
I wake up feeling slightly tired despite the super solid night of sleep. On the bright side, as opposed to last shifts depressive shift, this shift is happier --- almost manic, at points. I'm in a better mood. Though each day I say “only x more days” at least a dozen times.
We go to the block that everyone has been on that is supposedly unbelievably terrible, and priced at 17 cents. It's substantially worse than yesterday's 16 cent stuff, and the Estonian guy and I have a deep piece and the trees are either 220, 180 or 108 to a box, which means big and heavy. It's steep slopes up, and thick brush, and deadfall across the slopes, so it's definitely slow going. The Estonian guy is starting to get discouraged, but I try to keep his spirits up, and bag out in the back to help make sure the piece closes with no weirdness. I find another wasps nest, and yet again avoid getting stung. I'm good at running as soon as I hear a certain flavour of angry buzzing. It's super hot, getting into the high twenties. Not as bad as the start of the contract, but still sweaty.
Only one of the 4 shitters has a toilet seat for some reason, and it blows my mind. When I eventually tell the supervisor, it gets fixed.
We're trying to wrap this evenly, such that only a 6-pack comes back tomorrow, and Maya does a great job of it --- she's really on top of that shit. I do a last bag up of a cattle plant in Liz's piece, where she is upset because of a somewhat complex situation --- she had a long and narrow piece, but instead of filling the back, she filled the side, thinking she'd have time to go put a bag up in the back, once it got narrower. But the cattle plant arrived, and people cut a back pocket, and she was worried people would think she was stupid.
People at this company seem to side-fill instead of back-fill very casually. But whatever. Shit happens. We filled the back pocket, finished the piece, and called it a day at 4:30pm --- and then walked out and got to camp at 5:30pm. I took a shower during the shift, which I generally don't do.
Our assistant cook/baker, Cory, has quit. Various planters are taking days in the kitchen to help. One person on another crew was a cook last year --- she does one day but refuses to do more because of the long term sleep deprivation. They are really struggling with food --- running out of oranges, running out of fruit every morning, running out of block treats, running out of desert. Trail mix is incredibly low quality. For 28.35$/day, highest in the industry and highest it can legally be, it is not particularly impressive. Apparently the cooks are only getting 13$ of that for their food budget, which is a fiasco.
On that note, apparently 1 crew of 14 got back at 9pm (!?!??!) and there was no dinner left for them --- the cooks didn't know who was back/who wasn't and put all the food out, thinking everyone was back. Then people ate their fill. Which seems like a crazy thing, that if they had put stuff out slower/saved a tray, what? We all would have just gone to bed slightly hungry?
Crew plants 16000 with 12 from 8am-4:30pm. 235$/average after 4% vacation pay.
Sunday July 19th, Planting Day 92
Wake, breakfast (still too slow on the fruit at 6:17am, I'm going to have to start putting some aside before I make my lunch), head to the block, 2 hour drive, apparently we're planting mounds. We get there, and we can't see any mounds.
But it's mounded.
Mounds are where they dig a 3 ft pit and then flip the soil into a mound. The block is covered in grass, fireweed, and a pinkish/purple flower well past our waists, and up to above our heads at points. The end result is stumbling around and falling into pits to discover mounds, and then planting them. It was even slower than yesterdays block, and priced at a wholly insulting 14 cents. To add insult to injury (I'm shocked nobody broke their ankles) we were planting 100% boxes of 108 --- donkey digs. Bagging up 2 boxes was twice as heavy as I'd normally bag up, and a struggle to get through the hill. I did it, though, because we had normally deep piece (~110 trees) and a single box wouldn't let us back fill at all.
I work with another planter who I really like. I'm mildly manic --- I'm thinking about Calvin and Hobbes, Space-Man Spiff exploring the jungle planet, and imagining that scenario as applied to here --- our legendary hero, encased in thick jungle, surrounded by poisonous wasps and vicious bears, equipped only with his trusty laser-shovel!
I like this planter, and she's easy to work with. Our piece has a massive machine free zone, which isn't mounded, and as a general rule, the mounder did a really shitty job. He was supposed to mound at density 8's (1600 stems per hectare) and got closer to 1200 stems per hectare. He didn't mound random large sections. Maya initially told us to plant just the mounds, but Lyndsey comes by at about 1pm and says that if the density is low/if there are no mounds, to plant it anyways. That is one of the biggest fiascos ever, as we've already planted half the block and aren't going to go through it. So we start doing that...ish.
Because the other massive fiasco was that they only brought ~15000 trees to the block with the intention of sending a truck back to camp, but they got one of trucks massively stuck, and by the time they got it sorted out, it was noon, and with a 2 hour drive, the trees would arrive at 4pm, which wasn't enough time to make a difference...
And then, as it turns out, the block went wildly under allocation, because of the low density mounds and massive unmounded areas, so it only took ~12000 trees.
12000 trees with 13 people. ~134$/average after 4% vacation pay. We finished at 4pm, got back to camp at 6pm. Longer day portal to portal, and that is a darn bad crew average --- hopefully they'll bump it from 14 cents to 18 cents, but somehow I doubt that'll happen.
Apparently our crew is consistently highballing camp by a good margin, which is a horrifying thought, given pretty much every other crew works a consistently longer day than we do. There is also a very realistic chance that the camp average is not 200$, and that on any given day, not a single person makes 300$.
It is a very very hot day. We were still the first crew back, at 6pm, though one crew pulled in 5 minutes later. Maya gets us beer again, but I only have one and don't get drunk, just mildly buzzed. I talk to Jake for a bit, the chef --- he's actually super cool. I feel bad about the situation he's in. Apparently Foster, the supervisor, is my age. That is horrifying. I go to bed swiftly after dinner.
Rumours abound --- we're ahead of production, we're behind it, we're hiring 10 people from Spectrum. This BCTS PG stuff was supposed to be 6 days, but we were on day 7. Crustacean Russell was on the overflow block, which apparently is super nice, and he had his personal best (rookie, ~2000 trees) in only 7 hours of planting --- they had to wait for trees for 2 hours is a 4th year planter, rookie foreman with 14, and Frances is a 5th year planter, rookie foreman with a 6 pack. Dude, if I wanted to come be management here I bet they'd take me, which is insane to think about.
Maya, in the process of removing the truck from getting stuck, accidentally ripped her bumper off because she chained through the gate instead of the tow-rings. Whoops.
One of the foremen from another camp quit and went to be a planter at another camp, though I'm trying to get all the rumours on that one.
Monday July 20th, Planting Day 93
We go out to a new block, on the BCTS contract. It is a long (30 minute) walk in but it's 14 cents, and cleaner and softer. My piece has a large ravine in the back of it. Really, it'd be a fine day except for me feeling colossally unmotivated and uninspired. I've caught a small hint of a cold, it pours furious rain for 3 hours in the morning and 3 hours in the evening, and I'm tired as death.
I hit a wasps nest on the first bag up, but manage to avoid being stung, still. Numerous people are leaving. A bunch of new people are showing up --- we got a guy I don't know, a foreperson from Celtic, and a whole bunch are showing up from Spectrum supposedly.
The fast Zanzibar vet puts in 3k in ~6 hours, then walks out early because he hit his number, which seems mildly erratic to me. We start walking at 4:40pm, get out at 5:10pm, camp at 5:45pm, roll to the pub at 6:20pm, get out of town at 8:30pm --- and some people were going to try to pack their tents and drive to PG tonight, which is crazy.
I have a vague sense that the social covenant around planting is being violated by them not feeding us on the night off. It's easy to spend 20-25$ on dinner without blinking, on top of the half camp cost (13$) they charge us. Meanwhile our payroll is a total mess with charging camp cost on days off and days where we weren't supposed to pay it, and other price bumps getting missed.
8 more days. I'd love to muster some motivation, but I really just don't care. I go to bed super early to try to fight off this cold.
Tuesday, July 21st, Day Off 32
I wake late, near 10am, after over 12 hours of sleep, still slightly ill, it's pouring. Get a ride in, get food, internet, and head back.
Planting: Shift 30
Wednesday July 22nd, 2015, Day Off 33, though it should have been planting day 94
I wake up with my cold equally bad or worse, and a fierce headache. I decide to rest instead of going planting, so I get breakfast and tell Maya, who rushes off. I think she was mildly annoyed that last night I refused to take oil of oregano from her in favour of neo-citrine.
I go back to bed and sleep until almost 1pm, read for the afternoon, eat dinner, and go back to bed. It proves to be a great decision for my physical and mental health. It was a beautiful day though, and would have been nice to plant.
Thursday July 23rd, Planting Day 94
Wake, breakfast. We were supposed to get 10 people from Spectrum, but only 4 show up, the rest decide they've had enough. One becomes our new cook, and 2 join our crew. We go out to that same old block, and get close to finishing it. I plant all day with our competent OFA3, which is good for my mood, though I still have a bit of the cold slowing me down. Still, it ends up being a decent day, though it rains off and on, getting everything soaking wet. They have a dry tent, but are out of propane so it doesn't get turned on.
Friday July 24th, Planting Day 95
We go out to a new block, and just two people from our crew and and one other or something from another crew is sent back to the old block. The new block turns out to be an unmitigated creamshow. It's sandy, flat, planting 10's with nothing but boxes of 270 pine (so easy to bag 300 or 400) as opposed to the big 210 a box spruce. At 13 cents, it's excellent. Amongst the best I've ever seen.
It's overcast, and there is fierce pounding rain a few times over the day. A planter and I start in a piece together, and she is moving fast. I'm not well motivated for the first couple of bag ups, but even I manage to pull it together. I try to convince Maya to let us stay until 6:30pm, but she's not particularly interested. We finish our piece around noon, and then jump into the next person's piece and help him. We plant with him until 3pm, at which point, Maya says she'll pull one of us. I suggest she take my partner who is planting faster, because there isn't much left to go in in this area. It's a good decision, because on my side their is piece shuffle and I don't particularly care left or right, whereas my planting partner got a big piece, and managed to PB both today, then the following day when she went back. Basically the entire crew plants 3-4k.
32 planters do 107k, or a 3350 average (or a 450$ average after 4% vacation pay) which is vastly more than any of our crews have been making. The camp average, for the entire camp, for the contract (50-60 planters) has been 92000. That makes the average at best between 230$ and 250$, possibly even lower.
On the bright side, that helps with our expected finish date; this morning Foster, the supervisor said we had 720000 trees --- which at a 92k average is 8 days, but he said he hoped production would increase --- and that it did. We don't know, but we were guessing that the camp put in around 140k today --- the remaining 20ish planters putting in 30kish trees.
Other crews were somewhat grumpy about it. Two planters from our crew got back from their special mission at 8pm or so to cold food (oh yeah, they're still regularly running out of things --- most noticeably, block treats, fruit salad in the morning, soups and breads at dinner, dessert after dinner) and everyone else getting back 3 hours earlier and making more money (the block was also just 5km from camp). When the camp average is more like 200$, having an entire half the camp go out for a great day and not getting to yourself can be...frustrating.
Saturday July 25th, Planting Day 96
We went to a new block, with just a pair of people going back to that block from our crew; including my planting partner from yesterday (who puts in 5000 trees, the biggest number that anyone in the company has hit this season); they plant until 6:30pm or so.
Most noticeably, one of the guys from our crew who didn't get the good block yesterday doesn't get it today, either. We go to a new block, which is a 2.5km walk in, and we partner plant a piece straight at the back. It's not good, though they haven't said a price --- the planters at our cache average around 1300 trees.
I partner plant with the guy who didn't get a shot at the cream, and he is very upset that he never got a shot at the cream. I try to convince him it's no big deal --- he had a good day yesterday compared to previous days, there will be other good blocks, it's only 5 more days then we're done for the season, but he decides to quit. I try to convince him to stay, which is super ironic, given that I also want out of here desperately. I get him laughing on the walk back, tell him to come to the pub and have one last dinner at least.
In other news, the block, 2kms of bad access, they only have 1 quad with a broken back-board. Maya is frantically trying to run trees, and she hits a bump a few loads in while holding boxes on the back, and the handlebars kick back and smash into her wrist, doing serious damage. I'm not exactly sure what happens, but 2 torn ligaments, perhaps.
She is unable to quad. Another planter quads for a bit, and the supervisor Foster delivers a second quad which other foremen use, and then the first quad breaks, so the planter goes back to planting. The single foreman ends up quadding alone for 20 planters over 2kms, which results in people waiting for trees a bit here or there.
We stop at 4:30pm, walk out 5pm, get rolling at 5:25pm, get to camp at 6:30pm, at which point, I have to organize people and make sure our crew is covered for rides, then drive into town. I run around looking for one member of the crew, until I find out that he was still planting in a truck with some special mission truck, and they'd be out until 9pm.
By 7pm when we leave, I'm super hungry and super agitated as a result. I don't like being hungry. We get to the bar at 7:30pm. I tell her the guy I worked with quit, and and she is a bit upset. She's had a rough day.
I was super annoyed by the time I got to the pub. I do not want to plant a full day, make barely any money, then have to organize the crew to get to the pub, then pay for dinner myself. If we were doing this again, I'd leave before doing it again (on a day 3). Hopefully the last day of the season they feed us.
4 other planters from the crew leave.
Sunday July 26th, the Last Day Off
I do laundry, use internet at the pub, and get food. It is a simple and quiet day off, exactly as it needs to be.
The last shift;
I didn't write the last shift down apparently, but it was more of the same. If I recall, it had a couple gong show days, 1 day of random super creamy block (at 12.5 cents instead of 13), and was a standard 4 , or maybe 5 day shift. Still struggling to keep us fed, logistical issues everywhere, and crew averages swinging from $175-$225 on one day then $400 the next.
They did feed us on the last day, and there was lots of everything, which was nice.
I'd guess that our camp, through mid-June and start of August, had turn over in the 40-80 planter range. At no point did I even know all the names of the people in camp.
Folklore, 2011: http://tinyurl.com/anl6mkd
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