North Carolina’s “Fifth Season” And Time to Start Thinking About Fall Planting

ImageWhen I recruit companies to North Carolina in my “day job” as an economic developer, the state’s temperate, four-season climate is often a major selling point, particularly for folks who have just come through a long Michigan winter or a broiling Texas summer. I don’t usually mention our “Fifth Season” though; the one that starts around the first of August and runs through mid-September. Different people know this season by different names. My fishing buddy calls it “Nothing Biting” season. I call it “Brown-Out” season; the six week period when the Spring/Summer plants have lost their oomph (as my Mother used to say), but it’s too early yet for the Fall planting.

One sure sign of Brown-Out season is the color of my lawn. Like many in the Carolina Piedmont, I plant tall fescue, a type of grass that Winters well and pops brilliant green in the Spring. Alas, it tends to whither under the unrelenting Southern Summer sun and by the first of August, even irrigated, well-manicured fescue lawns look a bit worse for wear. Beyond a little sprinkling if it’s a REALLY dry period, I don’t irrigate, so by August my lawn is, to be charitable, looking a little ragged. This really concerned me the first couple of years down here: I was afraid I’d somehow killed my grass. But now, I take it all in stride, knowing that a little fertilizer, a good core aeration and a bit of overseeding will bring back the lush green carpet by the end of September.  Continue reading

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The Online Home of John B. Marek — North Carolina-Based Outdoor Enthusiast, Adventurer and Author

Growing up in rural north-central Ohio, my family’s house was located at the corner of Lake and Forest Streets, and it would only be a slight exaggeration to say that I spent my formative years within a stone’s throw of both the water and the woods. My father, Bennie, was an avid fisherman and gardener, and while some of his his homespun wisdom in those pursuits seems a little curious to me now, he clearly had a major influence on the way I see the natural world and my place in it. I have created this blog to share some of my own experiences in the outdoors of my adopted home state of North Carolina. Although I research my information carefully and willingly offer homespun wisdom of my own, I do not claim to be an expert on all things outdoors; if you see something that is obviously incorrect or with which you disagree, do not hesitate to comment or send me a note. I enjoy hearing from my readers, whether through email or social media, and will respond personally whenever possible.

John B. Marek

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Ultimate Hike 2012: The Best Laid Plans…

I want to start out my final Ultimate Hike 2012 update by thanking CureSearch for putting on such a wonderful event! It was very well-managed from start to finish and I am glad to have been a part of it. Over the past three months, I have met some amazing people, have pushed myself beyond my perceived limits and have developed a new appreciation for what a few truly inspired individuals can accomplish. As of hike day, Charlotte Ultimate Hike had raised over $196,000 for children’s cancer research, and that figure is expected to exceed $225,000 when all is said and done. That’s nearly a quarter of a million dollars! Thanks to you and the hundreds of other financial supporters, we set a new single hike record for funds raised.

My goals for Ultimate Hike 2012 were to: 1) Raise money for children’s cancer research; 2) Raise awareness for children’s cancer research; and 3) Finish the 28.3 mile hike in 11 hours or less. I am disappointed to say that I was only able to achieve the first two of these goals, as an accident on the trail forced me to withdraw at Aid Station #3 (22 miles).

The day started out great. It was cool and overcast when I hit the trail at 7:15 AM. I covered the first 4.7 miles — to Aid Station #1 — in an hour and 22 minutes… a solid 18 minute mile pace over some moderately difficult terrain. The next seven miles to aid station #2 took a little longer (20 minute per mile average), but I was still making great time as I headed out on the longest and most difficult part of the trail, the ten miles between Aid Station #2 and Aid Station #3. This part of the trail was very rocky and uneven, with multiple elevation changes as it wound along the banks of a river. Somewhere between the 18 and 19 mile mark, I was crossing a shallow stream and lost my footing on the mossy rocks. I took a pretty good fall, bruising my left knee and cutting my shin.

Fortunately, one of the CureSearch team was hiking right behind me with the first aid kit and got the cut disinfected and bandaged. At that point, I thought I might be able to finish, albeit limping the rest of the way, but it didn’t take me long to figure out that it was going to be all I could do just to make it out of the woods and to the next aid station. And that was the end of my Ultimate Hike 2012 experience.

I did finish 22 of the 28.3 miles, but obviously I am disappointed by the outcome. After all the hours and miles of training, I would really have liked to cross that finish line. But, looking on the positive side, I know that I gave it my very best shot and ultimately made a difference — with your assistance — in the lives of children battling cancer. Thank you again for your support.

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Ultimate Hike 2012: It’s All Over But the Hiking

I completed my last long training hike on Saturday; 25 miles at Latta Nature Preserve. It was set up to be a sort of simulation of the real hike on the 19th, starting at the same time and with the rest stops at the assigned mileage marks. It went about as well as could be expected. Honestly, it was as much about confidence as it was about physical training. I needed some personal reassurance that I can actually hike for 11 hours. This was the first training hike in which I made extensive use of my iPod and it made a BIG difference. A change of socks at the 12 mile mark also seemed to help. Although my feet were very sore at the end of the day, they seemed a little less so than at the end of the 20 mile hike the previous week. Of course, that might also be due to the relatively easy terrain at Latta compared to Crowders Mountain. I will be hitting the gym on Monday and Wednesday this week, but will limit my time on my feet to a mile on the treadmill each session; just enough to keep loose. The Ultimate Hike has been an interesting experience, but I am ready for it to be over and to get my weekends back. Too many little jobs have been piling up around the house, and I haven’t been out on the water in over a month.

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Finally, Noticeable Growth in the “Back Forty”

Mid-May and my garden is finally showing signs of growth. I never did get my hot peppers to germinate, so I wound up buying a plant from the store. Everything else was started from seed. The radishes (lower left) are ready to harvest. The carrots have been a little disappointing. Only half of them came up and the ones that did have not been growing very fast. Everything else looks good. I am growing two different types of tomatoes, a modern hybrid (upper right) and a traditional heirloom (upper left). It is interesting to see how different these two plants have been through their growth cycles. I had 100% germination (5/5) with the hybrids I started, but 60% germination (3/5) with the heirlooms. The hybrid has also grown faster and much straighter. We’ll see how the yields compare.

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