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Eating Dirt

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  1,128 ratings  ·  188 reviews
Winner of the BC National Award for Non-Fiction, and short-listed for both the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction and the 2011 Hilary Weston Writer's Trust Award.

A tree planter's vivid story of a unique subculture and the magical life of the forest.

Charlotte Gill spent twenty years working as a tree planter in the forests of Canada. During her million-tree
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published September 2nd 2011 by Greystone Books
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Average rating 3.86  · 
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 ·  1,128 ratings  ·  188 reviews

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Jul 09, 2016 rated it liked it
This is an interesting look at the life of a tree planter and the botany of trees & their environment, nature and our part in all of this.
Charlotte Gill's life as a tree planter is a different career path than most of us follow. It is hard, fun, dirty, cold, hot and seasonal. As a day-hiker in the region that Charlotte writes about, I recognize the beauty and silence of the mountains. They are a marvel and potentially a hazard but truly stupendous. The trees tower around, the air is
Jul 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I couldn't read this book fast enough. Reminiscent of John Vaillant's The Golden Spruce (he also endorses this book), Eating Dirt tells the story of one full year of tree-planting in the 20 year career of author Charlotte Gill. The description of her year forms the narrative arc, while interspersed are fascinating tidbits about the logging industry, thoughts on environmentalism, the types of characters you encounter in the bush, on the camps, in the remote outposts where tree-planters are so ...more
Oct 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canada, non-fiction
I am so excited to win this book. Can hardly wait for it to arrive. Thank you Charlotte Gill, Greystone Books & David Susuki Foundation, Goodreads "first reads" and anyone else responsible for bringing this book to my hands!

Arrived in the mail today, Tuesday, after the long weekend Tuesday, October 11, 2011. A great mail day makes going back to work so much nicer. Will start reading tonight!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011: Just a few pages in and already wondering what motivates tree planters to
Tricia Dower
Oct 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book deserves the accolades and awards it has received. I felt the exhausting tedium of tree-planting work -- "bend, plant, stand up, move on" -- as well as the conflict Gill (and others) feel between wanting/needing the work and hating the clear-cutting that precedes it. "Because we plant trees," Gill writes, "logging companies can cut more today. And that is the irony of us."

Gill portrays how the hardship of the work becomes addictive, a way of proving to yourself and your tree-planting
Emily DeLisle
Nov 09, 2012 rated it liked it
I feel a little torn about this book. I thought the parts that were actually about tree planting were very interesting and gave me a look into a profession that I really admire but would never do (because I'm not THAT crazy). I have mixed feelings about all the interspersed bits of extra knowledge, like the bits about biology and the evolution of the tree and the history of the yellow cedar, etc. On one hand, I dig science and enjoy learning about nature, on the other they felt a bit like ...more
Aug 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved how quickly I came to understand how brutal this job is. Then I spent the rest of the book trying to understand the author's love for it, why she returned year after year. In the end, I think I am satisfied with my answer, as she never comes right out and says so but from the tone and her stories I could figure it out.
I loved her style of writing. Descriptions are clean and original, as in “sky like boiled newspaper”. (I know that sky). There is humor like “ravens and crows…are the
Ruth Seeley
Oct 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
An exciting new entrant into the even-more exciting coalescing genre of creative nonfiction, in which the author is also a character in a work of narrative nonfiction.

This is not only Charlotte Gill's personal history of two decades as one of a very few female tree planters, but of the odd 'tree-planting tribe' - a nomadic crew who spend their springs and summers in an endeavour that doesn't seem particularly lucrative or even particularly successful in environmental terms. What, of course, is
Sara Van Dyck
Jun 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Gill is filled with passion for what must be one of the most grimy, dangerous, back-breaking, monotonous, low-wage jobs: tree-planting. Primarily she describes her experiences among the clear-cuts along the Canadian coast, teamed with a mix of rough-necks, students, boat pilots, and others like her who seem addicted to the work. There are two stories here; one graphic and gritty, describing what it’s like to fight your way through downed branches and salal, worry if there’s a grizzly waiting ...more
Lorne Daniel
Oct 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Eating Dirt digs into the science, the economics, the human stories of tree planting. Perhaps most importantly it delivers a dirt-deep appreciation for biodiversity - not just the theory or the concept but the living, breathing, Pacific forest reality of it. Charlotte Gill is a skilled writer, driving relentlessly through the grit of a life she has known well - seasonal tree planting in western Canada. Her prose is choppy but vivid, filled with striking similes and glistening imagery. Sample: ...more
My utmost thanks to the author, the Publishing House, and Goodreads for giving me the chance to first-read and review this book.

Tree Planting has always been considered quite hard and extremely dirty work. The stamina of the worker must remain high or else they don't make very much for their effort.

Eating Dirt tells of the tales surrounding the Author's own experience with planting trees in the wild, rain forests on the coast of British Columbia, Canada.

Humorous and very informative — something
Oct 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
Loved this! Charlotte Gill is a professional tree planter who has planted for more than 20 years. She weaves together a story about the logging industry, the history of planting, the history of the tree and human's relationship with trees.

My favourite part of the book were her personal experiences with planting. I planted for one year (I was TERRIBLE) and she captured the flavour and feeling of treeplanting life. THe writing in this book is exquisite; picturesque, dense and as beautiful and
Suzanne Arcand
Sep 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Who would have thought that not one but two books on logging would manage not only to hold my interest but to fascinate and entertain me. The first one is The Golden Spruce deals about the front end of the business the cutting of trees. Eating Dirt covers the tail end of the business the planting of new trees.

It’s not a subject that I would normally read about but Eating Dirt was one of the Books of the Year 2011 in the Globe and Mail. What I didn’t expect was to become a fan of the author
Feb 25, 2012 added it
Traveling by camper van around New Zealand, a land where 70% of the endemic forests have disappeared over the last 180 years, there seemed no more suitable place to crack open Charlotte Gill’s riveting and disturbing account of 20 years as a tree-planter in the forests of Canada. Make that, a tree-planter where the forests used to be.

As a long-time tree-hugger, I picked-up Eating Dirt: Deep Forests, Big Timber, and Life with the Tree-Planting Tribe armed with a starry-eyed notion that it would
Jul 06, 2013 rated it it was ok

I truly did not expect to like this book. I picked it up with a sigh, thinking that here I go again, starting another book I probably didn't want to read in the first place. The story of tree planters held almost no appeal to me. So, I began the first page ready to be disappointed. By the third page I knew I liked the author's writing style. By the tenth page I found myself enjoying the descriptions of Vancouver island and the almost alien landscape the tree
David Ward
Eating Dirt: Deep Forests, Big Timber, and Life With the Tree Planting Tribe by Charlotte Gill (Greystone Books 2011) (Nonfiction-This is a Canadian book that has won numerous awards, but I can't find a call number). Now here is a subculture that I've never thought or heard about. Author Charlotte Gill was for many years a “tree planter” in the Pacific Northwest. “Tree planters” are the folks who tend to the back end of timbering operations. When timber companies log a tract of land, they ...more
Mar 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I had a hard time rating this book... swinging back and forth between 4 and 5 stars.

Not a book I would normally gravitate to and not a subject matter that I would otherwise have more than glanced at. Ultimately, I landed on a 5 star rating. Why? Because I really loved the writing style. Direct, factual, interesting and humbly without any of the anticipated 'opinions' on the evils or virtues of logging... (not a small feat!)

Gill artfully wove the contrasting realities of life in and around a BC
Jul 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
I spent six summers planting trees in northern British Columbia - so I opened this book with a lot of prejudice. I was fairly certain that a book about planting would either exaggerate the hardships or be padded with gauzy sentimental romanticism. What emerges from the book, however, is subtle, true, and quietly entertaining. Charlotte Gill is a tremendously gifted author, and I appreciated how she never got in the way of the story. The book did make me quite sentimental, but I never felt ...more
Apr 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Interesting book about a female tree planter. I don't know of any tree planters myself, so it was intriguing to learn about their work. The book didn't really have any plot, which is okay I guess for creative non-fiction. Very descriptive in places and gives a good background into forestry management.

What I think I found the most fascinating is that the author tree planted for 17 years. That is a long time to be doing dirty, grubby, cold, physically demanding work. Tree planters are definitely
Jan 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian
I thoroughly enjoyed this.

There is a great mix of deeply personal experience tree planting in tough conditions and history of logging in the PNW area and more generally broadly over time.

I was most surprised at the lack of criticism for logging. Her position is clear without ever being overbearing.

Read for the CBC Bingo Challenge in 2016. I might not have otherwise given this a chance.
Matt P.
Dec 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Eating Dirt by Charlotte Gill tells the unique story of the author's own experiences working as a tree planter in the wild, specifically on the coast of British Columbia, Canada in rainforests and clear cut areas of nature. Not only does it discuss Gill's own experiences but it also includes the general scientific and ecosystem-focused information of forests. Through her novel she discusses and analyzes the logging industry, the history of planting, the history of tree species and the human ...more
Her writing transported me to the land and topography in this part of Canada; I want to go to some of the places I found on the map.
Mar 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
A woman writes about her job as a tree planter in the clear-cut regions of British Columbia. Gill's narration makes what might appear a boring subject interesting. The book has a few slow patches.
Maayan K
Apr 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A fabulously well-written account of this unique Canadian subculture, livelihood, way of living. As the author and her crew members strain their muscles and treble their red blood cell count through superhuman exertion, I was ironically rooted to my bed, unable to put the book down.

I loved the descriptions of the clothing, food, routine, decrepit accommodations, transportation, camping, living on a boat, animals, drinking, and the few close calls. I admit that I was more interested in the
Dec 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Charlotte's 20 years as a tree planter in the forests of Canada provide for some very entertaining stories on the life style of tree planters but what fascinated me about her book is the amount of information she provides on silviculture and the importance of forests, over the span of her book. One of my favourite passages in the book occurs towards the end of the book and follows Charlotte's explanation that human hands can replace trees but not necessarily the forest. "An ancient ...more
Jun 01, 2013 rated it it was ok
I know people whose university aged children did tree planting for a summer or two (and one of my own children considered it). I thought it sounded like an awful job and this book did nothing to change my mind. I can't understand how someone could do this job for 20 years (the book jackets says the author did).

The writing was poetic when she described trees, the history of trees, the culture of trees, etc. but I found myself skipping pages at a time. I think a person with a great interest in
Chris Morrow
Sep 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The core of the book is about tree-planting, which seems insane on it's face... there is a lot of other details about forestry and forests. This book dovetailed well with another I recently finished ('A Walk in the Woods' - Bill Bryson), talking about how trees and forests have changed over the last recent history (200 or so years).

What was also interesting, to me, was the mechanics of the forestry system... The cutting and then replanting of forests, in a scheduled and progressive manner. I
Apr 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was not a book that I would normally pick to read but it was chosen by my book club. Did I like the book? In an odd way yes I did. It gave me perspective on a job and a life style that I knew nothing about. Now I can honestly say I would never want to be a tree planter. The book tells a great story of that life without glossy over the hardships but also not making them the focus either. The write was straight forward and was able to put you into the life of a tree planter. To me that is ...more
Jul 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites, 2014
What a gritty, romantic narrative of a career within the sublime cut blocks of Canada. I am going to buy this one.

*Couple months later: Looking back on this story today, I want to reread's that good, but I love trees, I love dirt, I love nature and the creatures throughout it so I could be bias.

Oct 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I entered the first reads giveaway for Eating Dirt as it sounded like an interesting book and was pleasantly surprised that I was a winner! I enjoyed Charlotte's descriptive writing and sense of humour. This book gives you a greater appreciation of nature and the people who decide to become tree planters.
Dec 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mel-4-star-reads
Beautifully written. Very educational about forest ecology and especially the trees around the West Coast of BC, and an unusual perspective on the places I've grown up around. The only reason it took me so long to finish is because I wanted to really pay attention and savour it as I read, and I don't get a lot of uninterrupted reading time.
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Charlotte Gill is the Canadian author of the short story collection Ladykiller, a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction and winner of the Danuta Gleed Award and the B.C. Book Prize for fiction. Her work has appeared in Best Canadian Stories, The Journey Prize Stories, and many magazines. She lives on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia.
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