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Pandemic Park


A couple of years ago Julia came through on a UNC internship. One of her semester objectives was to help us get the Plant certified by Audubon as a site for bird watching.

Our conclusion was that we wouldn’t be able to certify because Screech let his cats roam the place freely and because we had too much privet. That’s a largely nutrition-less invasive that dominates our patch of woods.

Got it.

Screech packed up, took his cats to Moncure. Check.

And it turns out there is no such thing as an Audubon certification in North Carolina anyway…

Enter the Pandemic.

There’s nothing to do.

Customers are gone. Bars and restaurants are closed. The Plant became a ghost town.

Might as well rip out some privet.

I took our little backhoe to town and started clearing a view of our constructed wetland. The Robeson Creek Watershed Council built it, with help from NC State. A lot of our storm water collects there. The idea is to retain rain, plant strategic plants, and let nature clean the water before it enters Robeson Creek. Which flows to Jordan Lake. Which is the drinking water supply for a lot of people.

It’s cheaper to let nature clean the water upstream than it is for the Town of Cary to build a massive water plant to sort things out on their end.

Plant visitors didn’t know we had a wetland because it was choked out with privet.

I was digging privet on a hill, next to the water’s edge, trying to create a view shed of pines and black willow, when my son, Arlo, came along and asked what I was doing.

“Digging privet,” I said. “All privet must die.”

Arlo had just opened his Hempsmith shop. His customers vanished too. He went and fetched the tractor, and in no time the two of us were ripping away.

The problem with digging privet is that is becomes obsessive.

Two guys. Two tractors. Two chainsaws. Nine days. We fished two thousand pounds of steel out of the woods, and packed an entire Dumpster with trash—mostly black plastic from bygone farming operations and rusty irrigation

pipes. A lot of thick rusty wire that we have long encountered and refer to as “Death to Tire.”

Fair Game Beverage kept its entire staff employed, even when the customers stopped showing up. We had bartenders running weed eaters and we put Kersten, our Concessionista on the backhoe. It didn’t seem fair for Arlo and me to have all the fun.

Spring rains threatened at the end of day nine, so Tami came to our aid. We raked out topsoil, spread grass seed and straw, yanked poison ivy out of the scene, and ran for cover.

Pandemic Park was born.


We’ve been mowing around the trees. It’s loaded with birds and rabbits and we are able to watch deer graze on the other side of the fence.

The other day I was stunned when I was sitting in the Gazebo, yakking on my cell phone. I saw a mother duck emerge in the wetland with a dozen ducklings the size of ping pong balls swimming at her side.

The good news is that we now have a lovely corner of the property that customers are enjoying, that we are using, properly deployed.

The bad news is that Arlo and I put the brush pile in the wrong spot. It’s no longer at the logical edge of the scene. And there is privet behind it. Which means it needs to be moved entirely such that we can go again.

This park needs expansion. Stay tuned.

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