Best Fall Attractions near Roanoke, VA

This rain is making me a little bit stir-crazy, especially since it’s finally cool enough to, you know, actually exist outdoors. Luckily, the forecast is predicting ample sunshine this weekend, and temps are expected to stay (relatively) mild. This good weather will probably continue into the better part of October, which happens to me one of my favorite months, especially in Roanoke. Nestled right in the heart of the Blue Ridge, Roanoke is rightly cited as one of the most scenic cities in all of Appalachia, especially during fall’s “peak season,” when the mountains come alive with bright shades of red, yellow, and orange. Though the temptation to bundle up indoors and watch Netflix is very real, you’d be crazy to miss out on this beautiful, once a year color-show. As an offering of encouragement, I’ve compiled a list of ways you can get out there and explore this Fall. Believe me, you won’t regret it.

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  1. Carvins Cove

Carvins cove is a nature reserve that also happens to be the second largest municipal park in the U.S. It boasts more than 40 miles of multi-purpose trails, a large reservoir, and plenty of beautiful scenery. Great for fishing, biking, and hiking, Carvins Cove has something for any outdoor junkie. If you’re not much of a hiker, the Cove has several low-intensity trails that can be enjoyed with ease. Check out http://www.playroanoke.com/parks/carvins-cove/ for directions.

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  1. McAfee Knob

This hike is a Roanoke classic. As one of the most photographed spots on the Appalachian trail, McAfee Knob attracts millions of hikers every year. The climb up is long (about six miles round trip) and moderately difficult, but the view (especially during the fall) is worth it. This one is a must-see. https://www.visitroanokeva.com/things-to-do/outdoor-adventure/appalachian-trail/mcafee-knob/

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  1. Natural Bridge Park

Located in nearby Rockbridge, Natural Bridge Park was very recently incorporated as a state park, and for good reason. Thomas Jefferson once called this natural wonder “the most sublime of nature’s works.” The Park has a number of fun attractions, including an easy scenic walking trail that leads you under the natural bridge, waterfalls, a Monacan Indian village, and more. The fall is a particularly pretty (and busy) time in Natural Bridge, but the crowds are easily worth the experience. https://www.visitroanokeva.com/listings/natural-bridge-park-%26-historic-hotel-a-virginia-state-park/6213/

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  1. Roaring Run Trail

Roaring Run is a stunning, easy trail that winds along the roaring run stream, leading hikers to an impressive waterfall. There are places to picnic and fish along the stream, and the hike is easy enough for small children. https://www.visitroanokeva.com/listings/roaring-run-trail/6616/

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  1. Peaks of Otter

Peaks of Otter has something for any adventurer. There’s a lake, restaurant, campgrounds, hiking trails, and more. The hike up Sharptop Mountain, one of the peaks, is difficult, but hikers will be rewarded with some of the best view the Blue Ridge has to offer. https://www.visitroanokeva.com/listings/peaks-of-otter/5610/

Fall Landscaping Checklist

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Fall is finally here! It may be 85 degrees with 100% humidity, but at some point in the near future, we can look forward to cooler temperatures, less bugs, and colorful mountain scenery. Cheers to then, whenever it may be!

Seasoned landscapers know that fall, as a transitional season, is a very busy time of year. There are lots of landscaping chores to be crossed off in these next few months, while temperatures are still moderate and the ground remains soft. You should have started your fall landscaping checklist already, but, for those who are still busy wrapping up your summer to-do list, we can help you out. Here’s our fall landscaping checklist:

Aerate and Feed Your Lawn

As we’ve mentioned before, fall is the prime time to aerate your lawn! For homeowners looking to DIY, check out this nifty how-to we published a few weeks back: http://www.roanokelandscapes.com/2016/08/30/lawn-aeration-step-step-guide/

It’s also a good time to apply fertilizer. We recommend a high-phosphorous blend that will strengthen grass roots and encourage growth in the spring.

Oh, and let’s not forget, mowing season is almost through! Mow your lawn a few last times, you’re about to get a much deserved break.

Collect Leaves

Believe it or not, in a few weeks leaves will begin to turn and fall, creating a colorful kaleidoscope on top of your lawn. This may be pretty for a few days, but don’t let dead leaves pile up! Leaf rot will smother your grass. Plus, if you collect those dead leaves, you can turn them into compost: a yummy, nutrient-rich blend of organics that your plants will love. Check out this post for a how-to guide: http://www.roanokelandscapes.com/tag/compost/

Plant Shrubs

Many landscapers recommend planting shrubs in the early fall. The cool, moist soil is more accommodating to root growth, and shrubs planted in early fall are often sturdier than those planted in the summer.

Prune and Trim

Dead, brittle branches easily fall prey to winter winds and snow. To avoid future damage to our property, trim dead and dying branches now. You can also cut back perennials around this time of year. Trimming spent perennials to the ground will encourage fresh growth come spring, and it will keep away slugs and other pests that feed on plant rot.

Turn Off Irrigation System

When water is left in an irrigation system over the winter, it can freeze and crack dry irrigation tubing, resulting in expensive damage. You’ll need to blow the water out with an air compressor. You can do this manually, or contact an irrigation company for help!

Touch Up Your Hardscapes

Walkways, patios, and driveways are an important part of your landscape. If they become cracked over time, those cracks could fill with water, freeze over the winter, and cause more severe damage. If you notice any cracking—even small, subtle cracks—fill them now, before it gets cold.

Once you’ve crossed off every item on your checklist, you’ll be able to rest easy knowing your landscape is prepared to face another winter. That means you’ll have more time to focus on the things that really matter to you, like picking pumpkins, navigating corn mazes, and eating Halloween candy!

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Beyond the Latte: 10 Great Pumpkin Recipes

Easy Pumpkin Swirl Chocolate Brownies – Decadent, soft and gooey chocolate brownies with a creamy pumpkin swirl are so delish and unique! | thecomfortofcooking.com

These days, the beginning of fall isn’t marked by a date on the calendar or the position of the earth relative to the sun. Rather, fall begins when Starbucks brings back its signature Pumpkin Spice Latte drink. This year, fall began on September 6th, and, as usual, it was a much anticipated event. But, what is it about pumpkin that gets people so riled up? Maybe it’s the nostalgic joy that it brings; after all, who doesn’t love reminiscing on cool fall days spent traversing pumpkin patches and corn mazes, sipping on cider and fantasizing about fresh-roasted pumpkin seeds, pumpkin pie, and pumpkin pudding? Then again, maybe it’s just the taste. Pumpkin and coffee go together better than peanut butter and jelly, and who doesn’t love a creamy spoonful of pumpkin ice cream? Whatever the reason, the pumpkin craze is here to stay, and who are we to discourage people from moving fall up a couple weeks so they can enjoy it even longer? Fall is the best season of the year. We’re starting our (early) celebration with a few of our favorite pumpkin recipes:

  1. Pumpkin Soup

We love pumpkin treats, but savory pumpkin dishes are highly underrated. This delicious, creamy soup will warm your soul on the chilliest of autumn mornings. Alternatively, it’ll help you to envision cooler days as you sweat through the last couple weeks of summer.

http://www.countryliving.com/food-drinks/recipes/a4117/harvest-pumpkin-soup-recipe-clv1112/

  1. Curried Pumpkin

If you haven’t tried putting curry on pumpkin, now is the time. This spicy, flavorful, and rich dish will please even the most ardent pumpkin skeptics. Plus, it’s much healthier than a sugar-laden latte!

http://www.countryliving.com/food-drinks/recipes/a2994/curried-pumpkin-peas-recipe/

  1. Pumpkin Bread

No explanation needed. This rich, moist, buttery bread is a classic, must-have fall sweet.

http://www.countryliving.com/food-drinks/recipes/a2993/pumpkin-bread-recipe/

  1. Pumpkin Risotto

For all the amateur chefs out there who like to wow dinner guests, this recipe is sure to do the trick. It takes a bit longer than your average dinner fix, but the result is more than worth it.

http://www.countryliving.com/food-drinks/recipes/a1991/pumpkin-risotto-butter-clv1107/

  1. Pumpkin Fries

These may look like your standard sweet potato fries, but they pack a surprising flavor profile. Plus, they’re easily customizable: you can make them sweet, salty, or spicy!

http://cleanfoodcrush.com/pumpkin-fries/

  1. Pumpkin Quesadillas

These are too easy—and too delicious—to miss. They take about ten minutes to make, which makes them perfect for an on-the-go snack or a quick, post-work dinner.

http://foxeslovelemons.com/pumpkin-brie-quesadillas/

  1. Pumpkin Waffles

Pumpkin and waffles are a match made in heaven. These are great with maple syrup, whipped cream, fresh fruit, or even fried chicken and gravy (if you want to take the savory route).

http://www.countryliving.com/food-drinks/recipes/a1708/spiced-pumpkin-waffles-3827/

  1. Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie

This is the quintessential autumn dessert that you’ve been searching for. Cinnamon, sugar, apple butter, and pumpkin combine to make this sweet and simple pie. Perfect for thanksgiving dinner!

http://www.countryliving.com/food-drinks/recipes/a12342/apple-butter-pumpkin-pie/

  1. Pumpkin Cream Cheese Dump Cake

With a title like that, it has to be delicious. This one isn’t exactly diet-friendly, but, in our opinion, it’s worth every gram of saturated fat!

http://www.yourcupofcake.com/2014/09/pumpkin-cream-cheese-dump-cake-got-dumped.html

  1. Pumpkin Chocolate Brownies

Pumpkin, chocolate heaven! Colorful and delicious, these are especially great for a Halloween party. After all, eating treats on Halloween is always justified, right?

http://www.thecomfortofcooking.com/2013/10/easy-pumpkin-swirl-chocolate-brownies.html

Keeping Deer at Bay (The Easy Way!)

Image result for deer in garden Looks innocent? Think again!

If you’re a gardener, chances are you know just how ravenous a hungry deer can be. They’ll eat just about anything, but they’re especially fond of garden grub. Beans, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, and perennial flowers are some deer favorites. They’ll hop fences, break barriers, and snap wires just to get a bite of your crops, and, once they start eating, they’re not likely to stop. Thus, gardeners have been looking for ways to keep deer out of their gardens for a long time. It’s hard work, especially if you’re looking for a DIY method. Even the most effective of strategies will only work for so long, and deer, for what it’s worth, seem to be much sharper than we give them credit for. It’s important to catch them off guard, and so using a rotation of deer-be-gone tactics works best. We have several DIY strategies that are sure to keep deer at bay throughout the year so that you finally enjoy your garden produce sans chomp-marks.

A Deer Was Here

Though deer feed most often in the evening or early morning, they are not subtle trespassers. Generally, it is easy to tell when there’s been deer activity in a yard. Deer leave plenty of hoof-prints, small pebble shaped droppings, and trampled plants in their wake. When deer chew on leaves and stems, they tend to rip rather than bite, so your crops may look more torn than eaten. Check the area around your garden for signs of deer activity frequently, even if you haven’t seen deer nearby. If you know deer have been seen in your area, it might even be a good idea to take some preventative steps.

Stopping Deer in Their Tracks

There are several easy ways to protect your yard against deer. Again, a combination and rotation of strategies usually works best. Deer are master adapters and the element of surprise must be on your side!

Physical Barriers

Fences are a tried and true method of preventing deer invasion. Fences can be constructed out of plastic netting, chicken wire, wood, and various other cheap materials. However, we’re not talking about any ordinary fence here—deer can and will jump any fence under eight feet. They can also push through flimsy fences, and so doubling up on chicken wire or netting may be your best bet. You want a sturdy, tall fence. Using a couple layers of netting or wire should be enough to keep deer away without obscuring your plants or cutting off their light supply.

Scare Traps

Deer can be scared away from your yard by a barking dog. However, deer will, over time, know how to distinguish between a true threat and a phony one. If the bog just barks but doesn’t chase, the deer will eventually recognize the dog as a non-threat. On the other hand, if a deer is chased out of your yard by a dog multiple times, it may come to realize that your yard is too dangerous of a place to be scavenging for food.

Another common scare trap is predatory urine applications. Hanging liquid dispensers are a good option for homeowners who don’t want to keep applying predator pee every manually every week. Again, this tactic only works for as long as it tricks the deer. It is probably best utilized in addition to other tactics (not to mention, handling pee year round gets pretty old after a while).

DIY Repellents

Deer repellents can be purchased at most any hardware store, but they can also be made cheaply and easily using homemade ingredients. Sulphury smells (rotten eggs, bloodmeal, etc) do the trick well. Hot pepper, Tabasco, peppermint extract, and garlic can also be used. It is best to apply the repellent mixture directly to leaf surfaces and to be consistent with applications. You may want to try multiple repellents at once to test what gets the best reaction. Not all deer have the same pallet, although a mouthful of rotten eggs will probably never make them particularly hungry for seconds.

Scent-based repellents will probably work best in the spring and summer when it is balmy and scent carries. In the winter, scare tactics or barriers may be key. Ultimately, if you have committed to growing your garden, you have also, in one way or another, committed to protecting it. Be present and aware of what threats loom over your tomatoes and spinach greens. Guard your fruit trees and flower bushes with earnest determination! Deer may be a nuisance, but at least they don’t have opposable thumbs, right?

Why and How to Save the Bees

Image result for bee population declineFrom Charity Owl.

Last weekend, South Carolina sprayed pesticides in an attempt to kill Zika infested mosquitos. Instead, they killed millions of honey bees. At the Flowerton Bee Farm and Supply in Summerville, 46 hives (or about 2.5 million bees) were killed on the spot by pesticide poisoning. This damage, while it may seem minuscule in comparison to the looming threat of Zika, is just one of many hits that the bee population has taken in recent years. Pesticide spraying, destruction of habitat, and loss of biodiversity has created a bee death pandemic. Since 2006, honey bees have been dying off rapidly, inspiring concern among farmers and scientists about the future of produce production and, more broadly, human survival.

Common bees are overlooked as one of the most helpful and industrious animals in the animal planet. As pollinators, bees are incredibly hard-workers. They pollinate 1/6th of the world’s flowering plants and 400 different agricultural plants. From rapeseed and sunflowers to cocao beans and coffee, bees are an essential part of global agriculture. Without them, up to 1/3rd of the foods we consider diet “staples” would cease to exist, and feeding the world’s growing population would become a nearly impossible task.

Why Save Bees?

Can you imagine living in a world where broccoli, cucumbers, pumpkins, apples, cherries, and blueberries are no longer available? How about a world without honey or many of your favorite flowers? A world without a thriving bee population is a world in danger of starvation, ecological destruction, and various kinds of animal extinction. Unfortunately, the bee population is currently in a lot of trouble. Back in 2007, a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder struck the U.S and killed 1/3rd of all bee colonies. Though beekeepers have been working to increase bee populations, they continue to decline year after year, and every new blow has disastrous potential. Several bee species are at risk of permanent extinction. It is up to governments, industries, and individuals to ensure that bee populations do not dwindle too low and cause a chain-reaction that may lead to the extinction of other animals and crops.

What You Can Do

As a homeowner, there are several easy steps you can take to make your yard more “bee-friendly” and encourage bee population growth. Consider the following:

  1. Let dandelions and clovers grow in your yard. These plants provide nourishment for hungry bees.
  2. Limit use of commercial pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. Chemicals in these agents are just as harmful to bees as they are to pests. Look for alternative when possible (ie. compost over chemical fertilizers).
  3. Eat and buy local honey. Help local beekeepers by supporting their business and their bees! Plus, honey is absolutely delicious in almost anything and can help fight seasonal allergies.
  4. Plant lots of flowers. This one is easy—both bees and human beings love a bright, colorful, sweet-smelling landscape. Planting sunflowers, poppies, lavender, butterfly bush, and other aromatic flowers will encourage help bees thrive.
  5. Spread awareness. Though Americans consume millions of pounds of food every year, not all of us know where that food comes from and how essential bees are to agriculture. Tell others about declining bee populations and encourage them to care for local bees. Maybe a few friends or family members will decide to watch over some hives of their own!

For more information on bee population decline, check out http://www.globalresearch.ca/death-and-extinction-of-the-bees/5375684

Happy Labor Day: An Ode to (All) Workers

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In my opinion, Labor Day is one of the most underrated of all American holidays. For one, it’s a day off work during a busy part of the year. Schools are starting up, summer vacations are ending, people are preparing for a stressful holiday season, and the tedium of winter looms ahead. It’s nice to have a day of relaxation and reflection amidst the chaos. But Labor Day is also an important celebration of one of America’s greatest assets: it’s strong, determined, and often underappreciated workforce.

There is no limit to the value that this country’s teachers, doctors, artists, engineers, entrepreneurs, scholars, and scientists give to our everyday life. Without them, our children would be uneducated, our cities and homes would be devoid of culture, our technologies would be stagnant, and our futures would be bleak. But, it is important on Labor Day especially to consider the immense diversity of our American workforce. While we give thanks to the white collar professionals whose work and value is, perhaps, most visible to us, we should also consider the value of the less visible blue and pink collar workers who are equally integral to our progress and happiness as a nation.

In the landscaping business, we work primarily with blue collar workers. These men and women spend long, strenuous days gardening, pruning, mowing lawns, building hardscapes, and putting in irrigation systems so that our business can run smoothly and effectively. The dedication they have for their craft is astounding. The work ethic they put forth every day is truly inspiring. Still, blue collar work is often underestimated. The cashiers, waitresses, plumbers, janitors, mechanics, and landscapers of the world have been overlooked.

When Labor Day was created in 1894, it was a response to the concerns and mistreatment of blue collar workers. Many factory and railroad workers were treated horrendously by the companies that employed them. Their wages were minuscule, they worked long, grueling hours under dangerous conditions, and they were barred from unionizing. Together, workers went on strike to protest these inhumane conditions and were, eventually, able to make waves in congress, despite their lack of social power. It is because of these efforts that we can now enjoy 40 hour work weeks, weekends, paid time off, and overtime pay. Blue collar workers also made great strides improving safety regulations within the manual labor industry. Now, safety regulations are a must in every landscaping, manufacturing, or construction industry.

So, this Labor Day, consider all of America’s workforce. Take time to appreciate workers who are at the forefront of their industries, and those who are behind the scenes. This country would not exist without the dedication of its workforce. From fast food cashiers to fortune-500 CEOs, every one of us matters.