Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Tree Planting Respite

Finally...time to update this blog.  Camp is now on a 3 day break to allow us all a time to rest and rejuvenate. Time is flying by here and we lose track of the days. Living in camp, being cut off from the 'real' world, and with my focus being preparing meals, planning meals and trying to get enough sleep between's a whole different life style than being at the Shack.
Back home, Trev has been busy doing things around the property and getting ready for the builder to get started in the basement.  I'm very excited as today is the day he starts work and my long days in the kitchen here begin to pay off in financing the work being done there!  Yay! I can't wait to get home and see the results!  But, we are only 1/2 way done here and I still have many more meals to prepare and serve to hungry planters.
Hungry planters at the end of the day.

So, my purpose in this particular post is to show you a little what life is like here.  Let me take you through a day in my life here as head cook.
My day begins at 4:45 am when my alarm goes off.  Groan....The mornings are still pretty chilly, so getting up is not fun.  Dressing quickly and heading to the kitchen, stopping to refuel and start the generator, I then head into the kitchen, which is a converted semi truck trailer.  I get the coffee urn going first, then fire up the 3 ovens and my grill.  The ovens heat the kitchen up as well, which is generally pretty cold.  I grab the bacon and sausages from the walk in cooler that I prepped on trays the night before and pop those into the oven.  Then, depending on what I'm making, I'll put scrambled eggs in the oven, or start mixing my batter for pancakes, french toast or get potatoes cut up for hashbrowns.  My breakfast menu varies each day.  There is always cold cereal, oatmeal, toast, yogurt, fruit salad as well as the hot entrees.  I make either french toast or pancakes every 2nd day, and alternate scrambled or fried eggs. I also make hash browns or perogies.  The planters appetites grow as the season progresses, so what fed them the first week, is much less than what they eat at this stage.  Each planter also prepares their own lunch to take out to the blocks (areas they plant) before they eat breakfast.  We set out sliced meat and cheese, veggies, condiments, fruit, baked goods, trail mix and any left overs for them each morning.  The lunches vary from planter to planter and are sometimes made in a huge rush by planters who slept late.  Sometimes they are made and then forgotten as they rush to get out of camp.  We've been known to chase down planters who set down their lunches and forget them, hoping to catch them before it's too late.  For those readers who have, or have had, kids in school and have experienced the last minute rush to get them out the door on time, just multiply that by 50, and you'll have an idea of what mornings are like here.  Once they have all gotten off to work for the day, peace returns to the kitchen and we have a few minutes to catch our breath before getting stuck into the dishes.  First the pots and pans and the clean up...then the planters trays, cutlery and bowls.  
Next, we take a break to get some food for ourselves, plan our day and spend a little time on the internet.  We have the same set up for internet here as we have at home at the Shack.  Satelite dish internet, which is faster than dial up, but not as fast as high speed.  Then it's time to start getting the dinner prep done.
My kitchen on wheels.  At the end you can see the cooler door.
We always have soup at dinner.  I love making soup, and this seems to come through in the reviews from planters.  They love my soups!  Having several vegetarians in camp, I try to make soups that everyone can enjoy.  I usually start with just filling the pot up with hot water, set it on the stove and begin adding the things to make my soup du jour. Some favourites have been cream of broccoli, carrot ginger, chickenless noodle and spicy veggie.  Then, I prepare 2 salads.  There is always a green salad, which can vary in it's ingredients.  I make caesar, spinach, or mixed greens.  Add mushrooms, green onions, radishes, tomatoes, green peppers, cukes....change it up every day.  Then, I will make my 2nd salad.  This can be a pasta salad, coleslaw, tabouleh, bean salad....  Then comes the carbs.  Rice is easy....measure 10 cups into 2 insert pans, add salt and, when it's time to go into the oven...add hot water to the level of the first joint in my finger above the level of the rice. ( My rice never fails with this method!)  Then into the oven covered tightly with foil for 1 1/2 hours. Potatoes get scrubbed, and then either boiled for mashed, cut up for roasted or baked whole. I also do scalloped using my mandolin to cut them all up.  A huge time saver tool!
The job board where the supervisor posts how many trees we have to plant for the
 current contract, how many have been planted, etc.  It keeps us all up to date on the numbers.

The veggies are usually it's just a matter of cooking them up in time for dinner.  The meat part of the meal is where I can get creative.  I have several choices in my meats.  I can get beef roasts, ground beef, ham, chicken pieces, pork roasts, turkeys, stew meat....and from there I decide what to do with them.  Spaghetti, chili, meatloaf, hamburgers, Salisbury steak are the usual for the ground beef.  I try different seasoning or sauces for the chicken.  I make Yorkshire pudding with the roast beef and mac and cheese to go with the hams, or scalloped potatoes.  I have turkey dinner on the 25th of June (my birthday and also the 1/2 way mark between Christmases!)
I find that the appreciation for the meals is a huge incentive for me to put as much effort into preparing them as possible.  During the day, planters think about what will be for dinner.  Food is a huge deal in tree planting.  Not only for the energy they require to do the job, but also it is thought about all day long.  I've been told so many times about planters, out in the rain, dreaming about what we'll serve for dinner, fantasizing about my soups.  It seems funny, but it motivates them through the day.  The life of a tree planter is not easy.  Very early mornings, long, hard days in all kinds of weather and terrain.  Carrying heavy bags of trees... bending, walking, shovels, dirt, bugs, sweat, sore muscles, sore feet, blistered hands, burnt skin, hot, cold, wet, thirsty.  They plant thousands of trees every day.  The more they plant, the more they make.
Dinner in the dining tent.

I love the planters I cook for.  Each one is special and each one needs some 'mom' attention at some point in camp.  I have dried tears, hugged, consoled, rejoiced, felt worry and concern and have laughed more often than not. I've listened to countless stories and told my share of them as well. My job is one I do not only for pay, but because I feel needed and appreciated.  It's a great feeling!
Dinner is served at either 6 or 7 and is always a fun time.  After the meal has been served, we wash pots, pans and scrub down the 3 stoves, sweep up, mop the floor and try to get to bed at a decent time so we can do it all again the next day.  We have a planter come in to help my kids with the planter's dishes each night and there is always lots of loud upbeat music playing to keep us moving.  As the kitchen trailer is the only source of electricity in camp, planters plug in their iPods, MP3s, computers and cell phones to recharge and catch up with the outside world via the internet after dinner.  It is almost like a party in the kitchen each evening at dinner time and afterwards.  Lots of fun and laughter!
The 2nd hand clothing stores are a source of disposable clothing for planters.
Some of the things they wear to work in are pretty funny! Here, Eric goes planting  in a suit and tie!
He wore it for a whole 5 day shift!

Lots of fun!  A cupcake fight broke out with leftover cupcakes!

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful peek into your cooking day! Sounds like a lot of fun!!!


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