Monthly Archives: August 2015

Goats Milk, Grated Beet & Carrot Salad

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

If you’ve grown more carrots and beetroot that you can handle, you can make a crunchy slaw with crumbly goat’s milk feta. Serves four.

3 medium-sized beetroot (with leaves)
4-5 medium-sized carrots
1.5 ounces of balsamic vinegar
3 ounces of goat’s milk feta

Grate the carrots and beetroot. Chop up the beetroot greens. Cut the feta cheese into cubes. Mix the grated vegetables, and cheese together in a bowl with the balsamic vinegar for a quick, easy, utterly delicious, juicy and crunchy salad.

On The Radio: Ellie Ohiso on Photography & Feminism

Photo4Girls_4761

The following is the edited transcription of my interview with Ellie Ohiso that was broadcast on my radio show, The Economy Of, on August 10th on WIOX in Roxbury New York. Ellie Ohiso, the co-creator of Green Door Magazine, is designer and publisher of Photography For Girls, a Catskills magazine project that was feature here a few weeks ago.

On September 7th, I will interview the photographer on this project, Kelly Merchant on WIOX at 9am.

JN: It’s wonderful to have you and it’s wonderful to have this project in the Catskills. So what is Photography for Girls?

EO: It’s a very small print project, almost the size of a Playbill. It’s a concept of interviewing local women, in addition to photographing them, and allowing them have a large say in how they’re photographed. The photos are not retouched for their physicality, but there’s some color correction that we do. Other than that, we run the photo as it was taken. There’s no manipulation in that sense other than traditional lens manipulation. Then Akira, my husband, interviewed the subjects and then discussed with them the empowerment process of being photographed, how they feel women in general are represented and this greater discussion of feminism.

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Emergency Foraging

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Country life means throwing on the wellies, sprinting out of the house at 8am ahead of the town mower to save a patch of wild mint and chicory before it’s razed by the town’s enormous lateral road leveler. Their incredible new machine has an industrial rake on it and the monster takes out eight-feet-tall thistles like it’s plucking daisies.

Experienced foragers often say that roadside foraging should be avoided because of brake dust and ice-melting salt, but big buckets of mint make a natural air freshener for musty rooms and workshops. Last year, the slugs got the mint, but they didn’t this year. This summer was a banner year for chicory, which is all over the roadsides everywhere. Get it into water immediately otherwise it will quickly wilt and makes good freshly cut flowers in clear vases for guest bedrooms.

Wild Apples

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Wild apples are extraordinarily abundant and delicious in the Catskills this summer. They’re also slightly larger and sweeter than last year’s. Foraging for wild apples at the moment could not be any easier as they are just about everywhere you look. If you don’t have a tree or two on your property, it’s likely that you have a neighbour who does. If they aren’t going to pick their apples, ask them if you can pick some. Apple sauce freezes well for a couple of months and goes perfectly with and in a varied array of sweet and savoury dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Fill a large tureen with peeled and halved apples. (Wild apples go brown almost immediately after peeling, so you can pop them in a bowl of water with lemon juice to stop that if it bothers you.) Boil the apples in water slowly until they are soft, strain and mash them with as much sugar as desired. Let the mash sit for a half hour while the sugar dissolves, stir in some spices like cinnamon, clove or vanilla and then keep stirring until cool. Freeze in mason jars, but don’t add the spices if you’re going to freeze. Spices don’t freeze well, so add those when you use the sauce.

If you’re lucky enough to find a blackberry bush under the apple tree, you can add those to the sauce. Either mix them raw into the sugared apple mash for an easy pie filling or boil them separately with sugar to make a small amount of jam.

The best part about foraging for wild apples is that the fruit is pesticide-free, although it’s recommended that roadside foraging be avoided because of contamination from brake dust, motor oil and snow-melting sand or salt.

Do It Yourself: Siding for Beginners

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Last year, our new neighbours told us they were quoted a price of $40,000 to replace their leaky siding and there was a lengthy pause in the conversation, more than one sigh and some sympathetic nodding. We also need new siding. So we all had a glass of wine or two and tried to forget about it but, last winter, squirrels took up residence in our chimney along with two swarms of bees, leaving too many gaping holes to ignore and soggy wood caused by the resultant leakage. A full chimney is also a fire hazard. So I asked the question: how hard would it be just to rip it off the siding and put on some more? We found out today. Well, my husband found out and I helped. Turns out if you do all of Jillian Michaels’ exercise DVDs, you will be sufficiently forceful with a hammer, but they won’t help you with your fear of heights. My next question, as I helped rip the chimney apart, was: how do the caterpillars get in there, behind the siding? And why do we build houses with particle board covered in paper? I mean, it wasn’t even real wood under there and some of it was rotten and had to be replaced.

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Foraging: Yarrow

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

We have a whole field full of yarrow this year, which is an anti-microbial herb with a distinctive aroma that’s reminiscent of anti-bacterial oils like tea tree. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be harvesting the best of it and drying it for use as a tea.

Yarrow is revered in the world of natural medicine with reports of it having universal healing powers, arresting conditions like bleeding, pain, infection, allergies, colds, flu, toothache, and gastro-intestinal disorders like cramps, bloating, indigestion and even urinary tract infections. The herb is an astringent and the liver benefits from yarrow’s bitter components. When taken as tea, yarrow is said to increase the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.

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Catskills Conversations: Kristie & Steve Burnett

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Kristie and Steven Burnett run Burnett Farms in Bovina, New York. Kristie also makes herbal tea and salve, using herbs grown in their greenhouse.

JN: What brought you two to the Catskills?

KB: I’ve been here for 15 years and what brought me to the Catskills was my charming Bovina farmer.

SB: I have been in the Catskills for a long time, starting in Phoenicia, where I had house and barn full of motorcycles. Then I moved to Bovina where there was a little more sunshine than up Woodland Valley and have been here since 1989. I came here also to have a weekend house, like so many people with careers in the city.

JN: So you’re both from the city?

KB: I’m still in the city. I teach third grade, so I’m up here on weekends and holidays and summers, which is more than I teach actually.

JN: Have you ever thought about getting a job up here teaching?

KB: Yes. Hopefully, that’s in the making.

JN: So you’re both born and bred in New York?

KB: I’m born and raised in New York and Steve is from…

SB: Iowa, where there are more pigs than people and we’re proud of it.

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Catskills Conversations: Jeanette Bronée

© Torkil Stavdal

© Torkil Stavdal

JN: How long have you lived in the Catskills?

JB: About four years.

From where did you move?

New York City, but I’d been coming up here many years prior to that. I used to be a motorcyclist. [Laughs]

Really?

I used to come up here motorcycling and skiing. That was my other life, right?

So what brought you to New York City in the first instance?

That was back 26 years ago; I met someone who was American and wanted to go back home and I wanted to leave Denmark. I was in the mood to explore at the time, so we moved here. Continue reading

Catskills Sandwich: The Burger at Commune Saloon

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

You’ll find one of the Catskills’ finest burgers in Bearsville’s Commune Saloon. A scrumptious masterpiece that is a luscious combination of fried onions, cheese and burger, it’s juicy succulence expertly contained within a light bun. Indeed, its name is the Juicy Lucy.

Introduced to the Saloon by Jeff of Catskill Mountain Wild a few weeks ago after the full moon hike, I’ve been back there twice already. This is the burger I dream about on hump day and the Saloon is a slice of heaven where I spent a summer hour after dusk last night around the fire pit. Nestled in the cozy, leafy enclave of Bearsville restaurants, the campfire flickered while service staff prepared for the theatre to empty. Last night, King Crimson was thumping lightly in the background as relaxed diners chatted quietly.

There’s also the sauce. It doesn’t taste like mayonnaise or ketchup, just simply indescribably delicious. I can imagine this burger is the answer to all hangovers. Most important of all though: it’s a reasonable size if you care about how much food you eat. Most of the tastiest Catskills’ burgers are large enough to share or take half home. It also comes to the table with a giant knife stuck right in the top of it and it’s an obvious metaphor. This burger will break your heart and keep you coming back for more.

The Catskill 35: Panther Mountain

© J.N. Urbanski 1.47pm

© J.N. Urbanski 8/12/15 1.47pm

It’s easy to miss the 3500ft elevation notice on Panther Mountain for two reasons. One reason is that it seems to be split down the middle and folded together slightly so that, on the ascent to the summit at 3720ft from Giant Ledge, it’s facing away from you. Second, it’s at the top of a particularly steep and (more) rocky part of the trail, so if you’re focusing on your footing and not looking up, you will miss it. Also easy to miss is the summit sign at 3720ft. On and on I hiked, until I was about three hours in from the Giant Ledge parking area, so I decided to turn back. I’m no slow coach, so I knew something was wrong. It had started to rain and, not only was I slipping alot, a large tree lay across the trail. I took this all as a sign and walked back to the second Panther Mountain view, in about half an hour, where I found the trio of hikers from the Adirondacks that I had passed at Giant Ledge. They were having their lunch. “I didn’t reach the summit,” I told the lead hiker “This is the summit,” he said. “Where’s the sign?” I asked. “People steal signs,” he said with a shrug.

A second source just confirmed the rumour. Someone stole the Panther Mountain summit sign. Maybe I just confirmed the rumour, but I’m too exhausted to think about it much. My round trip took me almost six hours, but on the plus side, the rain had stopped by the time I had returned to the summit from the other side and the mountains were steaming. I sighed and gasped at the views, took pictures and ate my lunch. I didn’t stop for long though, because I realized I had over two more hours of hiking ahead of me. They call it a hike, but there’s a considerable amount of climbing involved on this trail. During brief pauses in my hike, I would take pictures of my dog disappearing at the top of what looks like a very large pile of rubble.

© J.N. Urbanski 11am

© J.N. Urbanski 11am

On the thigh-busting descent to the Giant Ledge parking area, I was certain Giant Ledge was so-named because a giant went up to the summit, broke off the top of the mountain and threw it to the base. It crumbled as it tumbled and rocks are strewn all the way down. Unless you’re as nimble as a sprite, hopping from one half-buried rock to the next, the descent is a tedious search for sure footing.

According to Catskill Mountaineer, Panther Mountain “sits on top of a 375 million year old meteorite hit. The meteorite was approximately a half-mile wide. It sits 3300ft below Panther Mountain. Most of the rock on Panther Mountain is sand stone, which is just deposited sediments. If you go down near the Esopus Creek you will see significant fractured rock, which is evidence of the meteor. You will not find this fractured rock on top of Panther Mountain. The mountain is earth that has risen over time”.

Look for large pebbles embedded in the rock.

© J.N. Urbanski 1.47pm

© J.N. Urbanski 1.47pm

At least I managed to have tea and a biscuit at Giant Ledge. Time for some yoga.

© J.N. Urbanski 11am

© J.N. Urbanski 8/12/15 11am

 

Fleischmanns Art Fair: August 15th

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 10.57.55 PMFleischmanns, in upstate New York is having an art fair on Saturday August 15th. There have been two galleries in the village for years, The Painters and Zoom, but this is the first annual art fair where you’ll find art on the street: a street art fair. Please come and support Catskills artists, especially the one in the yellow sombrero, from 11am to 3pm.

On the Farm: Apples

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

It has been a remarkable summer for wild apple trees that seem to be everywhere you look. Much more conspicuous this year due to being so heavily laden with fruit, they’re all full to bursting with apples that are about two inches in diameter and mostly green in colour. Here in the Catskills, bear and deer are going to be feasting on them well into winter. The fruit is very tart to taste but make a superb apple sauce with the addition of sweeteners like honey, sugar or orange juice. They make a fantastic compote with berries. A noteworthy source of vitamin C and fibre, the apples will fit in just about any pie, cake or sauce. Soak them in vodka for a tart cocktail, a replacement for Cranberry juice, or add them to cider.

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Local Delicacies: Beaverkill Trout Hatchery

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Go swimming in Big Pond. Make a detour on the way home and get the most juicy, tender and delicate smoked trout this side of, actually anywhere. Mark Twain wrote extensively about America’s trout with reverence calling it “the masterpiece of the universe”.

According to Andrew Beahrs, who wrote Twain’s Feast, throughout Twain’s life the simple phrase “trout dinner” was synonymous with simple enjoyment, with the pleasure at once luxurious and comforting. Whether he was in Germany or stage coaching across the Nevada Flats, when Twain wrote something to the effect of “we had trout dinner”, you can be sure that whatever had happened before, he ended the day contented. Apparently, Twain loved his trout, straight out of the pristine waters of Lake Tahoe, fried with bacon.

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Feminism in the Catskills

Photo4Girls_4761For the last three years, I’ve produced and hosted a radio show on WIOX that airs live on alternate Mondays at 9am out of Roxbury, New York. Two years ago, I did a series on feminism called Women in Film and set about doing research for the series. At the time I did my research two years ago, in about July 2013, the UK’s Guardian newspaper had reported the previous week that a recent study of 2012’s 100 highest grossing films found that only 28% of the speaking roles went to women. To say I was shocked and saddened is not exactly true because I was already certain that we have a long way to go before there’s some equality in Hollywood, so I just hunched over my desk with a long sigh and put my face in my hands.

A more recent statistic from the same publication is not much better: “women accounted for only 12% of on-screen protagonists in 2014, and just 30% of characters with speaking parts”.

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Sunset Hike under a Full Blue Moon with Catskill Mountain Wild

Last night’s gorgeous sunset hike with Jeff Vincent of Catskill Mountain Wild occurred under a full, blue moon with clear skies and hazy sunset viewed from the fire tower atop Overlook Mountain in Woodstock. Go to the NYNJ Trail Conference website or the DEC to get the details of the hike. There’s nothing as quietening on the nerves as a strenuous hike that culminates in a few beers around the fire pit at one of the Catskills best bars, Commune Saloon on nearby Tinker Street. An uphill 2.5-mile battle at a thigh-burning gradient, the hike is worthwhile for the magnificent ruins of the Overlook Mountain House about half a mile from the summit. The hotel was built almost 100 years ago but swiftly abandoned by the developer mid-project. The trail is lined with burdock and mullein, but beware of the rattlesnakes. Once you ascend the fire tower you have almost 360-degree views of the Ashokan Reservoir, the Hudson River and the easternmost Catskill Mountains, once called the Blue Mountains for their blue hue. The 2.5-mile descent was under the gaze of the full, blue moon. A great hike to take visitors; the summit also includes a historical kiosk manned day and night by volunteer watchmen.

© J.N. Urbanski 11.15am

© J.N. Urbanski 11.15am

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