The dark side of “agritainment” by Civil Eats. “Farmers in Sonoma County—real farmers with dirt under their fingernails and aching backs—make an average of $12.21 an hour, or just under $34,000 a year. The average household income in the U.S. for small farmers (the 82 percent of U.S. farming operations that have annual sales of $100,000 or less) is $81,000. Around 85 to 95 percent of that income number comes from off-farm day jobs”.
In some ways, Autumn is a better time for Catskills living. The region relies greatly on tourism because it remains under-developed. In order to keep our waterways clean so that New Yorkers can drink the Catskills water unfiltered, industry is heavily regulated. As a consequence of this, friends and neighbors are never more busy than they are in the summer with events and visitors. The wedding industry is booming; hairdressers, chefs, caterers, make-up artists, photographers, hotels and inns are realizing good trade in this speciality event. Autumn is creeping in and although there are still events during this time, there is a general, collective sigh of relief occurring as the business winds down. Country life remains hard work year-round though. We’re not running through sun-drenched hay fields like its a shampoo commercial, but it will be nice to play catch-up with friends and colleagues in these coming months.
The Hubbell Family Cider Mill on Route 30 in Halcotsville, which has been pressing apples since 1878, opens its doors to the public on October 1st and every Saturday in October. All are invited to come and watch apples being pressed. Details will be released closer to the time. I will be interviewing Burr Hubbell and Andrew on WIOX Radio on October 3rd at 9am to discuss the history of the Catskills apple and farming in the region.
A very important film about seeds and a short clip from the Lexicon of Sustainability about how we eat hardly anything that our ancestors ate even 100 years ago and why this is the case. “The diversity in our seed stocks is as endangered as a panda or a polar bear”. And: “When we invaded Iraq, we destroyed that seed bank and we destroyed the ancient seeds that had been collected for the benefit of mankind”.
From the New York Times, could ancient remedies be the answer to the looming antibiotic crisis?
“Humankind, despite its artistic abilities, sophistication and accomplishments, owes its existence to a six-inch layer of farmable soil and the fact that it rains.” Anonymous quoted by John Jeavons. “In Nature, soil genesis takes an average of 500 years on the Earth to grow one inch of this wonderful element. This means it takes 3,000 years to grow six inches”.
The Catskills Pinhole Camera Project was launched three years ago and Upstate Dispatch participated last November, writing about it here. My pinhole camera was attached to a tree facing west through our forest for about a month and the above image is the processed result: a month of vivid, winter sunsets through bare trees.
The Painters Gallery’s Wanda Siedlecka started the project with her friend Przemek Zajfert and the entire community was invited to join. Everyone who asked for it received the beautifully packaged camera with instructions.
Their exposures were processed for free by Zajfert, a photographer from Stuttgart, who has mastered photographic and cinematic techniques from the time of their invention and early stages of development. Last Spring, the first one hundred exposures were exhibited at The Painters Gallery in Fleischmanns and future exhibitions are planned.
Hazelnut bushes experience quite a transformation during their growing season. By the end of winter, they bear long, cream-colored tendrils that hang like old, decrepit Christmas tree decorations from their bare branches. By the time summer comes, those tendrils are clusters of bright green, frilly seed casings (pictured bottom) that each bear one hazelnut. It’s essential to harvest them before the squirrels and chipmunks grab them.
Farming is a risky business. Every year, at least one crop gets a blight. This year it was the squash that gave up just after it blossomed, making me kick myself that I didn’t take those blossoms, stuff them with goat’s cheese and fry them. This year the tomatoes (that suffered their blight three years ago) are doing well like the onions, potatoes and garlic. The rhubarb, now ready to harvest once three years old, was so exceptional that we planted four or five more plants – from previous years’ saved seeds – in our meadow and in the orchard with some asparagus. They sprang forth quickly. Rhubarb likes it around here and we like it. Last year’s tomatoes were equally good. Once you grow your own tomatoes, you’ll never buy store bought variety again. Plus, it’s so easy to have an indoor tomato plant on the windowsill and fill your kitchen with that heady tomato smell.
John Burroughs’ Woodchuck Lodge runs a “Wild Saturday” program at the lodge in Roxbury. The next event will bring visitors “Face to Face with Raptors” at 1 p.m. Saturday, September 3rd. Meet wildlife rehabilitator Annie Mardiney and some of her feathered friends at this free program, sponsored by Vly Mountain Spring Water. The program will be held under cover if it rains. Woodchuck Lodge is located at 1633 Burroughs Memorial Road, Roxbury 12474.
Catskills evenings are magical on a clear night with a few planets in alignment and an inky sky bursting with stars. They’re even more magical when viewed from a fire tower of which there are five in the Catskills. Fire towers are equipped with cabins at their apex and these cabins were manned (can we say personned now?) to watch for fires in the Catskills that are common around May when the grass, having been covered and deadened during winter, hasn’t yet sprung to life. The foliage is also still very dry and wildfires are common.
On Friday September 2nd, witness the 3rd Annual Lighting of the Fire Towers when from 9 to 9.30pm, we are invited to find a place with a view of a fire tower (or towers) on the horizon and watch their cabin light up the night sky.
Friday September 2nd 9 – 9.30pm: The 3rd Annual Lighting of the Fire Towers
From a high place in the Catskills, witness the 3rd Annual Lighting of the Fire Towers when from 9 – 9.30pm, we are invited to find a place with a view of a fire tower or towers on the horizon and watch their cabin light up the night sky.
Saturday September 3rd, 10am – 3pm: Tour of the Sculpture Garden at the Catskill Interpretive Center
The Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center is the gateway to the Catskill Park. Located on a 60 acre site, the Catskill Interpretive Center includes sculpture installations which are chosen by jury and displayed for a year. Come and see the 2016/2017 installation and get a tour by the artists who created the sculptures (not suitable for children under 8 years of age).
Saturday August 27th starting at 10am: Great Catskill Mountain BBQ Fest in Fleischmanns
A day-long Kansas City Barbeque Society sanctioned BBQ competition and festival for professional and amateur pitmasters. It promises to be an “exciting day of competition, fun, food, music, vendors galore and all things barbecue in Fleischmanns Park in Fleischmanns, NY”. Proceeds will benefit the Fleischmanns Community Pool Project. More details here.
Saturday August 27th 1.30pm to 4.30pm: Bees, Honey & You in Margaretville
Will “The Bee Man” will discuss the inside & outside workings of honey bee hives. Participants will gain a better understanding of the crucial relationship between human beings, nature and our environment. Learn why bees are vital beyond the production of honey. The program will end with a Q&A period and a jar of honey. Blue Deer Center, 1153 County Highway 6, Margaretville, NY 12455. More details here.
2 cups of chopped mushrooms
1 medium onion
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tablespoon of ground celery
2 tablespoons of local butter
2 tablespoons of whole milk
2 cups of boiling water
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1 teaspoon of sage
1 sprig of rosemary
1 tablespoon of all purpose flour
This recipe calls for chopped mushrooms, but if you like your mushroom gravy lump-free, then you will either need to use minced mushrooms instead of chopped, whizz them in the blender or you will have to purée the gravy with a hand blender once it’s cooked.
It’s mushroom season and while foraging I found a huge stand of bolete mushrooms growing under maple and oak trees on the edge of my forest. I’m a novice forager, so I had FOUR separate people confirm that what I had was edible. Before proceeding to eat any mushroom, you must first be certain of its identity. Seek the counsel of experts as it’s simply not worth making a mistake in this case. Even as my mushrooms are cooking, I’m still worried about eating them. A couple of neighbors have applauded my courage, so it’s safe to assume I will have what I cook all to myself. I will keep readers posted as to the state of my stomach. Over the next month or so, I will be taking some foraging classes, but in the meantime, I wanted to get started and make the most of what my garden had to offer.
After picking, the garlic has to be hung out to dry for three weeks, which has been tricky during these past few weeks of heavy rainfall. A neighbor put his garlic in the wood-drying kiln because his property was so wet. Home grown garlic is so different from store bought garlic, but the main difference is that a clove of home grown garlic bursts with oil when you cut it.
Due to the heavy rainfall, the mossy forest floor has sprung a vast city of fungus of all shapes, colors and sizes. We have purple, orange, yellow, red, brown, tall, short, tiny, thin, spindly, hand-sized and completely round like dense soap bubbles. All this has sprung up en masse within the space of about 24 hours in totally unprecedented quantities. Well – quantities not seen since the city girl went country. After just a half-hour walk with the dog, I’ll be lighting up Instagram for the rest of the afternoon. I believe the flat, white mushroom growing on the log is chicken mushroom, but would not dare eat it. Thanks to the humble acorn for it’s modeling stint.
Anything at Peekamoose is delicious and well made, but the Pastrami is arguably the best pastrami in the Catskills. Thick and juicy, it arrives with a side of mustard and a handful of tangy caperberries. Exceptionally for last night, it came on this bun but you can also find grass-fed beef pastrami on the charcuterie plate with pork, cherry and pistachio terrine, chicken liver pate, pickled red onions and house made bread (which you can take home and use to make the world’s best leftover sandwich).
Twin Mountain is so named because it has twin peaks, and they are twin pains in the backside on the final ascent from either direction. After almost two-month hiatus, Twin was my 29th Catskills peak and this one seemed liked the most challenging yet. Hikers say Sugarloaf is the most difficult, but not so, in my humble opinion. I ascended Sugarloaf in icy conditions in February and last week’s summer ascent of Twin was much worse. From Pecoy Notch, on the last 0.7 miles to the summit of Twin, the path turns into mostly sheer rock face like this below: