The world is cruel to those breaking the cycle of tree-planting. Every season feels like a year, and the time between seasons feels vast and never-ending. Each new season, a new chapter, as every season is a chapter of itself.
The job is amazing once you get over your rookie year; the pay, the sights, the friends, the shenanigans. Planters are weird; dirty, cheap fucks who make a lot of money and live with no tomorrow’s. This was the first year in 4 years I wasn’t in a bush camp for my birthday. This is the first year since graduating university where I don’t find myself with a shovel surrounded by the escapees from the circus.
Bad Uncle says after four years you’re never going to stop. I plan to be an anomaly, but fuck is it hard.
I’m Technically In A Career Change
Telling myself and others I’m changing careers and industry has worked reletively well for me here in New Zealand. At least people understand why I have little sales experience yet call myself a salesman. Julian urged me to go planting during lockdown. In hindsight I should have went. It would have been work. Subsidized living. Friends.
Instead I told him this was the year of breaking the cycle of tree-planting.
I’m so used to getting my ‘good friend fix’ from a bush camp. Then I have a nice chunk o’change travel. I get cool sights while working, and have the funds to chase cool sights after work. plus I’ve just finished doing a lot of hard work and I’m in great shape.
Instead, I have to keep my hair trim, clothes washed, shoes polished, and remain mindful of my cussing. I’m not saying sales is hell or even sucks, otherwise, I’d drop it like I dropped hospitality. It’s just far different than what I’m used too.
Change Is Hard
Change is hard. The longer you’ve been doing it, the harder it’ll be to stop. Maybe that’s why Bad Uncle says after 4 years you’re never going to stop. After four years you’re good. You’ve got experience. Friends in the industry and seasonal shift-work fits your life. I.E you’re a long time traveler who wants to work and travel, then travel without work for months on end. Or you’re a student. Taking a break from your regular job. The reasons go on and on.
The hard part is no one around me really gets it. They don’t understand the bonds you form in bush camp. They don’t understand the beauty in the clear cuts and plantations. Bush life is different.
Maybe it’s hitting me extra-hard because I’m already so depressed about everything that’s been happening, and what hasn’t happened in New Zealand. I left lockdown eager to smash the door knocking scene, though I was incredibly lonely, and craving for some friends. Julian and Claire were great, but the age difference; as well as other things… Well, I just wanted some less than settled friends. Some friends close to my age whom I could explore and cause trouble with. Just like bush camp.
The Forgotten Beauty
While many industries shut down, plantations in NZ and Australia kept running. If I had timed it right, I could have scored myself lockdown employment. Instead of coming out broke, and dependant on my parents, I could have had tree-plant money. Friends to crush deals and trails with. I would have been in shape and ate better.
Instead. I was stubborn about breaking the cycle of tree-planting; like I was stubborn about most things here in New Zealand. Instead of truly weighing my options and deciding what will work best; I put my head down and said “This is what’s decided on. It happens.” Holding out for a good job in Dunedin. Not planting during the lockdown. Making this part-time door knocking job my full-time gig so I could give 100% focus. So many stubborn mistakes.
Why I Broke The Cycle of Tree-planting
It’s a great question. One I ask myself more and more as this depression deepens. Honestly, while working for Whanua in British Columbia, I really wanted to take a break. My right knee had been bugging me all season, and most of this year in fact. After several weeks of Tumeric pills the pain has subsided, though I’m still nervous to do squats.
I used the pain in my knee to avoid working out. While it sounds like a lame excuse, it really hurt. There were a few shifts I ended early simply because I couldn’t walk on it. I know cutting my workout has been a major factor to this Depression and rut I now find myself in.
Jodi, my roommate last season. A super vet with nearly 20 years in the industry told me I should take a season off to rest it, or risk fucking it up worse for life.
Mainly, I still had a passion for my New Zealand plan. I still wanted it to work; I wanted it to work so badly. The same way I held out for a job so long in Dunedin. Any job that wasn’t in line with the mission was a deviation and distraction. Tree-planting was no exception, and the cycle had to be broken eventually.
Do I Miss It
Absolutely. The sights are incredible. Often only allowed to planters and other forestry workers. It was always a cool feeling, knowing I was one of a handful to ever see this or that sight. As I said, I’m lonely and missing friends. There’s an undeniable bond between planters in camp. The money’s great. Fuck do I miss having money.
Most importantly, I miss the feeling of doing something. I feel like a loser in Christchurch. I make shit money, can’t afford to do anything, and just watch the time on my visa tick by. The job market here in the city is tough; my co-workers say “At least we have jobs”. But there time in New Zealand is limitless, and I’m on the wrong side of my visa timer now.
With tree planting, every day you did something. You conquered or were conquered by nature, yourself, and tiny things outside of your control. The blocks were wild and remote, and every day was a competition for who could plant the most trees. The banter was top-notch, and at the end of the season, you felt like you accomplished something.
Then again. I missed elementary school when I went to High-school. High-school when I went to University. University while traveling British Columbia and Australia. Just another growing pain I guess. A pain where I reminisce over the glory of yesteryear.
Honest and truly, I miss the structure planting gives. Its like the military, but on the other end of the spectrum.
Would I Complain If I Was There Right Now
Absolutely. Tree planting sucks, and I would bitch and moan about how I need to focus on breaking the cycle of tree-planting.
It’s not to say I’m not complaining. For a whiney post about my weekend, check out my earlier post.