A popular summer job
for Canadian university students and anyone looking to make a crapload of money in a short time.
The idea is, you go out to British Columbia, northern Ontario, or even Manitoba, and plant trees (generally in May and June) for about ten hours every day. Since you get paid for every tree you plant, your summer earnings are completely in your own hands. If you're good, you rake in the money. If you get tired and lose motivation, you go home.
This job is not for everyone. About 20% of the planters go home during the first week, and more tend to drop off at the end of a contract when things inevitably go longer than planned. You're sleeping in a tent for two months, as well as dealing with rain, snow, fatigue, hunger, and constant swarms of bugs while you're working outside in a physically demanding job (that is, if you're lucky enough to survive the bear attacks) :D Oh yeah--and you're doing the same damn thing over and over again.
The deal is, they throw you on a piece of logged land with your bag, shovel, and a few boxes of trees, and you pretty much take it from there. You can hold about 300 trees (comfortably) in your bag at one time, and, depending on the land, plant anywhere from 1000-3000+ trees in a day. Sometimes the land has been "scarified", or prepared, for you, and sometimes it hasn't. Generally, you get paid more for unscarified because it takes a little more effort to screef away the brush before you plant a tree. Oh - and since you're basically working for a logging company, you can throw away any illusions you went into the job with about helping to rejuvenate the earth. Because your trees, which have all been sprayed with pesticides, will probably end up being logged in the future. And since the land is also sprayed with large amounts of herbicides, anything besides the trees you plant has a hard time growing. So much for biodiversity.
This summer was my first year planting, and before I went, I really didn't know whether to be excited or scared or indifferent. I guess scared won out, but once I got going, the routine made everything a lot more bearable. I must admit, pulling up to our camp on the first day was a bit of a shock. I knew we would be planting on giant clearcuts, but I didn't realize that we would be living on one. I got used to it, though, like everything else. Toughness became more about not giving yourself the option to quit than making a conscious decision to keep pushing. And money. I decided early on that, no matter how bad things got, I had invested too much money to go home. Tents. Bags. Shovels. Flashlights. Boots. There was no way I was getting out of there without a cheque.
And yes, I am definitely going back next year. :)