Written by Karen Plaster
Editor’s Note: ForestHer NC is grateful to Karen Plaster for generously sharing her home and land so we could join together once again to learn about forests and grow as a community. Did you know that Karen was one of North Carolina’s first ForestHers? Meeting in a building constructed from trees grown and wood milled right on her and Allen’s property was truly inspirational! Do you have a project on your land to share or co-create with fellow ForestHer NCs? Let us know if you want to host a gathering on your land and we can help make that happen!
The weather was HOT! for ForestHer NC’s first in person event since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. The event was held May 19, 2022, at the Plaster’s Tree farm in Jones County. Luckily, parking was convenient and it was a short shady walk to The Looney Bin, where everyone gathered for registration. Our group was intimate with 10 people – allowing plenty of opportunities to interact and get to know each other. It didn’t take long to accomplish Goal #1, Create a sense of community among the participants.
First on our agenda was a tour of the Plaster’s land. Allen led the group through 35 – 45-year-old fire-maintained loblolly stands, with frequent stops to look and listen for birds. We were fortunate to have Aimee Tomcho from the North Carolina Audubon Society with us to help identify the many birds on the property. The tour included the site of a “tarkle,” or tar kiln, indicating that this land was once a longleaf pine forest where the naval stores industry was active. Sights on the walk also included a pitcher plant garden, pollinator garden, and various wildflowers including my favorite, Swamp Cheetos (more formally known as orange milkwort or Polygala lutea). The final stop along the path to the She-Shack led us past a 1-year-old longleaf stand.
The She-Shack was set up for small group discussions to address Goal #2, Generate feedback from participants to inform the ForestHer Board for future planning. We divided in to three groups of three to address the question: “How can ForestHer NC (FHNC) grow and evolve to help women commit to the conservation of our natural resources through better forest stewardship?” The participants at each table explored the question in depth.
No gathering is complete without some refreshments! There was a brief break for cookies and fresh spring fruits and vegetables and dips. Snack break was short because we were running short of time, as everyone had been very engaged in the conversation and we still needed to answer our question. I led a full group conversation to develop a short list of recommendations to present to the FHNC Board for consideration when planning next year’s programming.
One group had come up with a sketch of a tree. It was a clever way to “map” out where FHNC has been and where we want to go. FHNC had a strong beginning (roots) with good leaders and knowledge. That grew into the trunk of a tree that generated motivation and support. As FHNC continues to grow and evolve, we are now branching out in many directions to provide opportunities for small dynamic groups to involve people more actively in forest conservation and stewardship. As these individuals reach out, the fruits of their endeavors fertilize the foundations of our organization – Leaders and Knowledge. It was a great tool to help us focus our thoughts.
We were able to quickly come to a consensus that we would like to see FHNC grow and evolve by building on the strong educational sessions we have offered and by branching out to offer more relationship opportunities. We would love to see hybrid webinar/in-person sessions next year. We need to continue learning about forest stewardship, and feel that the energy, enthusiasm, and community that grow out of meeting in-person is critical to reaching our final goal for this gathering, Increase participants’ commitment to woodland stewardship through conservation.
ForestHer NC hopes to offer in-person gatherings like this in the piedmont and mountain regions. If you would like to participate or even host one, please reach out to us! Click on “Connect” and then again on “Get in Touch” and we will get back to you soon.