Friday, February 24, 2017

SHG Radio Show, Episode 348

Welcome to this week's edition of Subterranean Homesick Grooves™, a weekly electronica-based radio show presented originally on CHMA FM 106.9 at Mount Allison University in Atlantic Canada (but expanded to distribution on other terrestrial and internet-based radio stations), and also distributed as a global podcast through iTunes. The show is normally programmed and mixed by Jonathan Clark (as DJ Bolivia), although some weeks very occasionally feature guest mixes by other Canadian DJ's. The show encompasses many sub-genres within the realm of electronic dance music, but the main focus is definitely on tech-house and techno, and a small amount of progressive, trance, & minimal. Due to the mix of styles, you may hear combinations of tracks that wouldn't normally be featured together in a DJ's live set, but this show is intended to feature various styles of electronic/dance music. Liner notes for this episode (SHG 348) can be seen below.

Para la información en español, vaya aquí.

I should point out that when I make these shows, I mean for them to be a journey. I pay a lot of attention to the programming, and to the development of energy levels. If you're a first-time listener, you might think that the start of the show is quite tame, on the slower and "deeper" side of house or techno. However, give it time. Pay attention to how the styles change throughout the mix, and how the energy builds. Sometimes, I'll be very erratic and jump around between several genres, just for fun. Sometimes, I'll do a particularly dark show, with a heavy emphasis on techno. Most of the time however, you'll find a mix of mostly deep house or minimal or deep techno for the first third of the mix, building into a more upbeat section of tech-house through the middle, perhaps building up to some energetic tracks at the end, which often trespass into the realm of more contemporary house. Don't treat the show as a collection of individual tracks ... think of it as a cohesive experience; an hour-long aural journey of reflection and beats.

By the way, if you're looking for DJ mixes in styles other than progressive/tech-house, check out www.djbolivia.ca/mixes.html. That page has a number of mainstream/top40 dance mixes (the "Workout Mix" series), as well as some deep house, drum and bass, and other styles.




Here's our Podcast Feed to paste into iTunes or any other podcatcher:
http://feeds.feedburner.com/shg

Here's a Direct Link to this week's show:
http://www.chma.fm/Bolivia_-_Subterranean_Homesick_Grooves_348.mp3


Older episodes of the show are not directly available from our main servers anymore, to conserve space for more recent episodes. However, all older episodes have been posted individually on SoundCloud, and also in archives of 25 episodes apiece (convenient for bulk downloading) from DJ Bolivia's Public Dropbox folder. That Dropbox link also has folders for individual tracks and remixes, project files and stem collections for producers who want to make their own remixes, videos, and other material. You don't even need to have a Dropbox account to download files from it.


Here’s a link so you can listen to the show or download it from SoundCloud:




Here are Track Listings for episode 348:

01. Danniel Selfmade - Schrieber (Original Mix).
02. PanPot - Solace (Original Mix).
03. Sasch BBC & Caspar - Do It Right (Original Mix).
04. Lexlay - Snail Dancers (Original Mix).
05. Massive Moloko - Bring It Down (Original Mix).
06. Julian Jeweil - Blue (Original Mix).
07. Greck B - From 1978 (Original Mix).
08. Drunken Kong - Origin (Original Mix).
09. Pig & Dan - Chemistry (Original Mix).
10. Baly - Hands Up Syndrome (Original Mix).
11. DJ Pepe - Mohito (Original Mix).





Here are links to either personal websites, Facebook pages, or [usually] the SoundCloud pages for a few of the original artists and remixers/producers listed above.



Danniel Selfmade (Spain)
PanPot (Germany)
Sasch BBC & Caspar (Germany)
Lexlay (Barcelona)
Massive Moloko (Hungary)
Julian Jeweil (France)
Greck B (Spain)
Drunken Kong (Japan)
Pig & Dan (Spain)
Baly (Slovenia)
DJ Pepe (Australia)



Subterranean Homesick Grooves is a weekly specialty EDM music show with a basic weekly audience base of about 1500 listeners per week through podcasting, direct downloads, and distribution on a small number of internet-based radio networks, plus another hundred or so listeners through SoundCloud, and an unknown number of listeners through terrestrial FM broadcast. If you're a radio station programming director, and would like to add Subterranean Homesick Grooves to your regular programming lineup, contact djbolivia@gmail.com for details. We currently release SHG as an advance download to a number of stations globally on a weekly basis (at no charge), and we welcome inquiries from additional outlets.

Go to the Mix Downloads page on the main DJ Bolivia website if you'd like to check out a number of our older shows, or visit our SoundCloud page for individual tracks and remixes. And if you're interested in learning more about DJ'ing or music production, check out Jonathan Clark's extensive and very popular series of YouTube tutorials. There's a full & organized index of all the videos at:
djbolivia.ca/videos.html

We also have a file containing complete track listings from all of DJ Bolivia's radio shows, studio mixes, and live sets. The PDF version can be viewed from within your browser by clicking directly. Both the PDF and the Excel versions can be downloaded by right-clicking and choosing the "save link as" option:

View as PDF file: http://www.djbolivia.ca/complete_track_history_djbolivia.pdf
Download Excel file: http://www.djbolivia.ca/complete_track_history_djbolivia.xlsx









Follow Jonathan Clark on other sites:
        Twitter: twitter.com/djbolivia
        SoundCloud: soundcloud.com/djbolivia
        YouTube: youtube.com/djbolivia
        Facebook: facebook.com/djbolivia
        Main Site: www.djbolivia.ca
        About.Me: about.me/djbolivia
        Music Blog: djbolivia.blogspot.ca
        MixCloud: mixcloud.com/djbolivia
        DropBox: djbolivia.ca/dropbox



You'll notice a Facebook comments box at the bottom of this post. Let me know which tracks you liked best from this mix, or give me any other feedback! It's always nice to hear from people who are listening to the show from around the world! Here's a map showing all the places where people have listened to Subterranean Homesick Grooves in the past month:


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Tree Planter Training 20 - Wrap Up

Although this blog is predominantly focused on my music and DJ’ing career, I also want to share some information about my other career:  Canadian Reforestation.

The information in this post is part of a training series from the Replant.ca website.  More information can be found at this link:



I’ll put the text and audio download link from this training module below, but let’s start with the YouTube video for the module:




Section 20 - “Wrap Up”

Congratulations, you've reached the end of our tutorial series.  We've covered a lot of material.  I know that it probably didn't all sink in, but at this point, you should have a solid grounding of what the tree planting industry is all about, and a broad foundation upon which to build further knowledge.

Reviewing all of this material has probably really opened your eyes.  When you first heard about tree planting, you probably got a mental image that involved a lot of manual labour, and not much thinking.  That couldn't be further from the truth.  If tree planting was an hourly wage-based job, that stereotype would probably be a correct perspective.  But tree planting is not paid hourly, it's paid by piece rates.  The more productive you are, the more money you make.  Because of that, it's in your best interest to learn, study, practice, and refine your techniques, to make yourself as fast and efficient as possible.  The piece-rate nature of the industry has turned it into a very intellectual exercise, where the smartest planters can leverage their knowledge into money.

The amount of information in these tutorials has probably been overwhelming for you.  At this point, you've been inundated with lots of facts, suggestions, and terminology, and I have no doubt that you probably don't remember more than a third of it all.  Once you've been planting for three or four weeks, I'd recommend that you review some of the key material again, particularly the sections about employment standards, common BC coniferous trees, spacing/density/excess, and maximizing productivity.  You might even want to review the complete series again before the start of your second season.


Field Practice

It's time now for you to go to the field and start doing some hands-on practice.  Your instructor will walk you through the basic steps of planting once again, and you'll start to get a feel for the repetitive motions that are required to plant a tree properly, with acceptable quality.  Start slow.  Focus on getting it right, not getting fast.  For about a week to two weeks, planting is going to feel awkward.  You're going to look at experienced planters around you, and wonder how they can do it so quickly.  You're going to feel like a failure, because you can't keep up.  Don't worry, this is normal.  As you're getting started, just focus on planting each tree properly, and don't worry about your paycheque.  Once you get the basics down, your foreman will talk to you and start encouraging you to speed up, and will give you tips on where to shave a few seconds off every tree.  You'll probably want to quit at least once, or several times, but stick it out.  I promise, it gets easier.  If you can promise yourself that you won't quit for one calendar month, you WILL get over the hump and you'll get to the point where you're starting to make respectable wages, and you'll feel like planting is natural.  I won't go so far as to say that it'll become easy, because you'll always be pushing the limits, but it won't feel impossible.

During your first few weeks, keep careful records of your daily production, earnings, and portal-to-portal hours.  Remember, your company must top you up to minimum wage (including applicable overtime equivalents) on each paycheque in which you didn't earn the equivalent through your piece-rate tree prices.  If your company is short-changing you, continue to keep very detailed records all season.  Once the season is over, you can take advantage of help from the Employment Standards Branch to resolve any discrepancies, without having to worry about the risk of getting fired.

To get better, you need to practice.  The more trees you plant, the faster you get.  That seems to be a ridiculous statement, because it's so blatantly obvious, but your speed increases only as you reach more milestones.  Let me put it this way.  Let's say that by the time you plant fifteen thousand trees, you'll be able to plant fifteen hundred trees per day in easy ground.  That seems like a good goal.  So the trick is to plant your first fifteen thousand as quickly as possible, which gets you to that point of being a 1500-per-day planter.  This means that during your crucial first couple of weeks, you need to keep your head down and keep moving.  Don't give up and come back to the cache and sit for 45 minutes for lunch.  Grab a quick bite, and get right back to work.  The day doesn't pass any more quickly if you're sitting down, and it doesn't go any faster depending on whether you're happy or miserable.  You don't make any money when you're not planting.  If you're stuck out on the block for ten hours, you may as well be making money during that time, so don't stop working.

Have you heard of the 10,000 hour rule?  It was written by Malcolm Gladwell in a book called Outliers.  In it, he said that anyone who practiced 10,000 hours at a skill would essentially become a professional, and master that skill.  In an average long tree planting season in the BC Interior, a planter may work or "practice" for a thousand hours.  To clarify, I'm including some non-planting time in that total, but time spent after dinner or around a campfire discussing ways to improve your planting techniques can still lead to self-improvement.  So if we assume that the rough number of a thousand hours per season is valid, then you're looking at approximately ten years before you put in your 10,000 hours.  That's ten years before you become a tree planting "professional."

The learning curve for tree planting never really stops.  You might think at the end of your first season that you've learned it all.  You haven't.  You'll learn many more things in your second season.  The same will happen in your third, fourth, fifth, and sixth years, and beyond.  At the end of each of those seasons, you'll think you've finally mastered everything there is to know.  You haven't.  You'll continue to learn new tricks, and become more efficient, for your entire career.  It doesn't matter how many seasons you plant.  I've planted for more than twenty years, and I still work as a planter on the coast every spring and fall, and I still learn new tricks and techniques every season.


Career Options

Speaking of careers, some planters think that tree planting is a short-term career which might be useful for a few years, but in the long term, it's just a temporary position until you find work in a different field.  That's going to be true for some people.  However, if you're interested in forestry, there are many career choices available that can keep you working pretty much year-round.  There's work available in stand management, such as brushing and spacing a growing stand.  You can become an accredited silviculture surveyor.  You can do office work relating to Geographic Information Systems.  You can get into mapping, or timber cruising.  Explaining all of these jobs in depth would be a complex undertaking, but if you do some research on silviculture in Canada, you'll see that planting trees is just one small but important part of the entire cycle of reforestation.  If you're interested in moving on from planting into a different field, one good option is to talk to the owner of your company.  He or she can often provide some really good insights about how to pursue your long-term career goals, and I can think of many instances when a company owner has gone out of their way to help an established planter achieve career goals that may not even be directly related to planting.


Final Advice

Good luck with your planting.  Again, if you're a first time planter and you feel like quitting at any point during your first several weeks, remember a promise that you need to make to yourself.  No matter how frustrated you get, don't quit until you've worked for a full calendar month.  You've already invested too much time and money at this point for it to make sense for you to quit now.  After thirty days in the bush, you'll have gotten over the hump, and you'll realize that you CAN be successful as a planter.

Keep track of your numbers.  I don't just mean this on a day-to-day basis, to make sure that your paycheques are correct.  I also mean to pay attention to your daily averages, and your true earnings.  Understand what your expenses are in relation to the money that you earn.  Also, remember that you may someday want to know your annual planting totals, in case you end up chasing a long-term career goal such as hitting a million trees.

Keep track of some of your block locations.  You can do this by writing down block numbers, or by using apps on mobile devices that overlay GPS coordinates on top of photos.  Save them somewhere semi-permanent.  Someday, when you're a lot older, you may want to come back and look at the trees you planted in your first season.

For further research about tree planting in BC, go to Google and look for websites about tree planting.  There are several well-known sites out there that can be invaluable resources, and lots of online communities full of tree planters.

Thanks for participating …




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Here’s an Audio version of this material, in case you want to listen while you’re driving, running, at work, or otherwise unable to read or watch video:




Click on the down-arrow icon in the upper right corner of the SoundCloud widget to download the mp3.


Once again, for further information about this series of tree planter training information, visit:



I encourage you to share this information with anyone else who might be interested.  Thanks for your interest and support!

-          Jonathan “Scooter” Clark





Tree Planter Training 19 - Behaviours & Attitudes

Although this blog is predominantly focused on my music and DJ’ing career, I also want to share some information about my other career:  Canadian Reforestation.

The information in this post is part of a training series from the Replant.ca website.  More information can be found at this link:



I’ll put the text and audio download link from this training module below, but let’s start with the YouTube video for the module:




Section 19 - “Behaviours & Attitudes”

In this section, we'll talk about ways to behave respectfully and responsibly.  This includes respect for the environment.  It also includes responsible, safe, and respectful behaviour towards others.


Maintaining the Health of the Ecosystem

Make sure no garbage ever gets left behind on a block.  This includes lunch wrappings, drink bottles, seedling boxes, bundle wrappers, and other garbage.  If I find a piece of garbage out on the block, and it's small enough to fit into my bags and not too heavy, I'll even bring it back to the garbage box at my cache at the end of my bag-up, so it ends up in a proper landfill.  Never bury trash, as it can attract and sometimes harm wildlife.  Never leave food in your tent, because nobody wants bears in camp.  Break down tree boxes as you finish with them.

Take care to avoid allowing any oil or fuel to leak onto the ground.  The hydrocarbons that make up oils and fuels are highly toxic and hazardous to the environment and to the ecosystem.  Spill reporting is a big part of being environmentally responsible, and the first step in ensuring that a spill can be cleaned up properly.  Report any leaks or spills to your supervisor.  Every contractor will carry a spill kit in their truck for use in the event of a small leak or spill.

Fires are easily started with careless behaviour.  Never drop a burning cigarette on the ground, or throw it out a vehicle window.  Always smoke on bare, hard-packed roads.  Exercise restraint with the size of fires in camp.  Be aware that truck and ATV tailpipes get very hot and can start fires in dry grass.


Responsible, Safe, & Respectful Behaviours Toward Others

When you're part of a planting crew, you're going to be working and living with the same people, in close quarters, for a long time.  You often need to co-exist in stressful or uncomfortable circumstances, and your attitude can make the difference between a strong and productive season or a dysfunctional one.

Report bullying or harassment.  Don't accept or support any bullying or harassment.  If you witness any, let your supervisor know.

Practice positive social behaviour.  Be considerate, let others have their space, smile and be friendly, and help out whenever you can.

Mentor new employees and set good examples, especially if you're an experienced planter.  It doesn't take much energy to support other crew members, and it makes a huge difference to the overall morale of your group.  No matter who you are, set an example of up-beat, helpful behaviour.  When you're having a tough day, someone else may then help you out in return.  Just one person can elevate the mood of an entire group, or bring them down.

Exercise respect for company and client, staff, procedures, and equipment.  Your planting company is trying to do the same thing that you are – make money.  They have years of time, and lots of money invested in this.  You have the ability to increase their success.  Follow the rules, treat people with respect, and take care of any equipment that belongs to the company.  Ultimately, if your company makes more money, it's easier for the company to share some of that with employees.

Be on time.  Being on time shows respect for your company and also for everyone else on your crew.  If you're late, everyone waits and everyone loses money.

On the block, don't cut off another planter.  Always finish your area before moving to another piece, doing both the creamy sections AND the difficult parts.  Flag areas where needed, to help other planters.

Behave in a way that fosters a positive image of the industry.  Communities around the areas that you work in are watching you.  When you come into town on days off, you're noticed, no matter if you're in laundromats, cafés, banks, walking through the streets, or hanging out in a park.  For residents of a small town, a tree planter stands out like a sore thumb.  Your behaviour in their community is noticed, and talked about.  These communities can support or condemn the licensees whose operating area you're working in.  Try to do a good job of representing yourself and your fellow planters in a positive way.  Smile and say hello to the locals, and treat their community as if it was your own home.  Your future income can depend on this.  You never know when the random person that you meet on the street is the general manager of the mill that you're working for, or your forester's boss.

Don't trash motel rooms.  We have a hard enough time being allowed to rent rooms as it is.  Be respectful of the people who have to clean these rooms after we leave, and try to do a bit of a clean-up before you go.

Remember that planting is part of the bigger picture of basic silviculture obligations.  Planting is only one small part of the process of reforestation.  While it's an important activity, so are surveying, site preparation, brushing, and spacing.


Treatment of Co-Workers

We already mentioned the Canada Human Rights Act once.  Think about how it applies to your co-workers.  The Canada Human Rights Act is in place to protect Canadians from discrimination due to race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, and disabilities.  Don't harass a person based on any of these differences.  Tree planting is hard enough on a person as it is.

Speaking of differences, I'd like to mention gender for a moment.  During its infancy, the tree planting industry was traditionally very male-dominated.  Nowadays, a significant portion of the workforce is female, and this change has definitely improved the industry.  Participation by women in positions within higher management is still not as high as it should be, but that's also changing slowly.

We previously mentioned that within BC, the people who are the direct supervisors of planters are often called foremen.  In Ontario, the term crew boss is quite common.  Some other companies in BC use the term crew leader in place of foreman.  Perhaps "crew leader" is an appropriate term that the industry could adopt, since unlike foreman, it's gender-neutral.

A separate concern is the fact that in the planting industry, a "supervisor" usually refers to the person who is in charge of a planting camp.  However, in a WorkSafe or legal liability sense, a "supervisor" refers to any person who directly supervises the work of other employees.  It's important to understand that anyone who is overseeing other employees is directly responsible, in a legal sense, for the health and safety of those workers.  Some people misunderstand the definition of a supervisor, thinking that a camp supervisor has a lot of legal liability whereas a foreman does not.  That's not correct.  Both the camp supervisor AND the foreman are very responsible for people working under them.

In a perfect world, perhaps the title of camp supervisors could be changed to "camp managers" and the title of all foremen, crew leaders, and crew bosses could be changed to "supervisors" or "crew supervisors."  Unfortunately, the planting industry is so fragmented that even if a number of people started to do that, it would still be years before the changes really sunk in on a broad scale.  The takeaway lesson here is that there really isn't a standard nomenclature within the industry for some things, so you should be open-minded and expect the unexpected.  In fact, that's probably a good way of approaching pretty much everything relating to planting.  As the industry continues to evolve, we'll probably see many more changes that challenge traditional ways of doing things.


Stashing

Stashing is the illegal disposal of trees by burying, burning, dumping, or other means.  Trees are supposed to be planted, one at a time, not “strategically placed with no chance of growth.”  Planters who are caught or suspected of stashing trees are usually terminated immediately.  This is a problem that is not treated lightly by foremen or supervisors.

Nowadays, it is quite easy to determine when stashing is a potential issue on a block.  The size of all blocks is measured by GPS as standard procedure.  By comparing the number of trees claimed by planters on a block with the statistical totals (proper plotted density multiplied by actual block size), a discrepancy will show up immediately if trees are stashed.  This assessment is done routinely on every block by both supervisors and foresters.  Even a small discrepancy of a few hundred trees will be obvious in the numbers, and lead to further investigation.  The statistical accuracy of GPS measurements and FS 704 sampling accuracy make stashing a losing proposition.  Supervisors and other internal and external staff also audit planters' pieces frequently and randomly, as part of a regular program of due diligence.

To save yourself, your foreman, and your crew a lot of hassle, be honest.  Don't try stashing, not even an “innocent” bundle.  It's not worth it.  There's a good chance that you'll get caught before long, and putting your job and reputation at risk is not worth it for a few dollars.  And for anyone who contemplates stashing because they're embarrassed by being a slow planter, rather than for unethical financial gain, you shouldn't ever be embarrassed about your planting totals.  Everybody plants at a different speed.

If you think someone on your crew might be stashing, talk to your foreman or supervisor about it quietly.  Your concern alone won't be enough for a person to be disciplined, but the supervisor can discretely assess that planter's production to determine whether their numbers make sense.  Remember, the actions of someone else who is stashing can hurt you as much as themselves.  I've seen several occasions where entire crews (and their foremen) have been fired because of the actions of a few guilty individuals, and I certainly wouldn't tolerate anyone who is stashing on my own crew.  You wouldn't want to be the innocent bystander who is harmed by this kind of behaviour, would you?  Stashing trees just isn't worth the risk.




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Here’s an Audio version of this material, in case you want to listen while you’re driving, running, at work, or otherwise unable to read or watch video:




Click on the down-arrow icon in the upper right corner of the SoundCloud widget to download the mp3.


Once again, for further information about this series of tree planter training information, visit:



I encourage you to share this information with anyone else who might be interested.  Thanks for your interest and support!

-          Jonathan “Scooter” Clark





Tree Planter Training 18 - Maximizing Productivity

Although this blog is predominantly focused on my music and DJ’ing career, I also want to share some information about my other career:  Canadian Reforestation.

The information in this post is part of a training series from the Replant.ca website.  More information can be found at this link:



I’ll put the text and audio download link from this training module below, but let’s start with the YouTube video for the module:




Section 18 - “Maximizing Productivity”

In this section, we'll give you some tips to maximize your productivity on the blocks.  Of course, you shouldn't worry about productivity and hitting big numbers until you get the basics down, namely planting acceptable quality and making it home safely for dinner each night.  We'll talk about efficient planting techniques, and efficient work strategies.  We'll also talk about how to stay organized, and how to stay focused.  In the end, it'll mean more money in the bank for you.


Maintaining a high level of Health and Safety is a requirement of good productivity.  If you're injured or sick, your productivity will decrease.  You might even miss some days of work, which cuts into your paycheque and leaves your crew short a planter.  Eat well, sleep well, and practice techniques that minimize the chance of musculoskeletal injuries.  Wear and use the right gear.  Understand typical planting risks and hazards and how to avoid them.  Remember that you have a legal responsibility to practice reasonably safe behavior.

While it's tempting to try to compete in productivity with the experienced planters, remember that they've already mastered their quality and know how to keep themselves and those around them safe.  Once you become competent in terms of safety and quality, productivity will start to rise naturally, and your foreman will feel comfortable with giving you tips to reach higher daily numbers.


Staying Organized

Never underestimate the effect that being organized can have on your productivity and earnings.  Don't be lazy - be organized.  As a planter, making sure you're informed and ready to go at the beginning of each day makes a big difference to how productive you are.

Here are some helpful ways to stay on top of your organization:
- Remember this phrase:  "Boots, bags, shovel, water, lunch."  Every morning, before you get into the truck, do a visual inspection to make sure you have all five of these items.
- Always fill your water jug at night.  It helps you avoid a lineup, and on cold camp mornings, the water lines might be frozen, so you might be out of luck.
- Repair or replace any worn or torn gear as soon as you notice it.  Don't wait until the end of the shift to do something that you could do this evening.
- Know the weather forecast and potential site conditions for the next day, so you can organize any clothing or special gear in the evening.  Don't leave it for morning.
- Know the contract specs.  If you don't, or if you forget, ask your foreman.
- Know what to do in an emergency.  Run through scenarios in your head.  Know where to find emergency contact information, and how to work things like VHF radios and satellite phones.  Always know what radio channel to use to call for help.  Assume that your foreman, the person who is normally in charge, is the one who is hurt and unconscious.  Your foreman should verbally test you once in a while on a drive home from the block, by giving a potential disaster scenario and asking you to walk through all the steps that need to be taken in that situation.
- Keep track of your tallies every day.  Write them down in a diary along with information such as prices, block numbers, who you were working with, what the weather was like, and any other notable information that can help jog your memory about things that happened that day.


Efficient Planting Techniques

Highballers move fluidly through the block, always positioning themselves correctly to complete the next anticipated task, and seldom doing only one thing at a time.  They know how to move through the land and plant with minimal strain on their bodies, and minimal energy wasted.

Planting has many steps:  bagging up, looking for naturals, looking for a good microsite, moving to it, screefing (if needed), driving the shovel into the ground, opening the hole, inserting a seedling, closing the hole, flagging (if needed), looking for trees, and doing it all over, again and again and again.  Each of these steps takes time.  You're capable of trimming a bit of time off each of these steps, sometimes by combining a couple of tasks together.  Even just a second or two saved each time that you plant a tree adds up if you repeat something a hundred thousand times in a summer.

Here are some techniques to help you maximize your productivity:
- Always plan ahead.  Be looking for the spot for your next tree as soon as your current tree is in the ground.  Eventually, you'll get to a point where you're skilled enough to always be planning out the next two or three trees ahead of you.
- Learn to plant ambidextrously.  Sometimes, the best microsite is in a spot which is awkward to deal with in your normal planting stance, but if you're able to quickly reverse your shovel hand, you might find that spot easier to deal with.  If I had to give one single piece of planting advice to new planters, it would be to learn to plant ambi.
- Sometimes, being lazy is not a bad thing.  If you pick a microsite that's easy to plant in and still meets requirements, that's smarter than putting more effort into a more difficult microsite.  I guess that rather than saying it's good to be lazy, I should say that it's smart to be efficient.  In both situations, the goal is to conserve energy.
- Use the spacing tolerance to your advantage.  Don't aim for perfect spacing.  Aim for perfect AVERAGE spacing, but be willing to fluctuate by a foot or so to find the best spots.
- Practice movements and approaches that conserve energy.  Don't bend over twice for one tree.
- Always think of ways to multi-task, such as grabbing a seedling while you're in the process of walking to the next spot.
- Always plant the back of your piece first, but don't dead-walk in to start at the back!  Plant your way in.
- Learn about piece management techniques to make your approach to planting more efficient, and to minimize inefficient things like dead-walking.


Efficient Work Strategies

Get an early start.  Being organized and prepared really helps you.  A strong morning start is psychologically powerful.  You'll feel good about your production right from the start, instead of trying to psych yourself up to catch up to where you thought you should have been.  The afternoon heat and fatigue will slow you down, so the morning plant is really important in achieving high production.

Area planting involves the proper spacing of trees on one small portion of your assigned piece at a time.  This approach works best for fragmented pieces or blocks where there's an abundance of slash, rock outcrops, large stumps, or other obstacles, since you can choose the most efficient path from tree to tree within your small area.  Note where you are and what you have covered, then, after you've planted that area, mentally mark off another small patch to plant, with full coverage in mind.

Line planting is straightforward and requires less thought than area planting.  As a first-year planter, this is the approach that you should take while you're learning to plant.  It's best suited to clear ground and open areas.  Don't automatically think that because you hear vets talking about area planting, that line planting is not always efficient.  In clear, straightforward ground, line planting is usually more efficient than area planting.  Area planting really only becomes quite useful when you're on difficult blocks with lots of slash.  Of course, as a first-year planter, you'll think that all your blocks are difficult, but chances are high that you'll be working on fairly simple ground when you're a rookie.

Try to keep a steady pace.  If you take numerous very short breaks of a minute or so during the day, to allow yourself to catch your breath or take a small drink of water, it's much better than taking one extended break.  This is especially important on cold days, because moving around keeps you warm.  A long break, or eating a lot of food at once, tends to make you feel sluggish.  Many planters use their bagging-up time as their break, and may not even stop to eat, either pacing around as they grab a quick sandwich, or eating while they're bagging up.

If you're a new planter, or just new to a contract or different block, encourage prompt feedback from your foreman or checker.  The sooner you're aware of any adjustments required to meet the quality standards, the less risk there is of a significant number of planting faults, and the faster you'll be able to establish a productive planting rhythm with confidence.

Bagging up should be done efficiently, as a lot of time can be wasted here.  Save the socializing for camp.  Make sure you have the appropriate mix of species in your bag.  Eat or drink while you bag up.


Staying Focused

Some planters find that a certain relaxed mental attitude is helpful in maintaining efficiency on the job.  They see planting as a type of meditation, and they do what's called "zoning out."  Some people find that repetitive thoughts, like a song that's stuck in your head, or counting, can help you keep focused.  Other planters strive to actively maintain a strong focus on the task at hand, and try to avoid letting themselves get distracted by anything other than the trees that need to be planted.  Although you don't necessarily have to have such an intense focus, what you don't want is for your mind to wander aimlessly and have your movements follow suit.  You need to be constantly aware of your surroundings, of the other trees and obstacles around you, where you'll put your shovel next, and how to be as efficient as possible.  Ideally, you're thinking about the next spot or next few spots to be planted.  This helps you cover the ground needed, without working yourself into a corner that requires back-tracking.  Back-tracking is a waste of time.  Dead-walking is a waste of time.

Productive planters are not only moving quickly, they're also incredibly aware of their surroundings.  They make numerous decisions, in fractions of a second, to make the most of the time taken while moving between planting spots.  They use ribbon, natural boundaries, and terrain, to keep track of areas that haven't been planted yet.  They avoid areas that have already been planted.


Even the most optimistic of planters will sometimes have a bad day, where it's almost impossible to self-motivate yourself.  On a day like that, even if you don't feel like planting, you'll have to learn to force yourself to keep working.  No matter how slow you're planting, it's faster than sitting at the cache.  You may as well face the fact that no matter how miserable you are, you're going to be stuck on the block for ten hours.  You may as well make some money while you're there.




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Here’s an Audio version of this material, in case you want to listen while you’re driving, running, at work, or otherwise unable to read or watch video:




Click on the down-arrow icon in the upper right corner of the SoundCloud widget to download the mp3.


Once again, for further information about this series of tree planter training information, visit:



I encourage you to share this information with anyone else who might be interested.  Thanks for your interest and support!

-          Jonathan “Scooter” Clark





Tree Planter Training 17 - Site Preparation

Although this blog is predominantly focused on my music and DJ’ing career, I also want to share some information about my other career:  Canadian Reforestation.

The information in this post is part of a training series from the Replant.ca website.  More information can be found at this link:



I’ll put the text and audio download link from this training module below, but let’s start with the YouTube video for the module:




Section 17 - “Site Preparation”

When a block is site prepped, or scarified, it means that after the logging activities are finished, there is some sort of additional mechanical or chemical activity done to prepare the site for seedlings to be planted.  The main reason that blocks are site prepped is to enhance the likelihood of survival of seedlings, and to attempt to optimize their long-term growth.  A by-product of this activity is that it often makes it easier for planters to plant the trees, although in some cases, site prepping a block can actually make planting more difficult, depending on the planting specs.

There are a lot of different types of site prep, such as mounding, trenching, windrows, and drag scarification.  Most of these broad categories have several varieties of treatment that planters may eventually encounter.

Incidentally, when a planter screefs a spot for a tree, this is basically a type of localized site preparation.  Some foresters refer to screefing as hand scarification or manual scarification.


Untreated Ground

Ground that has not had any site preparation work done can be referred to by quite a few different terms:  untreated, unprepared, unprepped, unscarified, raw, straight plant, or plant-as-is.  Foresters tend to use the term untreated, while planters tend to say raw or straight plant.  Occasionally, planters will see disturbances on the ground that were made by the tracks of skidders or other logging machinery.  This can be confusing, but it isn't actually an official type of site preparation.

If a section of a block has been treated, it's usually fairly obvious, and easy to differentiate from raw ground.  However, there are exceptions, which we'll see in a few minutes.

Stump side processing happens when cut trees are processed where they are cut, which leaves slash widely dispersed around the block.  Roadside processing means that trees are dragged to the roads before being processed.  Slash along the roads is then piled and burned.  Roadside processing usually results in cleaner blocks than stump side processing.


Trenching

If you're trying to envision a trench, don't think of large trenches that soldiers could hide in.  Think of small ditches.  A very close analogy would be the furrows that a farmer might dig to grow vegetables.  In fact, trenches are sometimes called furrows.  There are also other names for trenching, such as disc-trenching, or rips.  Each name generally refers to a slightly different type of trenching.  Although the term trenching is used more commonly than furrowing, it would be more accurate to refer to most trenches as furrows.

For disc-trenching, a rotating disc with tines or blades is used to rip up dirt and throw it off to the side, creating a one-sided trench.  New planters will be given some training in assessing which side of the trench is the “cut” side, and which is the “flip” side.  The difference is not always obvious, but it's usually important for a planter to be able to assess which side of the trench is which.  Most of the time, trenching machinery will have two discs on the back, and they each flip dirt to the “outside” as they drive across a block, so you'll see the flip side of the trench alternating in every second trench.  However, it's possible to have machinery which creates three trenches with each pass, so sometimes you'll see a 2-and-1 pattern in the flip side, or even all flips on the same side.  This is further complicated by the direction that the trencher was driving at the time.

If trenches are well done, you may see that the sod and grass roots that were flipped off to the side will have mineral soil at the top, but as you dig down into it, you'll run into the upside-down sod laying on the surface.  The depth of this layer of dirt in the flipped-over part of the trench is quite important to some foresters.

Ripper plows are another type of trenching.  Rips are usually made by a large sharp metal tooth digging down into the ground, and cutting a groove through the surface of the ground.  The size of that tooth can vary.  Ripper plowing is generally advantageous on very wet sites that require winter harvesting of frozen ground.  When the ground freezes, some types of machinery and scarification implements become unusable because they cannot penetrate the frozen ground.  A ripper plow is usually attached to a heavy bulldozer which can press the tooth into the frozen ground.  It's also possible to have a triangular blade, which throws the dirt better than a tooth does.  Such a plow is very similar in appearance to disc-trenching, although the trenches will have symmetrical flips on both sides.

Don't get caught up too much into worrying about memorizing the various types of trenching.  I've seen both one-sided and two-sided trenches that were anywhere from a few inches deep and a foot wide, to giant trenches that were more than four feet deep and four feet wide.  The main thing is to understand where the forester wants the trees to be planted.  This isn't consistent either.

Some foresters will ask for trees to be planted on the absolute tops of the trenches, no matter how much or how little dirt there is compared to organics and litter.  Some foresters will ask for trees to be planted on the highest point of the trench where the plug is still able to be planted firmly in moist and squeezable dirt and decayed organics.  Some foresters will ask for trees to be planted at the “hinge,” which is the point between the cut-out part of the trench, and the flipped over sod.  In this case, the forester probably wants the plug to be in 100% dirt.  Finally, some foresters will ask for the trees to be planted in the bottom of the trench.  Foresters will almost never want you to plant trees on the cut side of the trench, because then you wouldn't be taking advantage of the dirt that has been flipped over or exposed.

Why do foresters have so many different opinions on the best place to put the trees?  It relates to the characteristics of the region and of the block itself.  If a forester wants the trees planted high, he or she is probably trying to let the seedlings get a few degrees of extra warmth from the soil in a colder site, or to provide better drainage for the roots in a wet site.  If the forester is aiming for trees planted on the hinge, he or she is probably focusing on eliminating the need for the planters to screef down to mineral soil.  If the forester is asking for trees in the bottoms of the trenches, it's probably either because the site is really dry and they're trying to maximize moisture for the roots, or because there are cattle at large on the site and they're trying to protect the trees from getting walked on.  Cattle usually don't walk in the bottoms of trenches.

Trenches are fairly common thoroughout some parts of British Columbia, although the machines generally can't work on anything other than flat ground or minor slopes.  Unless your block is almost completely flat, expect there to be patches of unprepped ground on hillsides and in gullies.  Trenched blocks are usually priced pretty low, because they can be quite easy to plant in.

Hopefully, the site prep operator created the trenches running in lines perpendicularly away from the roadways through the block, rather than parallel to the roads.  As a planter, you'll want to be able to plant up and down the lengths of the trenches, rather than having to plant across them.  Piece management is very important in trenched areas, to minimize the time spent crossing trenches.  When you get to your first trenched section, ask your foreman or trainer for guidance on the best way to work your piece.  You may find in areas where trees are planted in the bottoms or on the hinges that it can be difficult to follow trees properly, since they're somewhat hidden from view.

When you get to a new trenched block, it's pretty important to clarify with your crew boss what the specs are, so the forester doesn't fault you for putting the trees in the wrong place.


Mounding

Mounds are created when a machine scoops some dirt out of the ground and makes a pile beside the hole.  When this is done, the dirt coming out of the hole is almost always flipped upside down into a pile, just like the side of a trench is flipped upside down and outward.  Therefore, most mounds are not completely made up of mineral soil.  If you dig down into them, you eventually find an upside-down layer of sod resting on another layer of sod.  Remember that for every mound on a block, there will be a corresponding hole.

As with trenching, there are a lot of different terms for mounding, and several of these types are distinct varieties of mounds.  Some examples would be Bräcke, excavator, donaren, and hoe mounds.

Excavator mounds are created by an excavator.  Hoe mounds are the same thing.  These mounds are not created in any sort of grid-like or regular pattern; they're just a random jumble of holes and mounds.  Excavator mounds vary in size, but most are at least three feet across and a foot high, and I've occasionally seen much larger mounds which were six feet across and three feet high.  Usually, when an excavator is making these mounds, it will park in one spot and make six or eight mounds in a semi-circle around itself, then move over about twenty feet to make the next set.

Donaren mounds are usually made by a machine such as a skidder, or by a tracked machine like a bulldozer or something similar.  They're very similar to disc-trenches in that they usually run in straight lines, and two rows of small mounds are made with each pass of the machine.  Donaren mounds are usually only around two feet wide, and a foot high.  These mounds look very consistent and their layout is much more patterned than excavator mounds, since they're made in straight rows.  Donaren mounds are sometimes referred to as mini mounds.

Bräcke mounds are very rare in BC nowadays.  They're like huge donaren mounds.  They were moderately common in the 1990's, but foresters ran into a lot of frost heaving issues due to large clay caps.  They were usually about four times the size of a donaren mound, and they ran in straight lines.  These mounds are still common in other parts of Canada.

Most foresters want you to plant your seedlings on the very top center of the mound, or the highest point of the mound.  This maximizes soil temperature, and if the mounds were created to help with soil drainage, planting the tree on the top is the best way to keep the plugs from being over-saturated.  However, in some areas, you might occasionally have a forester who asks you to plant the trees on the edges of the mounds, perhaps because the tops of the mounds get too dry, cracked, or crumbly in the late summer and fall.  Planting on the top is better if a goal is to keep the seedling away from competing vegetation.

Mounds are less common than trenches throughout BC, mostly due to financial considerations, and it's quite rare to see an entire block that has been mounded.  Usually, a forester will make mounds in isolated swampy or wet sections within a block, where the soils are normally too wet for the trees to survive.  You're more likely to encounter a lot of water in a mounded area than in a trenched area.

Mounded areas are usually a bit faster to plant than unprepped ground, but definitely not as fast as good trenching.  If your piece is full of donaren mounds, it might be advantageous to think about your piece management the same way that you'd approach trenches, although it's a lot easier to “cross rows” of donaren mounds efficiently than it is to cross trenches.  It's also easier to follow trees on mounds because they're more visible.


Scrapes

Scrapes are also made by excavators.  The machine usually just uses the tip of its bucket, or an attachment that looks similar to a rake, to pull back the sod and expose a rectangle of dirt that isn't dug into the ground.  This is intended to avoid issues with water pooling in the scrapes, or frost pockets.  The planter is usually expected to either plant one tree in the middle of each scrape, or two trees at opposite corners of a scape.

Scrapes don't seem to be a very cost-effective type of site prep.  If the main point of the scrape is simply to expose mineral soil for the planter, it would be cheaper to use a trencher, which costs far less to operate and which is much faster than an excavator.  However, the advantage of using an excavator to make scrapes is that an excavator can work on steeper slopes than a trencher can, and for small and extremely steep hillsides, the arm of the excavator can even reach up or down to make the prep without the machine having to park on the steepest part of the slope.

Scrapes aren't very common in BC.  Scrapes can also sometimes be mistaken for small mounds, if the scrapes get dug out too deeply and the resulting pile of sod and litter and dirt increases in size.  Make sure that your foreman or trainer explains to you exactly where the forester wants the trees within the scrape.


Windrows

Windrows are basically long rows of slash and other logging debris, like an elongated slash pile.  A block may have dozens of windrows, each of which is almost the length of the block.  Typically, these are created when a bulldozer goes through a block and pushes all of the slash up into long rows, so the area between the windrows is much cleaner.  This process of pushing the slash into piles is sometimes referred to as blading.  Blading helps to temporarily remove competing vegetation from planting spots.  It also exposes soil to natural seed release, and increases the soil temperature by exposing the soil to more sunlight.

In some areas, the windrows are eventually burned, but in other areas, they are simply left to decay and rot over time.  Blocks with windrows are usually relatively easy to plant on, since most of the slash has been moved out of the way of the planters.  However, windrows can be awkward.  Proper piece management is necessary, so you aren't forced to climb over a windrow to get into the next section of plantable ground.  Climbing over a windrow would be a potential safety hazard, and it's also not very efficient.


Drag Scarification

Dragging is usually accomplished by having machines drag large metal cylinders around a block.  These cylinders can be a couple feet wide, eight or ten feet long, and quite heavy.  Quite often, they're also covered with a bunch of steel teeth, which are sometimes referred to as shark fins.  When a skidder or dozer drags these around the block, they break up quite a bit of the slash on the block, flattening it and making it easier for planters to walk around.  Dragging can also be accomplished with blankets of heavy steel chains.

Breaking up the slash is helpful because it allows the slash to decompose more quickly over time.  However, the primary reason for dragging is to spread the cones across the block more evenly, and to break them open to release seeds for natural regeneration.  It is common for foresters to prescribe lower planting densities on ground that has been dragged than on nearby unprepped ground, under the presumption that natural regen will augment the density of the planted trees.

Sometimes, dragging is accomplished by simply having a bulldozer driving around a block, crushing slash with its weight, and sometimes dragging a single tooth along behind it.  This is called “drag tooth scarification” and results in dragged areas with occasional small tooth marks cut through them.  The groove from the tooth might look like a very tiny trench, only a couple inches wide.

It can sometimes be hard to tell that a block has been dragged, until you get out and start walking around it.  At that point, you may notice that the slash is fairly low to the ground and is much more broken up than usual.  Planters will often mistake dragged ground for unprepped ground, even though dragged ground is usually slightly easier to plant than raw ground.


Chemical Scarification

Insecticides and pesticides are often applied to seedlings being grown in nurseries.  However, herbicides are sometimes applied directly to blocks.  These herbicides are designed to target certain species of plants that may cause competition for the planted seedlings and naturals.  Herbicides may target grasses, brush, and other broad-leaf vegetation, but don't necessarily harm the coniferous trees if applied in the proper concentrations.  Herbicides can be applied manually, by workers walking through the blocks and hand spraying from backpacks, or can be applied by aerial means, such as bush planes or helicopters.

Herbicides are sometimes applied before a block is planted, and sometimes after planting is complete.  Herbicides are more common on blocks where large amounts of grass and vegetation are present.  If a block is herbicided before planting commences, the planters will probably notice large areas of dead grass and vegetation, which makes the planting easier.

It is common on herbicided blocks for planters to encounter green strips where no herbicide was applied.  This often happens along the edge of the blocks, because the herbicide applicators don't want to accidentally herbicide outside the block boundaries.  It's also common for strips along creeks and ephemeral streams not to be herbicided, to prevent the herbicide from going directly into the water.  Of course, chemicals always get washed off the blocks and into streams eventually, but most herbicides are designed to do their work in the first couple hours and then become chemically inert.

If you're planting on a block that needed to be herbicided before it was planted, you can probably assume that it was rather nasty to start off, and may still have some ugly, grassy, and green strips to deal with.


Prescribed Burning

Broadcast burning is another way of treating a block, although it is done through oxidation rather than chemical burning.  Intentional broadcast burns are almost non-existent nowadays, although they were common in the 1980's.  When burning was popular, foresters would light a block on fire after logging was done, to attempt to burn off most of the dried slash, and to make it easier for planters to get at the soil.  However, the industry has recognized that creating air pollution and releasing carbon is not an environmentally sound approach to forestry, and also that decaying slash is beneficial for a block in the long term.  Planters rarely work on burns anymore, unless they were created naturally by wildfires, or inadvertently due to man-made causes such as an escape burn while burning piles in the fall.


Selective Harvesting

Selective harvesting refers to logging that doesn't remove all of the trees in an area, which means that the block is not a clear-cut.  Sometimes, machines will remove perhaps half of the trees in an area, and leave the rest in an even pattern of distribution.  Sometimes, long corridors will be cut through an area, to provide alternating strips of open ground and mature wood.  It's also possible for coniferous trees to be harvested but deciduous trees to be left standing in some mixed-wood stands, so planters may end up doing an under-plant below mature aspen trees.  Finally, it's important to know that selective harvesting isn't always done with machines.  It's possible for people to go in and do hand-falling of trees, and to pull the timber out with horses, to minimize damage to the remaining standing timber.

Quite often, when a block is harvested (even a full clear-cut) the harvesting staff may leave what's called a “visual buffer” along the side of the road.  This is a thin strip of trees, perhaps 20 meters deep, so that people driving by on the road can't see the open clear-cut as easily.  The main purpose of a visual buffer is to make logging activities appear less visually destructive to casual passers-by.  Sometimes, a forester will ask for very high density to be planted within 10m of the road edges, so the newly planted trees will grow up into a visual buffer that is quite a bit thicker than the rest of the block.


Fill Planting & Replants

Fill planting doesn't refer to a type of site preparation.  It refers to a type of block or a type of stocking, although some foresters will still list it as a type of site prep.  When a block is first harvested, there may not be a lot of young crop trees evident.  Before planting, there are two different types of crop trees that may be found on a block:  naturals and residuals.  Many people use the terms synonymously.  However, they can be technically defined to have different meanings.  I would define a residual to be a young or suppressed or genetically inferior tree of an acceptable crop species (perhaps pine, spruce, douglas fir, and other important species) which survived the harvesting process.  Residuals can be mature, and are sometimes left standing intentionally in patches, for wildlife shelter/habitat, or for ecological diversity.  Residuals can also be young trees that were maybe driven over during the harvesting process, but which didn't die, and which sprang back up and are starting to become juvenile trees.  Often, these young residuals are in pretty rough shape.  On the other hand, I would define a natural to be a newly spouted young tree, which started to grow up after the harvesting was complete.  These young naturals usually turn into much healthier trees than the residuals which started to grow before the harvesting process.  To further confuse matters, trees which were planted a few years prior will also sometimes be referred to as naturals when doing a fill plant.

Either way, when a block is a few years post-harvest, it often features a lot of naturals and/or residuals.  If it has already been planted once, there will presumably also be a number of surviving planted seedlings.  Sometimes, it is easy to tell the planted seedlings apart from the naturals & residuals, due to a number of varying factors:  form, vigour, age, colour, health, species, and spacing.  At other times, it isn't easy to tell whether a given tree grew naturally or was planted.

Many of our plantations perform surprisingly well, with low seedling mortality.  Unfortunately, at other times, quite a few of our planted trees don't survive, so the remaining natural and planted stock looks quite patchy.  In such a case, a forester may determine that there aren't enough viable crop trees for a block to meet regen requirements, and additional trees should be planted.  In such a situation, the block will either be planted as a fill plant or as a replant.

For a fill plant, a planter will walk around the block, looking for “openings” among the growing crop trees (called voids) where additional trees can be planted.  Of course, minimum and target spacing rules are still important.  A planter isn't allowed to plant new trees just anywhere.  The new trees can only go into microsites which are at least minimum spacing away from all other acceptable crop trees.  If you remember the section talking about how a missed spot is determined, you are only supposed to plant additional trees into the “missed spots” on the block.  There are a few things that make a fill plant more difficult and/or confusing:
- Since there are already trees on the block, the planter needs to walk much further on average to plant each tree, since you need to walk past existing trees.
- Each existing crop tree, regardless of whether it was planted or was a residual or natural, must be assessed by the planter to determine whether it is an “acceptable” crop tree.  This takes a few seconds.  A natural that isn't considered to be acceptable would be one which doesn't have good form or vigor, and which doesn't meet a minimum height requirement.  Such a tree is ignored while fill planting.
- It can be difficult for a planter to see where he/she has walked, since there aren't always freshly planted trees to give visual cues.  Therefore, it is important to flag your path as you work your way around a fill, so you don't cover the same ground twice, wasting time.
- Fill plants, which are usually several years old, will almost always have more grass, brush, and competing vegetation than freshly harvested blocks.

A “replant” block is somewhat similar to a fill plant, although the terminology is confusing because a replant has additional meanings.  Replanting may refer to what happens when a planter has to fix poor quality in their piece.  Replanting is also treated as synonymous with reforestation by some people.  However, in the context of the term that I am currently referring to, think of a replant as being a “plant the whole block again” type of approach.  A replant is somewhat similar to a fill plant in the sense that there will be a lot of crop trees present that will confuse the planter, however, you still need to plant a complete new blanket of trees across the entire block.  I've also heard of this type of approach called a “matrix fill.”  In a replant, you ignore all existing crop trees, even if they appear to be healthy.  It is also important to understand that this terminology is only used in some regions, and is not necessarily common throughout the industry.  Due to the limited sets of circumstances where it makes sense to ignore apparently healthy naturals, “replant” blocks are relatively rare.

There is a good reason why replant blocks are far less common than fill plants.  Normally, a forester would want to take advantage of any existing trees which might mature into good timber in the future.  Sometimes however, naturals which might look good to a planter are known to the forester to be a problem.  Perhaps there is some sort of disease which has hit the plantation, and the forester knows that all the trees are going to be dead within a year or two.  In that case, a replant of the entire block, ignoring the doomed trees, makes sense.  You may find that most replants are done with different species than the ones on the block which have the disease, otherwise, the newly planted seedlings might catch the same disease.  The approach to planting a replant block is exactly the same as for planting a fresh new raw block, although the presence of what appear to be crop trees will confuse the planters somewhat.  It is still possible though to “follow trees” through the block and not use flagging tape to mark new trees.  I wouldn't recommend it though.  It's much faster and more efficient to work a replant block with extensive use of flagging tape.

Replants are generally priced slightly higher than new raw blocks, simply because they are slightly more confusing, and usually have more grass and vegetation.  Fill plants, on the other hand, are usually priced quite a bit higher than straight plants, because of their difficulty.  Fill plants can be extremely confusing for first-year planters, so a company may try to restrict those blocks to skilled vets only.

In order to be successful at fill planting, you need to be good with flagging.  You don't just flag trees that you plant; you also flag naturals that you walk past, to show where you've been.  You have to thoroughly understand spacing rules.  Fill plants can be very dangerous because it is extremely easy to get an excess fine.  Remember that when excess is calculated, it is based on the number of trees PLANTED in a plot.  Let's use a numerical example.  Let's say that your target spacing is seven trees per plot in a straight plant, and you plant eight trees.  That means you have one excess tree in the plot, which when divided by the total number of trees planted, gives you an excess for the plot of 12.5% (one divided by eight).  However, let's say that you have a fill plant, and it has six well-spaced naturals, and you plant two more trees.  In that case, the plot still has eight crop trees in the end (six naturals and two planted), and since it is only supposed to have seven, you have one excess tree.  But in this case, the excess (1 tree) is divided by the number of trees planted (2 trees) and therefore the excess percentage is 50.0% - that's a disaster!  So you really, really need to be careful not to try to jam in too many trees in a fill plant.  That's especially hard considering that you're usually really fighting to try to find spots to put trees, and they're higher priced than normal trees, so as a planter, you really want to push the rules.

Many people also assume that it is harder to get good quality in a fill plant.  This is an interesting mathematical issue.  I would argue that it is not harder to get good quality in a fill.  That's because, unlike with excess, both the numerator (number of satisfactory trees) and denominator (total trees planted) in the planting quality percentage fraction are changing equivalently.  In order words, it is true that a single bad tree represents a much bigger hit to the quality.  However, this is offset by the fact that less trees are checked, so there are less opportunities to find bad trees.  If you survey a given number of trees, the quality will be the same (statistically speaking) regardless of whether the density is high (straight planting) or low (fill planting).  Of course, those of you who are familiar with statistical analysis realize that what does change is the standard deviation.  You can expect bigger swings in the accuracy of sampled results, in both directions (good or bad) when a smaller number of trees are sampled.

When looking at a fill plant prescription, you'll usually be given two numbers.  The first is the expected number of trees that will be planted per hectare, and the second is the target density.  The target density is assumed to include both your new trees, and any good naturals.  So if a fill plant was listed as 600/1400 for density, that would mean that the forester wants a total of 1400 stems/Ha including both newly planted trees and good naturals, and expects that you'll be planting about 600 trees per hectare to make that happen.  In other words, the forester guesses that you'll be adding about 3 trees per plot to bring the plots up to a total of 7 trees each.  This implies that surveys have assessed an average of about 800 stems/ha of acceptable naturals already on the block.  Be wary of these predictions though.  Fill plants usually have very inconsistent survival across the block, so regen surveys can often be wildly incorrect.  Your end goal in this example is to plant whatever number of trees in each plot is required to bring it up to the target density of 7 trees, NOT to always plant 3 trees in each plot.  That estimate that three trees will be needed per plot was purely a rough guess, to help estimate how many trees will need to be assigned to the block.

When approaching a fill plant, it can be useful to know if the reason for the fill is because the block was originally left for natural regeneration, which wasn't successful enough to pass surveys, or if it is because the trees that were originally planted on the block experienced mortality.  If the block was left for natural regen, it will often appear to be very “patchy” when looking for good naturals.  In one area, you may see hundreds of closely packed young naturals, and in another area, you may see almost no crop trees growing.  On the other hand, if you're looking at a planted block which experienced mortality, it's often possible to see the pattern that the previous planters used.  In this type of a block, the mortality is more widespread across the block.

There are advantages and disadvantages for the planter to both types of blocks.  In a patchy fill based on failed natural regeneration, a planter may have large patches with good survival, and the planter can basically walk through large areas quickly.  When a patch with poor survival is discovered, it's easy to plant a lot of trees quickly.  On the other hand, with a plantation that experienced mortality, the dead trees are often scattered randomly across the block.  This means more walking, because every part of the block needs to be covered again.  On a positive note though, it's often possible to pay attention to exactly where the previous planter put all of his/her trees, and for the fill planter to just plant new fill trees in the exact same spots where any previous trees died.  Spacing is usually easier to figure out in a previously-planted block, and there is less frustration with trying to find places to plant new trees that aren't under a minimum distance from other good trees.  Essentially, there is a partial “grid” for trees already laid out for you.  Of course, nothing is ever that black and white when it comes to fill planting.  Many blocks that need to be filled will contain a mix of natural regen and surviving trees from the previous plantation.  In that case, you just have to walk and pay attention everywhere.


Assessing a Block

When looking at a block and deciding how easy it will be to plant, there are a surprising number of characteristics that can differentiate it from other blocks, such as the geography, slash, and soils.

In terms of geography, important things to consider include the elevation, the slope (how level it is), and the topography (whether it is a rolling or flat surface).  If the block is sloped, the aspect affects how soon the snow will melt off in the spring, because south-facing aspects lose their snow fastest.  The ratio of block size to the length of roads, and also the placement of those roads, are important.  The road network on a block usually determines where caches will be placed, and how easy it will be for planters to access all parts of the block.

In terms of the surface, the amount and average size/length of the slash is particularly important, as is the height of this slash above the ground.  Are the woody debris coarse or fine?  How green is the block, and what types of grass, brush, and vegetation are present?  Different types of vegetation cause variations in difficulty of planting.  The time of year that the block was harvested can also affect the planting.  If the block was harvested in the winter, the vegetation might have been somewhat protected by the snow, and thus might be more resilient.

In terms of soils, the biggest question is whether or not there is a lot of rock in the ground.  If so, what kind is it:  cobble, regular stones, slate, or gravel?  Is there a lot of soil, or is it mostly black organics?  If soil is present, is it red/brown mineral soil, or powdery grey, or heavy in clay content?  Is there any sand?  Is the soil well-drained, or will it hold a lot of moisture?

We've already touched on a number of these characteristics previously, but the lesson here is that during your planting career, you'll eventually learn to recognize a tremendous amount of variation between the blocks that you work on, and even throughout your piece on any given block.




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-          Jonathan “Scooter” Clark





Tree Planter Training 16 - Spacing, Density, and Excess

Although this blog is predominantly focused on my music and DJ’ing career, I also want to share some information about my other career:  Canadian Reforestation.

The information in this post is part of a training series from the Replant.ca website.  More information can be found at this link:



I’ll put the text and audio download link from this training module below, but let’s start with the YouTube video for the module:




Section 16 - “Spacing, Density, and Excess”

In this section we'll talk about Spacing, Density, and Excess.  We'll learn how these things are measured, and we'll understand why targets are set in silviculture prescriptions.  We'll talk about compliance systems, and how, as a planter, you can leverage an understanding of these systems into increased productivity and higher earnings.  If you have a proper understanding of what you can and can't get away with, with respect to spacing and density, your job will become a lot easier.


What's In A Plot?

When a forester takes a plot, he or she is not just checking the quality of the trees.  There's a lot of additional information gathered.  In rough terms, the information collected in each plot includes:
1.  The number of trees planted in the plot.
2.  The number of plantable spots.
3.  The number of excess trees.
4.  The number of satisfactorily planted trees.
5.  The number of unsatisfactorily planted trees, and reasons why they were unsatisfactory (this is the quality assessment part of the plot).
6.  Any other comments about the plot in general.

As you can see, most of these measurements are not even directly concerned with quality!


Plotted versus Planted Density

Density is a very important measurement that tells you the approximate number of trees per area on a block or a part of a block.  Since we usually use the metric system, it's usually described as the number of seedlings, or “stems” per hectare.  A hectare is 100m by 100m in size, or 10,000 square meters, and of course, it doesn't have to be a square. Earlier, I mentioned the fact that a plot within the 704 system is equal to 1/200th of a hectare.  Because of this, if you know that you have a number of plots that average 8 trees each, and a plot is 1/200th of a hectare, then when you multiply the two numbers out, you'll realize that you have approximately 1600 trees per hectare.  This density, which is determined by multiplying the average number of trees counted per plot by 200, is usually called the “plotted density.” Sometimes it's called the “plot density” or "sample density" or “statistical density” of the block.

There's another way to arrive at a slightly different density calculation:  you can take the total number of trees that were actually planted on a block and divide it by the number of hectares.  For instance, if you have a block on which you've planted 15,000 trees, and the size of the block is 10.0 hectares, then you have a density of 1500 trees per hectare.  This density, calculated from the claimed planting totals, is usually called the “planted density.” It may also be referred to as the “claimed density” or “theoretical density.”  Of course, if the planters made a mistake in their tallies, this number won't quite be correct.

It's important to understand right now that there's a significant distinction between the plotted density, which is a statistical measurement, and the planted density, which is the true density (if the planting totals are correct).  Although each density is a measure of the number of trees per area of block, and although each may be accurate by itself, the two types of density measure slightly different items.  It's possible for the plotted density be different than the planted density, and yet for each number to be “correct.”  A correct plotted density merely refers to a plotted density that is calculated correctly.  It doesn't mean that the plotted density accurately reflects the true planted density of seedlings on the block.  If you truly understand the distinction between plotted and planted densities, that distinction will form the basis for starting to understand a lot of other nuances of most quality systems.  Understanding this distinction also helps you start to learn some advanced density management issues, including issues as varied as manipulating the system to improve your quality results as a planter, and for management, investigating the likelihood that planters are stashing trees.

Some planters, especially beginning planters, will focus entirely on their planting quality, and pay very little attention to the planting densities that they achieve.  This is possibly one of the biggest mistakes that a beginning planter can make.  I simply can't over-emphasize the importance that density will play in your planting career.  Look at it this way:  making a quality mistake is not “irrevocable.”  Planting a tree poorly, so it's considered a fault tree, will unquestionably reduce its chances for long-term survival.  Even if it does survive, the tree may not achieve its maximum potential growth.  However, a tree CAN recover from many types of quality faults.  A quality fault simply means that the odds are stacked a bit higher against the tree.  A tree in a dry area may not grow well until it gets heavy rains.  A tree in a poor microsite may not grow as fast as one in a better microsite.  A tree with non-vertical or “J” roots may not establish a strong root system as quickly as it could have.  A leaning tree may take some time to straighten up.  Despite all this, a tree can often recover from a quality fault.

With density problems, the story is different.  Once a tree is planted in a particular microsite, it can never move.  Quality faults, if they don't kill the tree, may only be temporary setbacks in the total life of the tree.  But trees can't move by themselves, so density problems are permanent.  The vast majority of foresters are very intelligent, and any forester with any common sense recognizes the importance of density, and will be far more tolerant of a few minor quality issues than they will be of density issues.  

Another thing to consider is that most common quality systems are designed so that when a planter's density starts to get really out of line, it also starts to have a negative effect on your quality percentage.  For instance, under the FS 704 system, planting low density will eventually result in missed spots, which is an automatic quality fault.  Under the same system, planting high density will usually result in an excess fine, which again is not good.


Target Spacing & Minimum Spacing

Ok, now that you understand the basics of density, I'm going to explain two new issues:  target spacing, and minimum spacing.  Sometimes, target spacing is called the "contract" spacing.  On any given contract, a forester will have come up with an assessment of how many trees they want planted in an area.  If the area is rich and non-competitive and the trees are expected to do well, a “low” density of 1200 stems/Ha may be a good goal.  In areas with poor soil, or high competition from existing vegetation, a higher density of 2400 stems/Ha may be a better goal.  On some contracts, the density that the forester wants to see may not be a single number for the entire contract, but may vary from block to block, or may even vary from section to section within a block.  No matter what the desired density is, it's very difficult for a forester to get good results by telling a planter to go out and, “plant about 2000 trees per hectare.”  This instruction is too vague, unless you understand how to apply that number to the immediate area that you're currently planting in.  Even after all the years that I've spent planting, I can't tell you exactly how big a hectare is at a glance, nor could I do a very good job of just guessing how far apart the individual trees need to be in order to fit exactly 2,000 trees into a hectare.  I need a more tangible and achievable immediate measure to aim for.

Depending on the target density, it's fairly easy to use a chart to determine what the average inter-tree spacing needs to be to achieve the desired density.  Once you have a tangible inter-tree distance to aim for, you have a realistic chance of meeting the forester's goals for density.  For example, if every tree were 2.4 meters away from every other tree in a perfect grid, the resulting density would be 2000 stems/Ha.  If every tree were 2.7 meters apart in a perfect grid, the resulting density would be 1600 stems/Ha.  Your foreman can tell you the average spacing that will result in the target density that the forester is looking for.  Foremen and supervisors have charts to help us know what our target spacing needs to be.  Let me show you a couple of common numbers right now:

2000 stems/Ha = 10 trees per plot = 2.4m average between trees
1800 stems/Ha =   9 trees per plot = 2.5m average between trees
1600 stems/Ha =   8 trees per plot = 2.7m average between trees
1400 stems/Ha =   7 trees per plot = 2.9m average between trees
1200 stems/Ha =   6 trees per plot = 3.1m average between trees
1000 stems/Ha =   5 trees per plot = 3.4m average between trees
 800 stems/Ha =   4 trees per plot = 3.8m average between trees

For a first year planter in the northern BC Interior, you're probably not going to see low density numbers very often.  Those are typically target densities for coastal contracts.  A planting density of 1200 stems/Ha or less is quite rare in the Interior.  Trees are much less expensive to plant in the Interior than on the coast, so foresters there prefer to aim for higher densities, to maximize the chance of meeting Free Growing survey requirements.  In the Interior, you're most likely to see target densities of 1400 stems/Ha and above, and sometimes as high as 2400 stems/Ha in pine plantations.

Of course, when you're planting a block, the trees are not going to end up in a perfect grid.  Nor would you want to try to plant them in a perfect grid, because to get it exactly right would mean having a tape measure and measuring the distance between each tree.  That would slow you down, and you'd plant less, which means that you'd make less money.  The great thing is that your trees don't need to be exactly the same distance apart every time.  If some are closer to each other, and some are further away from each other, you can still get the right overall density by making sure that ON AVERAGE, the trees are the proper target distance from each other.  So to make your life easy, think of the “target spacing” as the optimum average distance between trees that is required for you to hit the correct overall density.  You can plant some closer together, and some further apart, as long as the average is correct.

There are two benefits to being allowed to vary your distance between trees.  The first is a benefit for the trees.  Since you have a variance, you can select the best microsites for the trees.  The forester wants you to put the trees in the best microsites, to maximize the long-term crop yield on the plantation, so it's in his or her best interests to allow you this variance in spacing.  The second benefit is for the planter, and it's a very obvious one.  If you're allowed some leeway in picking and choosing the spots to put your trees, you can select the easiest spots to plant each tree.  You want to find the easy spots to plant in.  As much as being successful at tree planting means a lot of hard work, you shouldn't be doing unnecessary work.

Of course, there are limits on how much variance you're allowed.  That's where the minimum spacing comes into play.  You won't be allowed to plant two trees closer together than the minimum spacing, or one of them will be faulted.  So for instance, if you have a contract or block where the target spacing is 2.7 meters and the minimum is 2.1 meters, then you'll want to plant your trees about 2.7 meters apart on average, with no two trees ever being closer than 2.1 meters together.

Many planters at this point will ask an intelligent question:  “If there's a minimum spacing, is there also a maximum spacing?”  There isn't, at least, not exactly.  Instead, there's a different measurement which effectively mimics the effect of having some sort of maximum spacing.  It depends on the quality system you're working under, but it usually relates to having a “missed spot” rather than “wide spacing.”  I'll explain that in more detail in a few minutes.

When it comes to density, you need to learn pretty quickly to get it right the first time.  Density problems cannot be “fixed” by replanting, unless you pull every tree up from an area and start again, which is unthinkable.  It only takes a minute or so for a planter to quickly throw a plot on himself or herself, and to count the number of trees in the plot.  If you want to be a good planter, or if you already consider yourself to be a good planter, you're only fooling yourself if you think that you don't need to throw plots on yourself to check your density throughout the day.  I personally recommend that all planters take at least four quick plots on themselves every day.  I do it.  In the long term, it's worth my while.


Excess

Many planters find the concept of density to be fairly easy to grasp, but they have much more difficulty with excess.  Some planters mistakenly think that the two are the same thing, and that high density is the same as excess.  However, this is another area where understanding the fine distinction between the two concepts will help a good planter become a great planter.  High density and excess are somewhat similar.  But high density happens when you have too many trees planted throughout the block consistently.  Excess happens when you have too many trees through just some parts of the block, specifically where the plots land.  For the mathematicians out there, let me give you a better definition:  excess penalizes you if you have a high standard deviation.

The easiest way to explain the difference between excess and high density is probably with a very simple mathematical example.  First, let me explain how excess is calculated.  In most systems, each plot on a block is considered individually.  If the plot that you're looking at has more planted trees than the target density, then each "extra” tree above the target density will be considered to be an “excess” tree.  Once the forester knows how many excess trees there are in total in the series of plots, that number is divided by the total number of planted trees in the set of plots to come up with the excess percentage.  Let's look at an example:

- First, assume that the target density is 2000 stems/Ha.  This means that if you divide by 200, because a plot is 1/200th of a hectare, you should be hoping to get a total of exactly ten trees in each plot.
- Let's assume that we have two blocks.  Each is two hectares, and to keep things simple, we'll say that each block needs two plots.  Under the FS 704 system, a block that small actually needs a minimum of five plots, but we're going to ignore that rule for this example.  Two plots per block.
- On block “A” we get 10 trees in the first plot and 10 trees in the second plot.
- On block “B” we get 8 trees in the first plot and 12 trees in the second plot.
- Let's assume that we've been told that 4000 trees were planted in block “A” and 4000 trees were also planted in block “B.”
- Although it isn't important to this example, I'm going to tell you that the trees in block A were planted with fairly even spacing, hence the reason that each of the two plots got 10 trees, while the spacing on block B was a lot more varied, with some sections having closer or “tighter” spacing than other parts of the block.

Block “A” Calculations:
- The total number of trees in the plots is 20.  There are two plots.  Therefore, there's an average of 10.0 trees per plot.  Multiply this by 200 and you get a plotted density of 2000 stems/Ha.
- The total number of excess trees in the plots is 0.  The first plot had 10 trees, and you don't get an excess tree until you go “one tree over” the target.  Therefore, that plot did not have an excess tree.  The second plot was exactly the same:  no excess trees.  Therefore, the total excess for the block is 0 trees out of 20 trees planted, or 0.0%.

Block “B” Calculations:
- The total number of trees in the plots is 20.  There are two plots.  Therefore, there's an average of 10.0 trees per plot.  Again, multiply this by 200 and you get a plotted density of 2000 stems/Ha.
- The first plot had 8 trees, so there are no excess trees in that plot.  However, the second plot had 12 trees, which is two trees higher than the target number of trees per plot, or two excess trees.
- With no excess in the first plot, and two excess trees in the second plot, the total excess for the block is 2 trees.  You then divide that number by the total trees planted, which was twenty, and you get an excess percentage of 10.0%.

Hopefully this numerical example starts to illustrate the concept.  The planted density on each of the two blocks is exactly the same, because each had 4000 trees planted over 2.0 hectares, or 2000 stems/Ha.  The plotted density on each of the two blocks is exactly the same, because each block had 20 trees total between the two plots, or 10.0 trees per plot, which when multiplied by 200 gives you 2000 stems/Ha.

By the way, in this particular example, the planted density is exactly equal to the plotted density.  Remember that it doesn't always turn out this way, depending on where the plots fall and how many trees are in each plot.  In fact, it's most common for these two numbers to be different, although they are usually quite close to each other.

Even though the plotted density of both blocks is the same, and the planted density is also the same on each block, the excess on each block is NOT the same.  The first block was planted with very consistent spacing, and did not end up having any excess trees.  The second block had inconsistent spacing, and ended up getting a few excess trees in the plots, resulting in an excess percentage of 10.0%.

Under the FS 704 system, a company is not penalized for excess charges on a block if the overall excess percentage is less than 7%.  In other words, you can have a small amount of excess and not get penalized for it.  This is fair, because even the best planters will be forced to deal with a small amount of variety in their spacing.  And to be honest, the foresters are ok with a bit of variance in your spacing too, because they want to see you looking for the best spots for the trees.


Missed Spot – A Quality Fault

Earlier we learned that wide spacing is not necessarily a quality fault.  This is especially true if the spacing is consistently just a bit wider than the target spacing.  Wide spacing only becomes a problem when it gets to be too extreme.  There's a point when your spacing between two trees becomes so wide that you could have fit another tree in without it being too close to either of the other trees.  At that point, it's considered to be a missed spot rather than just wide spacing.  This is equivalent to a fault on the plot sheet.  There's no specific code for this.  You'll still get penalized though, because you don't have enough "satisfactorily planted trees" to match the number of "plantable spots."  These are two terms that we'll look at later.

Basically, let's take a quick example where the target spacing is 2.7m and the minimum spacing is 2.0m.  To keep things simple, let's work in just one dimension, ie. going in a straight line, although of course on the block you also have to think of trees beside you, not just the ones ahead and behind.  Let's assume that as you're planting along in a line, you plant two trees that are 3.8m apart.  This is wider than the target spacing of 2.7m.  But wide spacing is not a fault.

Now let's try to figure out if we have a missed spot.  Let's see if we can stick an extra tree between the two trees.  We'll put it in the exact center of those two trees, so the new tree is as far as possible away from the original two trees.  Since they were 3.8m apart, the tree in the exact middle will be 1.9m away from each of the other two.  That's under the minimum spacing of 2.0m.  In other words, it's not possible to legally put another tree between your first two trees without it being closer to an existing tree than permitted.  If you can't legally add that tree, it's not a missed spot.  The spacing is just wide spacing, no penalty.

Let's look at a second example, where you plant two trees that are 4.8m apart.  That's really quite wide, if the target is only 2.7m.  Once again, let's try to put a tree between the first two.  If you put it exactly in the middle, then the new tree is 2.4m away from each of the other two.  This is above the minimum.  In fact, it's pretty close to the proper target spacing.  Since another tree can legally be added in the middle without causing Minimum Spacing problems, you'll be considered to have a Missed Spot.  There should have been a tree between the original two trees, so you're faulted.

Of course, in considering whether or not you have a missed spot, the forester also looks at other factors.  Is the spot that was missed good enough to allow for a tree to be planted properly?  If not, say for example there was a huge puddle right there, then the forester will not penalize you for missing the spot.  The rationale in this example is that you skipped the spot because you had no choice, so you shouldn't be penalized.


Penalties

So overall, there are three different ways that you can be penalized for planting either too many trees or not enough trees in an area:
- Missed Spots
- Excess
- Low Density

Missed spots come into play when your spacing is wide and erratic, because you'll end up leaving gaps that should have had trees.  For a planter, that's not good.  If you walk over a spot where you should have planted a tree, you just missed out on an opportunity to make a bit of money.  You don't get paid to walk around.

Excess comes into play when your spacing is erratic, and you put too many trees into a small area that a plot lands in.  Now to be honest, it's usually good for planters to have slightly higher density than the target, and if a little bit of excess is the result, that's fine.  As long as your crew's excess on the block is under 7%, your company isn't penalized.

Low density isn't something that I've mentioned yet.  I did say that wide spacing wasn't a quality fault.  But because foresters want to see a sufficient number of trees in their blocks, they often add a clause to the contract that gives a minimum acceptable density tied to payment.  This is often a number like 200 stems/Ha under the target density, or alternatively, it could be a percentage amount such as ten percent under.  So for example, a contract might say that the target density on a block is 1800 stems/Ha, but if the final density is under by more than 10%, or less than 1620 stems/Ha, there is no payment.  If your crew does end up planting less than 1620 stems/Ha, there's a simple solution:  you'll be sent back to add some more trees, until the density is brought up over the minimum.

If you have a smart foreman, he or she will probably do a quick calculation as soon as the block is done to see what the planted density is.  If it's low, say around 1590 stems/Ha or slightly lower, that will indicate that the block is likely going to be a problem, because the plotted density will probably be very similar.  In that case, it would be smart for the foreman to tell the crew to go back out and put in a few more trees as a precautionary measure.  It's easier to add more trees to a block when you're already there, instead of coming back later.  And if your planted density for the block is obviously low, it's smart to just fix the problem before the plots are even taken.

Is there a High Density penalty?  Not really.  Foresters get you on the excess charge, so they don't worry about it.  Many foresters are Ok with you planting slightly higher density than the target, as long as it's consistent.  They just don't like inconsistent high density, which is why the excess calculation meets their needs as a way of making sure you don't plant far more trees in an area than you're supposed to.  And even density that is perfectly consistent can still give you an excess charge if the density starts to get too high.


I'm sure that at this point, many of you are sitting there with your eyes glazed over, completely lost.  That's understandable.  This is the sort of material that you should revisit a couple times per season for your first couple years, until you fully understand the math behind everything.

To be honest, what we've just covered here is barely scratching the surface of a proper understanding of spacing and density management considerations.  For a first-year planter though, it's enough to get you started.  The key take-away lesson here is that you need to get your density right, and in order to do that, you need to make sure your spacing between trees is accurate and consistent.  Instead of using a measuring tape to measure between each tree, throwing a plot on yourself is a quick way of seeing if you're on the right track.  Even if you don't check the quality of each tree in your plot thoroughly, a quick density plot can be thrown in less than a minute.  If you have the right number of trees in your plot, you'll feel more confident in proceeding at full steam ahead.

Your instructor and your foreman will throw some plots with you, to make sure you completely understand how to take plots quickly and accurately.  Taking a quick plot will ultimately save you time, rather than just costing you a minute or two, because it'll let you know if your density is on track.




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Here’s an Audio version of this material, in case you want to listen while you’re driving, running, at work, or otherwise unable to read or watch video:




Click on the down-arrow icon in the upper right corner of the SoundCloud widget to download the mp3.


Once again, for further information about this series of tree planter training information, visit:



I encourage you to share this information with anyone else who might be interested.  Thanks for your interest and support!

-          Jonathan “Scooter” Clark