treeplanters: we were lovers in a dangerous time.

this is how it all began…

falling in love over a cocktail.

10 years ago, on may 16th, 2001 an adorable, bleached blonde guy wearing, picture it, black long-johns with plaid flannel boxers over top and a big ol’ yellow terricloth puma t-shirt kissed me for the first time. he then escorted me back to my tent in the woods and without asking moved in… for the next two months! little did i know he was also moving into my heart and my life.


that’s the story of how dear hubby and i met in the early months of the summer in 2001. the romance began about 100km’s north of an already northern ontario town called, thunder bay. we were at a camp filled with about seventy young, beautiful, hardy folk there to plant trees. man, those were some freakin’ awesome days and nights. the party nights at planting were the kind of parties that well, no city slicker could ever imagine. kinda like, “what happens in vegas, stays in vegas”, same idea with planting.

the mess tent at night; where we ate, hung out, partied.

treeplanting changed me. this job, this experience really helped me navigate through some typical early twenties “who am i and where am i going?” stuff. it also brought me back to the forest, which i so missed while living in the big city. and it provided an opportunity for me to challenge myself physically, emotionally and intellectually. there were days when i wanted to quit and run away, but my friends and my crew boss, jb, kept me going. there is no place to hide at planting. there is no room, time or energy for facades or fakeness, the job is too demanding.
it’s all real.

the way of life is simple at planting. you work hard and party hard; four days on, one off. you sleep in a tent, your meals are provided for you as is your ride to work. you work all day, come back to camp, eat dinner, shower and go to bed. we got paid 8 cents (CAD) a tree, which back in those days was considered a great wage. the theory is the more you plant, the more cash you earn. and living expenses up there were minimal. we paid a camp fee, which covered our living costs at camp (food, gas etc).
here are a few links for more insight on planting and planters. here’s a how to and dictionary to planter lingo.

getting clean up in the woods was an impossibility as the dirt and soil of the land seeped into our rough, dry, cracked skin (and into our hearts). there was a shower tent at camp, but the showers were quick and mostly used to rinse off the larger chunks of dirt and that day’s bug dope. on our days off, camp would be mostly desolate as everyone would head into thunder bay. luckily for planters, t-bay has a very strong finnish heritage meaning there are public saunas. the routine was: first, we all did our laundry at frank’s laundromat and then people would head to the scan or the hoito or kangas. kangas is where we had our sauna. I’m sure many of you already have your own saunas at home, or have already started looking into reviews for them, for example, from Clever Leverage and other sites – Matt has done an exceptional job reviewing saunas.

each crew had their own van and that’s how we got to work.
these trailers is where we kept our “smellies”.
dinner in the mess tent, with some boxed wine! what a treat!
where we got our safe, clean drinking water.

we had black bears come and visit our camp. usually they showed up while we were all off at work on the block. the ministry of natural resources was called in to trap and move the bears far away. there were strict rules for everyone not to keep ANYTHING with a scent in their tents; no creams, bandages, gum, vitamins, condoms, food etc. bears have a keen sense of smell and as some people found out the hard way, a hungry bear looking for food can really damage a flimsy tent. some planters had their tents torn and ripped by a bear looking for smellies left in the tent. sometimes we saw bears or moose on our drive to work, which was always exciting. we also saw lots and lots of bugs; black flies and mosquitoes were attacking us all day, every day. the black flies loved to fly in your face and into your eyes. there were also deer flies that bit chunks out your flesh! dear hubby wore a bug net religiously over his hard hat, but i found it difficult to work like that, so my face was eaten. it felt like someone had written messages in braille on my face, because the bites were so dense!

at work.

dear hubby’s hands after a day out planting. we used duct tape to protect
our hands.

i knew he was the one right away. there was something different about him. at first we spent every non-working moment together and then eventually we worked together too. he was a fantastic planter, so focussed and determined meaning he didn’t waste his time chatting at the cache or smoking copious amounts of cigarettes like the rest of us. he bagged up and kept slamming them trees in the ground. he was initially thought to be a good influence on me and helped push me to become a better planter, but, then it became too distracting and we’d end up smooching in the clear cut for a while! then, we were placed in different crews!

our final party at camp- end of the season and time to head home.

but here we are, a decade later, with a house and a minivan and two little boys, still together. we talk about planting a lot and at spring time we get a bit nostalgic. dear hubby still has that ol’ yellow terricloth shirt and man o’ man, when he throws it on does it ever bring back memories of our first summer of love.

happy anniversary!
xo, mama lola
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  1. Debbie says

    A beautiful depiction of treeplanting life. I remember the summer you are talking about too…I was there!
    Happy 10 years!

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