How to Plant

How to Plant

Planting… How difficult can it be? Actually there is a lot to the job – lots of "does" and "don'ts". The following information provided here is designed to provide you with some of basic tools to understanding tree planting including:


The importance of quality cannot be over-emphasized. Every planter is responsible for his/her quality. This must be checked on a regular basis. There is no excuse for poor quality. Pay percentage for planting will be derived directly from the quality of the trees and the spacing. Planting quality will be discussed at the pre-work conference. Special requirements such as screefing depth, soil surface, or root collar shading will be specified. A number of planting faults can be called against seedlings. A full list of these can be seen by examining a sample plot sheet as used by the BC Ministry of Forests. "Quality" is the measure of how well (ie. close to forest code specifications) trees are planted. Quality is important because it determines how much the contractor (and therefore you, the planter) gets paid. Generally, when a contractor is awarded a contract, the price paid the contractor is the original bid price times quality. So, if a contractor bids at twenty cents a tree and gets the equivalent of ninety percent quality, he/she will be paid eighteen cents a tree instead of twenty. For this reason, contractors want to plant with the quality as high as possible, so in order to do this, they pay planters according to planted quality. For a veteran planter planting $12,000 in a full season, getting ninety percent payment on average, which may sound good at first, would actually mean a loss of $1,200, roughly equivalent to your camp costs for the season. This is clearly not acceptable. Quality is evaluated by the lumber company or the Ministry of Forests office which is administering the contract. Essentially, assessment is a statistical procedure. The assessor (aka. the checker) will determine how large a piece of planted land was in terms of total area. Based on this information and the contract specifications, the checker will know how many trees should have been planted in the block, and therefore how many he/she needs to check. The checker will then plot a series of gridded lines on a map of the planted block. The checker then walks through the planted block following his map and the assessment lines. When he/she reaches an intersection, a fifty square metre circle is drawn out on the ground. Fifty square metres is one two-hundredth of a hectare (Ha), and therefore, there should be one two-hundredth of the number of trees specified in the contract, within the actual plot, on average. For example, if the contract specifies a desire for 1800 trees/Ha, with a minimum density clause of 1600 trees/Ha, then the planters will hope that approximately 1/200th of 1800 trees/Ha, or nine trees, is the average number of trees in each of the plots that the checker throws. An average of less than eight trees/plot in this case (1/200th of 1600/Ha) would be very bad, as it would fall below the minimum acceptable density. Assessment measures two factors which affect payment: planted quality (ie. whether or not the trees have been properly put into the ground) and density (ie. whether or not the correct number of trees per unit of land have been planted). If both or either of these are too far away from contract specifications, the quality drops. The checker will determine the planted quality and the density for each plot and add the results of all the plots together to determine the overall result for the block. The Three Basic Types of Faults Listed on a 704 Plot Sheet:

  • A. Damage to seedlings
  • Planting spot selection
  • C. Planting quality

Type "A" Planting Faults:

  1. Broken, cut, or damaged roots (ensure that it is the planter's fault)
  2. Broken top
  3. Scarred stem (most often from carelessly kicking the hole shut)
  4. Wasted tree (include discarded/dropped good trees but not obvious cull trees)
  5. More than one tree in a hole (code each tree as a fault). [We don't ever want to see any of these!]

Type "B" Planting Faults:

  1. Too close (to other acceptable seedlings or larger trees)
  2. Too wide (only a warning, not a fault)
  3. Overhead obstacles
  4. Soil too shallow
  5. Too dry (usually on a dry mound or loose gravel)
  6. Too wet (usually in a depression or creek bed)
  7. Poor microsite selection
  8. Poor rooting medium (rotten wood or duff)

Type "C" Planting Faults:

  1. Screefing not deep enough (depth specified in contract)
  2. Scalping not wide enough (width specified in contract)
  3. Tree not centred in scalp
  4. Improper root placement – "J" or "U" roots
  5. Exposed roots
  6. Roots not straight
  7. Improper shading (as per contract instructions)
  8. Air pocket (any air channel which reaches root zone)
  9. Too loose
  10. Too shallow (as defined at pre-work conference)
  11. Too deep (as defined at pre-work conference)
  12. Unacceptable backfill (backfilling planting hole with duff, litter, or snow)

Pre-Work Conference

At the start of every contract, the supervisors and checkers for the company that we are contracting for will hold a pre-work conference to introduce themselves. At this meeting, they will specify the exact details they require about quality tolerance, spacing, special stock handling requirements, or any other special requirements with which we are to comply.


Some licensees will require a screef to be made prior to planting the tree. The size and depth of the screef can vary contract to contract and will be specified at the prework as well as the type of soil classified as "good planting medium". Screefing is done with a kicking motion with your foot or a sweeping motion with your shovel. When using your foot to screef, use a backward and forward motion – never go side to side as that can weaken or tear your knee ligaments. 

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Spacing and Density

At the pre-work conference, the planter will be given several spacing lengths. The "optimum spacing" is the overall desired average distance between seedlings. There is a tolerance around the optimum spacing; due to obstacles on the block, not every tree will be able to be planted at the optimum spacing from every other tree. A "minimum spacing" will also be given. This is the absolute minimum distance which must separate ANY two trees. Use the tolerance between the minimum and optimum spacing to your advantage – try to find spots to place your trees which will provide an optimum of microsite quality and ease of planting. A minimum distance which trees must be planted from acceptable natural trees will often be specified. Spacing must be checked regularly by the planter, as it is the PLANTER's responsibility to ensure proper quality and density. By using the plot cord, the correct number of seedlings located in a random "plot" can be established. From this, an estimate of density (number of trees per hectare) can be determined. Planters should do two plots on themselves every day to ensure consistency in spacing. It is far preferable to spend a couple of minutes each day checking up on your work than to end up spending a full day or more reworking an area due to improper spacing. Plot cords must be carried at all times by both rookie and experienced planters. A plot cord must be 3.99 metres in length, which, when measuring out a circle, will cover exactly 50 square metres, or 1/200th of a hectare. 

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Planting Steps

  1. Select a suitable spot. Check to make sure that no other trees are closer than the minimum spacing
  2. Hold the shovel with its concave face toward you and force the blade into the ground at an angle to a depth that will accommodate the roots without bending or bunching. You may need to use your foot to get the required depth
  3. Open the hole by pushing the shovel away from you, making sure the hole size is big enough for the root system of the tree
  4. For bareroot stock, place the tree in the hole and guide the roots down with your hand, so the roots are in a natural position and the whole root system is straight and slightly deeper than the forest floor. For container stock, place the tree in the hole with your hand so the plug is straight and the root collar is slightly below the forest floor
  5. Pull the tree up to its normal position so the roots spread out
  6. While still holding the top of the tree, replace the dirt around the roots and stem
  7. The tree hole can be closed at this point providing that a backcut is not required
  8. Check the tree for depth and make sure that the top of the plug is not showing or there are no exposed roots on barefoot stock. Make sure the tree is straight up and down, and pull lightly on the top of the tree to check firmness

If you are planting in clay soil, or if you think you may have created an air pocket, you may need to backcut your tree. Drive the shovel in approximately 15cm behind the original hole and work it back then forward to close the hole. Tamp down the dirt to firm the tree and kick the second hole closed with your heel.

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Planting Spot Selection

The planting site selection of a tree can be a critical component to seedling survival. The influence of selecting a plantable spot, rather than adhering rigidly to some fixed spacing, is often the key factor that will determine not only the survival, but also the growth rate of the tree. Since there is an allowable deviation from the prescribed spacing, the proper microsite selection is an important factor in seedling survival. The key to productive planting is acquiring an eye to see where the dirt is. The rookie planter will often be seen screefing huge holes to reach mineral soil when an easy planting site may be found by an experienced planter less than 30cm away. Good choices in spot selection:

  • Raised Micro-site
  • Well decomposed organic material
  • In the shade on the north or east side of stumps, logs, or other debris–>

Poor choices in spot selection: VERY IMPORTANT!!

  • Chunky Rotten wood, logs, or stumps
  • In depressions or other places subject to flooding
  • In hollows in the ground
  • On hummocks of loose soil
  • On cut banks and other unstable slopes
  • On roads that are likely to be traveled or on game or livestock trails
  • Within six metres of an established right-of-way
  • Within the drip-line of larger potential crop trees
  • On landings or other compacted areas
  • Closer than the minimum spacing from acceptable naturals or other planted seedlings
  • NEVER plant on seismic lines or roads without prior approval from the foreman
  • Always stay at least one metre off roads, more on some contracts

Disc trenchers produce two parallel trenches with a sidecast of mixed materials. The continuous furrows provide easily recognizable planter access trails and ample opportunity for microsite selection, allowing higher productivity. The choice of an appropriate planting spot depends on microsite conditions and the biological objectives of the planting site. Planters must understand exactly which planting position is appropriate for different site conditions within an opening.


  • Know how to take plots
  • Always carry a plot cord
  • Know how quality affects payment
  • Know how excess affects payment
  • Know how quality/excess are determined
  • Areas will have to be reworked if quality is insufficient

Planting Faults

  • Understand planting faults
  • J roots, cut roots, too shallow or deep, loose trees, air pockets, wet areas, not in mineral soil, leaning trees, damage to seedlings, spacing too wide or close, not properly screefed (microsite not cleared of debris)

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Planting Strategy

Line planting is the simplest and easiest method of planting. This method consists of planting a single, straight line of trees; then following this line back at the appropriate spacing. This line will become crooked as you avoid stumps, logs, etc., and attempts should be made to keep it straight. This can be done by skipping over obstructions and filling in areas. By keeping a straight line, a planter can follow the trees more easily and keep production at a maximum. Natural boundaries should be used to establish your starting and turnaround points. It is important that you work up to the block boundary or someone else's planting so that no unplanted areas are left behind. Compromise between tree cache distance and the area size. As you gain experience, you will find a combination of line and area planting to be the fastest method of planting. Do not get hung up on the need for straight lines; some rookies spend all their time making their lines straight instead of concentrating on overall production. If the planting site has high brush or shrub density, you can use flagging tape or stakes to locate the planting line. Stakes are very rarely used, however, flagging tape is commonly used in the BC Interior. The following points will aid you in using planting stakes:

  • Put flagged stakes at 50 metre intervals or closer if very dense brush exists on your planting line
  • Use the flagged stakes to assist in following planted trees. Plant toward the next stake ahead using the seedlings and flags to aid in proper spacing
  • When you reach a stake, move it over the contract spacing distance from the line you are planting, to assist you in following the line on the way back. These stakes are only used to help you quickly locate the approximate location of the line; never depend on them for accurate tree-to-tree spacing, which must be done visually on a tree-by-tree basis

Line planting can also be done by more than one person. Two to three can line plant effectively; any more and line planting becomes inefficient. Quality is hard to control when more than three people are working in the same area. In group planting, the first person follows the trees already planted while the others follow the person ahead of them. This type of planting should be done by planters of the same speed. If a slower planter tries to keep up, quality suffers. The planters should take turns leading and also being at the end, since the last person must remember how to follow the line back. A word of caution, do not let group planting become a social event, as talking can reduce planting speed by twenty to thirty percent. Area planting is most suitable in areas that have a low number of plantable spots due to slash, high water table, thick duff, or some other obstructions. Area planting requires the planter to be aware of the areas that are planted and those that are not. This method of planting reduces the number of obstacles to climb over by systematically planting around them. On very steep slopes, it is more efficient to plant across the slope rather than up and down. The reason for this is that it is easy to plant uphill, but it is awkward to plant downhill, due to the slope. Valuable time is lost as one has to turn around (facing uphill) in order to be able to plant each tree. It is also more difficult to ensure correct spacing. On a hill, spacing between trees must be measured horizontally (imagine the trees fully grown), not along the sloped length of the ground, in order to determine density accurately. When planting, don't daydream and take breaks. Here is a conservative estimate of wages lost based on wasting just three seconds per tree over the course of a full season:

  • 3 seconds x 1200 trees per day = 3600 seconds
  • 3600 seconds = one hour per day
  • one hour x 50 days (a season) = 50 hours
  • 50 hours x $10.00/hour = approximately $500.00

The best way to learn how to use your time effectively and avoid wasted time is by listening to tips from veteran planters and your foreman. Observe the veterans and see which ones seem to work hardest and acheive good tallies. Then see what tips they have to get the trees in quickly. There are no magical secret methods that you will learn – the planter who does well is the planter who is self-disciplined enough to get started immediately upon arrival at the block in the morning, get out and keep his head down planting all day with a minimal lunch break, and get enough rest at night to be able to keep up such a grueling schedule.

  • Get an early start in the morning. Try to have your first tree in the ground by 7am. Afternoon heat will slow you down, so a good morning tally is the key to productive planting. On cold and wet days, planting will keep you warm, so keep moving. Even a ten minute lunch break on a cold stormy day can ruin your afternoon
  • Reloading bags should be done quickly and efficiently to minimize non-productive times. Do not sit around at your cache waiting for a slower planter. You can sit around and talk after supper
  • Try not to eat lunch in groups. Highballers (the most productive planters) eat a little at a time, ie. have a sandwich while reloading between each box. If you eat all of your lunch at once, you tend to get tired and slow
  • Always be prepared!! Make sure you remember your lunch, water, and adequate clothing. Tree planting is not a job you can do effectively while uncomfortable. Forgetting to take your planting boots, for example, might cost you over $100 in production, because the foreman usually cannot take the time to leave the rest of the crew to go back to camp for your boots
  • The placement of your personal tree cache is an important consideration. The trees should be placed in a shaded area close to your planting area. If possible, you should always work so you run out of trees at your cache. Non-productive time can be kept to a minimum if you don't have to walk a long distance to bag up
  • Only bend once for every tree planted. Once the tree is placed correctly in the hole, the hole should be shut while you are in the bent position. Backcuts can be done in the standing position
  • To increase speed, you should always keep only ONE HAND ON YOUR SHOVEL! While moving from tree to tree, your other hand should be reaching into your planting bags, separating the next seedling to be planted. Never carry a seedling in the open air as the fine roots will dry quickly
  • In rocky or very duffy areas, the planter should use the shovel to probe the selected area before attempting to make a hole. Probing will decrease frustration and fatigue. Keep alert to the sound that the shovel makes as it strikes the earth. Soon you will recognize the sound of mineral soil, as compared to rock or rot or vegetation against the shovel blade
  • When planting an area, it is very important to remember which parts are planted and which are not. When the seedlings are quite small, one must do some memory work. Be aware of various landforms, burnt stumps, brush piles, etc.
  • If a large area is unplantable, or there are many naturals to be avoided, mark the ground to show what has been covered, so you don't keep backtracking
  • In a grass or fireweed site, be sure to knock down the vegetation, thus enabling you to find the planted spot without actually sighting the tree, as you follow your line back
  • It is a good idea to walk through your planted area before quittting or during lunch breaks, quickly checking for quality and dropped trees. Make sure you don't walk through the area not yet planted, as the trampling of vegetation may confuse you later when looking for trees, especially later in the summer when the blocks are quite overgrown

Production Planting

Once the basics of planting are acquired and the quality is up to required standards, the production can be focused upon. The rate at which trees are planted is an important element in determining the efficiency of the person involved To maximize production, the planter must be willing to work hard and be ready to learn what is both productive and detrimental to production and quality. Quality must NEVER be sacrificed for production. Every planting crew has planters of varying speeds. There are the legends, whose worst days are over $300, and may be able to average $400 or more per day. Then there are the "good" experienced planters, who can average $200-300 per day. Then there are the average planters, $150-$175, and the low-ballers. Where do you want to be? No matter what happens, you are going to be on the block between eight and ten hours. You will sweat, freeze, get wet, bake, get chewed by bugs, become tired, get bored, or whatever. You might as well make as much money as possible. You might as well push yourself to the limits and beyond, and try to be a highballer. Most importantly, you must SET AND ACHIEVE optimistic but realistic GOALS. Three important goals include the season's goal (ie. $10,000 for May and June), a daily average goal ($220/day), an hourly goal (ie. "I will finish this bag-up by 9:25am"). If you want to make serious money, figure out the first two, how much you want to make in a season, and how much you therefore need to make per day to achieve this goal. No matter what, keep in mind that to achieve goals, you must be aware of timing. Always try to "beat the clock." Some other tips:

  • Go right away. In the morning, get out there and be planting within five minutes of getting to your cache. Don't screw around. Lots of planters take half an hour or more to get going, that's fifteen bucks for the highballer
  • Don't ever stop while the bags are on. Period. And never come off the block without bagging out
  • Take breaks. Exercise physiologists agree that periods of relaxation are essential for consistent long-term muscular performance. When you have the bags on, plant. When you don't, sit down and STOP for a few moments (not too long though!)
  • Plant good quality. You will not be able to become a highballer until you master quality. Reworking your land will ruin your daily average, mood, and focus. Do it right the first time
  • Eat the right food. On the block, you need food which will give you immediate energy. This means things like fruit, juice, candy, chocolate, granola, chips, etc. Heavy solid food, like meat and cheese, will feel like lead in your gut and not give you much immediate energy
  • Drink water. Even if you don't feel thirsty on a cool day, make yourself drink. Water allows your muscles to function efficiently
  • Adjust your planting style to the land and checker. This is perhaps the most crucial thing. You have to figure out whether to area or line plant, whether to back-fill, where to screef, how to divide land up if you are area planting, how to divide the bad ground and the cream, etc.
  • If you are a rookie with good quality, and have put in your first couple weeks, ask one of the vets if you can plant with them for a day or so. If they agree, approach the foreman about it. Lots of vets will allow and enjoy this, providing you exercise due care in their piece and the exercise will result in you planting faster
  • Get your mind away from planting after work. Mediocre planters do not focus on the job when planting, and talk about it when not planting. Good planters separate work and leisure. Get your mind off the job after supper
  • Treat yourself. Every planter has his or her own idiosyncrasies (ie. a cigarette after a bag-up, a can of coke once you hit $100 for the day, etc.). Plan, work hard, and indulge yourself
  • Sleep a lot. Eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, without booze, is the best way to keep yourself in shape. Sleep is also the easiest thing to skimp on, and the first thing that will ruin your ability to work

When you learn to plant, unless you are doing trenches, mounds, or brackie, you will probably learn to plant by putting in a row of trees, then follow them back to put in another row, etc. This works well on low-priced open ground, but will ruin you if you try it in fragmented pieces, hillsides, slash, windrows, etc. You must eventually learn to area plant. Area planting involves picking out a small area with natural boundaries, like fallen logs, bushes, and broken trees. Once you have a small area in mind, you can then figure out roughly how many trees it will take, and how to most efficiently move between them. You then plant the trees, and move along to the next adjacent area, where you repeat the process. Area planting is hard to learn, but after a day or two of practice, you get the hang of seeing spacing and areas, and it becomes automatic. And once you know how to do it, you'll go much faster in most kinds of land than you would just by doing lines.

Hectare Planting

In a very few parts of Ontario and more places in BC, you will find work doing what is called "hectare planting." What this means is that instead of being paid to plant each tree, you get paid per hectare of land that you plant to correct density of trees. Hectare planting can be phenomenally lucrative, but you need to know how to hectare plant. The single most important thing to remember in hectare planting is to plant as close to the desired density as possible. You get paid by area, not numbers.

  • Don't rip off the people on the piece next to you – this means that you should space half the contract distance between trees off the flag line
  • Don't plant high density. This will only cost you and your partner money. Remember, you're getting paid to cover land. If you are getting paid $200 per hectare, you'll get paid $200 whether it takes 1000 trees or 1600 trees. Any trees planted over the designated density are planted for free
  • Ask your foreman what the minimal tolerable number of trees per hectare is, and stay as close to that as possible. Because of varying rules, being under-density can result in either the entire block failing, or your own piece being "excluded" from the rest of the block, and you getting no payment
  • Take plots on yourself. Few things are slower and more tedious than increasing your density after you've gone too low. A general rule of safety is to take two plots after every bag-up. Sure, it takes two minutes to do the plots, but that's much less than spending a couple hours later in the day taking the time to poke two hundred more trees in between a thousand others that you've already planted

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Getting Along with Staff and Planters

You will spend two to four months of your summer dealing with other planters, supervisors, and cooks. Some friction is inevitable. If you have a problem, talk to the foreman/cook/supervisor before you complain to other planters. Staff always feel insulted when they are the last to hear about something. If you must complain, do it with your best friend. If somebody does whine too much, tell them (politely) that you don't appreciate hearing negativity. If you get treated badly because you aren't motivated and consequently don't plant a lot of trees or because your quality is poor, you deserve it. You're out there to work hard. Slackers cost the foreman, the company, and other planters money. If you don't plant big numbers, at least stay out of your foreman's hair and plant good quality. If you can't do that, go home. Offer to help out around camp, with cleaning, unloading stuff, setting up, etc. Support staff are always too busy. Helping out makes life easier on everybody. Many hands makes for light work. Be responsible on days off. Every tree planter has had to deal with hotel owners who refused to accommodate planters because the last batch trashed a room, started a bar fight, etc. What goes around comes around. Don't make other people wait for you. Everybody hates it when the day-off van leaves town for camp at seven and fifteen people have to wait for John to finish doing his laundry. Try to leave a good impression with townpeople … smile, speak politely, and don't leave messes everywhere. Your foreman is being paid commission on the money that you earn. The more you plant, the more he/she makes. This simple fact ensures that most foreman will be looking out for your best interests. You should not have to wait for trees, rides, etc. Keep in mind, however, that a foreman has a number of people to look after at the same time, and tries not to play favorites. Be patient, for example, when the crew arrives in a brand-new block, sight unseen, and the foreman needs a short while to get oriented and set everybody up. Always make friends with the cook. There is no worse person to have as an enemy. Cooks really run the camp – the "supervisor" is just a sham. Cooks generally want three things from planters:

  1. Feedback – the cook wants to hear about it if it was good. If it wasn't so great, tact is in order
  2. Assistance when necessary – the cooks work very hard. If they ask for assistance making a propane tank change, unloading a food order, etc., help out
  3. Information about your needs – tell the cook if you are a vegetarian, allergic to anything, etc.
  4. Always keep a positive attitude. Accept the fact that your production will be down during your initial training period (two to three weeks). Even veteran planters will be discouraged by their inability to plant as well at the start of May as they could at the end of the previous summer. Do not put a lot of stress upon yourself while you are learning. A lot of factors can get you down: underbid blocks, bugs, rain, cold, and camp life. Nothing will affect your productivity more than feeling down or depressed


Planting contracts involve entire planting crews. A planter must know etiquette in order to minimize confrontation between workers.

  • Good foremen should either cut pieces for their planters or at least point them in the direction they want a line cut. When defining a planting area, the planter must ribbon a line while establishing the first row. This will allow the next planter to find your trees and follow the line in order to plant in the other direction, or to plant up to your line
  • Do not cut one planter off while delineating individual areas. Do not ribbon an area that will take many days to complete. It is a good idea to take an area that will take no more than two to three days to complete on a ten day contract. If a planter spends too much time in one area, he/she may become tired or bored and production decreases
  • Within one cut block, the terrain will vary tremendously. A good policy when cutting a line is to cut it straight toward a target regardless of where it takes you. Sometimes this will lead you into snarb land, while other times it will lead you right into the cream, leaving the person next to you in the snarb. If your line is always straight, you will take your share of the good and bad land, leaving you less likely to ever be accused of creaming someone out. The foreman will try to ensure that the good and bad ground gets divided (over the course of the season) equally amongst the crew. Realize that sometimes you WILL get ground that is very difficult compared to that of others on the crew, but you will eventually get better land and hopefully it will balance out in the end
  • If you see a silvicool tarp blown off a box, replace it even if it is not your box. The same applies to dropped trees or bundles. Someone will do the same for you someday. NEVER leave the cache without checking the tarps, and looking around for trees dropped while bagging up
  • Do not argue with the quality inspector. The checker has full control over a contract and can impose very stiff penalties. If there is a problem in your area, correct it right away. Arguing with checkers or mumbling to yourself is a waste of time and energy, thus affecting your productivity. If one keeps a positive attitude and good spirits, problems can be corrected fast and effectively without too much lost time. Contact your foreman, and he/she will attempt to help rectify the situation
  • If you have a complaint or problem, talk to your foreman or supervisor first. This will resolve the problem far more quickly than complaining to others on the crew, and will not affect morale negatively
  • Most people do NOT like being asked "how many do you have in?" during the day. If you get asked this a lot, there are lots of fun ways to deal with it: (a) Tell them you have way more in than you do, which will freak out competitive types; (b) Tell them you have way less in than you do, then plant really quickly. This will give competitive types a nasty surprise at the end of the day; (c) Say that you don't like talking about numbers. (Hint: Don't try these tactics on your foreman, as he/she is trying to plan ahead to be able to keep you and the rest of the crew supplied efficiently and on-time. And don't exaggerate about what you need – if you do this a couple times unnecessarily and it cuts into other planters' planting time, you will soon find yourself out of favour by the foreman)
  • Creaming other people out is the number one planting faux pas. If you go into somebody else's land to plant, make sure it's OK with them, and ask them where you should work. If somebody has saved their best land for last, they'll be furious if you plant it. If YOU get creamed out by somebody else, tell the foreman about it. Also, realize that with today's smaller blocks, it is becoming more and more difficult NOT to have a number of planters jumping into your section often, as the foreman tries to keep everyone working. Although you may resent having someone help finish your piece, think of how they feel not having anywhere to work. You'll be in their shoes someday
  • Some people like nothing better than to talk about their brutal day. Others want to get away from it all. Figure out who is who and talk accordingly
  • Most people hate hearing a whiner. Keep it to yourself, or tell your best friend in private. If you must complain, make it funny (something is only funny when other people laugh). And always remember: planting sometimes sucks. Period
  • Cover the cache when you leave it, close and fold boxes, put your garbage into the garbage box. Foremen waste valuable time cleaning up after planters
  • If you smoke, buy enough on your day off to last. Bring enough food, smokes, water, etc. People HATE those who consistently mooch off others. (On the other hand, if you desperately need something, ask. Everybody forgets stuff sometimes.)
  • Cleanup days are when a block or contract is being finished. People are jumping around between pieces of land, moving, etc. Your foreman is probably stressing
  • If you are really sick or miserable, don't plant. Stay in camp, sleep, heal, relax. Hard work that you don't like won't make you healthier and will prolong illness. Sick people in the van, using crew water jugs, etc., just makes other people sick, and tends to make healthy planters depressed because someone else "gets" to sit in the truck. Try not to be sick on cleanup days
  • If you've had a bad day, leave it on the block. Have FUN in camp. Read a book, take a shower, listen to the radio, or go to bed early. The occasional bad day is inevitable, and is best forgotten. There will be good days at some point

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Working Around Helicopters

Often, cut blocks have such poor access that a contractor raises the bid price, to facilitate the use of special equipment such as rolligons or helicopters. Helicopter time is very expensive, at roughly seven hundred dollars per hour, and you will never see foreman and supervisors get so tense as they do on flying-shows. Operations are timed to the second, and there is NO tolerance for sloppiness around helicopters. Before you fly, your pilot will give a pre-work conference and hold a safety meeting to ensure that you understand his rules and your responsibilities. Although the intense pressure makes the money pretty good on most heli-blocks, they are annoying because they involve a lot of "hurry up, get ready and wait!" scenarios. And flying the whole camp into a block takes a lot of time, so the planters on the last loads in get demoralized by their reduced work day compared to other employees. A supervisor could compensate by saying that the last ones flown in get to be the last ones flown out, but the reality of the situation is that the helicopter costs are so high that in almost all cases, it is in the company's best interests to fly the fastest planters in first, and out last, without exception. While this is annoying for the moderate and slower planters, it is unfortunately a necessary fact of life on chopper shows. Your Helicopter Pilot will Talk About:

  • Plans and procedures to be used
  • Ground-to-helicopter communications systems
  • Corrective measures required to minimize risks of injury to workers
  • Limitations and capabilities of the helicopter
  • Procedures for using the cargo bay, and permitted materials
  • Procedure for the manual opening of the load hook.

Emergency medical evaculation procedures involving helicopters must be regularly reviewed and practiced. Loose debris and trash must be removed from landing and service sites. Anything that can become airborne may strike the rotors or be sucked into the engine intake. Only workers authorized by their employer are permitted to work around helicopters. Passengers should be made aware of the exits, emergency exits, and the location of survival and emergency equipment. No worker is permitted on any load supported or suspended from an aircraft in flight. Boarding and Disembarking:

  • Stay clear of the helicopter and within the pilot's range of vision
  • Wait for a signal from the pilot to approach
  • Walk in a crouched position when approaching or leaving the helicopter as the blade tips may come within five feet of the ground
  • Never approach or leave the helicopter from the rear or go near the tail rotor
  • Never approach or depart uphill from the helicopter
  • Do not go under the tail boom to get from one side to the other. You will die. Walk only around the front of the helicopter.

Additional Precautions:

  • Take off ball caps or hats, and secure. Chin straps must be used for unsecured hard hats
  • Carry tools and equipment horizontally at or below waist level (never upright or over shoulder)
  • Secure tools and equipment before take-off
  • Follow the pilot's instructions regarding seating and storage of cargo
  • Inform pilot of the nature of all cargo
  • Do not carry flammable or explosive materials (jerry cans) in the passenger compartment
  • Bear mace must never be carried in the chopper, only in the cargo bay or in the slings. If you've ever been near a can that's exploded, trust me, you'll understand why
  • Wear hearing protection or radio communication headsets when in the helicopter
  • Wear properly adjusted seat belts and do not remove until instructed by the pilot
  • Never throw anything out of helicopters when in flight
  • Exit to low side and remain within pilot's range of vision.

Twon of the biggest problems regularly experienced around helicopters are not securing materials at the landing sites and not dealing with seat belts properly on exit. The second problem results from leaving bundle wrappers around the site, or even tarps which are not covered with heavy enough logs. A bundle wrapper that gets thrown up by a chopper's windstorm can fly up into the main rotor blade, which necessitates shutting down and removing the wrapper, which costs several minutes of flying time.

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Stashing is the illegal disposal of trees by burying, burning, dumping, etc. Trees are supposed to be planted, one at a time. Any persons caught or suspected of stashing trees will be terminated immediately. This is a constant problem, and one which is not treated lightly by foremen or supervisors. Some planters seem to think that they will be able to get away with stashing, without getting caught, and it seems that every year, someone gets caught and fired. We've seen a number of different methods: getting rid of trees one or two at a time, many at once, under rocks, stumps, in tree holes, in the woods off the block, and I'm sure we'll see more. It is fairly easy to determine when stashing is a possibility. Here's one reason why: Modern day techniques mean that it is now possible to determine the exact area of a block with relative ease, by use of the Global Positioning System. Folklore owns some very high-tech GPS portable units. All blocks are GPS'ed as standard procedure, which can give their exact size, down to a hundredth of a hectare, accurate to usually within less than one percent. By comparing the "stated" total number of trees planted on a block, as claimed by the planters, and comparing this number with the "theoretical" number of trees planted on a block, determined by density plots and the GPS'ed size of the block, a discrepancy will show up if trees are stashed. Take this numerical example: On a ten hectare block, the crew claims to have planted 18,700 trees. As the quality plots are completed, the density is calculated to be 1700 trees/Ha. This would seem to say that if there are 1700 trees/Ha, and ten hectares, there are really 17,000 trees on the block, a discrepancy of 1,700 from what the crew claimed. This of course is a very simplified example, but on a small block, a very small number of trees missing shows up as a large percentage problem, and on a block of any reasonable size, such as twenty hectares or more, the statistical accuracy is sufficient that discrepancies of under one percent can be detected. Folklore's supervisors run all of our blocks through this statistical analysis as soon as the numbers are in, which lets us know immediately if a problem seems to be developing. Once we know a problem exists, it's not hard to find. This is not the only method of catching stashing of course. There are other statistical approaches, the old "hide in the woods with binoculars trick," random pacing of areas with hip chains to compare with planters' tallies, simple "bad luck" for the planter, and others. To save yourself, your foreman, and your crew a lot of hassle (and to prevent possible criminal action against yourself if you are actually caught), be honest. Don't try stashing, not even an "innocent" bundle. It's not worth it.