Daily Catskills: 03/14/18

A nor-easter all week: another whiteout. A high of 31F and relentless snow since Monday 12th. Shovel, shovel, shovel. Snow banks getting higher and higher. Icicles get longer and longer.

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Daily Catskills: 03/13/18

A high of 32F with fluffy snow continuing to accumulate, chest high in some areas. Snowshoes sink a foot into the drifts. Feet of snow turn a hemlock forest into a magical glade.

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On the Radio: Linda Leaming, author of A Field Guide To Happiness

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Here’s a picture of me working hard at the radio station while I take a break from Upstate Dispatch this week. My guest on the radio next week, March 19th at 9am, will be Linda Leaming, author of Married To Bhutan and A Field Guide to Happiness. You can stream the show online here: WIOX Radio. In both books, Linda writes about her life in Bhutan, a tiny buddhist country in the Himalayas between India and Tibet, and what we can learn from Bhutan’s trail blazing accomplishments in areas like the importance of the arts, conservation and the well-being of its citizens. The government has a metric called Gross National Happiness that it measures often, instead of Gross National Product. Bhutan has decreed that a very large portion of their country will remain forested. There is no styrofoam and very few plastic bags in Bhutan. In Married to Bhutan, Linda writes that the Bhutanese “have foregone opportunities to make money off their considerable natural resources – lumber, water, minerals, plants and animals in favour of their quality of life. That alone makes it a world apart”. A Field Guide to Happiness is her second book on Bhutan and gives us tips on how to be happy.

These subjects were on my mind while was in New York City last week and between appointments decided to pick up Linda’s book on happiness instead of just ordering it online. I went to Rizzoli Bookshop, Strand Bookstore, Bookoff and Barnes and Noble. I was told that Linda’s books are not stocked in any Barnes & Noble in NYC, (but they should be – and he will put in a request to order them). Then, because I just decided to be on a mission – I was in NYC after all – I called Greenlight Books, Bluestocking books, Community Books, BookBook and Unnameable Books in Brooklyn but not one stocked A Field Guide to Happiness. It occurred to me that the book did not exist in New York City because if happiness was actually attained there, the earth would violently tip off its axis due to the sudden unloading of the weighty burden of abject disgruntlement in that part of the world. If everybody in NYC became satisfied with their life or just simply decided not to be in a huge hurry, or if everyone smiled at the same time, the city would crumble into dust and wash out into the ocean out of purposelessness. On occasion I smile at people in NYC and they look at me with a confused “do I know you?!” expression. So I caved and ordered the book online. It came from a happy place far away. Continue reading

Sunday Reading: Catskills Conversations

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There’s so much content in Upstate Dispatch, literally thousands of posts and hundreds of photographs over three years of writing. The temptation for writers is to keep chugging along at a pace, churning out better work, but sometimes it’s a good idea to pause and reflect on the past, take a break, regroup, do some reading. Here are some links to past work in the Catskills Conversations series that we have just resurrected with a podcast featuring Mike Cioffi of the Phoenicia Diner.

Other past, popular Catskills Conversations:

Jeanette Bronée, wellness coach and author of Path for Life and Eat to Feel Full has been on my radio show a couple of times talking about mindfulness and new year’s resolutions.

Laura Silverman of Glutton for Life just last year started The Outside Institute.

A really lovely interview with Jeff Vincent, of Catskill Mountain Wild, a licensed guide company based in the Catskills.

Talented chef, Rob Handel, former chef of Heather Ridge Farm and now based at Fin Restaurant talks about his life in food.

Bill Birns, local write and historian.

Farmers Kristi and Steve Burnett based in Bovina.

24-hours of Self Reliance

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After about 28 hours, power was restored to our home yesterday, which is nothing compared to what’s happening in other parts of the world. The entire episode was a necessary education in conservation and a return to a much simpler life if only for a day. We lost water (both hot and cold) and electricity, so no lights or gadgets except what we could power with our tiny generator. We had a wood stove for heat, but no shower, or toilet or even hand washing and the dishes piled up in the kitchen, which was so annoying that I spent hours melting snow to clean up. It takes approximately three to four cubic feet of snow to fill a 1.6 gallon toilet cistern that gives you one good flush. It takes another cubic foot of snow or so to do the dishes. This takes hours of slow melting of the snow over the stove in several saucepans. Continue reading


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It’s not until you run out of water that you realize how much of it you squander. I thought about this after our power went out this morning, but I really needed to wash my dirty hair. It’s been snowing since the early hours of this morning. Now that we’ve had over two or three feet of wet snow, trees are collapsing under the weight and pulling down power lines all over the Catskills.

We need electricity to run our water pump and hot water tank. So now we have to save the water to flush the toilet or drink, although I did have a liter bottle of fizzy water and just managed to wash my hair with it. I only needed a few ounces to get my hair wet and managed to wash most of the soap out with the rest. This got me thinking about why we need to flush our toilet with clean water and so much of it.

We’ve had whiteouts before but not like this. We once got five feet of snow and couldn’t open our front door, but we’ve never been without power for this length of time. Judging by neighbors on social media, most of the area lost power at about 10.30am on Friday 2nd March. Like most people in the Catskills, we have a small generator that runs on gas (petrol) that will supply our freezer, or charge our electronics for about eight hours. We also have a wood stove for heat, but we’re without water or lights. A friend is melting snow for water in the next village and we’ll be doing that tomorrow morning once our generator has run out of gas. Or we’ll walk down to the gas station and fill up a container if our country store is open. As darkness falls, it’s been quite calming to wind down with the dusk. We’re now in a blackout. We don’t see any lights across the mountains. It’s books by candlelight for some people and scrabble by flashlight for us once I’ve stopped writing. The only other problem we have now is that our pipes might freeze and burst in the basement without the electric heat down there. We’re also worried about our heritage apple tree (pictured above, top left). Without snow weighing it down, it’s a good ten feet taller. It’s also hard to get evergreens like fir and pine to grow well or in clumps because they need so much light. Now they are buckling under the weight, looking like closing umbrellas. We don’t want to lose them.

The snow continues to fall and is not predicted to cease until 1am tomorrow morning. Saturday will be a day of shoveling for everyone and at dawn we’ll go out and try and shake the snow out of the trees.

Update: the generator held out until morning.

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Daily Catskills: 3/2/18

Catskills closed for the day, except for the town plowmen who go out no matter what. Heavy snow from the wee hours. Power outages from 10.30am; gusty winds; trees crushed under the weight of three feet of snow; cars buried. To the black lab, only the ball matters.

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Saturday Links: Farming, Fishing, Radio & Catskills Life

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It’s been an interesting week, in terms of weather. We’ve had high temperatures that have dried laundry in hours, rain, freezing low temperatures, snow and then more soaking rain. It’s still a bit squidgy out there today as the snow melts. Upstate Dispatch has been transformed into an editing suite most of the week, with the highly addictive ProTools, preparing a podcast series.

Here are some of the week’s links and happenings, locally and internationally.

Fly fishing clinic at Westkill Brewery Sunday February 25th. Beer and fishing? The two go together like cheese and biscuits.

Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint 101 Class at Hudson Valley Vintage in Rhinebeck, NY. Milk Paint has been around for over a thousand years and contains only five 100% natural ingredients. Leave the class with a painted project.

Yoga in the Catskills: near Phoenicia, NY.

Progress made in sustainable agriculture in Holland from National Geographic. “How The Netherlands Feeds The World”. And hydroponic greens grown by AeroFarms in Newark.

The Greenhorns and their farmer’s almanac.

“A man is worked upon by what he works on. He may carve out his circumstances, but his circumstances will carve him out as well.” Frederick Douglas

Interview with Mike Cioffi, Owner of the Phoenicia Diner

For the sixth anniversary of my radio show, I’m turning some of my interviews with the most interesting guests into podcasts. Click on the orange arrow above to hear the podcast.

On Christmas 2014, I interviewed Mike Cioffi of the now famous Phoenicia Diner in Phoenicia on Route 28 in the Catskills. Mike was a fantastic guest talking about growing up in Brooklyn, his love of food, running a business and how he set up the diner.

The Phoenicia Diner was just recently voted the best small-town restaurant in New York State by Thrillist and continues to be one of the most popular – if not the most popular – restaurants in the Catskills. Every day it’s open it is packed with a full parking lot.

Six Years in Radio

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For me, February 22nd, will mark six years of my public radio career on WIOX in Roxbury, Upstate New York. Our “wildly diverse, live and local”, progressive little radio station in the heart of picturesque Catskills is a hive of activity, broadcasting locally on 91.3FM and streaming online on www.wioxradio.org. WIOX is now an NPR affiliate, having partnered with WSKG in Binghamton.

The whole endeavor has been an education and the setting couldn’t be more gorgeous: a converted barn in one of the most picturesque villages in the area. I believe my commute is one of the most documented in the region. A brief history: In late 2011, after spending more than ten years traveling back and forth between the US, Europe, and sometimes the rest of the world, I returned to my house in the Catskills and decided to make a life here. I felt lucky.* Continue reading

In The Hemlocks

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Catskills’ Writer and naturalist John Burroughs (1837-1921) called hemlock forests “…dark, sheltered retreats” and there is an earthy stillness in a hemlock forest that’s incomparable with the rest of the rocky Catskills forest. The trees are tall, majestic statesmen, all going in the same direction, unwavering in their straightness, like woodland sentries guarding over life below them. Hemlock forest floors are a thick, bouncy carpet made of billions of hemlock needles which seems to absorb all the sound, and the bark is a rich brown that soaks up the light. On bright, cloudless, sun-filled days, beams of sunlight break through the hemlock canopy like flashlights pointing from above into the tranquil haven. The smell is intoxicating.

“Their history is of a heroic cast,” wrote Burroughs of the hemlocks. “Ravished and torn by the tanner in his thirst for bark, preyed upon by the lumberman, assaulted and beaten back by the settler, still their spirit has never been broken, their energies never paralyzed.”

Here in the Catskills, again the hemlocks are under attack due to the long march of the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid, a pest that has been ravaging our local population of hemlocks since the 1980s. Signs that your hemlocks are under attack are pretty obvious. If you observe a thick, white foam on the underside of the hemlock leaves, you should send an email to: DSNIDER@CATSKILLCENTER.ORG who works with CRISP, the Catskills Regional Invasive Species Prevention project run by the Catskill Center that is now using biological methods to counter the pests. Continue reading

The Pines in Mount Tremper

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Turns out this local gem is situated just a walk up the road from the crossroads of Wittenberg and Route 212 in Mount Tremper. If you have loved ones coming in on the Pine Hill Trailways bus from New York City, the bus driver will allow them to alight at this crossroads and walk a few minutes up Route 212 to The Pines. Once there, they can drink a lot and have their host drive them back to their digs for the weekend. How convenient is that? Continue reading

Monday’s Radio Show: Burlesque & The Outdoors

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Two separate subjects will be discussed on Monday’s radio show; two that don’t go together at all, except in much warmer weather: burlesque and the outdoors, namely hunting and fishing.

Last year, Brett Rollins, aka Neil O’Fortune, put on a burlesque show at Union Grove Distillery in Arkville that was extremely well-received and very popular with a large crowd. Brett says that he’s had so much warm and positive feedback on the event that he’s putting on another one on in February.

Burlesque has a 100-odd-year history dating back to the musical halls of Victorian England and is mostly irreverent slapstick with music and comedy skits. It came to America around that time, but it’s popularity waned in the mid-twentieth century. It’s most recent revival, called neo-burlesque, has been popular in New York City since about 2001 and, having reported on it for national publications, I’ve witnessed it being remarkably popular with the ladies. It’s a favorite with large groups of women for bachelorette nights and girls’ nights. The art raises the matter of body image for women. Women have been fed the importance of being skinny by the media for so long that we all think that there’s something wrong with our bodies, but in actual fact, we should celebrate our natural form. Fashion magazines are for fashion and not a guide in how a woman’s body should look and its time we stopped torturing ourselves. Diseases like anorexia and bulimia have never been more prevalent. Burlesque acts feature women of all shapes and sizes in fantastically elaborate costumes – a celebration of the female form. Listen in on WIOX on Monday to hear me discuss this with Brett, and Fifi Dupree joining us on the phone, from 9am to 9.30am.

In the second half of the show, from 9.30am to 10am, we’ll be discussing outdoor pursuits fishing and hunting with Ryan Fifield of Fifield Outfitters. How to get the correct permits, NYS rules and regulations and the services that Fifield Outfitters offer.


Fire Cider Making

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Fire cider is a traditional, ancient folk remedy and winter tonic in which curative roots, herbs and spices are steeped in apple cider vinegar. The basic ingredients of fire cider are garlic, horseradish root, jalapeños, habaneros, ginger and onion. Chop these ingredients finely, put them in a mason jar and cover with apple cider vinegar. To this mix you can add extras like grapefruit, rosemary, garlic, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne pepper or really anything that takes your fancy, usually a root or herbs because they steep better than powders.  Continue reading

Bee Hopeful

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Our early attempts at beekeeping failed when our bees died over one of the Catskills’ harshest winters four years ago and we never got back on that horse again. Past Catskills winters have been brutal with night-time lows as low as 15F recorded on our thermometer, but that was nothing compared to the temperatures we have just been though this winter: -19F over this past Christmas and the New Year. Not sure how any creatures except the penguin survives these kinds of temperatures, but year after year, we find bumble bees pollinating our crops. They must survive in the wild somehow. Continue reading

Cornell Mountain Gets Further Away

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How quickly the phrase “failure is not an option” turns into “let’s find the nearest pub” when faced with an extended trip down an icy rock face. Pictured above is part of the trail down Slide Mountain on the way to Cornell. Yes, that’s the trail up the middle of the picture, completely filled in with ice. If you had been there you would have found me clinging to some of this rock face, stuck and hyperventilating, even wearing crampons, wondering aloud, why, why, why, am I here again? Have I learned nothing? You would have observed my dog looking at me quizzically, wondering, why doesn’t she just trot down like I just did?

Continue reading

Daily Catskills: 01/24/18

Briefly back to the earth tones and flax colored landscape. Bitterly cold with an icy wind chasing grainy snow that swirls around on the ground and fills the air, glittering in the sun. An afternoon high of 28F.

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Exploring Kaaterskill Falls: Winter Edition

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The gloriously gorgeous Kaaterskill Falls, being one of the true wonders of the Catskills, is one of our most popular hiking spots for tourists: lush in the summer and, in winter, haunting the eye with its striking beauty. Because of its popularity, it’s noticeably the most well maintained area, with manmade steps, bridges, a viewing platform, rope handles and much more signage. Most of the signage this season is warning signage because Kaaterskill Falls is also the most dangerous place in the Catskills, statistically speaking. Deaths and injuries occur here every year, mostly because people hike to the top of the waterfall and slip over the edge. To prevent more accidents, a sturdy old-school, farm style fence has been installed at the top of the falls, in addition to plenty of warning signs saying: “danger!” Continue reading

Catskills Events: January

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There are some first class events happening in the last few weeks of January, namely a Full Moon Ski/Snow Shoe, a fly fishing meeting at The Pines, an open house at the Catskills Interpretive Center and a farmer’s market. See you there.

Thursday January 25th – 6pm to 10pm – Anglers’ Night at The Pines
From 6pm to 10pm, join a “casual gathering of anglers and friends” at The Pines in Mount Tremper. 5327 Route 212, Mount Tremper, NY 12457.

Saturday January 27th – 11am to 3pm – Winter Open House at the Catskill Interpretive Center
Come out to the Catskill Interpretive Center to learn more about the great opportunities to get outside in the Catskills this winter. Meet outdoor adventure experts and browse information tables from local recreation organizations, enjoy indoor & outdoor activities for all ages from animal tracking to snow sculpture, and much more! Admission to this event is free. RSVPs are appreciated. Call 845-688-3369 or click here. 5096 Route 28, Mount Tremper, NY 12457.

Tuesday, January 30th 6pm to 8pm – Blue Moon Snow Frolic at the CIC
On the grounds of the Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center​ in Mt. Tremper, Jonathan Mogelever will lead a moonlit cross country ski excursion on the 1.5 miles of trails. Jeff Senterman​ will snowshoe with those that prefer a wider base. A bonfire will burn for digit-warming, there will be telescopes available for moon-gazing and the supermoon will light the trails. The Catskill Interpretive Center will be open for hot chocolate and snacks. Cross country skiers from beginners to advanced are welcome to this 45 minute ski and/or snowshoe. Bring your own equipment and please dress warmly.

Monday’s Radio Show: January 22nd, 2018

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On Monday’s radio show on WIOX, we’ll be exploring both history and the natural world: the local tradition of ice harvesting and fly fishing.

On the first half of the show, I’ll be talking to Lisa Wisely of Blue Spark Creative Services, together with Kajsa (pronounced Keesa) Harley of Hanford Mills Museum where the annual ice harvest will take place. Before refrigerators, we had ice houses, which were separate structures from a main house, sometimes built into a hill and in the shade, in which we kept ice in chunks. Lakes were a good source of ice and this ice was harvested and distributed every year.

Every spring, I invite a few local, famous fly fisherman on to the show to talk about this meditative art about which the only thing I can’t get behind is catch-and-release. I prefer not to torture the poor creatures. If I’m going fishing, I’ll be eating whatever I catch. My guest on Monday, in the second half of the show, will be Todd Spire of Esopus Creel.

Local Maple Syrup CSA

It’s syrup time. Taps went into trees a little earlier this year. Tree Juice is now offering a CSA.

There are many maple syrup producers in the Catskills and some of them welcome visitors. It’s worth paying more for local sugar and seeing how it’s made. Some of the modern equipment is more complicated that customers realize. Farmers and producers use miles of tubing to collect the sap. Syrup is produced by condensing the sap and 50-60 gallons of maple sap yield one gallon of syrup. It’s completely organic. Continue reading

Daily Catskills: 01/13/18

Bright sun poking through hazy cloud with a high of 20F and a continual flurry of glittering snow. Large puddles of mud with frozen crusts crack underfoot and trees creaking in the cold.

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Mid-Winter Planting: Hickory Nuts

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Yesterday, the temperature inexplicably rose up into the sixties for a few hours, followed by rain and a severe flood watch. Since then it has plunged back into the teens after an overnight snow storm, during which I woke up to the sound of cracking trees and thundering wind rattling my drain pipes. Never a dull moment here in the mountains. Continue reading

Daily Catskills: 01/12/18

Overnight, gusty, house-creaking, tree-waving winds continue into morning, with rain melting the last of the snow, and bright despite being overcast. A lush landscape of brunette tones is revealed, and the landscape welcomes a drenching before the ice storm. A balmy 61F. T-shirt weather. Flood warning. The carbon sink (compost piles) gets a thorough soaking.

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Daily Catskills: 01/11/18

A high of 52F, gloomy all day with the occasional whip of wind and a chorus of tinkling as the snow drips from high places. An anonymous critter’s regular commute back and forth from a large cave into the hemlock stand melts slowly to reveal a trail of crushed ash leaves.

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Bear Cub Birthing Season

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We have a large rocky outcropping on the edge of the forested part of our property that juts out sharply towards our neighbor’s ten-acre forest (pictured above). This rocky area, about an half an acre in size, is essentially a pile of assorted boulders that look like they’ve been tossed down the hill, but I suspect that this pile is home to various creatures great and small. Years ago, when I was brushing my teeth, casually looking out the bathroom window, I saw a fisher cat sneaking through the back of our woods behind the house towards this rocky outcropping. Continue reading

Hot Toddies, Seeds and Bee Bibles

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Cabin fever has you wondering if its possible to survive another six-month winter and why you would put yourself through another one, but there’s a reason we have winter in the Catskills. I like to think that it’s not because the earth suddenly tilts for no purpose whatsoever, as if holding its cold ass to the fire. No, winter’s for learning, seed planning, and drinking a lot of warming winter cocktails like hot toddies and mulled wine. If the earth must kick back, so can we. Continue reading

Local Radio: WIOX

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Local, regional radio hosts and shows are finally getting the attention they deserve from the New York Times in a piece by Kirk Johnson entitled: “As Low-Power Local Radio Rises, Tiny Voices Become a Collective Shout”. I’m proud to be part of this chorus on WIOX Radio on Roxbury, Upstate New York in a show called The Economy Of, in which I tackle different subjects every other week with guests from all over the world. I’m also being considered for a Morning Edition slot from 7pm to 9pm one day a week on this station. The station and its programs are indeed incredibly diverse and informative. Started by a group of locals in a converted barn and now partnered with WSKG, a NPR affiliate, WIOX is the little engine that could, covering everything local in the Catskill Mountains, streaming online and locally on 91.3FM.

If you missed it, this morning my show was on farming. My guest was Dana DiPrima, aka Farm Girl, who writes the blog The Pitchfork about keeping a small farm on her property in Sullivan County. I’ve been farmer’s advocate since I began my show almost seven years ago. Time flies!

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