Spraycation

This week marked the beginning of a new chapter in my time at Weyerhaeuser. Over the weekend I traded up my college dorm in Grande Prairie for a camper trailer out in the woods. This was necessary with the onset of herbicide application, or “spraycation” as some of my colleagues good naturedly call it.

One of Bi Air’s helicopters used for herbicide application.

Herbicide treatments are necessary to improve the performance of planted trees, allowing for better growth of the valuable pines and spruces, while killing their deciduous competitors. This is achieved by applying herbicide at a time when conifers have “hardened off”, which means they have entered into a dormant state (and therefore will no longer grow, and absorb herbicide). At this stage, the deciduous trees continue to perform their metabolic functions, and as a result, they succumb to the herbicide. The application period is somewhat narrow (both in times during the day, and in the number of weeks available), so it’s important to remain in close proximity to application sites (hence my new living situation). Herbicide can only be applied when the air temperature is below 25 degrees Celsius, wind speeds are below 8 kilometers per hour, and relative humidity is above 40%, so application usually takes place in the early morning, and late at night, with a long break during the day when it is too hot (a prime napping window). This brings me to my current responsibility: weather monitoring.

Weather monitoring is exactly what it sounds like. A partner and I will travel to a cutblock and sit on lawn chairs while monitoring temperature, wind speeds, and relative humidity to ensure they are within acceptable limits. Meanwhile, a helicopter flies in the distance, releasing a liquid curtain of herbicide. It can be very surreal sitting out in a field watching the sun rise. The smoke from the BC fires created some fantastic hues of orange and red – a small beauty from so much destruction.

 

As you may have guessed, the job itself is extremely easy, which more than makes up for the bizarre work hours. While it is occasionally necessary to make quick relocations to new blocks, the amount of walking is minimal in comparison to the tree planting checks I’m used to. There is far more driving and quadding than traipsing through cutblocks. Other than that, it’s a whole lot of sitting around. I’ve been working my way through a few books, to stave off the boredom, and spend a lot of time talking with Brendan, who I have been working with almost exclusively. Despite being the easiest job I’ve ever performed, I’ve found it quite enjoyable, and am looking forward to what the future brings!

A helicopter atop a mix truck. The helicopter is refilled in this configuration.

Two trumpeter swans seen in a pond along Weyerhaeuser’s main haul road.

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