Lyndon Schiewe | Back To The Land |

Tree planting with Lyndon Schiewe in BC

I met Lyndon through Brian Henderson‘s son as he operates a tree-plating business working throughout the BC Kootenays. My intention was never to go tree-planting, it was more of an opportunity that presented itself while sharing stories over a meal with Brian and his wife. Then, in less than 36 hours I was up at 5am, following a small convoy of rusted pickup trucks down a busy highway, and turning off onto a hidden road that was only visible by a small gap of random trees that lined the highways ditch. After passing over a cattle guard and through a large gate, the road immediately became narrow, rough, and was evident could only be accessed with a 4×4. After 15 minutes of a gradual climb through deep rivets and around various debris, we stopped at a small clearing because the remainder of the logging road we were travelling on was impassable from a partially washed out road. The crew of guys both young and old prepared for the day as small saplings were arranged for each worker into neat piles next to the vehicles. To carry their cache of trees, each worker used a pouch that looks almost identical to a postman’s harness but significantly more robust and pockets that could carry a large dog on either side.
With shovels, camera gear, and trees in hand, we made our way down the rest of the logging road by foot. The trees suddenly opened up and there was nothing but debris and bush. Immediately the crew assembled, instructions were given and each worker was assigned a cleared area of land. Each worker then had to navigate themselves in a grid pattern making sure to plant trees in a way that was efficient, finishing each load of planting at the bottom of their slope section as to conserve energy and time; reloading their cache of saplings and ascending back into the bush; this step was repeated until each section was complete and all trees were in the ground. Tree-planters get paid by how many trees they pant and based on the area they are planting, trees need to have a certain concentration within a 6-10 foot circumference. The terrain itself is nothing short of unforgiving where you’re constantly maneuvering your way over large tree trunks, through heavy dead brush, battling thousands of insects, and vegetation that seems to claw at your limbs stopping you in your tracks. Not to mention, based on how remote the location is, the increased chance of running into a family of bears which I was told happens more than you would think.
Lyndon was one of the workers whom I started following into the bush, watching him navigate himself through the terrain like it was a walk in the park. It turns out Lyndon was born in 1968 in South Edmonton. His families were all farmers, however when he was four years old the family had to move back into the city. In 1993, he moved to the West Kootenays, got into tree-planting at the age of 22 and used it as a way to pursue a lifestyle living in the mountains and abandoning the rat race of the city. He ended up tree planting till he was 30, and then started again at the young age of 44; he was the first of his forefathers that didn’t pursue a life of farming.
When I asked Lyndon more about tree-planting he said ” I generally enjoy work that has some adversity and physicality involved. Planting is something I only do two months of the year so it stays fresh to me and the income is pretty good in those couple of months. The rest of the year I do a ton of chainsaw and brush saw-work which I like more as it’s easier, however less money. Saw-work is more like a regular outdoor job whereas planting feels like a sport where everyday is part of some epic multi-day event where your putting out 12000 calories in a single day”.
When I asked Lyndon of any memorable or crazy stories, he mentioned tree-planting is madness in itself and the crew he works with now is quite tame, but they are very good and efficient. He then went on to say “It’s a formative experience that changes lives whether your young or old”. Lyndon hopes to do this kind of work well into his 50’s where his goal is to have everything paid off, becoming debt and mortgage free. “I have a family with kids who are 10 and 14. My wife works in Salmo as a coordinator for the community centre and Salmo is one of the last great places that hasn’t been overrun and turned into a beer commercial. It gets made fun of a lot and locally many consider it with a patronizing attitude that it’s a little place full of desperation etc… It’s a great place and we are very proud of it”.
Apart from working in the forestry business, Lyndon also ski’s a lot in the winter and coaches a the local kids ski racing team at the Salmo hill. He also plays the drums in a noisy space rock duo called Rainboard which can be found here. He is also involved with  BMX racing as an athlete, coach and founder/track operator of the new local sanctioned track in Salmo.
After my encounter with Lyndon and after spending the day with him, I see a man who is genuinely very happy and proud. A man who pursues a life of curiosity and not losing his ability to get outside, explore and just play.
I hope you enjoyed this story and stay posted as I share another side of Canada that you may never knew existed; … surfing!
Lyndon the tree-planter

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