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ForestHer NC Gathers in the Mountains

Written by Aimee Tomcho

Editor’s Note: ForestHer NC is grateful to Warren Wilson College for generously hosting so we could join together once again to learn about forests and grow as a community. 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!

I can’t recall a more colorful autumn than we are experiencing this year in North Carolina. Ah, the magic of trees! It is, of course, what inspires us and unites ForestHers for a common cause. Trees always have messages to share if we listen. The brilliant leaf color indicates we had a warm wet spring, favorable summer weather, and warm sunny fall days with cool nights. And what of this higher-than-average mast crop this year- are we in for a particularly harsh winter?

The crisp and cool afternoon in late October in Swannanoa, NC provided the perfect setting to gather our mountain ForestHer NC community once again. We welcomed new attendees to their first event as well as those who we had not seen since our last western North Carolina in-person meeting in Morganton in November 2019. Greeted by the mostly female forestry crew from Warren Wilson College, we were all ready to discuss forest conservation, and yes… we were ready to get our hands on some power tools!

We set out to accomplish three primary objectives:

Have Conservation Conversations – There is nothing more empowering than discovering the story of your land by sharing aloud and receiving meaningful feedback and encouragement. We each sketched a map of our land, ranging from 1/3 acre to several hundred acres. We then shared our drawings, prompting group discussion. We heard stories about conservation goals, problem areas, and the special places - the ‘sweet spots,’ as one participant put it.

Watch a Sawmill Demonstration – The ability to utilize resources from the land you live on can be financially crucial for building structures, and can ensure that the materials you are using are sustainably sourced. We discussed the basics of milling lumber, and what types of equipment and resources are available to participants if they are interested in milling their own lumber. We watched a quick milling demonstration and learned how to properly stack and dry lumber.

Build Bird Boxes – There are more than 20 cavity-nesting bird species in North Carolina, and rarely enough natural tree cavities for them to nest in. But next spring several lucky birds will have a new place to nest, since all attendees went home with a new bird nest box built by their own hand. The wood from which we assembled the boxes was white pine, milled by the Warren Wilson Forestry Crew. It was inspiring to see this diverse group of women (and a few guys too!) banging hammers and wielding power drills. For some, it was their first time.

The afternoon was the perfect balance of reflective discussion, introspective listening, and active skill-building. We supported and learned from each other (at times literally supporting each other by holding slabs of wood), and it was refreshing and encouraging to be taught by college students. It gave me hope for the future! And I think they enjoyed being with us, too. The gathering was a safe space to be who we are now, and who we are growing to be. We are learning about the many parts of conservation and forestry while creating a stronger community and building our legacies. No arguments against that here!

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