My friends and I drove through Wasaga Beach with open windows and the scent of fresh air filling the car. Green pastures, farmers markets and farm animals passed through the car windows. The day was off to a perfect start.
We were excited that we’d chosen such a glorious day to plant trees, our little contribution to helping the earth. However, the moment we arrived on site we knew we’d made a grave mistake — we’d forgotten to wear rain boots. When we stepped out of the car to greet our guides and fellow tree planters, our feet sank into the mud.
We’d decided to take part in a volunteer trip hosted by the Nature Conservancy of Canada to plant trees. The Nature Conservancy partnered with the Nottawasaga Valley Authority to plant trees in the Minesing Wetlands.
The goal was to cover two acres of deciduous swamp forest to stabilize the area, protect it from erosion and provide habitats for wildlife.
Our first task was to haul trees and tools to the planting site. We trudged back and forth along a narrow dirt path until the already-planted trees cleared and we were greeted by acres of tall grass. We had reached our planting site along the Nottawasaga River.
For those of you who’ve never planted trees, different species of trees require different planting methods and can only be planted in certain areas. This we were about to learn.
In deciding that rain boots wouldn’t be a good choice on a hot day, we failed to realize that our feet and legs would be exposed to the elements, including poison ivy and stinging nettles. My friends and I looked at each other and down at our bare legs and sneakers. If we hadn’t already regretted forgetting our boots when walking through mud and water on the way to the plant site, we were definitely regretting it now.
Tree planting isn’t an activity that is easily done. Between shoveling, bending over, the stinging nettles and the sun — it turned out to be the hottest day 2016 had seen so far — it was no easy feat.
However, despite the discomfort, the enthusiasm of the group motivated us through what turned out to be a lot harder work than we’d thought. One man, returning with a group that had separated from us, announced with a smile: “The warriors are back!” And warriors, we were, doing battle against mud, nettles and heat to find a home for 800 trees in the ground that day.
With mud all over us and stinging nettle marks on our ankles, we were glad that we found this opportunity to learn more about tree planting and what it entails, despite the many obstacles that our group had to overcome.
Green tubes protruding from the ground were there to protect the trees while they matured, but also served as markers of our successful work.
As we surveyed the rows of green tubes that would in time become trees of a large forest, my friend turned to me and said, “We should mark our calendars to come back in 2026 to see the forest we helped plant.”
“But next time, we’ll wear rain boots.”
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