Diary of a tree planter – Part I

I’m still planting trees and it seems like I will keep working here maybe until the end of July, so far I don’t have any plans for quitting the job. How is it being a treeplanter?

Well, depending on where we are going to work, I get up around 6am. The location of our work often changes, sometimes we are working only several days on one location and when the job is done, we would go somewhere else. Sometimes we drive up to two hours to our plantation site. This way you get to see a lot of rural Tasmania, places where tourists usually don’t go. So I’m not only staying here and enjoy the main attractions of Tasmania, I’m working with locals and feel like a part of the Tassie population, something that makes me really happy.

In the last couple of days, we were planting gum trees (eucalyptus) at a large field near Riverside, a part of Launceston. We only needed 10 minutes to drive there, but the site was so big that once we arrived we needed another 40 minutes just to drive around to the place where we were meant to plant the seedlings.

Usually the boxes with the tree seedlings are delivered early in the morning before we show up, so we just need to pick them up somewhere (sometimes in large areas it may take a while until we figure out where they dropped the boxes). As soon as we arrive everyone grabs a pair of shoulderbags, a device called putki (I believe that’s the name) and a box of tree seedlings, which will be stored in the bags. That device is basically just a tube with a pointy end which is pushed in the ground and then opened by hand or foot. Once opened the seedling will be put in the tube and falls down in the hole. Then we stomp the soil to fix the seedling and that’s the whole process of planting a tree. If you’re fast (I’m not) the whole process takes only 2-3 seconds.

Before the planting starts, the ground will be prepared. That means, some tractors plow the whole area, heaping up rows of earth. Each of us then takes a row and plants a seedling every 2.2m, until all the rows are finished. Sometimes it’s really soft soil where you can work with a fast rhythm, sometimes there are rocks and parts of trees on the ground which slow you down.

We always carry a small quad car with us (the Gator) on a trailer which we use to carry stuff or people around our plantation area. Craig, my supervisor, normally uses this car to drop the boxes of seedlings along the whole area, so we don’t have to walk back to the car to pick up a new box, which could be quite a long walk.

The last few nights it rained heavily in Launceston, so it was very muddy at the planting site. Yesterday we ran into a serious problem on our way home, because our car (Landcruiser including trailer) got stuck in the mud. There was a steep ascent on the track around the plantation area, and the car didn’t manage to drive up there, the wheels always spun. First we tried to do a small run up and drive up the hill with speed, but again we got stuck. Fortunately, Nathan, one of my colleagues, came to work in his own car that day and he had a winch. It was a really funny experience and fascinating as well, because even if you get stuck with your car in the middle of nowhere, for Tasmanians this is no reason to panic. Instead everyone stays calm, laughs and makes jokes about it, no need to freak out. You shouldn’t take everything so serious, that is one thing I already learned in Australia.

So Nathan pulled our car up the hill using the winch, and after half an hour the job was done and we were on our way home. No big deal. Another interesting note is that in Germany everyone is complaining about heavy 4WDs and SUVs, because nobody in Germany really needs them but people still purchase them for convenience and prestige. In Tasmania you’re lost without one, and somehow I am excited about getting a car like that for myself some day.

Cleared plantation area
Cleared plantation area

What I like about this treeplanting job is that every day I am out there deep in the forests, breathing the cleanest air on our planet and I simply enjoy the beautiful scenery. Sometimes there is such an amazing silence, you could here every single bird sitting in the treetops, or cows that are some kilometres away. I don’t listen to music while I’m working, to me it’s much more relaxing just to enjoy the silence in the forest. Yesterday a friend of mine at the hostel was wondering, why I never look tired after work. She thought I was probably not working hard enough (ok, I am always the slowest in my team, but I am really working as fast as I can). I am tired after work, but that work simply makes me happy, so I am always in a very good mood for the rest of the day.

A few weeks ago we were planting trees near Exeter and had to drive along the Tamar River every morning. It is so beautiful to drive along the river, when the sun rises and mist covers the river and the trees. When we arrived at the small hill where we had to work, sometimes I was standing there for several minutes, just watching the landscape. It’s a picturesque scenery when you can see many kilometres far to the horizon, the sun shines over the foggy landscape and you can only see the tops of the eucalytus trees. Everything looks so natural and unspoilt, it’s simply beautiful in Tasmania.

Sometimes we encounter some interesting birds or other animals while working or driving to work. Craig always tries to stop the car so we can watch them and he explains to us what type of bird it is. Sometimes you can see (or hear) cockatoos in the Tasmanian forests.

Because of the passing away of a close family member last week it feels strange to me to say this, but I’m currently having the best time of my life. I enjoy being in Tassie, I enjoy planting trees in a team of nice guys, people seem to like me and even though temperatures have fallen below freezing during the night recently, it seems like nothing can ruin my day at the moment. Some days ago, Sebastian, the other German guy in our team, told me that I looked like I really enjoyed the job. I made me very happy when he said that.