On Mushroom Hunting

After yesterday’s torrential rain, our forest floor erupted with mushrooms, of all shape, size, name and color, like twinkling jewels amidst the undergrowth and quite an extraordinary sight to behold.

Beautiful, ethereal Ghostpipe (or Indian Pipe, pictured above) has proliferated like never before seen in our forest. To see a venerable plant that is ordinarily quite rare, this seems magical. Not technically a mushroom, it’s rather a plant that doesn’t photosynthesize, devoid of chlorophyll and taking its nutrients from a delicate balance of conditions: decaying deciduous leaf matter, conifer trees and an underground fungus network, in perfect measure. It’s pretty much impossible to cultivate because it’s so sensitive and venerated because it’s an analgesic, for physical and emotional pain, that is over harvested. To be presented with such a plant in abundance feels like a gift, so I’ll be harvesting a small amount this year to make a tincture. Continue reading

Bovina Fashion Week

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Country life is a great leveler. There are American icons in our midst who are asked to sit on boards with people who forget their names and there are enigmatic art directors who hold fashion shows with clothing made entirely from recycled garbage on their 100-acre farm. Who knows what the sheep thought, but a good time was had by the humans in attendance and an essential statement was made about the environment.

Yes, the model pictured above is blurry, but the organizer, Steve Burnett, aka The Bovina Farmer, had a glittering career in New York City before he realized his dreams, so he got everyone drunk on Manhattans. In fact, refreshments for the audience were two whole watermelons and a copper bowl of Manhattans served to us by the illustrious Sir Julian of Richards, he of Tickler fame. The audience was ushered into the event through a dense thicket of balsam fir by the dulcet tones of the bagpipes played by a piper clad in full blue tartan. Once the bagpipes had retreated, musical accompaniment for the show was provided by a world class drummer beating some expert modeling marching orders on metal garbage pails.

There is seriously never a dull moment here in these beautifully eccentric Catskill Mountains.

Catskills Weekend: July 22nd

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Saturday July 22nd

Phoenicia

You may just be able to register in time for Taste the World, at 1.30pm on Saturday – if it’s not sold out – at the Phoenicia Library. Sample a medley of traditional foods that The Recipe Hunters learned to make in the homes of locals from around the world. Hear about the stories of people behind these recipes. ADVANCED REGISTRATION required, please call the library 688-7811. 48 Main Street, Phoenicia, NY 12464.

Hobart

Hosted by Transition Catskills, Hobart Methodist Church is holding a Repair Cafe from 10am to 2pm. Take your broken household items, like lamps, vacuum cleaners, small appliances and clothing to be fixed. Hobart Methodist Church, 186 Maple Avenue, Hobart, NY 13788

Bovina

Gardens of Bovina Tour, hosted by Bovina Historical Society will take place from 10am to 4pm. 124 Bob Hall Road, Bovina Center, NY 13740. This is a rare chance to get an insider’s glimpse of one of the hippest areas in the Catskills. Feel free to bring a picnic lunch.

Arkville

If you are interested in becoming a member of the non-profit Catskill Center, they are holding a members-only event entitled The Hudson River School and the Ice Age with speakers and geologists Johanna and Robert Titus. The Catskills Mountains were once at the bottom of the sea where the Bahamas are now. Found out how they got here, Saturday 22nd, 7pm to 9pm. 43355 State Route 28, Arkville, NY 12406. Membership is $35 for individuals and $50 for families.

Andes

Wayside Cider are hosting a Wallabout Fire Roasted Beef Dinner at 6pm Wayside Cider, 55 Redden Lane, Andes, NY 13731. $60 cash at the door.

Monday 24th July

Pine Hill

The Zephyr in Pine Hill is hosting a trivia game night. from 7pm to 10pm. 302 Main Street, Pine Hill, NY 12465. $5 margaritas and some delicious local eats.

Everyday Philosophy

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I walked down a mountain today to the Gilding Bee at The Painters Gallery in Fleischmanns, run by Laura Sue King.

If you don’t understand the arts, like contemporary art for example, or you can’t see a use for it, The Gilding Bee couldn’t be of more help to guide you and it runs for another week. The object of this project, funded by a grant administered by the Roxbury Arts Group, was to gild small, familiar items (that fit in the palm of your hand) to be included in an exhibition on July 30th in the gallery.

Coating every day objects in gold leaf elevates the ordinary but necessary into something exceptional, reaffirming the value of every day items, and why not? The whole project highlights the importance of art, friendship, community, and other things that seem trivial, or taken for granted, as we rush from place to place. It’s a small, symbolic way to celebrate the good in a world of bad. I bought dice, a bottle, pieces of old Prague pavement that had come loose, and a lipstick.

Lipstick: The lipstick effect is an economic theory holding that during difficult economic times women spend more money on goods like lipstick because it’s a cheap way of making yourself feel good. According to The Economist: “Believers in the lipstick theory trace the phenomenon back to the Depression, when cosmetic sales increased by 25%, despite the convulsing economy”. Something you might think is irrelevant, like lipstick, has had its own economic theory for almost 100 years.

Pieces of Prague Pavement: we went on vacation to Europe seven years ago and, as we wandered the streets of Prague, inebriated on Czech lager, we took a real, concrete souvenir: part of the city. Adding some gold to these two innocuous, square cobblestones took me back in time. I remembered the stews, the borscht, the bridge, and the stunning beauty of Prague. We’re told that material things are burdensome and we shouldn’t get attached to them, but as you get older, even small objects retain memories for you that the brain has long forgotten.

The gold dice represent people who think they got rich simply by working hard and being smart, when success takes a lot of luck, like being born into a wealthy family.

The Gilding Bee runs for another week: next Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 1pm to 5pm at The Painters Gallery, Main Street, Fleischmanns, NY 12430. Suggested donation of $5.

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Storms & Sunsets

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I’m told that, while we were away this month, there was continual rain and yesterday evening, after a dash of threatening thunder, we had a spectacular storm before dusk. The sun’s last rays were caught, as if trapped, between an intensely deep, blue-gray storm cloud and more white clouds above. The rays were then dragged across the sky, rippling the white clouds while they followed this angry, gray mass as it sailed over Slide Mountain issuing streaks of lightning as the sun set.

Our ridge was bathed in deep red and the black lab sniffed the air as he chased the storm down the hill, keen to see it move on. Can dogs smell thunder and lightning? If so, he got a big whiff of it last night. A gorgeous, enigmatic evening.

The Gilding Bee in Fleischmanns

Photo courtesy of Laura Sue King

This week at The Painters Gallery in Fleischmanns starting Monday July 17th at 1pm for two weeks, a community goldleafing project begins, hosted by Laura Sue King called The Gilding Bee. No reservations are needed. You can turn up at The Painters on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 1pm to 5pm for the next two weeks. The project will culminate in an exhibition on July 30th.

Laura will provide the gold leaf and found ceramic, glass and metal objects, but you are welcome to bring your own. Other materials that are gold leaf friendly are plastic, wood and paper. It’s preferable if the object fits in the palm of your hand as the gold is real and we want to make sure there’s enough for all. Participants will be able to take their object home with them.

This is a chance to make everyday items into something exceptional with members of the community: a symbol of the importance of friendship and the significance of art, to put on the mantle piece. It could be a rock, pebble, small pot, or bottle.

The Painters Gallery, 1109 Main Street, Fleischmanns, NY 12430. Suggested donation of $5 will be waived for those who cannot pay.

The Gilding Bee is made possible with funds from the Decentralization Grant Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature and administered by the Roxbury Arts Group. Sponsored by the MARK Project.

Finding Home

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I’ve been in England for a family wedding for the last two weeks and although the British countryside is in my blood, and I’m shaped like a missing piece of its jigsaw, it was moving to return to the mountains, to our densely overgrown, untended property. It had a party in our absence.

We arrived yesterday, early evening, to find that the short path from the car to the house was a thick carpet of clover sprinkled with aging chanterelle. Half of the field that was mowed around our small farm is now festooned with yarrow, bee balm, milkweed, thistle, mushrooms, mullein and wild strawberries.

Last night’s weather was its own production deserving of an Oscar, with thick, white mist stubbornly hugging these vast mountains. Rings of fog capped the peaks like fluffy crowns that dissolved into the sunset to reveal a surly, grey armada of larger clouds above.

My new sister-in-law, who I call my bonus sister, said, before I left for England: “you’ll notice how remarkably flat Norfolk is”. Continue reading

Catskills Weekend: July 1st

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Saturday July 1st

Celebrate

9.30 to 4pm in Roxbury, their Summer Festival on Main Street including a Pop-Up Art Sale in the Orphic Gallery, street art, pony rides, wine tastings, fly fishing demonstrations, food, antiques and much more.

Learn

10am at the Catskill Center in Arkville: Stone Pigment Workshop. Catskill mountain artist Laura Leigh Lanchantin will demonstrate her method of grinding Catskill sedimentary rock into oil and watercolor paint. No previous knowledge is required. $12 per person at Catskill Center, 4355 State Route 28, Arkville, New York 12406.

1pm at Woodchuck Lodge in Roxbury: Mairead Mulhern will give a talk on Wildlife Near Home. Mairead, an Environmental Educator from Mine Kill and Mac V. Shaul State Parks, will discuss local wildlife found in Upstate New York. Come take a look at various pelts, skulls, and feathers that are from local animals found in your county. This is a family friendly event. All ages welcome. Address: 1633 Burroughs Memorial Road, Roxbury, NY 12474.

Eat

9am to 4pm: Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie Pop Up Shop, in the lot at Phoenicia Diner at 5681 Route 28, Phoenicia, NY 12464. July 1st to 4th. Live music by M. Lui and Keenan O’Meara on Saturday night.

Dance

It’s hard to resist a dance party when it comes along. Wayside Cider is having such a shindig on July 1st, 7pm to 11pm, at their brewery in Andes. 55 Redden Lane, Andes, NY 13731. DJ Jess will be spinning.

Tick Tubes

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Widely available from Amazon and other places, these tick tubes (pictured above) are stuffed with cotton wool that is laced with the insecticide Permethrin. Hide them around the yard at no less than 10 yard intervals and the cotton inside the tube will be stolen by mice who will use it to build their nests. It’s been reported widely that white-footed mice are the main vectors for Lyme Disease and these mice typically live very close to, or in, the home in addition to on the edge of forests. Put as many as these tubes out around your home as you can, once in Spring and once in the Summer. The permethrin will kill the ticks but not the mice. They appear to work, but it’s not clear from our experiment whether they are being taken by chipmunks or mice.

Over the winter, it was crystal clear that either mice or chipmunks were sleeping or nesting in our wood piles. Each log was covered in mouse (or chipmunk) droppings.

You can also make your own tick tubes, by saving the toilet or paper towel tube and stuffing it with your own permethrin-laced cotton balls. However, permethrin is notoriously toxic, so I haven’t been brave enough to try that yet. If you are getting bitten while gardening, you can spray your gardening boots with Permethrin as small nymph ticks are rampant this year and they are so small they can hitch a ride on your shoes into your house.

Daily Catskills: 06/27/17

After a wet, gloomy morning, 67F by mid-afternoon and mostly sunny. Huge, thundering clouds quickly rolling through stealing the scene, cracking lightning and later issuing some torrential, late afternoon rain. Moody.

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Catskills Weekend: 48 Hours in Arkville

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If you’re a urbanite, you might have found yourself many times under the bright, hot lights of a NYC clothing store listening to the excruciatingly loud, banging electronic music and found yourself getting more and more agitated while trying to shop. I was happy to leave that part of city life behind and gave up shopping in stores long before I left the city.

I was reminded of this last week, when I found Just Shop Boutique, in Arkville, a discount clothing store with labels to love: Clare V, Laveer, Thakoon, rompers, suits, and much more for low prices, all in a calm, country setting.  I had planned to order some shirts online, but saw the red, tartan shirt in the Just Shop window and was lured in. I spent hours ferreting around in there with my mother-in-law, grabbing stuff and then putting it back. Then grabbing stuff and then putting it back. I was very restrained, but wanted to buy all of it. To get an idea of how excited I was, know that I bought a wool, stars-and-stripes poncho for my English sister-in-law ($28). I also bought a traditional, Turkish bath towel, that you can use for camping or a scarf (versatile), for $45. This is an item that I’ll own for life. (The red shirt didn’t fit.)

Plus, just across the road, there are both booze and sandwiches. A few seconds up the road, there’s the flea market, at which my family members religiously stop on their way home from my house to find cute stuff like a crystal serving bowls for a reasonable price. Suddenly, Arkville is a place where you can drink martinis and find a Thakoon striped shirt, overlaid with lace tank top. Score! While I was browsing a week or two ago, in came a woman shopping for a dress to wear to a local wedding because her dress was slit to the waist and kept blowing over her head. Right on, sister.

So, if you’re looking for a whistle-stop tour, a city girls’ weekend outing, or you’re a local with guests to entertain, here’s my plan for your 48 hours in Arkville. A tiny village with a great deal to see.

Eat

© J.N. Urbanski Arkville Bread & Breakfast Fish and Chips

Arkville Bread Breakfast (or “Jack’s Place”), is located in a blue and red converted train caboose. You can’t miss it and it does the best fish and chips. Although that dish appears rarely, they still stock all the English condiments and a wide selection of beverages. Jack’s does hearty, comfort sandwiches, like the brisket sandwich, which is delicious. They have plenty of vegetarian options. Laurie makes her own hummus and the veggie-hummus wrap is delicious. I also love their bean burger wrap.

Up the hill towards NYC is Oakley’s Bar & Grill, a local favorite for pizza, wings and burgers. Try the white pie, with spinach. There’s also Maine Black Bear Seafood Restaurant ((845-586-4004), a rustic fish restaurant on the Dry Brook River at the intersection of Route 28 and Dry Brook Road. The owner drives up the east coast every week for fresh fish. Well, he used to last time I checked. Call him. Continue reading

Farm to Belly: Garlic Scape Pesto

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It’s garlic scape season! A scape is the bud of the spring garlic bloom that has yet to flower. We cut off these very long buds in order to encourage the plant to focus on growing the actual garlic bulb that grows in the ground. In the picture at the bottom of the page, you’ll see the garlic growing in the ground and there’s a long leaf with a light colored bud on it that has curled over and is pointing left. This is the scape before it’s cut off. Continue reading

Bill Birns at The 2nd Annual Book Fair at the CIC

Image: Mountain Arts Media, courtesy of Bill Birns

On Saturday June 24th at 1.30pm the Catskill Interpretive Center in Mount Tremper, Bill Birns will be speaking at the 2nd Annual Book Fair.

Bill will be reciting his epic poem Fleischmanns, a Poem (an Historical Imaginative Projection) that was published in three parts here on Upstate Dispatch. (Find Part 1 published here, Part 2: here and Part three: here.) Come and listen to Bill read his richly descriptive, poetic rendering of local history. Bill is a superb orator and listeners will be in for a treat.

Address: Maurice D Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center, 5096 Route 28, Mount Tremper, NY 12457.

Daily Catskills: 06/19/17

Humid and sticky with periods of torrential rain, thunder and flooding throughout the day and throughout the mountains, caused by dense, milky, blue-hued clouds.

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Catskills Conversations: Julia Reischel

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Julia Reischel is a co-founder of the Watershed Post and resident of Margaretville.

JNU: What brought you to the Catskills?

JR: I came here because of my family. I’m not from here. I like to describe myself as a carpet-bagger [laughs]. Lissa, my wife, grew up here and has about six generations of family in the Margaretville area. When I started dating her in Boston, I knew pretty much immediately that I was going to end up here if I stuck with her, because she has this magnetic pull to this area. All her potential stories ended here. So the Catskills were in my future and when we got married we moved here. We started the Watershed Post, our now defunct news site that we ran for seven years.

Is The Watershed Post still up?

It’s up, but just not being updated. We’ll keep it up as a sort of archive and honestly, it’s Lissa’s call on that because I formally quit a while ago. [Laughs]

Did you have a contract with her? [Laughs]

We actually do have a contract in place.

That’s very sensible! 

[Laughs] If we were going to have some sort of acrimonious split, one of us would have to buy out the other. What actually happened was that I decided to give her de facto control over it in exchange for not doing anything for it anymore. So I’m still technically part owner. She ran it by herself for a couple of months and came to the same conclusion that I did, which was that there’s no money in journalism. Continue reading

Catskills Sandwich: The Goods Filet

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If you’re looking for a scrumptious fish sandwich, and you’re around Boiceville, look no further than The Goods Luncheonette, where you’ll find a snappy fish filet with creamy, tangy sauce, plus a dollop of coleslaw, in a soft, brioche bun.

Continue reading

Rhubarb

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Years ago, when we were losing our crops to blight and other things, our neighbor Alan White, told us to find out what grows well on our ridge and plant a lot of it, then swap for other produce you might need with neighbors. Rhubarb loves it here, as do potatoes, asparagus, garlic, asparagus and berries. This year, my husband is trying arugula, because I spend money on that stuff and it’s imported from god knows where. That’s not to say that I don’t eat our weeds like sheep sorrel and dandelion, because I do. Our mint has also gone quite rogue and I’m picking new growth in our lawn along with the other weeds.

Continue reading

John Burroughs’ Bookshelf

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Since I became a trustee of Woodchuck Lodge, John Burroughs’ last home and site of his final resting place in Roxbury, NY, I’ve become fascinated with his bookshelves. He left behind a vast collection of Atlantic Monthly magazines and (pictured above) a sturdy collection of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Atlantic Monthly is still published to this day and is a progressive periodical devoted to covering “news and analysis on politics, business, culture, technology, national, international and life”, but what was it like back then? Last month, at one of Woodchuck Lodge’s Wild Saturday events, I had just about enough time to flick through most of an Atlantic Monthly magazine from April 1923 and took photographs of what I considered the most interesting bits (below). I cannot help but wonder what John Burroughs himself thought when he read about Mrs A trying desperately to avoid “social suicide”. Continue reading

Catskills Cocktails: Gin & Spruce

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If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I’ve been making natural sodas with forsythia and spruce tips. I’ve discovered that spruce tip syrup goes particularly well with whiskey, too, like the forsythia, which made a tasty Catskills Collins. I’m also working on rhubarb juice that makes a first-rate bitter addition to cocktails for people who find bitters too intense or overpowering for their taste. Here are a couple more refreshing cocktails for the summer.

Continue reading

The Final Part of Fleischmanns, by Bill Birns

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Parts 5, 6, 7 & 8 of Fleischmanns, A Poem in Eight Parts

(Imaginative Historical Projection)

By Bill Birns

  1. Griffin Corners at Armstrong Park

Bit hard for me to make a hero

of him, Matthew Griffin, though

lots of folks do. It’s hard not to

admire his sheer American-ness.

That photo-of-the-founder look

on his weathered face as he sat

posing for that end-of-long-life

first-time photograph in

front of his office (or shop)

with the hand-lettered L-A-W-Y-E-R

over his head behind his chair. Maybe

he believed that founder stuff himself.

Armstrong Park must stay out of the public view,

a gentleman’s name need only appear

in print when he is married and when

he dies.

 

Continue reading

Outsider’s Kitchen & Cafe

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The Outsider’s Kitchen & Cafe opened last week on Route 30 between Margaretville and Halcottsville at the old station by the railroad tracks opposite the golf course. Chocoholics can go right to the funny cake based on a Pennsylvania Dutch recipe: a delicious blend of crunchy cake topping, with a rich, sticky, gooey filling, all in a pie crust. The more health conscious can get house made orange, coconut, almond granola, with yoghurt parfait, or you can buy it packed dry to go. It’s granola with a citrus zing that’s complemented by the earthy coconut. There are also scones and muffins available too. For lunch: large, thick, square portions of breakfast pizza look like they can cure all sizes of hangover; thick sandwiches on ciabatta, salads and soups are offered along with the usual beverages like coffee and tea. There’s ample parking and a nice view of the golf course. A very welcome addition to the Saturday errands route: take the garbage to the transfer station and stock up on produce at the Pakatakan Farmer’s Market.

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Spruce Tip Syrup

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It’s spruce tip season: fresh, new tree growth at the tips of the branches of evergreen conifer trees present as vibrant, brilliant green nuggets about the size of a nut, varying between the sizes of a peanut and a pecan. They are instantly recognizable as a completely different color than the rest of the needles on the branch, from a distance looking like a Christmas tree has come down with forest chicken pox. For the past few weeks, they have been encased in a papery brown or fleshy red covering (that ejects clouds of a dense, yellow pollen when shaken), which they are now shedding to reveal the green tips. Continue reading