Monday, April 28, 2008

My Tent is Fucked

A few years ago my father bought a Marmot tent with a yellow rain fly that he gladly lent me for my firs two seasons. It is purple on the interior, made of a thin gore-tex material, and held up quite well if I remember correctly. It is small: just big enough for one person and his things, provided that person is comfortable changing while laying down.

This particular tent had seen active duty since I had last used it. My father has been building a cabin on a remote island north west of Vancouver, and has used the tent when out overseeing the construction. He didn't mind if I borrowed it again, he said, though it may be a little worse for wear.

Yesterday, I set-up the tent in his living room and found a massive hole, about two feet long: a right angle, on the floor near to where my head would rest. It is bigger than a cat door. I had no idea how to fix it, so I called Lauren, who is a fashion designer, and knows how to fix bits of fabric together. She told me that, if she were in my position, she would sew it.

Surprisingly, my father had a sewing machine. I stitched the thing up by folding the gore-tex over itself, as Lauren had instructed me to do. I was left with an oddly shaped pinch that left errant folds all around it. Threads were hanging off of the pinch on the outside of the tent, and though I thought it would be impermeable to insects and small animals, it didn't look like it could keep water out.

So, I opened the tent instructions and found two 2 x 2 inch vinyl patches - far too small for my purposes. Not really hopeful, I recognized an area of my sewing that was particularly loose, and I used one of the patches to cover it, like a band-aid. I continued to read the instructions, and found a mention of someting called seam-sealer, so I went to MEC to get some seam-sealer. They sell tents, I thought, so they must surely have it - and I can ask one of their employees how to fix a big hole in a tent. Conor came with me and we chatted and played pool at a nearby hall. The MEC employee was unhelpful, but I returned from my errand in possession of a small, six dollar bottle of goop and renewed hope. I glopped it over the entire hairy wound and waited. Twenty minutes later I pulled the cut apart to see if it had dried. As I pried, the gooey seam sealer stuck to both sides of the gape and stretched out in long, saliva-like strands. I was getting nowhere, so I gave up for the time being.

Today, I woke to find the hole a sticky, porous, threaded mess. I still had no idea what to do. Time was running out. I would leave Tuesday. I debated buying an entirely new tent. What would be worse? Being soaking wet for a few days and nights or spending the money on a new tent? Do I have to make that decision? I began to improvise. I found some super glue in a cabinet, and glued the folds, giving the dressing greater strength. I then used the remaining vinyl patch over a particularly troublesome area. When the glue had stiffened, I decided to be safe and duct tape the whole thing, in a massive 12 x 12 inch square.

It is raining hard and I am unsure as to whether the water will be deterred by my handiwork. Gotta be careful.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


I am staying with my father on the North Shore, and the air here is fresh and cool and clean.

I have little to do but make sure all of my stuff is in order. I have hiking boots - expensive things from a mountaineering store in Manhattan. I have a tent, which I should really inspect for holes. I have a small inflatable mattress, a sleeping bag, some warm clothes, some outdoorsy hiking things from Mountain Equipment Co-op, and a rain jacket that was donated to me by Lauren's mother. She words for Columbia. I have wool socks. I have toiletries, and a green plaid sweater and a pair of jeans for the day off. I have underwear, too. I think I have everything ready, save for a few pairs of gloves, which I will buy later.

I went over to my Mother's house, which is nearby, to look for some of my old planting gear. In her garage I found a large blue rubber-maid container that will be useful, but I can't locate my old bags and shovel. This is a drag, as i will now have to go and spend about two hundred dollars on some new ones. My mom has no idea what happened to them. I then find my old alarm clock: a tiny, grey thing with digital display I had picked up from a dollar store in Whitecourt, Alberta. I remember the light beeping sounds it made to wake me up those two previous summers. Surprisingly, the batteries are still working after nearly three years.

The winter is running late in the interior, and I have heard from my foreman-to-be that the majority of our blocks are either covered in snow or frozen, or both. Anyways, there is nothing to be done. My start date has been pushed back.

In other news, Lauren and I were on the CBC National last night, talking about Errol Morris' new film: "Standard Operating Procedure." We were approached outside of a screening for the Tribecca Film Festival the day before I left. The woman was blond and made-up and wearing a pink blazer, if memory serves me. She asked if she could ask us some questions, and I told them I was Canadian. The woman asked me what I thought about the film and I said it was 'troubling.' She asked what I thought was troubling about it and looked at me with a blank look, and I said 'torture.' She was taken aback a bit, and luckily, Lauren could feel it. She jumped in with a good sound bite about it. I can't recall what she said, because I was really charged up and trying really hard to be smart. It was pretty exciting, but they ended up cutting my words out of their report. Lauren is much better at being on television than I am.

My grandpa is a fisherman, and he was drifting off on his couch, as grandpas do, when he saw this: he took a picture with his digital camera (he is very savy) and sent it to all of the family.

Anyways, the costs of the plane re-scheduling make this a pretty big inconvenience, but that is how these things go.

Now leaving on Tuesday.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Planting Videos

Here are a bunch of youtube videos that planters have posted, with my comments below them.
This first one captures the vibe pretty well:

This kid is really flying, here, but you can tell he's pushing extra hard for the camera. And he's "creaming" out the road, which allows him to go extra fast. Who kicks that hard?

The Frenchman is very smooth. His style is graceful and effortless. The person who plants the most trees in camp is the "highballer." You can hear the camera operator talking about a slash pile. A slash pile is a big stack of sticks and crap that slows you down and gets in your way.

This shit happens to everyone. Part of being a planter is being proud of all of your hurts and pretending it is all no big deal.

You have to dig your own outhouses ("shitters" in planting lingo) and refuse pits ("slurries"). It is pretty tiring. Also, this video captures a sort of spontaneous tribal foolishness that is one of the best parts of the whole experience.

This is what you do in your downtime: throw shovels into the air and hope they land sticking up. When they do, you cheer.

This is a steep block. The planter's land is called his "peice."

Complaints about bugs are eternal. Imagine never escaping that noise.

When you run out of trees, you go to the "cache" to "bag up." When you spend too long sitting around at the cache, you are "cache-bashing." When you do this frequently, you are called a "cache-basher."

Leaving Tomorow

I don’t want to go tree planting. Hence the title of this blog, which is to serve as a record, a kind of experiential journalism.

Tree planting is a very hard job. I know this, because I have done it before. I planted for two years while I was still in college. I thought my last year would be my last year: that was in 2005.

Since, I moved to New York City to study – practically as far from the bush camps of Northern Alberta as is culturally possible. I have lived in New York for three years now, and I have what some would call ‘a life’ here, with some good friends and a nice girlfriend. This blog is for them, so that they may understand where I am, and what I am doing while I am gone. I will return in the fall.

This is also for people who are interested in planting and want to get a feel for the job before committing themselves and buying the bags. For those people, I suggest reading’s 'about' section, which this blog will help to edify.

I leave New York tommorow.