Daily Catskills: 10/14/17

A high of 75F and humid with clear skies and the odd fluffy cloud. Fall is remarkably muted with none of the glorious, fiery colors of last year. This year’s temperatures are about ten degrees higher, which could be the reason for the dull color.

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A Halloween Journey with Cara Cruickshank

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“Security is mostly a superstition…Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” -Helen Keller

I first heard a little bit about the artistic director Cara Cruickshank recently through a fellow board member at Woodchuck Lodge. Every year she creates a magical, dusk wonderland in Big Indian called The Halloween Journey that seems quite hard to resist: “a community event for young, old and everyone in between”, now in its eighth season. This year’s event will take place on October 27th and 28th beginning at 5pm in Big Indian, NY.

Sounding rather like a cultural treasure hunt designed “to promote wonder instead of fear on Halloween”, the journey features legendary characters of Catskill history and folklore. Rip van Winkle, Sojourner Truth, Catskill poet John Burroughs, “fairies, animal spirits and other fanciful creatures come to life, sharing their respect for nature, inspiring wonderment and appreciation for the treasured Catskill region”.

As night falls, the patron is welcomed with a bonfire, live folk music, hot apple cider, homemade chili and seasonal treats before the adventure begins.

Tickets range in price from an Early Bird Special that’s $15, to a VIP package for $150 that includes a “private tour, after-party pass, secret treasures and treats”, to a Deluxe VIP Package that includes hotel packages and much more. You can buy a ‘Wizard Pass” for $15 or example, that will allow you to skip the queue to the event.

Halloween Journey this year is non-profit, in partnership with the Pine Hill Community Center, The Catskill Center, and 100 Thousand Poets for Change. We are sponsored by Woodstock Healing Arts, Catskill Native Nursery and Manhattan Youth.

The New Hiking Trail at Woodchuck Lodge

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“A fawn is spotted, too, and ‘fawn-lily’ would be better than adder’s-tongue. Still better is the name ‘trout-lily,’ which has recently been proposed for this plant. It blooms along the trout streams, and its leaf is as mottled as a trout’s back’. – John Burroughs

I’m proud to serve on the Board of Trustees of John Burroughs’ Woodchuck Lodge in Roxbury, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the historic lodge, which was writer and naturalist John Burroughs’ last home. Burroughs was primarily an essayist, who wrote for the still-published Atlantic Monthly, born in 1837.

Country board meetings of our fabulously eclectic group are always a complete riot accompanied by homemade produce like goat’s milk cheese, cornbread and cake. We are an eccentric and creative bunch. It takes countless, volunteer man hours to maintain historic sites like this across the region and the Lodge is free to visit during the summer. Donations are welcome!

Please join us for what might be our final event of the season on October 29th: the unveiling of the first part of Woodchuck Lodge’s new Trout-Lily trail. This new trail is actually part of a partially restored footpath that was originally developed by Dr. John Lutz, great-grand nephew of John Burroughs and founder of Woodchuck Lodge, Inc.

The event entitled, A Celebration of Gratitude, will begin at 1pm at 1633 Burroughs Memorial Road, Roxbury, NY 12474. Children are welcome.

All are invited to take a stroll on the trail, say thanks to its builders, and enjoy local cider, doughnuts, and other refreshments.

Daily Catskills: 10/09/17

71F by mid-morning, humid, with patches of morning fog and occasional turbulent breeze scattering the leaves. Surly. Update: 77F high with a strong, leaf-churning wind and more rain.

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Planting Garlic

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Garlic goes in about a month before the first frost of the season. One clove, planted two inches deep (with four inches between cloves) will grow into one bulb of garlic by next spring. The garlic pictured above is German hard neck garlic and the cloves are huge and juicy. The reason farmed garlic is so much bigger than wild garlic is that every year the largest cloves are planted, yielding bigger and bigger produce. Go to our Instagram feed to see footage of the planting.

Daily Catskills: 10/04/17

Clear skies and a 75F high. Warm in the sun, but cool in the shade. Humid and slightly steamy. Fall is slightly late out of the gate.

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Daily Catskills: 10/03/17

A clear, frosty morning, rising to a high of 67F. Initial muted dashes of red amidst the yellowing. Fall has yet to show its true colors.

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Saving Seeds: Sunflowers

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Sunflowers are astonishingly beautiful and uplifting, towering over the farm like sentry guards radiating happiness, accumulating and distributing sunshine. They’re also packed with thousands of highly nutritious, edible seeds. Once they start to droop towards the ground, you may have to compete with the birds, chipmunks, and squirrels, who climb up them in search of the seeds and break the stems. When the blooms are resting on the ground, like they’re on some floral time-out, they seeds are fair game. You can either wrap the live heads in paper to stop animals from eating them, or you can cut the heads off completely even before they’re ready to harvest.

The seed is the white pellet underneath the yellow face of the bloom (pictured above). They develop a black strip as the flower dies, eventually turning a dusky, dark grey/black (pictured below). They are even delicious like this without any cooking, and packed full of raw nutrients like iron, calcium, vitamin B-6 and high in potassium and magnesium. Continue reading

Daily Catskills: 09/28/17

58F by 6.30am, balmy with clear skies and sunrise ushering in dappled cloud. 65F by mid-afternoon.

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Catskills Conversations: Rob Handel

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Rob Handel, the talented, dynamic and accomplished full-time chef at Heather Ridge Farm in Preston Hollow, grew up on a Catskills resort in Upstate New York and became interested in food at an early age through his grandmother, who ran the kitchen. “She really shared her love of food and cooking with me at an early age and I learnt a lot from her as a child. She sparked the interest in foraging in me. Whether the resort was there or not, I think her love of food would have been what turned me onto cooking in the first place,” he says.

After a short time away at college, Rob returned to work in the family resort, but quickly looked to further his career early: “I had been working with my family at the resort and I wanted to leave and strike out on my own and do something that involves more creativity and more latitude, using more local and foraged ingredients. You know, the resort was a classic Catskills family-style resort, so I was making roast beef for 150 people every night and that’s what those people wanted and it was a system that worked for them. But I wanted to be able to do more”. Continue reading

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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