I was tagging trees for a project out in the boonies. Not really the boonies, but not suburbia, either. We're going to be -- fixing a bridge, I think? They never tell me what the project is about. But I had to tag all trees with a diameter of 6" or greater -- six inches isn't very big, so that's a lot of trees -- seventy-five feet on either side of the centerline of the road, five hundred feet on either side of the stream. Five hundred. Feet. That's a long way.
Here's what I do when I get to a tree six inches or greater in diameter: first I shove everything the fuck out of my way. I push back all the plants around the tree, because spiders can be sitting underneath the leaves, and jump on my head. So I push them all out of the way. I look for poison ivy, and brambles, and make sure there are none around the trunk. I break the trunks of these underbrushes to do so; I don't care. I'm here to do a job. Get out of my way! And if there's a spider on the trunk? Sorry, man, but you're dead. You should have heard me comin. You should have gotten out of my way. I was hoping that word would get around, that the spiders would hear of my ruthlessness and learn to stay away from me.
Then I take off my leather workgloves, wedge them in a nearby shrub, and pull out my diameter tape. It's a metal measuring tape with a hook on the end to dig into bark, and inches measured for diameter, not circumference. After I measure the diameter (I've gotten pretty good at eyeballing them, if you need someone to come do that for you, estimate the diameter of your trees by sight), I wrap a brightly-colored plastic ribbon around them, first orange, then I ran out and had to use pink. Then I take out my Sharpie marker and write the tree number on the ribbon, as in "T-18". "T" stands for "tree". Then I take my Field Book out of my back pocket and write down the tree number, diameter, and species. Which . . . yeah. I don't know a damn thing about trees. I know "Maple".
Then I put my book away and put my gloves back on and sigh. And think about how far away the next tree is, and how tired I am. And how many spiders I've seen so far today, and how many more are out there, just waiting to jump on me. And how I wished I had a machete, and a toolbelt wouldn't hurt either, and man is it hot. Then I walk to the next tree, but really, there's little walking involved. Mostly there's ducking and crounching and stepping on things and pushing aside and pulling apart brambles and yadda yadda yadda.
Except the last day, the last day was great. It had rained in the morning, so there were fewer bugs about, they had all stayed in. And no dust and dead leaves to make my nose run and make me sneeze. I was on the other side of the road, where there was hardly any poison ivy, and not that many brambles, but mostly there was not that much underbrush. Mostly it was just ferns, so I could actually walk from one tree to the next, which were incidentally cedars, which are so tall and straight!
I can reach my arms around a seventeen-inch tree without mashing my face into the trunk. Larger than that, and it takes some creativity to get the diameter tape, and the ribbon, around the trunk.
I washed my clothes every day after work, so fearful was I of poison ivy and ticks. Man, do I hate bugs. So much. So irrationally much. Ticks, spiders, the works. We all know how creepy both ticks and spiders are. I saw a billion spiders, all different kinds. Evil ones with green underneath at whom I hissed, "you are EVIL!", and furry red-and-brown ones that look like miniature tarantulas, and sneaky bastards that are the same exact shade of brown as the trunk they sit on, and oh so many daddy-long-legses. Oh so many. And the ticks! I had them on me when I get home. The first day a biggish black one, and the second day a medium-sized red one, and the last day a teeny-tiny brown one. The black one I flushed, the leetle one I found before I got inside, and the red one I wrapped in a tissue, then set the tissue on fire, then washed the ashes into the garbage disposal. Bastard. Trying to give me Lyme disease, and such.
So it was work! It wasn't really really hard work, but it was work! I'm always tired when I get home from work, even if my day has been nothing more than a long day of reading LiveJournal. But last week I came home and my body was tired. And I complained, and I sweated, and itched and itched and itched, and am itching now, just thinking about it. (All phantom itching, you understand. From just the thought of the possibility of bugs.) And I was hot, or wet -- one morning I was working real hard, but it was wet out from the morning's rain, and steam was coming off of me. Steam! Coming off of me! Like I was working or something!
Oh, total tree count, in case you're interested? Three hundred thirty-nine. Yowza.
But I liked it. I wasn't using a damn thing I learned it college, and I had no idea what any of the trees besides the maples and the cedars were, but I liked it. I am realizing this ESPECIALLY now that I am back here in the stupid office. Just like my favorite job so far since having been graduamated was those first six months at Spamtrak, when I was out in the field with the work gangs, getting up early and sleeping in trucks and carrying things and using acetylene torches and being outside. Man.