Friday, June 22, 2012

Reverse Logging

First, let me apologize for not posting last week. Everything is fine, and thank you to all of those who checked up on me. I've been uprooted from my day job and transferred to a different division. The post for last week had a little too much attitude in it, so I decided to scrap it until I was in a better mood.

There's a small percentage of Americans that never actually have to work a day in their lives. The rest of us will be punching a clock for the majority of our natural lives. Depending on how broke we are, will determine how hard and how much we will have to work.

Everyone has stories to tell. It starts in high school waiting tables, pumping gas or taking orders at the drive-thru window. Maybe it's even younger working on the family farm or delivering the newspaper. I've never actually lived somewhere that had paperboys, but I'm sure it exists other then on television.

I worked two jobs through college to pay for living expenses. I'm still paying for the actual cost of college. Unless it was an emergency, I swore after graduation I would never eat Raman noodles again. Little did I know the happiest poverty was yet to come.

Combining two incomes should improve your financial situation. Unfortunately you're also combining two sets of living expenses. We discovered in the first year of marriage that our income would not stretch to cover a vacation.

Enter our short lived career in reverse logging.

What we did might sound a lot like planting trees, but it was much more labor intensive and hardcore then simple landscaping.

To prevent erosion around streams and creeks, the government provides grants to land owners to plant large numbers of trees in these riparian areas. In true red-tape bureaucratic style, there's about seventy-four steps to planting government trees.

First, a small hole is made and the stick with roots, think about twice the size of what your kid brings home for Arbor day, is mashed in and covered. Then, the next person drives a stake into the ground beside the tree and places a protective tube over the stick, cable tying it to the stake. Are you still with me?

The next team member comes along and places a 3'x3' fabric weed square with a slit in the center over the tree. Most importantly the fabric has to be shiny side up, according to government specs. We once had to re-do half a field that did not meet the check box. After that we learned to chant "sunny side up" as we laid the mats. Each mat had to have every corner folded in and a staple driven through it into the ground. Not necessarily difficult, but excruciating on the back.

The crowning piece was a little birdie net that went on top of the tube to keep birds and animals from eating the trees.

There's a couple things you should know to put this logging project in perspective. Planting a few trees on a lovely spring day sounds like a charming way to make a little extra money. We planted 750 to 2500 trees per farm in wind, rain, mud and bone-chilling cold. There were a few days we could work in our shirt sleeves, but they were few and far between. It was more common that we would lay thirty mats, and then sit in the truck for five minutes to warm up, and then lay thirty more mats.

Now, a dozen years later, my husband likes to tell these stories to our kids. He wants them to know that the mother they always see with hair and make-up done, heading to work in high heals, is capable of manual labor.

He especially likes to tell them about me walking through a truck stop to the ladies room. To stay warm and dry, I would layer my husband's brown coveralls over my coat, jeans, sweatshirt and long johns, paired with massive insulated boots. I stomped down the hallway like a brick wall. The roughest of truck drivers and bikers stepping aside in reverence, or fear.

The following year we still couldn't afford a vacation, so we went on a "free" time share weekend. All we had to do was take part in a ninety minute presentation. After being held hostage for three hours, I would have gladly planted trees again before accepting another deal from that particular devil.

Everyone has experiences like this. The waitressing job that kept you on your feet so long you had to go into the walk-in freezer to get your wedding rings off your swollen pregnant fingers. Or the teacher that delivers pizzas and DJ's weddings so he can provide a better life for his family. Maybe you're there right now. Whether you know it or not, you are making someone very proud. 

What story does someone tell about you? 


  1. Mine was a telemarketing job. Sitting in a tiny office strapped to a headset and ancient computer, spouting off a sales pitch whenever I heard a beep in my ear. It was some kind of torture- I remember I couldn't sleep at all the first week because the repetition and stress was just too much for my brain to handle. Once I got used to it, it wasn't so bad except for a psychotic chain-smoking boss and the people who would scream at you and cuss you out on the phone. Oh, and I was doing it while also taking 17 credit hours and working on my senior thesis! Definitely a period in my life that toughened me up.

    That was the first year my husband and I were married, and he had taken a sales job that wasn't working out the way he had been promised. I just couldn't stand the stress on him and it was important to me to show him that we were in this together and I wasn't going to be a high-maintenance spoiled princess, so I started working part-time. It was tough, but then his job situation changed and I graduated and we moved. I'd like to think that thanks to that period in our lives, however, he will always know that I've got his back. :-)

  2. Mine was the 3 jobs one summer at JMU,with the 3rd being night shift at a poultry plant in Dayton. Yes, the girlie-girl who is afraid of mice wore a hairnet, white plant coat and tucked her jeans in big rubber boots covered with dried up feathers and turkey parts. It was either hot and putrid smelling or freezing cold and wet in there. But it paid my tuition and living expenses. When young people complain about not being able to find a job, I clarify for them, " you mean a job you would enjoy. There are plenty of jobs out there. If you want to earn money, you don't have to enjoy it!"