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Planting Trees - Riding the Tree Planter and Fishing

I planted trees; hundreds of thousands of trees. Teeny-tiny, little pine trees skinnier than a pencil. This seasonal work was part of a government tree-planting project. It last about six weeks, just right for me as a fulltime RVer.



I'd never thought about having a job planting trees. It was one of those jobs I found -- or that found me -- because of other work I was doing. I was working for a landscape contractor in Alabama; it was sporadic work, but it paid well and I enjoyed it. I worked with, and became friends with, a retired county extension agent, Walter.

Walter worked landscaping, but also, in season, planted trees. He planted a lot of trees; millions of trees over the years. H asked if I wanted to plant trees with him. I wasn’t sure what I was getting into, but with a little encouragement from him, I said, "Sure."

Our workday would start when Walter picked me up at my front door. The time clock started then too. The first day, not quite sure what to expect, I took my lunch, plenty of water to drink, a jacket, and a pair of work gloves.

We talked and drove for about an hour and a half until we got to the tree farm. Walter knew all there was to know about the tree farm and gave me a tour. Then we went to the office and did a bunch of paperwork, as this was part of a government reforestation program. Then we went down to pick up the trees.

We got 3000, 6-8 inch trees. The trees were laid roots to root, with the tree ends pointing out toward the end of the bundles. The roots were covered in a gel with nutrients to keep them fresh for up to two weeks. We took our trees, headed home, and called it a day.

Day two, Walter picked me up, and we headed out to the farm to get the tractor and planter. Walter drove the tractor while I followed in the pickup with the trees. We arrived at the field about an hour later.

The tree planter machine is pulled by a tractor. It is a contraption that plows a furrow open. Someone rides in the planter and puts the roots of the tree in the furrow. Two packer wheels push the furrow closed around the roots.

I put on a pair of rain bibs, like commercial fishermen wear, and put on a pair of shrimp pickers gloves. Then I climbed into the planter. Walter opened a bundle of trees, and set them in my lap. We started at the far side of the field. After two rows, Walter stopped, got out, and measured between the trees.

My main objective was to space the trees consistently. If they were consistent, but too close together, Walter would speed up the tractor. If they were consistent, but too far apart, Walter would slow down the tractor.

We got settled into a pattern and planted trees four or five days a week, for five or six weeks. Things sometimes got boring. But, there were days Walter would say he was having trouble making straight rows and we would tour the county, visiting his many acquaintances he had made as an extension agent. We even played hooky one day and went fishing.

This was an exceptional job. I didn’t get rich, but I had a wonderful experience, made a little money, and met a lifelong friend.

If you would like to try this kind of work for RVers, you could inquire at the local extension service, agricultural department of the state university, or a commercial agricultural service. These people should be able to steer you towards a tree planter in your area.

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Coleen's comments: My husband, Bob Nilles, wrote this article about planting trees. Planting trees is just one of the many short-term and seasonal jobs he's done while full-time RVing. As with many of the jobs he's done, he says riding the tree-planting machine isn't something he would want to do as full-time career. But, for a few weeks, it was interesting, he learned a great deal about southern agriculture, he worked with a friend, and he was paid for his time. A perk to this job was that Walter supplied us with meat and fresh produce. When we returned to the area years later, it was fun to look at those groves of trees Bob planted and to see the results of his work planting trees.



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