I always noticed how those who put in the most numbers are usually those who get out of the truck first, volunteer to take the first available piece, are the fastest on their first bagup, and already planting before anyone else. They are usually also always the last ones in the truck, planting until the very last possible second. The ultra highballers keep tisking and waving their finger at me, telling me I shouldnt waste so much time at the cache. One remarked, “Look, I am on my knees and resting, WHILE I am bagging up.” This while he was nibbling on his lunch. Because of my age and the fact I had not planted for a 17 year stretch, I often needed to stretch, or to just recuperate. But they warned me, rightfully, that any rest period will slow down the blood flow and you can easily lose momentum. Some wouldn’t even sit down to bagup but rather stand, hunched over. Others would pee while walking to the cache to bagup (fill your bags with another round of trees), wolfing down a sandwich while bagging up and then run off back into the field.
For me though, I would think like the British: “I just couldn’t be bloody bothered, mate!” One ultra highballer explained how she would always try to push herself during the last 30 minutes of the day. Even the last 5 minutes. We added up how much the five minutes a day added up to over a three month season and it worked out to roughly 500 dollars. She continued that, once you go all out nuts during those last five minutes of the day, the next day you can make it the last 7 minutes, then 10, and eventually work your way backwards towards your very first bagup, or once you step your foot out of the truck. While I am contented to breeze my way to my next plantable spot, I see them waste no time shuffling to theirs. Other times they seem slow and relaxed. They have that frenzied expression, lunging to the next spot like their life depended on it. Others repeat that it is all about efficiency of movement. One has a certain shuffle, almost skipping to the next spot to get his feet lined up properly for the next implant. I watched him plant across the horizon and he looked like Lancelot in the Monty Python Holy Grale, prancing on his invisible horse with shovel dangling from his right hand. Others admit that it is a brutal job, so they reason that they might as well push themselves to the very limit and make the torture as economically profitable as possible. It can be a horrid moment to stand at the cache, looking at that large empty piece and imagine the repetitiveness of planting each subsequent tree. In which case it is better to go hard all day and not give your mind time to reflect on the sheer banality of it. During my first rookie year, I once made a great leap as I was planting with some faster planters. I copied their rhythm, and since then was surprised that it made me no more tired at the end of the day. I consider myself a casual highballer, earning 250 dollars a day without great stress. Those who put in double my figures seem to work as much as I did, but they zip faster to the next spot, and seemed to ram their tree into the ground much faster than I do.
I once saw a treeplanter how she ripped open a package of flagging tape, first kicking it along the ground, then slamming the side of it against a nearby bucket. She scooped up a couple rolls and darted off. There was something absolutely no-nonsense about her movements. While I would have analysed the wrapping, looking for where I could tear it open, she already had the dilemna resolved and was running off to plant. Smokers can also make great company around caches during bagups and I always enjoy making what I liked to refer to as “cigarette stories”: stories or interesting snippets of information which takes about a cigarette’s worth of time to tell, and amusing enough to bum another cigarette.
But the ultra highballer will calculate how much such cigarettes will cost them in down time and not even think about it. One planter suggested I shouldn’t waste my time closing the hole on beach sand, saying it closes itself automatically. I would suggest that you keep thinking about everything you do, always look for a better shortcut or how to shave off those valuable seconds, and watch others, asking them for tips. Dont just proceed as ‘business as normal’, repeating the same method, but always look for a better and more efficient way how to go about it all. Push yourself hard. Julia said she always pushed herself harder on the first shift of a new contract, because it would show her body what to expect (the ground is often consistent with each contract) and adjust itself accordingly. I’ve seen people of all shapes and sizes put in large numbers – from small-framed little girls, to the more aged carrying a matured keg of beer around their waste. Many say that it is in your mind. Mind over matter. After my experiences with treeplanting, I feel I can accomplish anything, once I set my mind to it.
On the other hand, some measure of self control is also important. I’ve seen planters buzzed on Ginseng and pushing themselves so hard until they simply collapsed. Perhaps due to the heat, or their arm inflamed because of tendonitis; heck, one fast planter even dislocated his shoulder because of the way he was slamming his shovel into the ground. Julia once broke down in tears, having become frustrated with company organisation and having to waste hours during some days waiting to plant.
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If you develop tendonitis you will lose at least a few days of planting, which ends up costing more than if you had noticed the pain and eased off on the exertion. Perhaps change your style of planting to give rest to a certain region of your body. Or purposefully take a day or half day off if you feel you need it. The body and mind has its limits and shuts itself off to protect itself, if you lack the reason and push it too hard. Which can then cost you more money, and possibly some permanent damage.