Heritage Apple Cake

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If you need something to do with all the heritage apples that are falling all over the Catskills now, here’s a recipe passed on to me by Tamara Ehlin of the Forsyth BnB in Kingston. This recipe is gorgeous because a sugary, chewy crust forms on the top of the cake and gradually softens all the way down to its fruity bottom.This cake is as wild as our apples.

However you add the fruit, it still ends up at the base of the cake. I didn’t put enough apples in the little loaf pictured above because whenever you do this recipe it will feel like you’re putting too much fruit in. The batter barely covers the apples and you have to press the mixture down before you put it in the oven. I made a larger cake by doubling the ingredients and it came out perfectly with all the fruit sunk to the bottom.

This recipe is good for soft and stone fruit too.

Fruit Cake

1 cup AP flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 oz butter (1 stick)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 tsp almond extract
2 eggs
2 cups sliced fruit (a mix of tart and sweet works best, like sour cherries, plums, peaches, blueberries, or peeled apple)

Soften the butter and whip it together with the sugar, vanilla, almond extract. Add the two eggs and beat them in. Mix the whole mixture well. Sift the flour and baking powder and add it into the butter/sugar mix gradually. Mix until you have a batter. The batter will be very stiff. Once you have a smooth batter, stir in the apples and mix well. Add to a greased loaf tin and bake on 350 for about 50 minutes.

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Catskills Weekend: Sept 23rd & 24th

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Saturday, September 23rd and Sunday September 24th: “Gravity is Your Mortar: Stone Wall Building Workshop at the West Kortright Center. Find tickets here. Find more information on their Facebook page.

Learn the basics of building free-standing dry-laid stone walls under the instruction of a stone wall professional with over 20 years experience.
Students will learn how to sort & choose stones, use gravity to create a stable structure, and carve their initials in the new wall.

$200 per person/$180 (WKC members); Ages 17+; Limit: 10 students

Saturday September 23rd: 10am to 12pm. Children’s Book Launch of Fred and the Lumberjack, at the Catskill Interpretive Center. The book is a brand-new picture book about loneliness, finding friendship in unexpected places, and plaid — lots and lots of plaid by local children’s author/illustrator Steven Weinberg, who will read the story and share a glimpse into his drawing process.

The Catskill Interpretive Center, 5096 Route 28, Mount Tremper, NY 12457.

Saturday September 23rd: 1pm to 3pm: Mutual Muses in the Catskills at the Catskill Interpretive Center. Photographer Rudd Hubbell, who’s been documenting the natural beauty of the Catskills since the 1970s, will share his work and a conversation with nature writer Leslie T. Sharpe, author of the new book The Quarry Fox and Other Critters of the Wild Catskills (2017).

Tick Tube Update

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Readers have asked for an update on my experience with tick tubes, so here it is. In June, I wrote a post about how we installed “tick tubes” around our house, in the woodshed, and flower beds. Pictured above, the tubes are filled with permethrin-laced cotton wool, which mice and chipmunks take and use to make their nests. White footed mice and other small rodents living on the edge of forests are believed to be the main vector for ticks, according to most sources. The permethrin on the cotton wool kills the ticks on the rodents.

Summer is coming to a close, and we have not seen a tick anywhere, on us or the dog, since we put out the tubes. Less than half of our land is forest, but we do live on the edge of it, making our house a hotbed for tick action. Continue reading

Fall Events in the Catskills: Fundraiser at Wayside Cider

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On Saturday Sept 30th, starting at Noon: Wayside Cider is hosting a fundraising benefit called Cows for Cafeterias.

The tap room in Andes is teaming up with Farm Catskills and Andes School to throw a big party and pig roast to raise money to buy a whole beef cow for Andes school cafeteria.

Says co-owner Alex Wilson, “When we opened our taproom in Andes, the community immediately made us feel welcome. We want to show our appreciation by giving back to this beautiful village, and couldn’t think of a better way than to support the young students at Andes Central School”.

The event starts at noon runs until 10pm, with the food being served until 5pm and an auction beginning at 2pm where you can bid on a fishing excursion with local fishing guide Esopus Creel and art by talented local artists. Continue reading

Fall Events in the Catskills: The Barn Tour

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Here’s a chance to explore the fabulous barns of the Catskills. Take a sneak peek behind the historical architecture of our mountains.

On Sunday Oct 1st, 11am to 4pm: The West Kortright Centre will hold its first Barn Tour fundraiser. Take a self-guided tour of the structures that characterize our region’s agricultural heritage and hilly farmland. Get an up-close look at iconic bank and ramp-style barns, the cupolas that decorate and ventilate them, their timber frames, and the stone foundations upon which they are built.

You’ll explore both traditional and innovative dairy operations, horse stables, and repurposed barns. Additional attractions include a fleet of working vintage tractors, amazing chicken coops, beautiful duck ponds, stately draft horses, sloe-eyed cows, and gaggles of geese.

Professor Cynthia Falk, author of Barns of New York: Rural Architecture of the Empire State, will be on-site at the first barn to provide introductory information about barn history and architecture.

Tickets for this event are $16 per person, to benefit the West Kortright Centre. Pre-registration is required to receive directions to the first barn. Go here to pre-register, or for more information, call (607) 278-5454, or visit their website to purchase tickets before 3PM on Friday, September 29th.

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Daily Catskills: 09/19/17

Hot in the sun with hazy sunshine, with a cool breeze ushering the fall and a high of 82F. These last few days of summer end on Thursday. Fall begins on Friday with the Autumnal Equinox.

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Daily Catskills: 09/18/17

Another balmy morning at 65F with the blazing sun chasing fog into the valleys. A high of 82F, hot in the sun with a cool breeze, like summer wants another chance.

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Daily Catskills: 09/17/17

A foggy start to the day, rising to 83F and scorching in the sun until the storm clouds sailed through with a mini-storm. Sunburn one minute; a thorough soaking the next. This year’s fall is more like a fade…  a draining of color from vivid green to yellow. The forest floor is carpet of brown and yellow.

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Daily Catskills: 09/16/17

A balmy morning at 65F by 9am. The morning fog rolled away to reveal trees, bushes, forest floor and fields liberally bestrewn with lacy spiders’ webs, as if the forest had been dressed for halloween overnight.

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Hazelnut Harvest

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The hazelnut bushes are thriving in the orchard and we got hundreds more nuts this year than last year. We have about four or five pounds. They grow in beautiful pods that are like frilly fingers on green hands that offer you the fruit. Once picked, the green frills dry into a husk which you have to peel off to reveal the hazelnut.

Like all nuts, hazelnuts are high in fat, but also a good source of magnesium, iron, fiber, calcium and vitamin D. Hazelnuts are the basis of Nutella, a delicious European chocolate spread. While the nuts dry, we’ll decide what to do with them.

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Daily Catskills: 09/15/17

Another moody day: a high of 79F, muggy and sweaty with sultry, stormy clouds and distant rain over Slide Mountain. Mother natures continues to flick red splotches into her green canvas.

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Saving Seeds: Arugula & Bok Choy

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Both the arugula and the bok choy quickly went to seed in the summer heat. A happy accident that yielded thousands of free seeds, shaken from the dry plants, to be planted when it’s a little cooler. Find the video on our instagram feed. Continue reading

Daily Catskills: 09/14/17

A high of 75F, humid and overcast with scene-stealing, multifarious clouds leading to isolated showers and a balmy evening. Dashes of red appearing on the landscape like hot pepper seasoning. Moody.

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Daily Catskills: 09/12/17

79F by mid-afternoon and sunny with hazy cloud. Cool in the shade. Splashes of red dot the landscape.

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Daily Catskills: 09/11/17

A high of 74F, warm in the hazy sunshine, but chilly in the shade. Wild leeks, the infamous “ramps”, issue their unique seeds, like tiny, opaque spheres of shimmering onyx.

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Catskills Links: Labor Day Edition

Tonight

Burlesque is back in the Catskills. Tonight at Union Grove Distillery beginning at 8.30pm. Buy tickets here, or they are available on the door. Seating is first come, first served. Just Shop Boutique, across the road, is open until 8pm.

Saturday 2nd

John Burroughs Woodchuck Lodge hosts its penultimate Wild Saturday at 1pm at Woodchuck Lodge in Roxbury entitled Face to Face with Raptors, in which Annie Mardiney, federally licensed wildlife “rehabilitator”, shares her deep passion by bringing hawks, owls, and falcons to show visitors.

Family Day at the Catskill Interpretive Center: bird watching, hiking, crafts, rock painting, learning to identify animal footprints and more from the natural world.

Logic and Structure at the Painters Gallery in Fleischmanns, a group show featuring Beth Caspar, Susan Spencer Crowe, Joan Grubin, Robert James, Wanda Kossak, Don Muchow, Margaret Neill, Paula Quinon.

Saturday night sees the annual lighting of the fire towers at 9am. Find out where the best places to view them are. The Catskills Fire Tower system celebrated 100 years of watching for wild fires over the Catskills this summer.

Sunday 3rd

Sunday is Bovina Farm Day, featuring farm animals, a corn maze, the scarecrow contest and vendors selling and sampling locally produced products.

Apple pie contest is between 2-3pm. $6 per car and a full day of family fun!

Next week:

From September 6th to 12th: Watershed Stories from the Catskill Center, . Led by Lisa Jacobson, these workshops were designed to provide a unique holistic, visual and written product based on “Art as an EcoSystem”. To do this, participants recycled beautiful old books into a retelling of water, the New York Watershed and its interconnections with everything else.

September 7th: Catskill Cuisine with Chef Rob Handel at the Catskill Interpretive Center in Mount Tremper.

And…

A new bus service to bring people to the Catskills.

Daily Catskills: 08/31/17

A chilly high of 67F, with the sun straining to break through multifarious clouds, gusty winds and a lunchtime shower. August almost goes out with a whimper to the sound of a thousand wood stoves firing up, but the sun comes out at the last minute and turns the clouds into a milky glaze.

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Foraging: Lion’s Mane

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There are several reasons to get excited about Lion’s Mane. First of all, it’s arrestingly beautiful, and when you spot it in the forest it appears to be luminous, as if a beam of light is shining through the forest canopy directly onto it. Lion’s Mane cascades over a log like a dreamy waterfall, frozen in time, with it’s milky stalactites. It’s also called the pom-pom mushroom for the obvious reason.

Second, it can’t really be mistaken for anything else. Some guides tell you to compare it to the poisonous yellow-tipped coral because when Lion’s Mane gets old the tips turn yellow, but the coral grows upwards. Even as a novice mushroom hunter though, I was pretty certain that what I had found (pictured above) was the real thing and that thought was backed up by two others more experienced than I am. (I have just eaten it, so if it’s not, it was nice knowing you.)

Furthermore, you can cultivate Lion’s Mane and it is widely said to have medicinal benefits, like Shitake and Reishi. Experts say that it improves neurological function and alleviates anxiety.

On top of that, it’s utterly delicious, tasting (raw) like a more meaty, fragrant, cooked lobster, with exactly the same texture.

If you’re looking to eat less seafood, you can buy kits to cultivate this exquisite delicacy and grow it yourself. Once you’ve tasted it, it’ll seem like a no-brainer. This mushroom is about 20% protein.

To prepare it, I sliced off the top part that had a lot of forest debris in it. Then broke off about five clumps of the tendrils and washed them thoroughly. (You never know what animal might have peed on it.) Then I separated the tendrils until I had what looked like about almost a cup of loose lobster meat and sweat it in butter. Then I added three beaten eggs and scrambled the mixture. You can see a piece of raw mushroom top left (below).

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Daily Catskills: 08/27/17

After another overnight low of 45F, a high of 74F and sunny with wispy cloud. Hot in the sun; cool in the shade.

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Foraging: The Year of the Mushroom

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The natural world breathes its seasons’ wild crops like a vital, forceful green lung and you never can tell what will blow in with the wind. When it breathes in, we get wild apples the size of a man’s fist; when it breathes out, the result is a vast rash of mushrooms, some the size of dinner plates. On this part of the world at least, a wide ridge at the top of a Catskills mountain, we can’t seem to have both. This year, the wild apples are half the size they were last year and less sweet, but you can find your way home through the forest by the trail of mushrooms of myriad varieties. It’s like the forest floor got a very vivid case of acne. The mushrooms are mushrooming, because we’ve had so much rain and humidity. I have about a hundred of what I think are blewits behind my house.

It seems like a sign, so I’m following it, as if my woods have handed me a purpose: mushroom identification, and it’s not like I like things simple anyway. It’s a good thing because there are so many variables to consider. It’s a practice like yoga or medicine: you’ll always be learning and that’s also a decent rule by which to live. Don’t think you know it all. Last year, I found four huge boletes on my property, each one almost the size of my foot, and made a mushroom gravy with them, but this haul was an anomaly on our property, except one huge, fine specimen I found in the same place yesterday. This guy’s too old, however, but he’s probably lain a million spores in the immediate vicinity. Continue reading

Daily Catskills: 08/23/17

After heavy overnight rain, a high of 76F with an armada of clouds sailing through the blue. The wild, post-rain proliferation of mushrooms continues in the cool shade of a hemlock forest.

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The Catskill 35: Summer on Slide

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Most of the trail to Slide, almost to the top from the Slide Parking Area, is like rubble, as if an ancient giant smashed the top with Thor’s hammer and a plethora of rocks tumbled down the side and piled up in the dirt below. You might appreciate the step aerobics-type exercise on the way up, but the descent can be precarious. Hiking poles are a great help on this type of trail. The hiker needs to be as nimble as a mountain goat in order to make good time, or take some extra time to make frequent stops on the way down to sit and ruminate amidst the ancient geography. The Catskills were once – millions of years ago – on the seabed in the Bahamas. You can find marine fossils, pebbles and small pieces of harder stone embedded in the rock. This is a good hike for dogs, because there are plenty of small, running streams to provide refreshment. There are some stone steps built into the rubble at various points to ease passage.

Slide is easier to navigate on foot in the winter when it’s covered in a thick layer of ice or snow and you can glide over the top in spikes or snowshoes, but the summer reveals its fascinating character. This is no ordinary hike and Slide Mountain Wilderness was a favorite of local legend, essayist and naturalist John Burroughs, a protégé of Walt Whitman. There is a plaque dedicated to Burroughs at the summit, on a rock under which the author frequently slept. He wrote: “Here the works of man dwindle, in the heart of the southern Catskills”. Be careful not to miss the plaque if you’re finishing your hike at the summit of Slide Mountain.  Continue reading

A Pit Stop at Kovo Rotisserie

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To all our summer guests, who must face hours of battle with city traffic and the prospect of trundling wearily into the Catskills late evening without supper, try a mid-journey pit stop in Kingston. There’s a relatively wide variety of restaurants in Kingston, including a handful of Greek restaurants, one of which is the excellent Kovo Rotisserie on Front Street, in a light, airy and modern setting.

Kovo Rotisserie’s pita bread is thick, spongy and liberally doused in olive oil, going well with their home made hummus. There are traditional Greek beverages like Greek coffee, soda, wine, retsina and Mythos lager available with the wide selection of other beverages. There are also Greek “Bento Boxes” for kids that offer items like hummus, vegetable spears, cheeses, nuts, avocado, lamb meatballs, beans, fritters and sausage for $10. The Kovo specialties are free-range, roasted chicken ($14 per chicken) and pita sandwiches ($10) with choices of fillings. The food is fresh, wholesome and tasty. In particular, the lamb meatball salad was delicious: filling but not overly fatty. The pitta sandwiches, served with fries, are filling enough eaten on their own because the pita is thick. For sides, the manouri cheese, a mild, creamy sheep’s cheese in the style of ricotta is especially mouthwatering. Continue reading

Daily Catskills: 08/18/17

Surprise! More heavy rain. A high of 80F, with oppressive humidity, a heavy blanket of cloud and mist swirling over the mountains like the ghost of summers past. Steamy.

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Breakfast in the Catskills

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It’s blackberry season and they are sweeter and juicier this year. Berries in general grow well in the Catskills’ rocky soil and high elevation. A few years ago, a local farmer gave sage advice: grow whatever grows the best on your property and grow a lot of it. Blackberries are in abundance this year in the forests too and in fields we are seeing more huckleberries, a blueberry type fruit. We are also having a good apple season, although the apples on the heritage apple trees are not yet ripe.

Shakespeare At The Round Barn in Halcottsville

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Last Saturday, The Halcotsville Shakespeare Company presented its inaugural performance of Romeo & Juliet at the Round Barn at Pakatakan Market. This Saturday, August 19th, at noon will be its second and final performance. The production is unique in that it is performed amongst the crowds of market goers. The event was organized by Tom Hughes an NYC educator and writer who has worked with kids in the theatre with Epic Theatre Ensemble for many years in the Bronx. This production brings young actors together from both the Catskills and New York City.

The intent “is to make the shoppers part of the performance, turn the farmer’s market into Verona,” says Hughes.

UPDATE: In some places, the event is being billed as beginning at NOON not 12.30pm as previously reported. Get there earlier to guarantee being able to experience the whole performance. Continue reading

A Pit Stop at The Forsyth

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When you have frequent summer guests to your rural home, who come from far and wide, Exit 19 in Kingston on Route 87 is a good pit stop for travelers who are hungry, tired or cranky from the long drive. Stylish, comfortable B&Bs are popping up all over this city, which offers some excellent attractions.

I popped into The Forsyth, a charming and elegant B&B in the historic Rondout area of Kingston, for a look around with owner Tamara. Her friend Allison cooked me a crispy-bottomed, fried, runny, local egg, which I mopped up with a date scone and washed down with a cup of Earl Grey. Local eggs are vividly yellow, sweet and creamy. Rondout, in the city’s waterfront area, has a sophisticated vibe and is walkable with historic landmarks, public art, antique stores and restaurants. The Stockade District, just a brief taxi-ride away from the waterfront, has bars and clubs that will suit your house guests from NYC who need their noisy friday night before they settle in for a country weekend. Continue reading

How to Hike in The Catskills: Summer Edition

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A few years ago, a tourist website ran an article about one of our swimming holes in the shadow of a mountain peak.

I’m doing the Catskill 35, so I’ve hiked the mountain under which the hole rests, but never used the hole itself. Why? Because since publication of the article, day-tripping tourists have returned year after year and used the site like their own personal kitchen, bedroom and toilet. They literally, eat, shoot and leave. We find used condoms, diapers and the empty contents of an average kitchen: huge containers of olive oil, bread wrappers, beer bottles, wine bottles, spent coals, styrofoam coolers, plastic containers and much more.

Kind spectators of the Sunday night scene at this hole have diplomatically said that city people “don’t realize there’s nobody to clean up after them”, but I’m a born and bred city girl and well accustomed to garbage cans. As a rule, if there’s no garbage can around, I put it in my pocket or backpack. Continue reading

Weekend Links: Food & Drink Edition

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Come to a party at Ella’s Mercantile in Halcottsville on Saturday August 12th beginning at 4pm.

Booze your way to good health with Laura Silverman’s recipe for a thyme cocktail for Well and Good Magazine: “if you feel the inkling of a late-summer cold coming on, it’s the perfect reason to get out your cocktail shaker”. If you need a reason, that is.

I’ve said it before, Pakatakan Farmer’s Market is full of scrumptious food and beverages like sausage pie, vodka, kimchee, restorative herbs and fresh royal jelly in addition to your farmer’s market staples like meat, vegetables, dairy, baked goods, mushrooms, and more booze. Nearby, just up the road, you will find Outsider’s Cafe for breakfast too.

Peace, love and food trucks in Bethel.

A blueberry pie eating contest in Woodstock next Wednesday.