Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Information for New Replant.ca Forum Members


The following information is for new members of the Forums (message board) on the main Replant.ca website.  If you're reading this page, I'm assuming that you've just registered for an account.  If you haven't, but want to, send me an email with a requested username.


Making Posts

It's important that you make sure you have a check mark in the “keep me logged in” box when you are logging in.  Some users have reported problems with not being able to post if this box isn’t checked when you log in.  And remember to log out when you’re done, especially if you’re at a public computer.



More Detailed Info about the Board

It would also be great if you could skim through the more detailed info at this link:
 http://www.replant.ca/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=64563

That should answer most other questions that you might have, and also addresses issues such as my full set of rules for members, preventing defamation, company postings vs job postings, making avatars, a reminder that there's a "search" function, etc.


Social Media links

If you’re a regular facebook user, you might also want to put a “like” on the Replant.ca page (mostly designed for non-planters, to showcase photos & environmental articles):
 http://facebook.com/replant.ca

If you're currently a planter or potential planter, you might rather join the Replant facebook group, which is designed more for gossip and industry-specific information:

 http://www.facebook.com/groups/replant.ca

If you use Instagram, you'll probably also enjoy the account at http://instagram.com/replant.ca


Inexperienced Planters

Finally, if you're not a planter yet, but you've either just gotten a job OR you're looking for a job, you should bookmark and visit this link:
 http://www.replant.ca/training



Thanks for your interest in the Replant Forums!  As a reminder, here's a link to the main page:




- Jonathan "Scooter" Clark
Site Administrator


Email:  jonathan.scooter.clark@gmail.com


 



Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Tree Planter Training, Learning How To Plant

I've been working on a series of tree planter training modules for the past three years, to replace the videos that I originally put online in 2005.  Those video had been getting thousands of views every year, but they were very low quality.  It was time for an upgrade.

My training series consists of a total of twenty modules.  The first eight videos (which are the focus of a different post) are meant to be watched a couple months before the season starts, by people who are potentially interested in applying for a job as a planter.  Those videos are designed to let you know what you're getting yourself into if you decide to spend a summer in the bush.

The focus of the last twelve videos (the ones in this post) is more specifically related to the process of understanding the characteristics of trees, learning how to actually plant them, meeting quality & density expectations, and all the other "hands-on" stuff that you'll be expected to know as soon as you strap your bags on.  Although this series was produced in British Columbia, most of the information is also highly relevant to planting in other Canadian provinces (except maybe for the procedures for assessing quality & density).
 




The content in these videos is not targeted solely at inexperienced job applicants.  I'm 100% confident that all current experienced planters will find things in these videos that they didn't know.  You may wonder why I feel bold enough to make this claim?  Simple: because I learned hundreds of new things myself while putting all of this training material together.

These twelve videos are about four hours and twenty minutes in total length, so you'll need to set aside an entire afternoon or evening to watch them.  I'd suggest that you watch them with a pen and paper, so you can make notes about questions that you can ask recruiters or crew bosses at the companies that you apply to.  You should also bookmark this post, because you may want to come back and watch some of these videos more than once.  If you watch them well in advance of the season and this is your first year, you'll probably want to watch them as a refresher just a day or two before you hit the field.  Several companies are showing these as start-up training material when you first arrive to your new job.

In 2018, I'll be publishing a full hard-copy version of this information, which will be available for purchase from Amazon.  For now, you'll have to make do with the videos or the text that I've posted online.  For more information about this entire training series (including text transcriptions), visit:




Without further ado, here are the last twelve videos in the training series.  I hope you find them to be useful.



Basic Silviculture Knowledge
Contents:  Stocking standards, basic seedling physiology, tree structure, shade tolerance, environmental factors affecting growth, basic soils & planting media, seasons.







Stock Handling
Contents:  On-site seedling storage, handling seedling boxes, correct handling of seedlings and bundles.







Common BC Coniferous Trees
Contents:  Pine, spruce, fir, and other important species.







Planning Reforestation Activities
Contents:  The Pre-Work conference, the planting prescription, potential non-planting components, block boundaries, mixing species.







Planting Gear
Contents:  Planting bags, your shovel, miscellaneous planting gear, gear demonstration, non-planting gear.







Planting A Seedling
Contents:  Selecting the best microsite, microsite preparation, opening the hole & grabbing the seedling, planting the tree & closing the hole, planting demonstration.







Meeting Quality Requirements
Contents:  FS 704 system overview, throwing plots, specific faults, damage to seedlings, microsite selection, planting quality.







Spacing, Density, & Excess
Contents:  What's in a plot, plotted versus planted density, target spacing and minimum spacing, excess, missed spots (a quality fault), penalties.








Site Preparation
Contents:  Untreated (raw) ground, trenching, mounding, scrapes, windrows, drag scarification, chemical scarification, prescribed burning, selective harvesting, assessing a block.








Maximizing Productivity
Contents:  Staying organized, efficient planting techniques, efficient work strategies, staying focused.








Behaviours & Attitudes
Contents:  Maintaining the health of the ecosystem, responsible behaviour, safe behaviour, respectful behaviour, treatment of co-workers, stashing.








Wrap-Up
Contents:  Field practice, career options, final advice.





Here are some additional links and resources that might be of interest to potential planters:

Getting a Job:  replant.ca/jobs
Photo Galleries:  replant.ca/photos
Planting Books:  replant.ca/books
Message Board:  replant.ca/phpBB3
Instagram:  instagram.com/replant.ca


Regardless of whether you're a first-time or experienced planter, if you're applying for work at a new company, use the following list of questions to help determine if that employer would be a good fit:
 www.replant.ca/docs/Questions_To_Ask_A_Potential_Employer.pdf

If you're trying to figure out what you'll need for gear, here's a PDF that might help:
 www.replant.ca/docs/equipment_list.pdf


Ok, I think that's the main stuff for now.  You may wonder why I'm offering all of this stuff for free?  You may think, "what does he want in return?"  Well, that's a good question, because I actually DO want something in return:  I want you all to share this with as many other potential planters as you can.

- Jonathan "Scooter" Clark 
www.Replant.ca


PS:  Here's a link to the other blog post which outlines the first eight videos in this series, the "Pre-Season Overview" videos:



PPS:  If you'd like to have access to transcriptions of the video contents, you can find them in all the posts in this forum:

 


  




PS:  Many thanks to the WFCA (Western Forestry Contractors' Association) which helped get this project started several years ago, through a grant from the BC government.  Here is the WFCA's website link:





Saturday, February 11, 2017

Tree Planter Training, Pre-Season Overview

I've been working on a series of tree planter training modules for the past three years, to replace the videos that I originally put online in 2005.  Those video had been getting thousands of views every year, but they were very low quality.  I finally feel that the content of the current series is at a sufficient quality level that I now feel comfortable sharing these with our entire industry.

The training consists of twenty modules altogether.  The first eight (which are the focus of this post) are meant to be watched a couple months before the season starts, by people who are potentially interested in applying for a job as a planter.  If you're looking for the last twelve videos, which focus more on the hands-on aspects of the job, go to this link.
 
These videos will help you understand what you're getting yourself into!  This is NOT an easy job.  The number of first-year planters who try the job for a few days or weeks and then quit is pretty high.  If you're not going to enjoy the work, it's better that you make that decision before you start planting, rather than after you've spent a few thousand dollars on buying equipment and traveling to your first work site.






The content in these videos is not targeted solely at inexperienced job applicants.  I'm 100% confident that all current experienced planters will find things in these videos that they didn't know.  You may wonder why I feel bold enough to make this claim?  Simple: because I learned hundreds of new things myself while putting all of this training material together.

I highly recommend that if you're thinking about planting, you watch these videos very carefully before you commit to accepting a position at a planting company.  These eight videos are just slightly under four hours in total length, so you'll need to set aside an entire afternoon or evening to watch them.  I'd suggest that you watch them with a pen and paper, so you can make notes about questions that you can ask recruiters or crew bosses at the companies that you apply to.  You should also bookmark this post, because you may want to come back and watch some of these videos more than once.

In 2018, I'll be publishing a full hard-copy version of this information, which will be available for purchase from Amazon.  For now, you'll have to make do with the videos or the text that I've posted online.  For more information about this entire training series, visit:




Here are the first eight videos in the training series.  I hope you find them to be useful.  I think I would have made about five thousand dollars more in my first season if I had known all of this information before I started planting.  Crew bosses take note ... you should share this information with everyone on your crews.




Introduction, History of Tree Planting
Contents:  A history of BC's Tree Planting Industry, the modern BC Tree Planting industry.







Why Do We Plant Trees?  What Makes A Good/Bad Planter?
Contents:  Overview of forest management in BC, administration of logging & reforestation, people who should go planting, people who should not go planting, some common myths about planters.







Long-Term Worker Health, & Nutrition
Contents:  Water/hydration, alcohol/drugs/tobacco, fitness & avoiding injuries, personal protective equipment, minimizing the risk of illness, mental health.







Working Safely from Day to Day, Understanding Hazards
Contents:  Assessing risk, personal protective equipment, vehicles, natural worksite hazards, weather, chemicals in the workplace, wildfires, bears, other large animals, insects, miscellaneous, industry-certified training courses.







Rules & Regulations that Protect the Worker
Contents:  Employment Standards Act, Workers' Compensation Act, Canada Human Rights Act, minimum camp standards, complying with client/licensee policies, employer policies, camp-specific or crew-specific policies, corporate organization.







What It's Like to Live in a Tree Planting Bush Camp
Contents:  Overview of basic structure, the daily routine, your cooks & meals, other equipment, when you're not in a tent camp.







Map Reading and GPS Systems
Contents:  GPS systems, other map features, understanding scales, geo-referenced digital maps, always know where you are.







Nature & the Environment
Contents:  Weather, determining direction from the sun, plants, animals, birds.





Here are some additional links and resources that might be of interest to potential planters:

Getting a Job:  replant.ca/jobs
Photo Galleries:  replant.ca/photos
Planting Books:  replant.ca/books
Message Board:  replant.ca/phpBB3
Instagram:  instagram.com/replant.ca


Regardless of whether you're a first-time or experienced planter, if you're applying for work at a new company, use the following list of questions to help determine if that employer would be a good fit:
 www.replant.ca/docs/Questions_To_Ask_A_Potential_Employer.pdf

If you're trying to figure out what you'll need for gear, here's a PDF that might help:
 www.replant.ca/docs/equipment_list.pdf


Ok, I think that's the main stuff for now.  You may wonder why I'm offering all of this stuff for free?  You may think, "what does he want in return?"  Well, that's a good question, because I actually DO want something in return:  I want you all to share this with as many other potential planters as you can.  Make sure they have the opportunity to get a full understanding of what they're getting themselves into, BEFORE they put their first tree in the ground.  If someone isn't suited for tree planting, it's much better that they "quit" before they start, instead of three or four days into the season.

 Here's a link to the post which last the last twelve videos in my tree planter training series:

http://jonathan-scooter-clark.blogspot.com/2017/02/tree-planter-training-learning-how-to.html  

Oh, and by the way, keep this in mindI don't like to get my cameras wet.  Almost all of the photos and videos in these tutorials look all sunny and happy.  It's a facade.  We live in a world of mud, rain, and misery.

- Jonathan "Scooter" Clark
 www.Replant.ca


PS:  If you'd like to have access to transcriptions of the video contents, you can find them in all the posts in this forum:


  






Also, after watching all the videos, you'll probably be sick of the background song.  But if not, and if you want to hear (or download) the entire song, here's a SoundCloud link:









PS:  Many thanks to the WFCA (Western Forestry Contractors' Association) which helped get this project started several years ago, through a grant from the BC government.  Here is the WFCA's website link:


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Canadian Tree Planting Books

I thought I'd make a page here to summarize some of the books that have been written about Tree Planting in Canada.  Hopefully I'll be adding a few of my own to this page eventually!  A handful of the books at the bottom of this list aren't actually about tree planting, but they're either related to west coast forestry, or they're handy books for any tree planters who are trying to improve their species identification skills.



Title:  Eating Dirt
Author:  Charlotte Gill
Published:  2011
Link:  http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12464152-eating-dirt







Title:  Six Million Trees
Author:  Kristel Derkowski
Published:  2016
Link:  http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29613245-six-million-trees







Title:  Handmade Forests
Author:  Helene Cyr
Published:  1998
Link:  https://www.amazon.ca/Handmade-Forests-Treeplanters-Helene-Cyr/dp/0865713936
(This one is fairly hard to get now, although you can find used copies from Amazon resellers).







Title:  Whatever It Takes
Author:  Nick Kaminski
Published:  2006
Link:  https://www.amazon.com/Whatever-Journey-Through-Canadian-Wilderness/dp/097805010X
(Quite hard to find, not currently available online: I have one of the only two copies that I know of).







Title:  Pounders
Author:  Josh Barkey
Published:  2016
Link:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32507730-pounders







Title:  We Will All Be Trees
Author:  Josh Massey
Published:  2010
Link:  http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7264802-we-will-all-be-trees#bookDetails
(The only science fiction book here about tree planting).







Title:  The Book Of Tree Planter Suicides
Author:  Toby Pikelin
Published:  2013
Link:  https://issuu.com/efterblivet/docs/btps_online_book_pdf
(This is a free one, just check out the link!).







Title:  Empire Of The Beetle
Author:  Andrew Nikiforuk
Published:  2011
Link:  http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11066432-empire-of-the-beetle
(Not about planting, but close enough, and a fascinating read).







Title:  The Golden Spruce
Author:  John Vaillant
Published:  2006
Link:  http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/88335.The_Golden_Spruce
(Not about planting, but a lot of planters have really enjoyed this one).







Title:  Plants of Northern British Columbia
Authors:  MacKinnon, Pojar, & Coupe
Published:  1941 (revised since then)
Link:  http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2063430.Plants_of_Northern_British_Columbia
(Not about planting, but a great species identification guide for northern BC).







Title:  Plants of Southern Interior British Columbia
Authors:  Parish, Coupe, & Lloyd
Published:  1996
Link:  http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/530070.Plants_of_Southern_Interior_British_Columbia_and_the_Inland_Northwest
(Not about planting, but a great species identification guide for southern BC).







Title:  Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast
Authors:  Pojar & MacKinnon
Published:  1994
Link:  http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/606055.Plants_of_the_Pacific_Northwest_Coast
(Not about planting, but a great species identification guide for the coast).






For more information about tree planting in Canada, visit:

www.Replant.ca



Monday, January 09, 2017

Potential Bumper Sticker Designs

I'm considering printing some bumper stickers.  I did this once in the past, almost ten years ago, but at the time, bumper sticker technology was a lot more primitive.  The original ones were pretty boring, just green letters on a white background.

I was playing around with some potential designs this afternoon, and came up with three so far.  Let me know which one you think is best?


CHOICE 1:  TREE IN LAKE




CHOICE 2:  YELLOW FIELD BLUE SKY




CHOICE 3:  DECIDUOUS SEEDLING IN HAND


Sunday, January 08, 2017

Sharon Moalem's "Survival Of The Sickest"

I read a lot of books, but I'm not frequently motivated to write a review of these books.  However, I just finished a book that one of my tree planters recommended to me, and I found it to be a great choice.

The book was written by Sharon Moalem, a Canadian doctor with a Ph.D. in human physiology, specializing in neurogenetics and evolutionary medicine.  The book is non-fiction, and is best suited for readers who have at least completed high school biology, or who have a basic understanding of genetics and/or medicine.  But this is far from a textbook.

Rather than going into a traditional style of review, I'm instead going to just list a handful of subjects that the book talks about, in point form.  This alone should be enough to let you know whether or not you might find it to be interesting:

- Many people are familiar with the practice of "bleeding" a patient, which is a practice that happened with the earliest recorded history, and which for some time in the modern era "made no sense."  Well, consider the fact that iron is a critical mineral for human life (I didn't realize how critical until I read this book).  What if there was a disease (there is, called hemochromatosis) in which a person was unable to "use up" the iron in their body, and the amount stored kept growing?  Too much of a good thing is sometimes bad, and this oversupply of iron can happen.  With a lack of other easy ways to remove iron from the blood, "bleeding" a patient sometimes IS a good practice.

- People with hemochromatosis have too much iron in their bodies, as noted above.  But even though their bodies are littered with iron, one important place where this iron doesn't collect is in the white blood cells.  The bubonic plague of the Middle Ages was a bacterial disease in which the infectious agent entered the white blood cells, and the iron in the white cells was an important part of the growth of the infection.  But people with hemochromatosis lucked out.  In many cases, the lack of iron in their microphages protected the human from the disease.

- There's a great section talking about Diabetes and sugar intake (I'll have a lot less sugar in my coffee from now on).  The number of obese children in north America today is staggering, and getting worse.  Many of these children are getting diabetes, as a tie-in to their obesity.  I won't get into the diabetes section in depth, but it taught me a lot about how to should think about certain lifestyle changes.

- The pituitary gland is indirectly responsible for the production of melatonin, which helps prevent skin cancer.  But the pituitary gland gets its information from the optic nerve.  Wearing sunglasses will trick the optic nerve, and affect your melatonin production, which can put you at much higher risk for skin cancer!

- There is a theory that the reason people often sneeze upon exposure to bright sunlight is because when we still lived in caves, if a person sneezed upon coming out of the cave into bright sunlight, the sneeze might dislodge microbes and molds from the nose or upper respiratory tract.  I hadn't heard this theory before.  I actually disagree with it, but it's interesting (my theory is much more basic, namely that a sneeze is intended to possibly help divert your stare when you look at the sun, to avoid damage to your retinas).

- The last ice age ended not over a slow change of a few thousand years, but rather, over an unbelievably rapid global adjustment of just three years!  This has staggering implications upon climate change theory today.  We could mess up our planet far, far more quickly than we currently believe.

- Human females tend to be more likely to conceive males during "good times" and more likely to conceive females during "tough times" (this refers to a very macro scale, as in global conflicts and disasters, not a temporary challenge such as "I broke a coffee mug half an hour before we had sex).

The book also goes into discussions such as:

- Why Asians often have such an intolerance to alcohol.

- Theories on better ways to prevent cholera outbreaks.

- How sunspot activity (and solar radiation) may relate to some past global influenza epidemics and pandemics.

- The relationship of telomerase to the Hayflick Limit to cancer to longevity.

- Why some diseases are passed down directly from woman to granddaughter, rather than woman to daughter (because when a female is conceived, her lifetime supply of eggs is already in her body when she's still a fetus - thus the eggs that produce the next generation were actually carried inside the grandmother's body when the mom was not yet born).



Phew, this post has covered a lot of ground.  Well, if all of the above is of interest to you, then you're going to learn a lot from this book.

Happy reading ...






Follow Jonathan Clark on other sites:
        Twitter: twitter.com/djbolivia
        SoundCloud: soundcloud.com/djbolivia
        YouTube: youtube.com/djbolivia
        Facebook: facebook.com/djbolivia
        Main Site: www.djbolivia.ca
        About.Me: about.me/djbolivia
        Music Blog: djbolivia.blogspot.ca
        MixCloud: mixcloud.com/djbolivia
        DropBox: djbolivia.ca/dropbox



Sunday, April 10, 2016

Hi & Ho, We Plant Trees

Several years ago, Peter Krahn (of Peppermill Records) released a compilation of tree planting songs, written and performed by tree planters, about planting.  He made this available as a free release from Peppermill.  The compilation was titled, "Hi and Ho, We Plant Trees."

I've always been impressed that I've gotten into planting trucks at several different companies and heard songs playing that were on this compilation.  It's been shared widely over the past several years.

With a new Interior planting season about to come upon us, and a new crop of planters about to hit the field, I think it's time that I shared this music again (you can download the songs further below).

Here's the cover art for this album:







Many thanks are due to the individual artists, for making these songs available, and also to Krahn, for putting this project together!

If you want to audit or download individual songs, here are links to all of the songs on SoundcloudIf you want to download any of these songs, click on the download arrow icon near the top right of each widget.

If you want to download the whole album in one shot, here's a link that you can right-click on, and choose the "save target/file/link as" option:


This link is saved as a single RAR archive, which can be uncompressed natively in Windows.  If you're using OS X on a Mac and you're looking for a way to extract/unpack a RAR archive, two free programs are The Unarchiver and UnRarX, both of which can be found with a google search.  The RAR archive file is 163 MB in size, with all of the MP3's from the album.


 














































































Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Andrew Nikiforuk's "Empire Of The Beetle"

“Empire Of The Beetle,” by Andrew Nikiforuk, is a pretty interesting book for anyone who is interested in forestry. The subtitle of the book is, “How Human Folly and a Tiny Bug Are Killing North America’s Great Forests.” But the book is about more than just beetles; a few other pests are also discussed.  I read this book several years ago, and wrote a short review at the time.  Since the spruce beetle is now becoming more of an issue in British Columbia, I thought it would be good to re-visit "Empire Of The Beetle," so here is my initial review.  I'll be talking more about the spruce beetle in future posts.

Many people have probably heard about the Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB) epidemic in western Canada. But the pine beetle is just the most visible face of a larger issue. In the past few decades, several species of beetles have girdled and killed more than thirty billion lodgepole, pinyon, ponderosa, and whitebark pines, as well as white spruce and Engelmann spruce. This sort of devastation is actually quite normal for forests, when Nature is left alone to do its work, but the economic consequences of this destruction have caused the current epidemics to be labelled as a “problem.”

Beetles are probably one of the most successful examples of life on our planet. Beetles (Coleoptera) make up a third of all life on Earth, and a quarter of all animals. Estimates for the number of different species of beetles are in the vicinity of ten million. If you took just one part of the beetle family, the bark beetles, there are more than a thousand more species than there are types of mammals on Earth. Beetle fossils exist that are a third of a billion years old (significantly older than dinosaurs), and various species can live in almost every environment: in rivers, lakes, jungles, caves, forests, deserts, and mountaintops. Bark beetles cooperate on a social level, and bury their dead. If you look globally at species of animals that are smart enough to hunt in packs, there is only a very short list: humans, wolves, hyenas, lions, killer whales, piranhas, ants, and bark beetles.

One interesting thing is that bark beetles themselves do not kill the trees they inhabit. Beetles, like some other insects, act as a sort of mobile zoo, carrying all kinds of other life forms with them. The spruce bark beetle, for example, can carry up to ten different species of fungi, six different kinds of mites, and nine different types of bacteria. All of these organisms work together as a complex mini ecosystem, as the life cycle of the beetle continues. It is the effects of these various organisms, in concert, that lead to eventual conifer mortality.

The interesting thing is that beetles are not necessarily bad for the forests. Some people would disagree, particularly those who focus on an immediate snapshot of the forests, and who worry about the current economic potential. But in the long term, over decades and centuries, beetles are unquestionably an important part of forest maintenance. You see, beetles basically act to keep a forest healthy overall, in the longer term. There is no need to protect the trees from the beetles; the beetles and the trees have been living in a symbiotic relationship for millions of years.

Starting about a century ago, North Americans began to focus some efforts on fire suppression within the forests. The obvious rationale was that if forest fires were suppressed, there would be more wood. But nature relies on regular fires (every few decades) to keep a forest “tidy” and healthy. By putting out the small fires, what happened was that fuel loads began to increase. When a fire eventually came along that couldn’t be put out right away, it could grow to enormous size.

Many people have mistakenly assumed that beetle-killed trees would lead to increased forest fire risks. I actually believed that myself, several years ago. That seems logical, because when you look at a dead tree that has been killed by a beetle, it's dry and reminds you of firewood. But when you start to get experience with forest fires, you quickly realize that the majority of major forest fires are “crown” fires. Rather than the coarse wood (the thicker primary branches and trunks of the trees) burning, it is the “fines,” the needles and leaves, that provide the quick fuel that burns fast and hot. Although you would think that living green trees would be moist and less prone to fire than dry and dead stems, the exact opposite is true. Fire likes smaller pieces of fuel with more relative surface area that is exposed to oxygen, and fire also likes density, so flames can jump from fuel source to fuel source. You get this with living trees, but not dead ones. When a tree has first been killed by beetles, yes, it's a high fire risk for the first year or so. But once the needles drop off, it is not a high fire risk. The lesson here is that determined fire suppression eventually guarantees either a catastrophic fire or a bark beetle epidemic.

Any competent forester or woodsman will tell you that a diverse forest is the best kind. But logging companies like to work with monocultures, large tree stands where all the trees are the same species and the same relative age. When forests are harvested and replanted, they are usually planned as a plantation of just one or two dominant species (spruce, pine, fir, or cedar) and all the trees end up having the same approximate age. But it is this kind of forest that is most susceptible to damage from beetles. Basically, the beetles see these forests as a massive free lunch, and in attacking the trees, they are really just protecting the trees from themselves (from overcrowding). When forests are left to themselves, beetles attack a very small number of trees each year, in a system which promotes diversity and balance. It is only when “unnatural” large concentrations of a single species are allowed to grow together that true epidemics become possible. As foresters said in East Texas in the 1980’s, when southern pine beetle growth exploded, “What we have here is not an epidemic of southern pine beetles, but rather, an epidemic of southern pine.”

At this point, the decision about what to do with beetle-killed forests is what concerns me. Many foresters prefer the “mow it down and salvage the wood” approach, resulting in more clear-cutting than would have otherwise been the case. As a tree planter, I initially wished that the BC government would take more of the beetle-killed areas that they couldn’t salvage log and just bull-doze the standing dead wood, and then let our industry replant new forests (preferably multi-species). But since then, I’ve learned a lot more about the interplay between various parts of the forest ecosystem. The northern boreal forests are very efficient carbon sinks, perhaps more so than tropical rainforests. A beetle-killed forest left standing to rot slowly will also release carbon slowly, over a period of many years. As that gradual release takes place, the carbon loss is offset by new undergrowth, which happens very quickly as the sunlight can easily penetrate through to the forest floor. So effectively, leaving dead trees standing is an effective carbon sequestering strategy, probably much more wise in the long run than cutting the dead wood for use by wood pellet factories, where the product gets shipped halfway around the world. Of course, we tree planters could probably still speed up that renewal process by planting a mix of several species in these understory plants.

I won’t go any further into the ground that the book covers, because that would spoil things for people who are planning to read the book. But I should note that a 2001 provincial review in British Columbia suggested that in terms of the “costs and benefits of clear-cutting beetle-kill ... a forest renewed by bark beetles was a much smarter economic proposition than a monster clear-cut designed by humans with forestry degrees.” I personally don’t want to suggest that the pine beetle epidemics are a good thing in an absolute sense. But I do think that a moderate level of pine beetles is an important part of natural renewal, and beetle renewal does have positive aspects that politicians and logging companies sometimes seem to ignore in favour of short-term economics. I guess the best thing though, would be for you to read the book and form your own opinions. Here's a link to buy the book:


Empire Of The Beetle on Amazon.ca


Friday, February 26, 2016

Tree Planting Books: Eating Dirt

About five years ago, a book came out that focused on life in the coastal tree-planting community.  The book was called "Eating Dirt," and was written by Charlotte Gill.  I eagerly read it as soon as I got my hands on it, and wasn't disappointed.  Charlotte was a tree planter, but the book didn't focus entirely on planting. There was also a lot of background about the logging industry in general, and some background on tree physiology and historical biology, with both local and global perspectives.

At the time, I wrote a very short review and made some notes.  I've been tempted to read the book a second time since then, but I'm also working on writing a couple books of my own.  I really don't want anything in her book to influence what I'm writing, which is why I've reluctantly refrained from a second reading.  However, I took my original notes and I'm posting them here today because I want to remind planters about this book.  At some point over the next several weeks, I'll share some notes about three or four other books that should also be of interest to planters.

Charlotte Gill, the author, was a planter for over twenty years.   She started in Ontario, but moved out west.  When she was still working in western Canada (up until just a few years ago), she worked eight or nine months each year, predominantly planting coastal projects (the professional part of the industry), plus a bit of southern Interior work in the early summer months.  Many of the people that she mentioned in the book are people I know.  When I'm planting on the coast, I usually work in the same area where she did a lot of her work (the north Island), and I've worked for the same company that she often worked for.




Here's an excerpt from a review by Quill & Quire:

"A thoroughly Canadian story, Eating Dirt is not out of place alongside other classic memoirs of the bush by Susanna Moodie or Farley Mowat."

Eating Dirt was the winner of the BC National Award for Non-Fiction, and was also short-listed for both the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction and the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust

There were a few things in the book that really caught my attention. For instance, she was talking about the amount of ground that a million trees covers. When this is quantified in acres or hectares, it somehow seems less impressive than her way of illustrating: one million trees covers five hundred city blocks in Manhattan. My own camp usually plants close to six million trees a year. I didn't really think about how much ground we cover until I thought of it as almost three thousand city blocks.

Another interesting fact is that when you're in a full forest canopy and you look up, it probably looks like the branches of adjoining trees are all intertwined above you. But they aren't. The trees are able to somehow sense their neighbours and the branch tips almost always stays a few centimetres away from each other. Of course there are occasional exceptions, but natural avoidance is generally the case. Charlotte mentions a lot of facts about trees and nature that seasoned planters take for granted, but which would probably surprise readers who aren't planters.

Charlotte also talks about the number of calories a planter consumes in a day: around five thousand. If anything, I think this is an under-estimate. It's hard to count calories accurately in a bush camp, because most planters just load up without measuring portions, and shovel the food in as quickly as possible. But I've always been curious about caloric intake, I've always tracked my own personal food costs while planting on the coast, and I've sometimes made attempts to measure my calories. A normal person might be shocked. Here's a fairly normal example of what I might eat in a day on the coast:

Breakfast: 970 calories

3 yogurt cups = 240 calories
3 cinnamon buns with butter = estimated 375 calories
Bowl of strawberries = 45 calories
Four hard-boiled eggs = 310 calories

During Day, While Planting: 3,835 calories

4 pepperoni sticks = 320 calories
8 granola bars = 1280 calories
About 1/3rd block (150g) of marbled cheddar = 600 calories
A cup of chocolate chips = 805 calories
Anywhere from 8-12 bottles (500ml) of water = 0 calories
Three bottles of Gatorade (591ml) = 390 calories
One half of a large bottle of Clamato juice = 440 calories


Dinner: 3,415 calories (which I eat over a period of a couple hours)

Two cups of rice (bazmotti/risotto/brown/long grain) = 400 calories
1/2 bag of cheese perogies = 840 calories
A third of a bunch of asparagus = 30 calories
1 large chicken breast = 165 calories
Half of a bunch of broccoli = 105 calories
Half cup of butter (1/4 pound) on these previous items = 810 calories
Half cup of cheddar cheese on these previous items = 265 calories
1 litre of almond milk = 360 calories
Large bowl of ice cream = 440 calories
A couple gatorade containers of water that I take to bed = 0 calories

Total for the day: 8,220 calories
(and about a dozen litres of fluids)

A lot of planters who work hard for 8-10 hours per day can eat this much food, day after day, and still lose a significant amount of weight as the season progresses. Back when I planted full-time in the Interior, before I was a supervisor, I typically lost about 25 pounds in the first 6-7 weeks. By the way, I vary my diet a bit from day to day when I'm coastal planting - I really enjoy meat, so some days are a lot more protein heavy (fish, chicken, or red meat), and pastas or quinoa are often a staple on the coast too.  It all depends on my mood.  I've been having a lot more smoothies full of fruits and juicing greens lately too.

Tree planting is a job that most people would hate. For actual tree planters, it's more of a love/hate relationship. For people who've never done it, this book is a great insight into one of the strangest industries in Canada. Check it out if you can. Here's a link to order a copy from Amazon:
http://www.amazon.ca/Eating-Dirt-Charlotte-Gill/dp/1553659775


And while you're waiting for your copy of the book to arrive in the mail, here's a link to a lot of tree planting photo galleries that I've taken over the past ten years. Each of the photos on this page is actually a link: click on it, and you'll be taken to a page with dozens of other photos. In all, there are several thousand photos that I've put online:






 If you'd like to learn more about the Canadian Tree Planting industry, visit:

www.Replant.ca