Thanksgiving 2019

Thanksgiving 2019

Giving Thanks at Thanksgiving: Six Magical Places to Celebrate 

Thanksgiving Lunch or Dinner at Timberlake’s Restaurant, Chetola Resort / Blowing Rock

Thanksgiving at Blowing Rock’s Chetola Resort is special indeed, served either buffet-style or as a four-course plated meal and featuring such specialty items as grilled salmon with roasted red pepper beurre blanc, roasted pork tenderloin with apple chutney, and – of course – roast turkey breast. After dinner, take a stroll around the resort’s picturesque 87-acre grounds; quaint Blowing Rock is also within walking distance. Over the holiday weekend, Santa visits the famed hotel and festive horse and carriage rides are offered around the scenic lake.

Thanksgiving Brunch at Carolina Inn / Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill’s historic Carolina Inn offers a family-oriented Thanksgiving brunch featuring locally sourced ingredients and a menu highlighted by progressive American dishes. Guests will enjoy smoked salmon and crab claws, couscous and kale salads, prime rib and roast turkey breast, and a full selection of sweets (butterscotch panna cotta, pumpkin cheesecake, sweet potato casserole bread pudding), “minis” (apple cider macarons, caramel truffles, tiramisu cannoli) and traditional “holiday bounty” (green bean casserole, cornbread stuffing, spiced carrot soup).

The Pine Crest Inn’s Thanksgiving Dinner, Pinehurst

Pinecrest’s homey Pine Crest Inn welcomes Thanksgiving guests into a world of understated charm, southern elegance and holiday warmth. Built over a century ago, the Inn has always been a favorite of golfers and visitors alike to North Carolina’s famous “home of golf.” Thanksgiving Dinner features glazed ham, prime rib, roast turkey and Atlantic salmon followed by all our favorite sides (cornbread dressing, roasted brussels sprouts and green bean casserole) as well as white chocolate cheesecake and a smorgasbord of pies. A special “Pilgrim Express” takeout menu is also available!

Thanksgiving at The Fearrington House Restaurant, Fearrington Village / Pittsboro

The Fearrington House Restaurant at the English-inspired Fearrington Village offers a gourmet Thanksgiving meal that is fitting for one of the Triangle’s most elegant dining venues – four full courses featuring crispy smoked ricotta with medjool dates; seared beef strip loin with parsnip or smoked ocean trout; roasted turkey with cranberry and orange sauce and brussels sprouts with bacon jam; and chocolate souffle or maple & chestnut tart. Thanksgiving bounty, indeed.

Thanksgiving at Old Edwards Inn & Spa / Highlands

Highlands’ Relais & Chateaux-affiliated Old Edwards Inn & Spa offers a variety of packages and activities for the holiday weekend, including local Christmas tree cutting and a very special Thanksgiving Dinner at Madison’s Restaurant. There’s something for everyone on this menu featuring a first course of truffle-stuffed, bacon-wrapped quail or roasted pear and butternut tart; second course of beef short ribs, seared scallops, and oven-roasted turkey breast; and desserts including spiced pavlova, chai crème brûlée or dark chocolate torte. After the meal, enjoy bocce ball on the front lawn, Christmas movies by the fire, and complimentary elf tuck-ins for your smallest children, for those lucky enough to be spending the night or holiday weekend at this beautiful mountain inn.

Thanksgiving at Sanderling Resort, Duck, Outer Banks

The Outer Banks’ luxurious, recently renovated Sanderling Resort offers a holiday menu at the Lifesaving Station Restaurant complete with baked Carolina crab seafood dip, filet of beef, fried oysters, slow roasted free-range turkey, and a variety of desserts including chocolate crème brûlée, pumpkin spiced Swiss roll, and chocolate torte with berry compote. The afternoon meal might be followed up by a stroll along one of the prettiest stretches of beachfront along the Carolina coast.

Helping Others Give Thanks

Should you prefer offering your energies this Thanksgiving to those whose circumstances or pocketbooks might not allow them to enjoy gourmet feasts surrounded by loved ones, you can help make their holiday special by volunteering at various charitable organizations throughout the area, including the following.

  • Raleigh/Durham
    • Raleigh Rescue Mission
    • Durham Rescue Mission
    • Helping Hand Mission
    • Durham Social Services
  • Wilmington
    • Wilmington Hope Center
    • First Fruit Ministries
    • Good Shepherd Center
  • Charlotte
    • Charlotte Rescue Mission
    • Men’s Shelter of Charlotte
  • Winston-Salem
    • Samaritan Ministries



NC Deer Hunting Tips & Tactics

NC Deer Hunting Tips & Tactics

October 12, a day many hunters have been anxiously awaiting since the LAST rifle hunting season ended, in mid-December of last year, marked day 1 of 2019 whitetail deer rifle hunting season in Wake, Harnett and Franklin Counties. Whether you’re a novice or pro, it’s exciting to think about getting out into the wild, tracking, targeting and bringing down your first buck of the new season. We could all stand to brush up on our techniques, however, and learn what tips we can in order to get the most out of our hunting experiences and have the best possible chances at success.

Top Tips to Make you a Better Hunter

When to Hunt

Deer often feel more secure about coming out into the open to feed when the sun is about to rise, or when it’s becoming dark out. During breeding season, in particular, bucks are so interested in chasing does that they don’t always retreat at dawn to the bush to sleep as promptly as they normally do. At dusk, on the other hand, deer are focused on foraging for food and may not be as alert as they are at other times of the day or night.

It’s a good idea to arrive at a hunting location before the deer become active. Give yourself plenty of time to set up your position and be able to scout the area. Using a pair of binoculars will allow you to check out much more of the territory than you could by mere eyesight alone.

It’s also worthwhile to study up on the phases of the moon, interestingly, before you start your hunt. Although dawn and dusk are traditionally their most active times, deer are more likely to be out in the middle of the day if there is a full moon; their active and inactive periods often follow the waxing and waning of the moon.

Where to Hunt

Try to hunt in a location in which the wind, if there is one, is in your face. A deer’s ability to catch scents far surpasses our own, and if you have any hopes of being able to approach a deer without being detected, you need to ensure he does not sense your presence.

In order to give yourself the best chance of learning about and understanding an area in which you are hunting as well as the habits of the deer that live there, it’s smart to stick to a fairly small hunting area. Especially in the winter, deer don’t travel great distances in order to conserve their energy and have access to feeding sources they know and can rely on.

What to Wear

Clothing that blends into the environment in which you’re hunting helps give you an advantage in that you will more likely remain undetected. NC Deer Hunting Tips & Tactics

Because the nightmare of one hunter shooting another by accident occurs all too often, hunters sometimes – by choice or by law – wear a red or orange hat or some item of clothing that other hunters can spot, but deer cannot. Since they are red-green color blind, deer are unable to distinguish between true green-colored items and something that is red or orange.

Make sure you wear enough layers that you won’t get too cold on the hunt. Conversely, if hunting in a warmer area, don’t over-layer yourself with clothing that can make you hot and sweaty, and may encumber you as you try to maneuver around.

How NOT to Smell Like a Threat

Avoid using any products that are scented for a full day prior to your hunt. Don’t smoke, avoid eating any spicy foods, don’t drink alcohol… don’t even use soap when you shower, unless you’re absolutely sure it leaves absolutely no odor on your skin or in your hair.

Up to two days before your hunt, wash your clothes with an enzyme-based laundry detergent and hang them OUTSIDE to dry in order to rid them of any sort of scent as much as possible. Some clothing is actually manufactured as “scent eliminating,” with carbon fibers that naturally absorb odors. Store this clothing in a special carbon-lined bag to keep it as absolutely odor-free as possible.

Make sure that any personal products you use prior to a hunt – shampoo, soap, toothpaste – are scent-free specialty products. Keep your hair and any facial hair cut as short as possible as well, as your hair, not surprisingly, gives off additional smells.

“Don’t Leave Home Without It” Items

Insect repellent is your friend in certain parts of the country. Bugs in the wild are not only annoying but can give you away if you find yourself repeatedly brushing them off.

To light your way and cut down on the chances you’ll lose your way in the semi-dark, a headlight or head lantern is a must if you intend to hunt at dawn or dusk.

Safety gear such as a whistle, first aid kit, fire starting tools and an emergency blanket are critical for a successful and safe hunting trip.

Also, besides your firearm or bow and arrow, a skinning knife, rope, game bag and cooler for meat, too, are also “must haves” – not just helpful, but critical to the overall success of the hunt.

FOOD. A hungry hunter is more likely to jump the gun, literally, in going after a deer than one who isn’t hungry and pondering the next meal. Bring snacks and water, and plenty of each. 

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North Carolina Birding

North Carolina BirdingOne of the true signs of fall in our beautiful state are the sights and sounds of a group of hawks, ducks or warblers soaring overhead on their way south to warmer climates, longer days, and more plentiful nesting and feeding areas. It’s the perfect time of year to get out the binoculars, get outdoors and get birding!

Why We Enjoy Birding

What is it about birding that is so appealing to some people? If you’re outdoorsy and adventurous, birding is a great reason to go out and spend some quality time in nature. And if you’re with a group, you’re learning from one another, socializing and sharing a common passion – all of which will likely benefit your health, your spirit and your overall enjoyment of life. Birding is a great way to explore areas you may not be as familiar with, and to grow your knowledge in such a way that lets you appreciate the beauty of nature even more than you already do.

How to Identify Birds, and the Fun of Keeping a Birding Diary

Learning to identify birds seems like a daunting task, but purchasing a good field guide and keeping a diary or journal is a good start. Start by taking notes of the birds in your area by using these standard birding characteristics –

Color Pattern – Colors, even among the same species of bird, vary tremendously, but color patterns are highly indicative of certain species of birds. Look for the boldness of a bird’s markings (how colorful it is), or the shade of its feathers (light vs. dark), or how finely patterned its feathers are.

Size and Shape – Most birding guides will tell you to make this first observation of a bird – how large is it, and what sort of a silhouette does it have? You’ll soon start to compare the bird you’re viewing to others you’ve identified, and others within the same birding area. A critical part of this step is looking at the size and shape of individual parts of the bird – its bill, body, tail and wings, for instance.

Behavior – Each bird has its own individual way of moving, flying, chirping and sitting. Most people will only start picking up on some of these aspects of a species by carefully observing them over a period of time. What is the bird’s posture? How does it feed? Does it seem to be an “independent” sort of bird, or one that moves in a flock?

Habitat – The environment in which you are observing a bird is one of the biggest indicators of what sort of species your bird MIGHT be. Think about the geography of the area, and the time of year in which you’re making your observations. You might see a bird that looks an awful lot like a certain species, yet if it isn’t common for the area, especially during a certain season, chances are it is a different species entirely.  

Birding Hotspots

Habitats from the mountains to the sea in our state offer some of the best birding opportunities in the country.

  • Wonderful birding opportunities exist year-round at the 215-acre Lake Crabtree County Park, in Raleigh-Durham. Shorebirds and waterfowl are attracted by the 520-acre lake, and miles of hiking trails around the lake offer lots of great viewing. North Carolina Birding
  • A 915-acre tract of land known as Weymouth Woods-Sandhills Nature Preserve, between Pinehurst and Fort Bragg, features an area of longleaf pine forest that offers a beautiful habitat for nesting birds such as hawks, woodpeckers, warblers and wood ducks. Four miles of walking paths wind their way through this outstanding preserve.
  • The Blue Ridge Parkway, operated by the National Park Service, is a scenic route winding its way through almost 500 miles of prime birding land form North Carolina to Virginia. Overlooks and recreation sites make it easy to stop and view owls, sapsuckers, peregrine falcons, ravens, nuthatches and thrush – many species of which are rarely found elsewhere in the state.

Red-Tailed Hawk, Mallard, Pine Warbler, Northern Gannet

Birding Events

Wings Over Water Wildlife Festival – Each October, NC’s non-profit Coastal Wildlife Refuge Society (CWRS) hosts a festival featuring birding activities, paddling, photography and art, and natural history-focused events in multiple wildlife refuges throughout 6 northeast North Carolina counties. In December, a follow-up session called Wings Over Water (WOW) is held just for birding, which offers additional opportunities to spot large flocks of migrating birds and waterfowl.

Swift Night Out – Statewide, various “Swift Night Out” events celebrate the seasonal fall migration of chimney swifts. The unique phenomenon of thousands of the small birds swirling around and then dropping down inside large chimneys to roost for the night on their way south is becoming more and more rare as the number of very large chimneys or smokestacks in existence is continually diminishing.

World Migratory Bird Day – As part of this national day to raise awareness of issues surrounding migratory bird populations, each May North Carolina’s Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores offers programs to teach visitors all about the migratory birds found within the area – primarily, those in the Theodore Roosevelt Natural Area along the shores of Bogue Sound.

North Carolina Birding Clubs and Other Informational Groups and Sites

The largest birding club, focused on birding activities in both North and South Carolina, is the non-profit Carolina Bird Club. This organization supports research on birds and their habitats as well as the protection and conservation of birds, and the group provides plenty of opportunities for birding enthusiasts to enjoy and share information on birding in the Carolinas.

The Piedmont Bird Club, with activities involving birding trips, meetings, and informational talks in the Piedmont area, also hosts outreach events to educate the public about birding and conservation.

The NC Birding Trail website displays an interactive map of parks, refuges, gardens and other sites with that are ideal for birding, including a description of the habitats and birds you’re likely to spot in each location.

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North Carolina’s Spookiest Haunts

North Carolina’s Spookiest HauntsThe Great Dismal Swamp

Scary streets and haunted houses exist in every town and every state of the nation, and North Carolina is no exception. Now is the perfect time of year to explore some of these most strange and spooky buildings, bridges and burial sites ….

Top 10 Most Haunted Locations

Teach’s Hole / Ocracoke Island

Few are aware that Blackbird the Pirate – Edward Teach, to his mother – made his home on Ocracoke Island, including the years he so infamously pillaged and plundered his way up and down the Atlantic Coast, between 1716 and 1718. In early November of 2018, members of Blackbeard’s crew, holed up in an inlet on the island, were shot or stabbed to death by members of the Royal Navy, and Blackbeard himself suffered the bloodiest ending of all, being shot, then stabbed, and finally beheaded. As his head swung form the bow of his captors’ ship, legend tells us Blackbeard’s headless body swam around the ship three times before finally sinking. Today his ghostly spirit is said to groan and whisper, “Where’s my head?” to unsuspecting visitors.

USS North Carolina / Wilmington

Another location that has had no end to spooky sightings is the historic USS North Carolina, moored across the river from downtown, Wilmington, NC. Visitors sometimes report visions of various figures roaming the hallways and decks of the retired battleship, including the ghost of a soldier who died in the ship’s washroom during a torpedo strike. North Carolina’s most haunted ship lures paranormal investigators from around the world.

The Great Dismal Swamp / North Carolina/Virginia Border

The name itself of this eerie, unsettling area is enough to keep most visitors far from the wetlands’ forbidding waters, but those who do dare to explore sometimes report odd lights, unexplained mists and strange noises among the ancient cypress forests and waterways.

Asheville’s Biltmore Estate

As spectacularly beautiful as the historic home is – one of the most popular tourist destinations in the state – did you know the building is also supposed to be Asheville Biltmore Estate quite haunted? The voices of George and Edith Vanderbilt, former owners of the estate who died on the property, are sometimes heard in the swimming pool room or library, and at night, it’s been reported, the ghost of a headless orange cat strolls amongst the gardens and bass pond. Edith is most commonly heard whispering the name of her husband as she did at his deathbed in 1914.

Grove Park Inn / Asheville

Probably the most haunted hotel in North Carolina is the famed Grove Park Inn, also in Asheville. Haunted by a strange “pink lady” – a former hotel guest of room 545 – the hotel was the site of the young woman’s death as she either jumped or was pushed to her death from her balcony, five floors above the Inn’s Palm Court, in the 1920s. Most visitors report feeling watched or the sensation of being touched, while others claim to see a pink mist flowing along the hallways of the property.

Lydia’s Bridge / Jamestown

The infamous ghost of Lydia, a young woman who died in a car crash alongside her date at the site, is said to have flagged cars down for help or even been given lifts by good Samaritans all the way to her mother’s home many years after she died at the bridge. Visitors still seek sightings of Lydia at the bridge, which is no longer in use.

Queen’s University / Charlotte

The school’s surprising amount of paranormal activity is spread out between different areas of the campus. Room 303 of Hall Brown, or Overcash Hall, was the site of an incident in which a student, waking up to see her roommate slumped over a desk, tried to wake her and realized, suddenly, the figure was not her roommate but a ghostly figure that immediately vanished. Elsewhere, students often report seeing the apparition of a well-dressed lady strolling by in the Suzanne Little Rehearsal Hall.

Cedar Grove Cemetery / New Bern

The “Weeping Arch” of this historic cemetery, built in 1854 of a local stone consisting of the fossilized remains of sea shells and sea animals, sometimes “bleeds” – or weeps – a red-tinged liquid. Legend says that if a pallbearer is hit with a drop of this red, “bloody” water during a funeral, he will be the next to die.

The Devil’s Tramping Ground / Bear Creek

Legend has it that anything placed within a certain circular area in Chatham County will be thrown outside the circle by the next day so that “the devil has room to dance.” Eerie footsteps are sometimes heard in the area, and – reportedly – ghostly, glowing red eyes are sometimes spotted, keeping watch over this barren piece of ground where nothing grows.

Bodie Island Lighthouse Gatekeeper’s Cottage / Nags Head

The Bodie (pronounced, chillingly, “body” after the dead bodies that washed ashore here in decades past) Island Lighthouse has guided ships at sea since it was constructed in 1871, but it was not the original structure on the property. A former house on the property was destroyed by Confederate soldiers to prevent Union soldier from using the home’s tower as a lookout. Today, it is the gateskeeper’s cottage that is the site of the most paranormal activity – most notably, a strange knocking sound, always around 4:00 pm, coming from behind the large, bricked-over fireplace….

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Reuse and Recycle – Understanding Composting

Reuse and Recycle – Understanding Composting

Reuse and Recycle – Understanding Composting

Composting is a term that for many evokes images of banana peels and apples cores and grass clippings, collected and decomposed in one of the smellier forms of recycling. But did you know that as much as 40% of the food we purchase and “use” is discarded each year, ending up as landfill waste and adding, potentially to dangerous greenhouse gas emissions – methane – which contribute to global warming and even climate change? And that yard trimmings and freshly cut grass, when composted properly, can actually be transformed into an outstanding material used to enrich the soil and the plants in your yard?

What is Composting? And why do it?

Composting is the process of recycling material such as yard cuttings, manure, food scraps and coffee grounds into a matter called compost. Although almost any organic material is suitable for this process, a proper ratio exists of carbon-rich “brown” materials to nitrogen-rich “greens” which will create the proper environment for decaying, or composting, to take place. The end result, a nitrogen- and carbon-rich substance, reduces the need for expensive fertilizers and harmful chemicals in your yard or fields, creating more healthy soil and plants by encouraging the release of essential minerals like nitrogen, sulfur and phosphorus. Fall is the season many consider the best time of year to enrich your soil with compost.

What to Compost and What to Not

The brown-to-green ratio that is so critical for the process to occur properly is usually 2 parts brown to one part green.

  • Brown materials – dry or woody plant material – that are appropriate for composting consist of wood chips, sawdust, newspaper, straw and dry leaves. They are the source of carbon in your compost container, and, because of their bulkier nature, help keep air circulating throughout the compost mix.
  • Green materials – growing or “fresh” products – add nitrogen, which is a source of protein for the microbes found in compost. Examples of suitable green ingredients include kitchen scraps (vegetable peelings, coffee grounds, etc.), manure (most typically from horses, chickens, cows and other farm animals), seaweed, and plants and plant clippings.

There are several items from your home or yard, however, that are not suitable for composting for a wide range of reasons.

  1. Although newspaper is a compostable ingredient, papers that are glossy or coated are not suitable due to toxic ingredients that may end up damaging your plants.
  2. Meat and dairy products should also be avoided. Meat scraps, as you might imagine, decompose slowly and attract both insects and bigger “pests” such as rats and raccoons. Dairy products, too, have a tendency to attract insects and rodents.
  3. Cooking oil is a poor product for the compost pile due to its smell – once again, which might tend to attract unwanted pests and animals – and its tendency to slow town the composting process by changing the moisture level.
  4. The manure of carnivorous animals – cats, dogs, humans – should be avoided because of the likelihood they will contain harmful, disease-carrying parasites.
  5. Non-biodegradable materials – plastic, glass, aluminum, metal – will never decompose because they are inorganic. Pressure-treated lumber, too, although a wood product, has been treated with chemicals and will never break down.
  6. Diseased plants in the compost pile will end up “infecting” your compost, and thereby your yard, when you go to spread it.

How to Make Compost

For those who wish to compost using food scraps, the best type of container to use in the kitchen is either stainless or ceramic with an air filer that will help to cut down on odors. Remember that the mixture will break down more quickly the smaller the bits of food, so it’s best to chop up any larger scraps before they are added.

Yard waste such as leaves and grass clippings should be added to an outside bin along with other materials but sprinkled throughout to avoid matting together and slowing the composting process. A leaf pile, should your dead leaves be too numerous for your outdoor bin, should be at least 4’ wide x 3’ high, and include a layer of dirt between each foot of leaves. Leaves in a compost pile should not be allowed to dry out or be packed too tightly. Reuse and Recycle – Understanding Composting

Steps for Creating and Maintaining Your Compost

  • Make sure the compost pile is started on bare earth, where worms and other organisms can easily access the ingredients.
  • To ensure proper draining and help aerate the mix, lay a layer of twigs first.
  • Start adding the compost material – moist (kitchen food scraps, tea bags, etc.) and dry (leaves, wood ashes, and straw) – in layers.
  • Add manure and other organic “green” (nitrogen-rich) material in order to keep the decomposition process moving along.
  • Water the pile from time to time or ensure that rain is able to soak into the pile.
  • Cover the pile with plastic or any other sheeting material, which will prevent OVER-watering or drying out.
  • Every few weeks or so, stir up the pile a bit in order to aerate the mixture and add new “green” or “brown” bits in. A commercial rotating tumbler is often used by those who want their compost piles mixed regularly.  

Enclosed bins are best for small-scale composting. A bin can be built out of a heavy-duty garbage can or purchased as a “compost digester” – a container that is closed on the sides and top but open on the bottom. “Food waste digesters” forego the traditional composting process by grinding up and dehydrating food scraps, creating a mix that is ready for fertilizing the garden almost immediately; the composition process actually starts once the materials is added to the soil just below surface level. A “tumbler” is the most efficient type of enclosed bin by allowing decomposition year-round, being inaccessible to rodents or other creatures, and keeping the mix enclosed and odor-free.

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Fall Family Fun in North Carolina

Fall Family Fun in North Carolina

As summer draws to a close and temperatures ever so slightly start to decrease in our area, fall festivals and other seasonal events start to pick up. For so many of us, it’s our favorite time of year, with something for everyone over the next several weeks to celebrate the coming of autumn, harvests, cooler, less humid weather forecasts, and the unofficial start of the holiday season.

Fall Festivals from Black Mountain to Wilkesboro

Many of the fall festivals and activities in central North Carolina revolve around fall foliage viewing and the end of the growing season, with pumpkin and apple-related fairs and fests offering plenty of family appropriate weekend fun.

  • The Yadkin Valley Pumpkin Festival, taking place in charming Elkin, NC on the last Saturday of September, celebrates the crowning of the annual Great Pumpkin Weigh Off champion. The festival also offers traditional hand-crafted gift and pottery tents and delicious food stands that include a traditional favorite – pumpkin butter.
  • North Wilkesboro’s one-day Brushy Mountain Apple Festival, occurring on the first Saturday of October, is one of the largest arts and crafts festivals in the Southeast, hosting hundreds of artisans, concession stands and – of course – apples and apple cider galore. Entertainment is big at this event, with cloggers, square dancers and various musical acts – gospel, bluegrass, country and folk – taking center stage.
  • The Dixie Classic Fair, October 4-13 in Winston-Salem, is one of the state’s largest agricultural fairs, celebrating the music, food, agriculture and crafts of the region.
  • For three days of concerts and plenty of opportunities for family adventure in spectacular natural surroundings, check out Black Mountain’s Leaf Festival, from October 17th through the 20th of 2019.

Corn Mazes & Hay Rides

If the thought of getting lost in the midst of row upon row of head-high corn brings on a level of anxiety that you’d rather do without, then a corn maze might not be for you. But if the challenge of maneuvering your way through such a puzzle sounds like the most perfect fall weekend activity, there are several awesome corn mazes throughout the state, operating, generally speaking, between late September and mid-November.

  • Ken’s Korny Maze, in Garner, is North Carolina’s oldest, and each year features an innovative new design that spreads out over more than 6 acres.
  • Monroe’s Aw Shucks Farms also host a large corn maze each year along with pumpkin picking, corn hole, hay rides and horse shoes.
  • The Ashe County Corn Maze, in West Jefferson, NC includes a challenging corn maze, live music, and a “shot your own corn” cannon.
  • The enormous 10-acre Gross Farms corn maze, in Sanford, is actually three puzzles with checkpoints. Plenty of kids’ activities are also offered, including pumpkin picking and slides.  
  • Clinton’s “agri-tourism fun park,” Hubb’s Corn Mazes, features mazes with three levels of difficulty, an interactive scavenger hunt, giant jump pillow, laser tag, and popular House of Corn.
  • The Hill Ridge Farms Fall Pumpkin and Harvest Festival, in Youngsville, NC features bonfires, hot apple cider, hayrides, live music, gemstone panning, pony and train rides and a giant 80-foot slide.             

Haunted Happenings

  • Phillips Farm Corn Maze and Haunted Farm features a traditional corn maze, wagon rides, cow train and Haunted Farm, with four haunted attractions recommended primarily for kids 12 and up.
  • The Apex Halle Cultural Arts Center hosts the Goblin’s Groove Family Dance on October 26, an event for parents and children that includes dance and costume contests and a haunted art gallery.
  • Meymandi Concert Hall’s Halloween Spooktacular: The Composer is Dead concert invites the audience to help discover who killed the composer. Costume contests and other fun activities precede the show.
  • Movies at Dix Park: the Halloween Double Feature takes place on October 26. Curl up on your favorite blanket for a special viewing of “The Addams Family at 6:30 followed by NC-17-rated “Scream.”
  • Cary’s Pumpkin Flotilla allows participants to watch their carved pumpkins sail across the lake at Bond park at twilight. Also enjoy live music, food music, and discounted boat rentals.
  • The Elizabeth City Historic Ghost Walk treats visitors to a walk through seven historic homes where they’ll hear friendly “apparitions” tell about their lives and times in bygone days.
  • Pittsboro’s very family-friendly Monster Dash includes both 5K and 10K raves in costume, a 1-mile fun run, obstacle course for kids, and local food trucks.

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Planting a Fall Vegetable Garden in NC

Planting a Fall Vegetable Garden in NCWe’re fortunate to be living in one of the most pleasant states in our nation weather-wise, with over 200 sunny days per year, a daily average temperature almost 10 degrees higher than the national average, and overall warm, temperate winters. Not only does our mild Piedmont fall and winter weather mean extended time for outdoor activities – sports, biking, hiking and hunting, for instance – but it also allows us to continue growing things far beyond the season in which other parts of the country are gearing up for snow, ice and frost.

Fall isn’t the ideal time for many fruits and vegetables whose growing cycles are longer or earlier in the year, but there is a wide variety of vegetables whose shorter growing periods make them perfect for one last fall planting.

Fall Greens

Many vegetables have a double growing season in North Carolina – they can be planted twice a year, and their growing seasons extended even further if they are protected from the cold weather, later in the fall, by using mulch, plastic, or burlap as insulation, or supports such as stakes or wire to keep them from touching the ground.

The best time to consider planting a fall crop, generally speaking, is in August or early September, while vegetables with particularly short growing cycles (turnips and leafy greens, for instance) can be planted far into the month of September. By then, if your fall planting is following a warm weather crop, plants from the prior growing season will be ready to be removed, and the ground weeded and tilled. Because the soil is dryer at the surface than it tends to be in the spring, whatever seeds you are planting – if growing from seed – will need to be planted more deeply into the ground. Since North Carolina summers can be so dry warm, a sort of crust may form at the top of the soil which may interfere with the seeds’ growth. Whenever the soil is too warm or dry to germinate seeds, experts recommend shading the soil, spreading a layer of mulch, or even applying a few inches of potting soil at the surface. Seeds will also need water in order to grow into seedlings and break through the surface – an inch or more of water per week until they have germinated.

Vegetables that are well suited for fall planting are generally able to tolerate a light frost and can be harvested much later into the year than other types of vegetables.

  • Broccoli and cauliflower. Both should be started from seed indoors around 12 weeks prior to when you are likely to see the first frost. Although both vegetables love the sun, they will thrive in partial shade as well. Resistant to cold and able to tolerate a certain amount of frost, they will survive only if the head – the flowery part – is well developed before the frost.
  • Turnips and beets are two more hardy vegetables that are able to live through a light frost as long as they are insulated adequately. Since both are root vegetables, however, both need to be harvested before the first hard frost of the year.
  • Cabbage grows best if it is started indoors around 6-12 weeks prior to the first frost and then transplanted when the young plants are 3-4 weeks old. The cooler the temperatures, the sweeter the cabbage, as long as they receive adequate and steady water.
  • Peas and beans are two of the more temperamental fall vegetables, tolerating little in the way of frost and requiring plenty of shade and water. A layer of mulch can help extend the growing cycle of peas and beans.
  • Kale is another vegetable that is actually sweeter the cooler the weather. Many find that frost or even snow actually improve upon its flavor. Kale should be planted between 6 and 8 weeks before the first frost and can continue to be cultivated throughout the fall.

Herbs & Garlic

Herbs such as parsley, cilantro, basil, mint and thyme thrive in cooler temperatures and can be grown wherever there is space – even, conveniently, in pots. For areas with mild winters, such as ours, they will thrive.

Garlic is best planted in late fall, but before any hard freeze, which is when a garlic plant goes dormant until warmer spring temperatures allow it to start growing again. Easy to cultivate and hardy, it requires very little care throughout its yearlong growing cycle, though it will do best in fertile, well-drained soil.

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NC State Fair Horse Shows, Livestock Competitions & More

NC State Fair Horse Shows Livestock

NC State Fair Horse Shows, Livestock Competitions & More

Fall is in the air and sooner than you know it the annual N.C. State Fair will be in full swing, with all the fun, food and entertainment that make our state fair one of the best in the nation. October’s 10-day event promises, once again, to have something for everyone, including some of the most competitive livestock and horse show competitions in the state.

How to Enter an NC State Fair Competition

The rules for entering a General Competition at the state fair in such categories as Fine Arts & Photography, Bees & Honey, Graphic Design, Heritage Tobacco Harvest and Specialty Cooking vary greatly from rules and applications for entering in either a Livestock or Horse Show Competition. A simple form must be filled out and submitted online, mailed or hand-delivered to the NC State Fair Entry Office, with exhibits accepted at the fairgrounds several days prior to the start of the fair.

Because there is such a wide variety of livestock being shown at the fair, entry deadlines and fees, show dates, health regulations, prize amounts and rules and regulations vary greatly. Junior Competitions require that all exhibitors be able to show their animal without assistance, and each competitor must be able to show that they have worked with the animal for at least 60 days prior to the show date. Extensive additional requirements exist for all non-Junior or -Youth events, including information on the animal’s breed associations, breeding, and overall background.

In order to enter a horse show competition, the form, again, is very complex, and the schedule of entry fees and actual competitions is long and detailed. Horses are required to meet certain health, size and age requirements and an extensive list of rules and regulations is published regarding all aspects of housing, training, feeding, and otherwise caring for the horse.

Livestock Competitions

Livestock competitions take place in either the Fairgrounds’ Exposition Center, the Kelley Building or Jim Graham Building, during every day of the fair. Awards shows, senior showmanship displays, and – a favorite – the Jr. Dairy Cattle Costume Class Show take NC State Fair Horse Shows Livestockplace the final day of the fair. Some of the more interesting competitions include the following.

  • Pygmy goats. Pygmy goats must be registered with the National Pygmy Goat Association, and each goat will compete either in the Costume Class, the Obstacle Course, Best Mother/Daughter competition, the Get-of-Sire contest (three females owned by one individual showing superior traits and consistent quality) and the Exhibitor’s Trio (three goats are required to show consistent style and structure and be perfect examples of their breed).
  • Wool Breeds Sheep. Sheep must have been owned by their owners for at least 30 days beforehand and are judged according to the grade of their wool (fine/medium, long/coarse or dual-coated animals) and class (sex and age). All sheep must have at least 2 inches of fleece, and the sheep’s owner must be prepared to provide the animal’s breed or cross-breed.
  • Market Gilt. A purebred or crossbred gilt – or, young female pig that has not yet been bred – is required to weigh between 230 and 290 pounds upon check-in and have at least a half-inch of hair.
  • Open Dairy Cattle. Over $100,000 in prizes are awarded to the wines of this popular category. Show dates are broken down by breed – Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, Guernsey, Holstein, or Jersey – and the animals judged according to superior breeding and age and group classifications… Spring Heifer Calf, Summer Yearling Heifer, Dry Cow and Best Udder, for instance.

Around thirty college students and high school students every year are named recipients of Stair Fair Youth scholarships. The number of recipients varies slightly year to year based on qualified applicants and funds available, but all scholarships are for $2,000 and are highly prized.

Horse Shows

Although the vast number of horse competitions take place daily during the fair, one competition – the important Hunter Jumper Show – takes place earlier, from October 2nd through the 6th. Remaining events occur October 16-27 and never overlap so that all who wish to see each event might do so.

  • Oct 16-19 Saddlebred, Morgan, Hackney, Roadster, Friesian, Academy and

Carolina Summer Circuit Championship

  • 20, am Mules/Donkeys, Mini Mules/Donkeys
  • Oct 20, pm Draft Horse pull
  • Oct 21-22 Draft Horses 7 Light Draft Horses
  • Oct 23 Extreme Trail Challenge
  • Oct 25 Miniature Horses
  • Oct 25-27 Open Youth Show

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The Best of the Best Fall 2019 Museum Exhibits & Event

Tryon Palace NC












Tryon Palace, New Bern

As the weather starts to cool off and students of all ages head back to school, fall is one of the best times of the year to get out and visit some amazing special shows and exhibits at North Carolina museums from New Bern to Charlotte and Winston-Salem to Fayetteville.

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh

  • Bugfest 2019, happening on Saturday, September 21, will focus on the amazing world of insects. Visitors will be able to pose questions to guest entomologists and other scientists, and will get to sample some tasty, crittery dishes prepared by local chefs. Festivities on this very special day will take place both inside and outside the museum.
  • The museum’s Beyond Curie exhibit is a free “Celebration of Women in Science” display exploring the life and genius of Marie Curie as well as several other female scientists’ groundbreaking work. An interactive iPod display, 3-D models and an augmented reality app will allow visitors to see beautiful animations inside some of the portraits that they view.

Tryon Palace, New Bern

A host of special exhibits are scheduled for the month of September at Tryon Place, including these fun, family-oriented events

  • During Civil War Weekend on September 14 & 15, visitors will experience the sights and sounds of the American Civil War. They’ll watch a posting of colors, regiment drills, and rifle and cannon demonstration, and be able to interact with an actor portraying famed abolitionist and statesman Frederick Douglass.
  • For Lanterns on the Lawn: A Family Campout on the weekend of September 21 & 22, campers reserve campsites on the South Lawn, then spend the rest of the day enjoying crafts, a dinner buffet and lawn games with other visitors. Proceeds will benefit the Tryon Palace Foundation.
  • The annual Governor’s Challenge Cornhole Tournament takes place on September 27. Amateur players participate in the day-long competition, enjoying food, drinks and beautiful fall weather on the South Lawn of the property. Museum Exibits and Events NC

Discovery Place, Charlotte

  • The museum celebrates the month of September exploring innovations fueled by space. Many of the items we take for granted nowadays – ear thermometers and baby formula, for instance – came about as a result of space travel. On September 18 & 21, visitors are invited to watch a multi-media “Flight Adventures” planetarium show, and on the 25th and 28th, kids can create their own space bags.
  • Kids may also participate in the One World, One Sky Sesame Street-based planetarium show in the September, following along with Big Bird and Elmo as they take an imaginary trip to the moon.    

Mint Museum Uptown, Charlotte / Mint Museum Randolph, Charlotte

  • The museum’s Never Abandon Imagination: The Fantastical Art of Tony DiTerlizzi exhibition, running through early November 2019, features the original artwork of the bestselling “Dungeons & Dragons” and “The Spiderwick Chronicles” author and artist.

Old Salem Museums & Gardens, Winston-Salem, NC

  • Special September events include Quilting Frolic Day and Winkler Baking Day at the John Vogler House each Saturday; Hearth Cooking Day and Cooking a Mid-Day Tavern Meal every Thursday; and The Landscape, Race and Culture: Shaping a World of Color in the American South presentation, occurring each Friday afternoon during the fall. Museum Exibits and Events NC

Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, Chapel Hill

  • The Planetarium will be presenting the Farmsteaders Film Premiere, a free program on Thursday evening, September 12. The film follows a dairy farmer and his family as they deal with the restoration of the family dairy farm at a time when Big Agriculture seems to be moving more and more toward large-scale farming.

Cape Fear Museum, Wilmington, NC

  • Wilmington’s Smithsonian-affiliated Cape Fear Museum will host Planetarium Adventures: Seasonal Stargazing – Fall at 2pm on September 28.
  • The museum’s brand-new Dinosaur Discovery exhibit is also now open, featuring real and replica fossils of dinosaurs and opportunities for kids to dress up like a paleontologist, go on a scavenger hunt, create and scientifically name their own dinosaurs, and uncover replica fossils in a dig pit.

David McCune International Art Gallery, Fayetteville

  • The David McCune Gallery presents the 12 Women 12 Voices exhibition from September 12 – November 9, featuring the works and words of 12 unique artists working with a variety of media including painting, metalwork, fiber, glass and clay.

Museum of Life & Science, Durham

  • September exhibits include Carolina Wildlife, where you’ll explore the habitats of many unique animals native to North Carolina; Into the Mist, helping visitors learn all about how droplets of water form clouds; Magic Wings Butterfly House, featuring a 35-foot tall glass conservatory populated with hundreds of tropical rainforest butterflies; and Launch Lab, where kids of all ages explore aerodynamics in hands-on activities designed to teach about flight, airflow and gravity.











Labor Day Festivals and Fun in North Carolina

Labor Day Festivals and Fun in North Carolina

Labor Day Festivals in North CarolinaThe last hurrah for family summer fun and unofficial start to the school year for many kids is the first weekend of September: Labor Day weekend. An annual tribute to the contributions American workers have made to our well-being as a nation, Labor Day is held in honor of all working people on the first Monday of every September. The history of this holiday, which nowadays is more often marked by weekend beach trips, retail sales and barbecues than by the speeches and parades of early Labor Day celebrations, is one of an abundance of unfair labor practices in the mid- to late-19th Century, and the organized actions of labor unions in response.

The Origins of Labor Day

It wasn’t easy to be a worker in the late 1800s. Many Americans worked 12 hours or more each day, often 7 days per week, and conditions in factories, mines and elsewhere were frequently unsafe and unregulated. Up to 20% of the workforce during this period was made up of children, and child labor laws, too, were few and far between. In early September of 1882, the nation’s first labor demonstration – later considered by many to be the first Labor Day – occurred when a parade of 10,000 workers marched on strike from New York City’s City Hall to a neighborhood park, risking their employment by protesting long hours of work and the use of convict labor. “Less Work and More Pay!” was their slogan, and although the parade was a peaceful one, it was the first real organized act of a trade union to protest working conditions in the name of labor and labor organizations.

In June of 1984, with 31 states already unofficially celebrating the day of commemoration, Congress declared the day a federal holiday, intending it to be a day not only filled with street parades and speeches designed to show appreciation for the work of trade organizations and labor unions, but also a time of festivals and picnics to entertain laborers and their families. Although other nations worldwide by this time were celebrating their own labor-related holidays, typically on May 1st (May Day, or International Workers’ Day), the U.S. Congress specifically chose the first Monday of September in order to bridge the long gap between Independence Day and Thanksgiving holidays.

North Carolina Fairs & Festivals

Although you might not have felt that first chill of fall air by the time Labor Day rolls around in just a week or two, unofficially the weekend marks the beginning of autumn. Many individuals take advantage of the rare 3-day weekend to get away to the beach or mountains or to seek out fun events as a of nod to the end of summer. Check out one or two of these annual food, music and end-of-summer craft fairs for yourself. Labor Day Festivals in North Carolina

  • Beech Mountain’s very family-friendly Mile High Kite & Craft Festival takes place in the town’s wide-open meadow, with prizes awarded for biggest, smallest and most decorated kites. Other fun activities include scenic chairlift rides and a popular all-ages-allowed street dance that evening.
  • The town of Oxford this year hosts the 13th Annual North Carolina Hot Sauce Contest & Festival in celebration of the state’s very own hot sauces and barbecue sauces, local breweries and wineries, and live local bands, turning the downtown area into one large zone of fun and activity. 15,000 visitors converge on the town to taste and rate over 200 vendors, all vying for the coveted title of “Hottest Sauce in North Carolina.”
  • Visitors enjoy arts and crafts, kids’ activities, live music and more on historic Main Street of Hendersonville for the 4-day annual North Carolina Apple Festival.
  • A perfect Labor Day weekend for some is nothing without some great entertainment in the form of music and dance, and Lenoir’s 15th Annual Happy Valley Fiddlers’ Convention at Jones Farm in Happy Valley will be packed with music contests, hayrides, and children’s crafts as well as folk, blues, and gospel concerts, all in the spectacular natural setting of the Blue Ridge Mountain foothills.
  • A full schedule of Labor Day weekend activities at Charlotte’s Labor Day Celebration at U.S. National Whitewater Center includes a triathlon, yoga and climbing competitions, trail races, concerts and fireworks. The Center itself will be fully open, and guests will be able to enjoy rafting, rope courses, zip lining and the ever-popular Pump House Biergarten, with over 60 craft brews on tap.
  • Oak Island’s Labor Day Surf Off at the Ocean Crest Pier is a day of sun and fun surf and body board competition, suitable for individuals of all ages, skill levels and physical capabilities. If hanging ten or watching others hang ten isn’t your thing, the competitive cornhole tournament just might be.

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