Category Archives: Blog

Explore a Pristine Natural Treasure: The Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve

Photo: OuterBanksThisWeek.com

With more than 100 miles of shoreline stretching from Carova to Ocracoke Island, the Outer Banks of North Carolina is best-known for its pristine barrier island beaches and opportunities for world-class watersports ranging from kayaking to kiteboarding. Although the wide, sandy beaches and ride-worthy waves are undoubtedly the region’s biggest attractions—drawing thousands of visitors to the coast each year from across the country and around the world—the area is also home to an array of hidden gems just waiting to be discovered. One such spot that’s worthy of a lengthy visit to explore everything it has to offer off the beaten path is the Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve.

Photo: Pinterest

Situated on the western edge of the island along the shores of the Roanoke Sound, the Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve comprises 1,400 acres of maritime forest, saltmarshes and sand dunes. This unspoiled Outer Banks attraction—which is bordered by Run Hill State Natural Area to the north and Jockey’s Ridge State Park to the south—serves as a protected habitat for more than 50 species of birds, 15 species of amphibians and nearly 30 species of reptiles. Visitors who wander along the trails within the Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve will also discover several freshwater ponds, which are home to seven species of fish and an assortment of unique aquatic plant life, including a rare flower called the water violet.  

Photo: My Outer Banks Home

Before the town of Nags Head became the busy, bustling beach town it is today, it was home to a small population of year-round residents, some of which resided within a tiny village that was located on the grounds where the ecological preserve exists today. From the middle of the 1800s until the 1930s, these Outer Bankers lived within the protective confines of the maritime forest, developing 13 home sites and building two churches, a factory, a school, a gristmill and a general store. Despite the fact that nearly an entire century has passed since the Nags Head Woods were inhabited by a thriving village of local residents, visitors strolling through the preserve today will likely stumble upon a few remnants of the former structures, including a handful of headstones and gravesites, as well as pieces of brick foundations from the houses that once stood in this same location several decades ago.  

Photo: The Nature Conservancy

In the 1970s—as the barrier islands began to gain popularity as a desirable vacation destination for travelers throughout the Mid-Atlantic states and up and down the Eastern Seaboard—hundreds of vacation rental homes were constructed along the coastlines of both the ocean and the sound to accommodate the surge of seasonal visitors. In an effort to prevent the entirety of the area from being divided into parcels that would soon be purchased and developed with vacation rental properties and hotels, Nags Head and the neighboring town of Kill Devil Hills formed a partnership that sought to save the untouched natural area. The towns joined forces with The Nature Conservancy, a national environmental organization whose stated mission is to “conserve the lands and waters upon which all life depends.”  

Photo: Town of Kill Devil Hills

In 1974, Nags Head Woods earned its status as a National Natural Landmark, and in 1977 The Nature Conservancy and the towns of Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills designated 1,000 acres within the woods that would be free and open to the public but could never undergo development. Additional parcels of land were added to the Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve throughout the decades that followed, including more than 400 acres on the preserve’s western border that were generously donated John and Rhoda Calfee and Diane St. Clair.   

Photo: The Nature Conservancy

Today, outdoor enthusiasts who visit the barrier islands can escape the hustle and bustle of the busy beaches by venturing into the picturesque ecological preserve to enjoy a sense of peace and tranquility. Seven marked nature trails meander through the lush saltmarshes and dense maritime forest, giving visitors an opportunity to witness an array of different species of plants and animals, and the chance to explore an Outer Banks landmark that has remained completely unchanged over the course of the past several centuries.  

 

2018 Spring Maintenance Checklist for Homeowners: Part One

At last the long-awaited spring season has officially arrived. The days are getting longer, the weather is getting warmer, buds are forming on the tree limbs, and flowers are beginning to bloom. Although there is much to celebrate and enjoy as winter gives way to spring, it’s important to remember that with the arrival of a brand-new season comes the need to check over your home for any issues that arose during the long, cold winter months—and to properly prepare your property for spring and summer. Whether you’re a homeowner or a renter, the following are some of the most important maintenance items that should make their way onto your to-do list as you’re sprucing up your home for spring and summer.

Examine the Roof for Loose Shingles, Leaks and Punctures

Photo: O’LYN Roofing

If there is one single spring maintenance must-do item a homeowner should never skip when checking over their property for damage caused over the course of a long, harsh winter, it’s performing a careful and thorough examination of the roof. While living in a region that regularly receives large amounts of heavy snow puts your roof at a greater risk of collapse, you don’t have to reside in the Northeast or the Upper Midwest to have a home in danger of being damaged during the fall, winter and early spring. Strong gusts or sustained coastal winds in southern states that experience little or no snowfall can still fall victim to various types of roof damage ranging from excessive moisture and missing shingles to minor leaks and major punctures from wind-tossed debris.

Photo: Element Roofing

Should high winds or heavy snowfalls from a particular winter storm cause significant damage to your roof—such as a partial collapse under the pressure of the snow or a large leak coming from a compromised spot—you will likely discover the issue within just a few minutes or hours of its occurrence. However, other common types of roof damage that take place during the winter are not as visible or easy to notice without an up-close examination.

Photo: Waterview Construction Company

Because even the smallest issues can result in major damage if they are left unattended for any period of time, the best course of action for every homeowner is to get onto the roof and conduct a visual inspection. In addition to missing shingles that have been blown off in high winds, keep an eye out for shingles that have simply curled up or come loose, leaving the wood and materials below them vulnerable to water damage that can eventually seep into the interior of your home.

Photo: Shutterstock

Loose shingles can easily be nailed back into place, and missing shingles can be replaced; however, more serious damage—such as a collapsed portion of the roof due to the weight of the snow or an area that has already become affected by excess moisture and begun to leak—will probably require the assistance of an experienced professional roofer. Although many homeowners are hesitant to shell out a considerable amount of cash to hire a professional for roof repairs, keep in mind that the problems you’ll likely face down the road if you don’t address the issues as soon as they occur—such as mold, rotted framing, soggy insulation and damaged ceilings—will cost you much more money when the damage progresses and you’re finally forced to address them in the future.

Inspect Wood Decks and Outside Stairs for Damage from Excessive Moisture

Photo: Prokleen Pressurewashing

Day after day of wet winter weather that lasts for months on end can take a serious toll on any of your home’s structures that consist of wood. Decks and stairways are particularly prone to moisture and can quickly become a hazard in the spring and summer season if the damage that was done by snow and ice isn’t properly taken care of. Even just a few inches of snowfall every few weeks can cause serious problems if the weather doesn’t warm up enough between snowstorms to melt the cold, wet layer of flurries and allow the wood to dry out sufficiently.  

Photo: Tom Saint Painting & Remodeling

Although the vast majority of decks and outdoor stairs are constructed with treated lumber that is designed to be durable enough to withstand harsh elements, moisture that is allowed to stick around for too long will result in the growth of unsightly—and often slippery—mildew and can cause boards to warp or split. Because bent or broken boards can become a potential tripping hazard for your family, friends and visitors, it’s imperative to examine your wood structures for any damage caused by winter weather as soon as possible.

Photo: Inteplast Building Products

Remove any lingering snow and ice from your deck and stairs using a plastic shovel that won’t create further damage to the vulnerable wood below as you gently scrape the structure clean, always shoveling along the length of the boards and never straight across. Don’t be tempted to apply any salt or chemicals to your deck in an attempt to melt the remaining snow and ice more quickly—these substances may speed up the melting process, but cutting corners and applying chemicals will only weaken the protective coating on the treated lumber and result in discoloration down the road.    

Photo: Grand Banks Building Products

If you discover a layer of mildew on your deck and stairs after you’ve cleared the surface of snow and ice, you should begin treating the wood right away in order to avoid further damage. Purchase a mildew removal solution from your local hardware store or whip up your own by carefully mixing three cups of water with three squirts of liquid dishwashing soap and one cup of oxygen bleach. Spray the solution onto the wood and allow it to penetrate the surface for 20 minutes. Then thoroughly rinse the deck or stairs with water, stopping to scrub any stubborn bits of mildew with a coarse scrub brush as you go along. Once your deck and stairs are clean of any mildew—and any warped or split boards are repaired—apply a sealant to revitalize the wood and properly protect it from the elements for several seasons to come.

Scope Out Wind Damage on Screen Doors and Windows

Photo: www.beeyouitullife.com

The ultimate purpose of screening in a deck or patio is to prevent pesky pests from invading your living space while you try to kick back and relax to enjoy the great outdoors. Nothing has the ability to ruin an al fresco dining experience quite like a swarm of mosquitoes that force you to spend more time swatting bugs away than savoring good food, good drinks and good company on your screened-in porch.

Photo: Screen Savers Plus

Regardless of what region you live in—whether it’s a coastal community characterized by gusty, gale-force winds from a nor’easter or a northern state that receives several inches of snow every season and shards of ice that cling to window coverings, winter weather can wreak a considerable amount of havoc on the wire mesh or synthetic fiber screen material that covers your doors and windows.

Photo: Pinterest

Now that spring has sprung, it’s time to take inventory of any damage your screens have sustained and get them back in tip-top shape for the warm and sunny months you’ll want to spend outside. While some screens may have large, gaping holes or other obvious signs of destruction, be sure to look closely at each unit, as even the smallest hole in the mesh or a tiny tear along the side can be just big enough to give unwanted pests easy access to your next patio party.

Photo: The Family Handyman

For minor issues, simply purchase a screen repair kit from your local hardware store and patch the holes up yourself. Major damage will often require the help of a professional who can properly secure a brand-new screen to your existing frames as long as they’re still in good shape and haven’t suffered any bends or breaks during the winter. Tip: If you’re patching a tear or hole in vinyl screens, apply a thin layer of clear nail polish along the edges of the patch to prevent fraying from occurring in the future. 

**Stay tuned for the second installment of our Spring Maintenance Checklist for Homeowners for more tips to get your residence ready for spring and summer!   

Top 10 Outer Banks Activities and Attractions for Vacationers

Photo: Dan Waters Photography

When it comes to the best vacation destinations in the United States, the Outer Banks of North Carolina consistently earns a spot on the lists compiled by various travel companies, publications and blogs each season. In 2017, Southern Living magazine ranked the Outer Banks as the “South’s Best Island,” and the picturesque sliver of sand has also found a spot on Dr. Beach’s list of the “Top 10 Beaches in America” every single year for the past decade.

Photo: Sport Fishing Magazine

The popularity of the Outer Banks has grown exponentially since some of the area’s first vacation homes were constructed here nearly a century ago, with tens of thousands of visitors venturing to the 120-mile-long string of barrier islands each year to spend a week in paradise. Although the vast majority of people who visit the Outer Banks are drawn to the region in search of opportunities for relaxation and recreation by the sea, the shifting shoals that comprise the North Carolina coast offer far more than just fun in the sun.

Whether you’re planning your first-ever vacation on the Outer Banks or you’ve been visiting the OBX for decades, the following are the top 10 Outer Banks activities and attractions you can’t afford to miss the next time you’re in town.

1. Climb the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Photo: Stephanie Banfield

No Outer Banks vacation is complete without a trip to Hatteras Island to see the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in person. The 193-foot-tall, black-and-white spiral structure is situated in the tiny town of Buxton and has been an iconic Outer Banks landmark since its construction was completed in 1803. Visitors can take a tour of the historic lighthouse keepers’ quarters to learn more about the men who were responsible for fueling the lamp and maintaining the light that served as a guide for mariners sailing along the dangerous shoals of the Graveyard of the Atlantic decades ago. And if you’re searching for an unforgettable Outer Banks experience, climb the 257 steps that lead to the top of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, where you’ll be treated to stunning, 360-degree views of the Atlantic Ocean, Pamlico Sound, the converging currents at Cape Point and the village of Buxton below.

2. Take a Wild Horse Tour in Corolla

Photo: CorollaWildHorses.com

The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse might be the most famous attraction on the Outer Banks, but the wild horses of Corolla are certainly not far behind. Believed to be the descendants of Spanish mustangs that swam to shore after the vessels they were being transported on were shipwrecked off the coast of North Carolina five centuries ago, as many as 6,000 horses once roamed the beaches of Corolla and the four-wheel drive area of Carova to the north. Today, the herd consists of approximately 100 wild horses that can be spotted running along the seashore, splashing in the surf and foraging for food among the sand dunes and salt marshes. Visitors with off-road vehicles are welcome to scour the shoreline in search of the horses on their own; however, embarking on a tour with a local company whose guides are knowledgeable about the horses’ whereabouts is highly recommended.      

3. Tour the Historic Whalehead Club

Photo: Steve Alterman Photography

While you’re in Corolla searching for sightings of the wild horses of the northern Outer Banks, head to the historic Whalehead Club for a unique trip back in time. Located just a short walking distance from the Currituck Beach Lighthouse, the Whalehead Club is a 21,000-square-foot mansion that sits on the western edge of the barrier island and overlooks the Currituck Sound. The 12-bedroom, four-story residence was constructed in 1925 as a lavish hunting lodge for a wealthy couple who frequently visited the Outer Banks to hunt the wide array of waterfowl that inhabited the towns of Duck and Corolla in the early 20th century. Today, the Whalehead Club is best-known as being a prime venue for Outer Banks weddings and receptions; however, the property can be toured by those interested in learning what life would have been like on the Outer Banks when the structure was built and seeing lavish examples of the Art Nouveau style of architecture that was popular during its heyday.

4. Hike to the Top of Jockey’s Ridge

Photo: Pinterest

Whether you’re a wildlife enthusiast hoping to encounter some of the unique species that call the Outer Banks home, or you’re looking for a place you can experience one of the best views on the islands, heading to Nags Head to hike to the top of Jockey’s Ridge should be on every vacationer’s bucket list. The largest living natural sand dune system in the eastern United States, the dunes cover a 420-acre area along the edge of the Roanoke Sound and stand as tall as 100 feet in some spots. The views from the top of the ridge can’t be beat—you’ll not only have a stunning view of the sound and the ocean, but also the town of Nags Head below and Roanoke Island in the distance. Embark on a journey along one of the many nature trails that wind their way through this popular North Carolina state park, where you’ll likely spot a variety of animals ranging from white-tailed deer and rabbits to foxes, lizards and luna moths. And if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, sign up for a hang gliding lesson to discover what it feels like to soar over the sand dunes while taking in a stunning view of the Atlantic Ocean on the horizon.

5. Tour the Wright Brothers National Memorial

Photo: National Park Service

On Dec. 17, 1903, brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright made history when they successfully completed the world’s first powered flight in their 40-foot, 605-pound Flyer from the top of a large sand dune on the central Outer Banks. The brothers made four flights on that fateful day, and the fourth and final time the pair took to the air their glider stayed aloft for 59 seconds, soaring a record-breaking 852 feet. A colossal monument atop a huge hill in the heart of Kill Devil Hills commemorates the Wright Brothers’ historic achievement that forever changed the face of aviation, and visitors can walk up to the top of the hill for exceptional views of the surrounding towns, ocean and sound, or take a tour of the on-site Wright Brothers museum just a short distance away from the base of the monument. Four large stone markers on the grounds of this national monument in Kill Devil Hills indicate the landing spot of each flight attempted that December day, with the fourth stone showcasing the one that made history and put the Outer Banks on the map more than a century ago

6. Visit the Site of the Lost Colony

Photo: National Park Service

History buffs who visit the Outer Banks will never be disappointed during their stay, as the barrier islands have been ground zero for an assortment of historical events that have taken place here over the course of the past several centuries. One such event continues to puzzle historians more than 430 years after it occurred: the disappearance of the men, women and children of the infamous “Lost Colony.” In the summer of 1587, a group of settlers recruited by Sir Walter Raleigh made the long and arduous journey from the coast of England to the shores of Roanoke Island, where they constructed a fort-like settlement in the present-day town of Manteo. Among the settlers were a man named John White, as well as his pregnant daughter, Eleanor Dare, and her husband, Ananias Dare.

Photo: American Digest

On Aug. 18, 1587, Eleanor gave birth to a daughter, Virginia Dare, who became the first English child to be born in the New World. Less than two weeks after his granddaughter was born, John White embarked on a journey back to Britain to procure additional supplies for the colonists of the brand-new settlement. When he finally returned to Roanoke Island in 1590, he found the fort completely deserted and no signs of the 117 settlers he had left behind just three years earlier. The tale of the Lost Colony still intrigues historians and archaeologists, who have yet to determine exactly what events transpired in the 16th century and resulted in the disappearance of the colonists. Today, tourists vacationing on the Outer Banks can visit the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site to see the spot that members of the Lost Colony called their home for a short time before they mysteriously vanished from the barrier island more than four centuries ago.

7. Stroll through the Elizabethan Gardens

Photo: ElizabethanGardens.org

The Outer Banks may be most well-known for its beautiful ocean beaches and pristine stretches of soundside shoreline, but one lesser-known attraction that every vacationer should visit during their stay is the Elizabethan Gardens. Featuring over 500 different species of plants and flowers, the picturesque gardens stretch across 10.5 acres on the northern tip of Roanoke Island, in the soundside town of Manteo. The origins of the Elizabethan Gardens can be traced back to the 1950s, when a group of vacationers visited the nearby Fort Raleigh National Historic Site and learned the story of the so-called “Lost Colony” that had briefly settled on the Outer Banks in the 16th century and then abruptly disappeared without a trace.

Photo: RoanokeIsland.net

Inspired by the story of the 117 colonists who disappeared centuries ago, the group of visitors sought to create a place that would permanently pay homage to the settlers from the Lost Colony. On Aug. 18, 1960, the 373rd anniversary of the birth of colonist Virginia Dare—who became the first English child born in the New World when she was born on Roanoke Island—the Elizabethan Gardens officially opened to the public. The site has remained a popular Outer Banks attraction since its gates first opened, and each year thousands of tourists take a leisurely stroll along the pathways that weave throughout the gardens to view the wide variety of botanical collections that change with the seasons as spring and summer give way to fall and winter. 

8. Visit the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station

Photo: Scenic USA

With its converging currents, shallow waters and constantly shifting shoals that make navigating the coastline a difficult task for mariners, the Outer Banks of North Carolina are commonly referred to as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” Despite the presence of four lighthouses along the coastline from Ocracoke to Corolla—whose purpose was to help sailors navigate the treacherous shoals that lie just offshore from the barrier islands—thousands of vessels have become shipwrecked on the Outer Banks. To aid sailors whose vessels ran aground in returning safely to the shoreline, crews of surfmen were historically stationed at spots along the North Carolina coast—including the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station—and rowed large wooden surfboats past the breakers and into the Atlantic Ocean to save those who were stranded at sea as the ships went down.

Photo: Chicamacomico.org

Located on Hatteras Island, in the small village of Rodanthe, the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station was commissioned on Dec. 4, 1874, and its crew of surfmen became the first life-saving service in North Carolina. For years, the surfmen who staffed the Chicamacomico Life-Saving played a pivotal role in saving the lives of distressed sailors whose ships had begun to sink after striking the unseen diamond shoals. In November 1921, crew members from Chicamacomico were awarded gold life-saving medals by the British government for their incredible efforts to save the lives of three dozen soldiers who were tossed into a fiery sea when their ship, the Mirlo, struck a mine that had been dropped by a German U-boat, causing a series of massive explosions—and resulting in one of the most dramatic rescues in maritime history. Today, visitors can tour the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station to view a variety of artifacts, photos, interviews and rescue equipment, including an original surfboat used by the surfmen who staffed the station until it was decommissioned in 1954.

9. Cast a Line at Jennette’s Pier

Photo: OBXbound.com

Whether you’re an avid fisherman or you just want to find a stellar spot for sightseeing, taking a trip to Jennette’s Pier is an absolute must on your next Outer Banks vacation. This popular pier in Nags Head stretches 1,000 feet into the Atlantic Ocean, offering some of the best opportunities for pier fishing from Corolla to Ocracoke. Originally constructed in 1939, Jennette’s Pier became increasingly popular among anglers from up and down the Eastern Seaboard, who traveled to the barrier islands of North Carolina just to cast a line for the catch of the day. As the pier’s popularity grew, a series of bare-bones cottages along the oceanfront—which had formerly housed U.S. Civil Works Administration employees who spent time on the Outer Banks building a line of protective sand dunes during the Great Depression—were transformed into a camp for fishermen looking for affordable accommodations near the pier.

Photo: Pelmey Photography

As the decades passed, Jennette’s Pier took several beatings from hurricanes and nor’easters, and in 2003 a large portion of the structure succumbed to the massive power of Mother Nature when Hurricane Isabel hit the Outer Banks and took 540 feet of the original 754-foot-long wooden pier with it. The pier was forced to shut down operations for several years due to the damage, but the North Carolina Aquarium Society—which had purchased the pier from surviving members of the Jennette family shortly before the hurricane hit—started construction on a new pier in its place. In May 2011, the new version of Jennette’s Pier, which is made of concrete rather than wood to ensure the structure can withstand the force of coastal storms, officially opened to the public. Today, Jennette’s Pier is one of the longest fishing piers on the East Coast, and its pier house features a 3,000-gallon aquarium, a series of educational exhibits, a retail store, snack bar, event space and tackle shop. The staff of Jennette’s Pier also offer a variety of summer camps where kids visiting the Outer Banks can learn to fish, surf, paddleboard and hang glide, and veteran on-site anglers are available to offer family fishing activities and private lessons with a pro.

10. Explore the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge

Photo: Stephanie Banfield

Unlike other popular vacation destinations along the country’s coastline—which boast bustling boardwalks, crowded beaches and high-rise hotels—the Outer Banks are characterized by pristine stretches of shoreline and plenty of natural habitats home to a wide array of wildlife. And perhaps the best spot to experience the unparalleled beauty of the barrier islands and to encounter an assortment of unique species of wildlife up close is Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. The wildlife refuge was established in 1938, when the U.S. government sectioned off this portion of the island so it could serve as a nesting and resting habitat for migratory birds and waterfowl, and to provide a safe haven for threatened and endangered species.

Photo: Richmond Navigator

Located on the northern tip of Hatteras Island, Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge spans 13 miles, from Oregon inlet to the north to the village of Rodanthe to the south. Comprising 5,834 acres of land and 25,700 acres of boundary waters, the refuge is home to more than 365 species ranging from shorebirds and snow geese to piping plovers and sea turtles. Visitors can explore the refuge on foot via two nature trails—the North Pond Trail and the Salt Flats Trail—or launch a canoe or kayak from the boat ramp that provides paddlers easy access to the shallow, brackish waters of the sound, salt marsh and a series of wide canals along the margins of the refuge. Stretching from the waters of the Pamlico Sound on its western border to the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the Pea Island National Wildlife refuge offers incredible opportunities to enjoy a wide array of recreational activities on the Outer Banks, including birdwatching, surfing, kayaking, standup paddleboarding, and searching the shoreline for seaglass and seashells.

Spotting Whales on the Outer Banks

Photo: Sandbridge Vacation Rentals

 

When you’re taking a vacation on the Outer Banks, you expect to witness a wide array of wildlife along the beaches and in the surf during your day. From sea turtles, ghost crabs and brown pelicans to dolphins, sandpipers and seagulls, hundreds of species of wildlife inhabit the barrier islands off the North Carolina coast at various times throughout the year. Although most of these species are commonly spotted on the sandy beaches that comprise the coastline during the summer, one type of Outer Banks wildlife in particular are only spotted during the cold winter months from December to early March: migratory whales.

Photo: Seaside Vacations Outer Banks

When you’re strolling along the seashore during the off-season, chances are you’ll still see plenty of pods of dolphins swimming just beyond the breaking waves. Dolphins can be seen in both the ocean and the sounds of the Outer Banks, and they’re most commonly spotted during their morning and afternoon feeding times, as they make their way up and down the shoreline.

Photo: KittyHawk.com

A small splash and the tell-tale sighting of a gray, triangular dorsal fin indicate that the animal you’re seeing in the surf is indeed a dolphin, rather than a whale. And when you stop to observe the rolling waves more closely, you’ll likely spot several other dolphins from the same pod just offshore. Commonly confused with dolphin spottings, whale sightings on the Outer Banks are far less frequent, making them all the more exciting for visitors and residents who are lucky enough to catch a rare glimpse of these incredible creatures as they pass by the Carolina coast as part of their winter migration patterns.

Photo: Jeff Pippen

Whales are typically found traveling much further from the shoreline than dolphins, who prefer the shallow waters between the sandbars that are often filled with the small fish that they feast upon. Whales, on the other hand, are not year-round residents of the Outer Banks, so they tend to stay well offshore, simply making their way up and down the Eastern Seaboard of the United States as the seasons change. Although whales on the Outer Banks are more difficult to spot than dolphins because they don’t usually come as close to the shallow waters just off the beach, when you spot one you’ll know it.

Photo: Geek.com

In order to breathe as they swim along, whales take in air via a blowhole that is located on the top or back of their head when they rise up out of the waves to access oxygen. When they dip back down under the surface of the water after taking a breath, a flap of muscle securely covers the blowhole to prevent water from seeping in while the whale is submerged. Once a whale is ready to exhale the air it previously breathed in, it swims up to the surface of the ocean and expels the air back into the atmosphere. The result of this exhalation is the characteristic burst of water, air and vapor that can easily be spotted by a bystander on the beach—it’s also the most obvious sign that the animal you are spotting in the open ocean is a whale rather than a dolphin.

Photo: Smithsonian

A handful of different species of whales ranging from the critically endangered North Atlantic right whales to the more common humpback whales can be seen along the Outer Banks each winter as they migrate from the cold waters of New England and Canada to the warmer waters of the South Florida and the West Indies to breed or give birth. While they can be spotted from the shoreline much of the time, the best place to witness whales on the Outer Banks up close is at the end of one of the many fishing piers that dot the coastline. And because they are typically finished with their annual migrations by the beginning of March, there’s no better time to head to the barrier islands and try to catch a glimpse of a whale in the wild than right now.    

       

 

    

 

Sanctuary Vineyards: A Taste of Wine Country in Currituck County

Photo: OuterBanks.com

When it comes to walking through the winding rows of vines and venturing to wine tastings, few people think of places outside of France, Australia, Argentina, New Zealand and Northern California. While these popular wine-producing regions may be the most well-known among novices and connoisseurs alike, thousands of small and independent vineyards exist in other spots throughout the world—one of which is located right here on the Outer Banks of North Carolina: Sanctuary Vineyards.

The History of Sanctuary Vineyards

Photo: Sanctuary Vineyards

Situated on the Currituck County mainland in the small town of Jarvisburg, Sanctuary Vineyards is part of a quaint soundside farm with a unique history that spans back several centuries. The vineyards and surrounding farmland are owned and operated by the Wright family, which has called coastal North Carolina home for seven generations. The story begins hundreds of years ago, when Jacob Wright was shipwrecked on the shoreline of the nearby town of Duck, on the northern Outer Banks. Stranded on the shores of the barrier islands, Jacob Wright decided to settle permanently in the area and promptly established a farm in Currituck County that he could call home.

Photo: Carolina Designs

The land and its original settler’s farming traditions were passed along from generation to generation, with each new owner within the Wright family making subtle changes and adding their own unique twist. At the time the region’s earliest settlers began to develop the sandy soils of the Outer Banks, vineyards didn’t comprise row after row of grape-filled vines. Instead, they typically consisted of a single muscadine vine that was planted on their property for the purpose of producing the sweet grapes that were so well-suited for use as an ingredient in pies, juices, jellies and jams.

Photo: Sanctuary Vineyards

Over the years, the popularity of muscadine grapes grew—both because of their unique flavor and their ability to withstand the occasionally harsh conditions of the coastal plains and thrive in an environment that few other varieties of vine could even survive. By the mid-1800s, more than two dozen small vineyards had sprung up across the eastern portion of the Tar Heel State, and—according to the Encyclopedia of North Carolina—these wineries enjoyed so much success, the state was ranked as the leading wine producer in the United States prior to the era of Prohibition.

Sanctuary Vineyard’s World-Class Wines

Photo: Outer Banks Magazine

Recognizing the opportunity to partake in the production of sweet muscadine wines on their property, the Wright family members of decades past put their extensive knowledge of farming techniques to work on the coastal Carolina soils that were perfectly suited to growing muscadine grapes. The final result is the modern-day Sanctuary Vineyards, which boasts centuries of farming experience, knowledge and dedication to carefully cultivating the earth in an effort to produce world-class wines on a large plot of land along the Currituck Sound.   

Photo: NC Wine Guys

Along with hundreds of acres of wildlife impoundments—which the family refers to as “The Sanctuary” portion of the property—and farmland where other crops are grown, this popular Outer Banks vineyard features 10 acres that are dedicated solely to growing grapes. Within the rows of grapevines, several varieties of grapes are grown, including Syrah, Tempranillo, Viognier, Norton and, of course, the ever-popular Muscadine.

Sanctuary Vineyards’ most popular wine is Wild Pony White (2015), a smooth-sipping dry wine consisting of 32 percent Chardonnay, 20 percent Pinot Gris, 18 percent Viognier, 16 percent Chardonel and 14 percent Sauvignon Blanc. In addition to being the vineyard’s best-selling variety of wine, Wild Pony White—which is named for the herd of wild horses that have roamed the beaches of the Corolla and Carova for centuries—also benefits a good cause on the Outer Banks, with a portion of its proceeds being donated to the Corolla Wild Horse Fund.

Photo: Outer Banks Restaurant Guide

Other varieties of wines created by Sanctuary Vineyards include Chardonnay (2015), which features bright notes of apple and pear; The Triangle (2015 White Blend), a blend of North Carolina Viognier, Roussanne and Albariño that boasts melon and citrus aromas; Pearl (2015 Albariño), which is handcrafted from a Spanish white grape and imparts tropical fruit flavors; and Wildflowers (2015 Cabernet Franc), a medium-bodied rosé that offers flavors of strawberry and melon.

Photo: VisitCurrituck.com

Also featured in the vineyard’s collection is Morton, a blend of five choice red wines—Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot—that, when combined, result in rich black cherry flavors and notes of sweet oak and spice; Lightkeeper, a rosé that features honey aromas and muscadine flavors of sweet cherries, strawberry and melon; and The Plank, a muscadine red that is “full of ripe and jammy flavor,” and whose cork is sealed with wax to present an authentic pirate-themed appearance.

Photo: Sanctuary Vineyards

Perhaps the most unique variety of wine in Sanctuary Vineyards’ collection is OBX Ice, a limited-production 2015 dessert wine whose blend begins with the tastes of tropical fruits and ends with a smooth candied finish. And wine lovers cannot skip sampling Sweet Serenity, a muscadine white that is characterized by a smooth sweetness and powerful aroma, and is made with the muscadine grapes that are native to eastern North Carolina—making this variety of Sanctuary Vineyards’ wine as local as it gets.

Photo: Sanctuary Vineyards

Known for offering a wide array of world-class wines, hosting a series of fun and unique events throughout the year, and serving as a popular spot for Outer Banks weddings, Sanctuary Vineyards is a true treasure on the barrier islands of North Carolina. Visit the tasting room for a sample of their exceptional creations, or stop by the winery at 1 p.m. on Wednesdays for a tour of this Outer Banks attraction whose history dates back hundreds of years to the day its original settler became shipwrecked on the shoals of the Graveyard of the Atlantic seven generations ago. 

Birdwatching During the Winter on the Outer Banks

Photo: OuterBanks.com

Although the Outer Banks of North Carolina is most often thought of as a summer vacation destination, plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation are also available throughout the winter months, when the surf’s too cold to comfortably catch a wave and the temps are too chilly to break out your beach blanket, wear a bathing suit and work on your tan.

Photo: Mark Buckler Photography

Whether the water in the sounds on the western side of the islands have frozen solid and you’re searching for an adventure to occupy your time while still enjoying the great outdoors, or you simply want to experience the unique natural areas of these barrier islands and witness the different types of wildlife that call it home during the off-season, birdwatching on the Outer Banks is a one-of-a-kind activity to partake in when the cold winter months prevent you from hitting the beach for some fun in the sun.

June, July and August may be the most popular times for vacationers to visit the Outer Banks, but if you’re lucky enough to take a trip to the easternmost portion of North Carolina in the winter, you’ll not only find very few tourists to share your space with—you’ll also discover an assortment of interesting species of waterfowl that are either here for the entire winter or just passing through on their way to warmer climates further to the south.

To plan the perfect week of wildlife-viewing during your stay, start by checking out the top three spots to birdwatch on the Outer Banks below.

Jennette’s Pier at Whalebone Junction

Photo: Pemley Photography

If you are staying in the central portion of the Outer Banks—think Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills and Kitty Hawk—you won’t find a better place to birdwatch without having to venture too far out into the wilderness than Jennette’s Pier. Located at Whalebone Junction in Nags Head, this concrete fishing pier is an Outer Banks attraction that offers an excellent place to easily view area wildlife.

Photo: obxbound.com

Open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from January through March, Jennette’s Pier extends 1,000 feet into the Atlantic Ocean, giving you an amazing place to scope out area shorebirds. Here you’ll spot species that range from loons, gulls and gannets to cormorants, razorbills and pelicans—all either taking dramatic dives into the ocean from sky above or leisurely floating along just beyond the breakers. While many birds can be seen from the shoreline, Jennette’s Pier allows birdwatchers to walk 1,000 feet past the surfline and experience an even better view of the wildlife that call the Nags Head area home each winter.

Bodie Island Lighthouse in South Nags Head

Photo: OuterBanks.com

Working your way further to the south, head to the Bodie Island Lighthouse in South Nags Head, where you’ll not only stumble upon one of the four landmark lighthouses that are so well-known along the barrier islands of the Outer Banks—but also an excellent birdwatching spot just beyond the black-and-white painted structure that lights the way for mariners at sea. Situated a few miles south of Jennette’s Pier on Highway 12, the Bodie Island Lighthouse grounds are part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and feature a large freshwater pond and marshy area that attracts a wide array of shorebirds throughout the fall and winter months.

Photo: Yahoo

A wooden walkway leads visitors from the lighthouse and attached keepers quarters to an elevated viewing area overlooking the shallow body of water that is nestled into the neighboring marshland. Here you’ll likely see such species as the Eurasian wigeon, American avocet and black-necked stilt, among many other wintering waterfowl wading in the water and soaring over the sea oats. Take a quick drive across Highway 12 from the Bodie Island Lighthouse to nearby Coquina Beach, a popular beach access where you’ll also have the chance to encounter other species of birds that winter on the Outer Banks, including scoters, loons and northern gannets, on the ocean side of the island.  

Oregon Inlet & Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge

Photo: VBSF.net

If a picturesque and photo-worthy backdrop and a plethora of wildlife is what you seek during your Outer Banks birdwatching excursion, continue even further south to Oregon Inlet and the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, a sanctuary extends for more than 10 miles from Oregon Inlet to the village of Rodanthe.

Separating the northern beaches of the Outer Banks from Hatteras Island, on the opposite side of the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge, Oregon Inlet is one of the only waterways along the barrier islands that allows ships to sail from the Roanoke, Albemarle and Pamlico sounds to the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean. As such, this popular access point is frequently filled with both private and commercial fishing boats, as well as numerous species of wintering birds that can be spotted from the shoreline on both sides of the inlet and the large rock jetty on the northernmost tip of Hatteras Island.

Pull into the parking area for the recently renovated Pea Island Lifesaving Station and trek out along one of several sandy pathways that lead to the ocean beaches on the edge of the island or the cozy cove that is tucked away just south of the inlet, forming a small beach and perfect private viewing area. When you embark on a birdwatching adventure at Oregon Inlet in the winter, you’ll likely spot such species as American white pelicans and American oystercatchers, as well as purple sandpipers, a variety of ducks and, occasionally, one of the rarest species to visit the Outer Banks: the great cormorant. But perhaps the most exciting aspect of birdwatching at Oregon Inlet and the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge this particular winter is the chance to witness the snowy owl—an elusive yet highly sought-after species that has already been spotted along the barrier islands of the Outer Banks by wildlife enthusiasts at none other than Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge several times this season!

 

The Weeping Radish: North Carolina’s Oldest Microbrewery

Over the course of the past decade, the popularity of craft beers concocted by small, local breweries has grown exponentially. Small, local breweries have begun to spring up in towns across America, with the latest figures estimating the number of craft breweries operating in the United States at 5,234 as of the end of 2017.

According to the North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild, when it comes to the number of craft breweries, the Tarheel State—which boasts 230 craft breweries within its borders—is home to more craft breweries than any other state in the country. Although dozens of craft breweries have opened their doors and begun developing unique brews over the course of the past few decades—Raleigh and its surrounding suburbs alone are home to 25 craft breweries—only one can stake its claim as being the oldest microbrewery in the state: the Weeping Radish Brewery.

Originally founded by Bavarian native Uli Bennewitz in the small waterside town of Manteo on Roanoke Island, the Weeping Radish Restaurant and Brewery first opened in 1986 in an annex adjacent to The Christmas Shop on Highway 64. Bennewitz, who had emigrated from Bavaria to the United States in the 1980s, wanted to open a microbrewery similar to the ones he’d left behind in his homeland. At the time, however, only 100 microbreweries existed in the entire United States, and North Carolina law had declared it illegal for a brewery to sell beer directly to consumers.

Photo: Weeping Radish

Determined to succeed in opening his microbrewery and undeterred by the challenges presented by local laws, Bennewitz worked diligently with state politicians to have the law changed—eventually winning the opportunity to open his brewery on the Outer Banks and ultimately paving the way for hundreds of other craft breweries in North Carolina to do the same decades later.

Photo: Stephanie Banfield

From the beginning, the beers brewed by the Weeping Radish have been concocted according to the Bavarian Reinheitsgebot Purity Law of 1516. In addition to stating that no chemicals, preservatives or additives may be used in the beer-brewing process, this law also requires the brewmaster to use only four ingredients in the process: hops, malt, yeast and water. The beers brewed by the Weeping Radish grew in popularity among both locals and visitors to the Outer Banks, and Bennewitz eventually decided he needed a larger facility to keep up with the increasing demand for his products. In 2007 the Manteo location closed its doors and the operation was moved 35 miles away to Grandy in nearby Currituck County.

Photo: Weeping Radish

Four years later, groundbreaking began in Grandy, and in 2005 the new location—which featured a larger brewery, as well as a restaurant, farm and butcher’s facility—brewed its first batch of beer and opened to the public once again, this time as the “Weeping Radish Farm Brewery.” With the larger facility up and running and ready to offer craft brews to those in search of local breweries on the Outer Banks, Bennewitz took on yet another challenge: applying the Reinheitsgebot principles he had applied to his beers for nearly two decades—refraining from the use of chemicals and additives and working hard to ensure the finish product received minimal processing—to the food he served in his restaurant.  

Photo: The Redhead Riter

With the goal of reducing the current average distance food travels before it gets to the consumer from 2,000 miles to 200 miles, Bennewitz brought on Gunther Kuhle, a German master butcher, and set out to produce “Reinheitsgebot food” for locals and visitors to the area taking an Outer Banks vacation. The Weeping Radish Farm Brewery operates a 14-acre farm where organic vegetables are grown, and also works with area farms to source only free-range pork and beef for the charcuterie and sausages it serves in its popular restaurant located just 20 minutes from Kitty Hawk on the northern Outer Banks. From sauerbraten, beer brats, sausage samplers and pork schnitzel to burgers, soups, salads and sandwiches, the farm-to-table food served at the German-inspired Weeping Radish Farm Brewery has received such positive reviews it was featured on The Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” with Guy Fieri in 2013. 

In addition to offering a spot for Outer Banks locals and tourists to sit down for a delicious lunch, dinner or just a tasty craft brew, the Weeping Radish Farm Brewery also features a retail counter where a variety of products ranging from sausages and pastrami to bacon and beer can be purchased. Guided tours of the on-site brewery are also offered to the public, so those interested in the brewing process behind the popular Outer Banks beers Bennewitz worked so hard to bring to the area can witness the inner-workings of the facility that put microbrewing on the map of the state of North Carolina more than 30 years ago.

Holiday Happenings on the Outer Banks

The holiday season is officially upon us, and when it comes to feeling festive, there’s no better place to find a variety of events than the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Regardless of whether you’re a native of the region or a vacationer in search of some holiday spirit, the following activities and attractions should not be missed if you’re planning to spend some time on the Outer Banks this December.

  • Colington Harbour Boat Parade

Nothing says “Christmas on the coast” like sailboats decked out in strands of bright-colored lights and holiday décor as they weave through the waterways on the west side of Kill Devil Hills. Colington Harbour—a scenic waterfront community situated along the edge of the Roanoke Sound on Colington Island—will hold its annual Christmas boat parade this Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017, at 5 p.m.

During the Colington Harbour Yacht Club’s Christmas Boat Parade, visitors and residents of this community—which comprises a series of meandering canals—will gather at the Colington Harbour marina parking lot (1000 Colington Drive in Kill Devil Hills) for front-row seats to watch the brightly lit boats make their way out of the nearby canals and then circle around the harbor playing Christmas music and waving at the crowd.

Keep an eye out for Santa Claus, who is frequently spotted on one of the boats, and be sure to grab a complimentary cup of hot cocoa to keep warm while you listen to popular Christmas tunes and watch the beautifully decorated boats go by.

  • The Outer Banks Christmas House

The holiday season is not complete with a tour of some of the town’s best Christmas light displays. Because the barrier islands are primarily a vacation destination and the vast majority of homes here are weekly rentals rather than permanent residences, you probably won’t find as many neighborhood light displays when you’re visiting the Outer Banks as you would in your own year-round community. There are, however, several places that put on quite a show each season—and one in particular has truly earned its spot at the top of the “must-see” Outer Banks Christmas lights list.

Featured in years past on both HGTV and NBC’s “Today” show, the Outer Banks Christmas House has become an Outer Banks tradition that locals and visitors alike look forward to all year long. The Poulos family begins setting up their epic holiday attraction a whopping 12 weeks before the first day the array of lights are plugged in for the season and light up their residence on West Ocean Acres Drive in Kill Devil Hills. In addition to taking three months to assemble, the display costs the Poulos family as much as $3,500 in energy bills each month just to transform their property into a winter wonderland. The incredible lights display at the Outer Banks Christmas House can be viewed nightly from Nov. 24, 2017, through Dec. 31, 2017.

  • New Year in the New World

Photo: Matt Lusk Photography

The shifting sandbars of the Outer Banks are as famous for their rich history as they are for the sun, surf and sand that have made them into an incredibly popular vacation destination over the past half century—and few parts of the barrier islands have such as storied past as the town of Manteo on Roanoke Island. Birthplace of Virginia Dare, the first English child, and the site of the infamous Lost Colony that vanished from the island without a trace in the 16th century, Roanoke Island attracts thousands of history buffs to its soundside shorelines and charming downtown area every season.

In honor of the island’s prominent place in history, a brand-new holiday event—“New Year in the New World”—will be held in Manteo this year. Scheduled for 3 p.m. until midnight on Dec. 31, 2017, this inaugural event is designed to be a festive family-friendly New Year’s Eve celebration. The roadways throughout downtown Manteo will be closed, and Outer Banks residents and visitors are invited to a street fair featuring live music, shopping, an early ball drop at 8:30 p.m. and events for the kids, and local vendors selling food and drinks—as well as the largest fireworks display in the state of North Carolina, which will also be choregraphed to music. If you’re visiting the Outer Banks for the holidays, you won’t find a better place on the beach to ring in 2018 than New Year in the New World!

Experience a Winter Wonderland at the Elizabethan Gardens on Roanoke Island

If you’re visiting the Outer Banks of North Carolina during the Christmas season this year, there’s no better way to get into the holiday spirit and start feeling festive than taking a tour of the Winter Lights display at the Elizabethan Gardens.

Photo: North Beach Sun

From November 25, 2017, through January 20, 2018, the hedges, trees and plants that line the series of pathways that wind through this popular attraction on the northern tip of Roanoke Island are covered with string after string of bright and colorful lights, resulting in a spectacular display that every visitor to the barrier islands of the Outer Banks must experience at least once in their lifetime.  

Photo: Outer Banks This Week

Situated on the shores of the Roanoke Sound within the confines of the historic town of Manteo, the Elizabethan Gardens first opened to the public on August 18, 1960, the 373rd anniversary of the birth of Virginia Dare, the first English child born in America. Since their gates first opened 57 years ago, they have welcome tens of thousands of people vacationing on the Outer Banks each season who year to enjoy more than just the sun, surf and sand during their stay on this slice of island paradise. The gardens—which comprise an area of more than 10 acres—are home to more than 500 different and unique species of plants and flowers that bloom at various times throughout the year, as well as several one-of-a-kind statues, sundials, bird baths, an ancient Italian fountain and so much more.

Photo: OuterBanks.com

Although the Elizabethan Gardens receives the vast majority of its visitors from Memorial Day to Labor Day, when the beaches are busy and tourist season is in full swing, the two months from Thanksgiving to late January each year—when the meandering walkways are decked with holiday décor and loads of spectacular light displays—are a highly anticipated time for locals and vacationers alike.

Photo: OuterBanks.com

From 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on select evenings each week, visitors to the Elizabethan Gardens’ Winter Lights display will be greeted by a winter wonderland unlike any they’ve ever witnessed before. The garden pathways that weave through this Outer Banks landmark that has enchanted adults and children alike for more than half a century are illuminated with awe-inspiring lighting that is draped over the hedges and wrapped around the tree trunks, extending out to the tips of their branches. 

Photo: Outer Banks This Week

A fire crackles on the great lawn, marking the perfect spot to warm up with a cup of hot cocoa after touring the gardens and taking in all the scenery during your stroll through along the garden grounds. Holiday décor ranging from child-size gingerbread houses and lighted reindeer displays to colorful candy canes and life-size nutcracker cut-outs can be found along the walkways, providing the perfect opportunity for photos with friends and family, or for simply gazing in awe at the magical world that surrounds you in this stunning scene. 

Photo: Outer Banks This Week

Whether you are a local who has lived here for years, a first-time visitor to the area or you’ve been spending the holiday season vacationing on these beautiful barrier islands for decades, the Winter Lights at the Elizabethan Gardens is one winter tradition on the Outer Banks you won’t want to miss this season! For more information on the Winter Lights display or to purchase tickets, visit ElizabethanGardens.org.

 

 

 

Maintenance Must-Dos for Homeowners to Complete this Fall: Part 1

Photo: freehdw.com

It’s that time of year again. The leaves have begun their transformation from green to golden yellow, orange and red, and a tinge of crispness can be felt in the cool air. Fall has officially arrived, and with it comes a checklist of household chores that everyone homeowner should complete before the cold winter days looming on the distant horizon catch up to them. Follow these maintenance must-dos for homeowners within the next few weeks, and you’ll be able to kick back and relax with a cup of hot apple cider knowing your property is in top-notch shape for the seasons to come.

Stock up on Supplies

Photo: Reader’s Digest

Whether you anxiously await on the onset of winter weather or you absolutely dread the cold that’s sure to come, stocking up on seasonal supplies is one of the simplest and most effective ways to gear up for the snow, ice and possible power outages that often accompany the season. No one wants to think about snow shovels and ice melt when it’s still warm enough to enjoy the great outdoors without having to put on a parka; however, when it comes to stocking up on winter supplies, the old adage “better safe than sorry” definitely applies.

Photo: Larson LawnScape

Rather than wait until the first flakes of snow—or, worse, a surge of sleet—begins to fall and then rushing to the store in inclement weather to grab supplies, shop for winter necessities well before you will actually need them. The specific items you’ll need to purchase depend on what geographic region you reside in and what types of climate you typically experience, but you can’t go wrong with bags of pet-safe ice melt, shovels and ice scrapers. 

Photo: DIY Network

If your home is in an area that receives significant snowfalls throughout the winter months, be sure to have your snowblower serviced so you aren’t surprised with a faulty piece of equipment that refuses to work the first time you try to start it for the season. Don’t forget to fill your portable gas container with fuel and store it in a safe spot so you can easily access it when it’s time to clear your driveway and sidewalks of that chilly powder that falls from the sky.  

Photo: Consumer Reports

You can’t put a price tag on the peace of mind that comes with realizing your walkway is quickly filling up with snow and knowing you’ve got a sufficient shovel and several bags of ice melt safely stocked in your garage or basement—stock up this fall and save yourself the trouble of grabbing gear when everyone else in town is rushing to get it!

Trim Trees to Prevent Property Damage

Photo: Post and Courier

 You don’t have to live along a hurricane-prone part of the coastline to know that strong winds can topple even the tallest of trees and toss them around like matchsticks. Dozens of people are killed in their home or their home each year when a strong storm rolls through, bringing with it enough rain to over-saturate a tree’s roots—or winds so intense they rip a tree from its foundation and send it hurtling into a home. But did you ever stop to think about how the trees in your very own yard can pose a threat to your property and your family in the dead of winter?

Photo: Riverhead News & Review

Winter storms can result in high winds that whip through neighborhoods and cause even the sturdiest of trees to break loose from the ground, potentially falling onto residences and harming those inside. Likewise, ice storms can coat the limbs of trees with layers of thick, heavy sheets of ice that cause them to snap loose from trees and fall on anything that stands below.

Photo: Alyse Lansing Garden Design

To ensure your family and your home are safe this winter—and to prevent damage from fallen trees from potentially injuring your loved ones or resulting in having to file a claim with your insurance company—use this time to take inventory of the trees on your property and to determine if any are in danger of being damaged this season. Be on the lookout for dead branches or diseased trees, which are most likely to fall victim to sheets of ice or strong winds first. Trim the damaged portions off the tree to avoid branches or limbs wreaking havoc on your residence when a winter storm hits. Trees that are leaning toward your property or that have grown just a little too close to your home for comfort should also be trimmed back, removed or relocated if possible to protect your home and its occupants this holiday season.    

Test Smoke Detectors and Carbon Monoxide Monitors

Photo: WCCO CBS Local

Nothing is more important than the safety of your family and your pets, regardless of what season it may be. Although smoke detectors in your home should be checked to ensure they are in working order once every single month, batteries are generally replaced only twice a year—and fall is the perfect time to do it.

When winter weather arrives, you’ll be trading air conditioning for central heat and ceiling fans for portable, plug-in heating devices, which can present a fire hazard when not used properly or monitored carefully. Most heated blankets manufactured within the past few years feature an automated shutoff mechanism that prevents them from overheating and potentially catching fire; however, many older products don’t turn off after being in use for a set amount of time, putting our property—and your family—at serious risk.      

Photo: Clarksville Online

Because so many products and devices are used during the winter months to heat your home and personal space, it’s imperative to replace the batteries and check your smoke detectors in the fall to ensure they are in working order and can alert you to a fire if necessary. But fire isn’t the only threat homeowners face during the winter. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 20,000 people are exposed to carbon monoxide each year and end up in the emergency room. In addition, 4,000 individuals will require hospitalization for their illness, and more than 400 people die as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning—many of them while sleeping in their own homes, unaware that they have been exposed to the deadly gas that can be generated by something so seemingly harmless as a furnace.

This odorless, colorless and tasteless gas is extremely difficult to detect, and while the initial systems are similar to those that come with a common cold or flu—such as headache, nausea, dizziness and weakness—coming into contact with carbon monoxide can ultimately result in carbon monoxide poisoning or even death. Don’t let your family risk a dangerous encounter carbon monoxide this season. Purchase a few carbon monoxide detectors for various rooms in your home online or at your local hardware store, and rest assured knowing your loved ones are safe from this difficult-to-detect substance that has been coined the “the silent killer.”

**Check Coastal Cottage Company’s blog next week for more helpful and important tips for preparing your property for the upcoming winter season!

 

 

 

 

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