Monthly Archives: August 2017

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.

Daily Catskills: 08/11/17

79F, dark, humid and smothered with rippled, blue milk glass clouds. If today’s weather were a movie, it would be a moody film noir: sultry and begging for a wet ending. Update: it got its wet ending: a thorough rain shower mid-evening.

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The Farmer’s Market

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This week is National Farmer’s Market week. The invaluable, local farmer’s market that is sorely missed all winter is more than just a Saturday errand, it’s a living legend, a place where all the hard work, sweat and tears of production finally gets its showcase. Shopping at farmer’s markets greatly stimulates the local economy, creating jobs and increasing access to fresh, healthful food.  Continue reading

A Summer Party in Halcottsville

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On Saturday August 12th at 4pm, Ella’s Mercantile is having a summer party in Halcottsville, a favorite haunt of mine. It’s an exquisitely picturesque haven on a large boating lake, through which the historic railroad (DURR) runs. It’s postcard perfect. I’ve taken watercolor classes there; participated in a plein air painting group (with or without attendant goats); interviewed the reverends of the church for a local publication; exhibited my prints in The Grange and tasted tea with a friend. You can stay at Susan’s Pleasant Pheasant Farm and kayak on Lake Wawaka. There’s even a fledgling Shakespeare Company in the works. The whole village is arguably one of the Catskills most beautiful places. Continue reading

Golden Eagles in the Catskills: A Talk By Peg DiBenedetto

Photo courtesy of the Catskill Center, used under Creative Commons License

As recently as just a few years ago, a winter report of a Golden Eagle in the Catskills was thought to be an anomaly – a bird that was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

However, through efforts of the Delaware-Otsego Audubon Society, in conjunction with the Eastern Golden Eagle Project, a population of over-wintering Golden Eagles in New York State was discovered.  The size and extent of the population are still being explored — with camera trap photos and telemetry data, the natural history of this “new” species is slowly unfolding.

Peg DiBenedetto will present an overview of eastern Golden Eagles; their local habits and behaviors, and migratory routes, as well as the methods used and experiences she and her husband Michael have had, working with the Eastern Golden Eagle Project.

This will be the second offering of the 2017 Member Program Series. Become a member of the Catskill Center, a non-profit organization devoted to the environment, and you can enjoy multiple perks and benefits like access to the Catskill Center’s archive, workshop, seminars and training opportunities and volunteer opportunities.

Saturday, August 12, from 7 -8 pm

at The Emerson
5340 New York Route 28
Mount Tremper, NY 12457

Peg DiBenedetto is a multi-generational native of the Catskills. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Ecological Sciences from Oneonta State University, and has had varied experiences working with raptors and studying the natural history of eagles- both Bald and Golden.  As Co-Chair of the Research Committee for the Delaware-Otsego Audubon Society, Peg has worked on songbird habitat preservation in the Dominican Republic and is involved in on-going studies of the Golden Eagles of New York State. She is Co-Chair of the DOAS Research Committee, a DEC Volunteer, and a member of the Eastern Golden Eagle Working Group.

Peg works in Land Management for the NYC DEP, is a Trustee for the Michael Kudish Natural History Preserve, and is on the Board of Directors of the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development. She lives with her husband in Halcott Center on the dairy farm where she grew up.

Daily Catskills: 08/07/17

An unexpectedly chilly morning and a rainy afternoon. A 64F high. Migliorelli’s farm stand also sells perfect rainy day Italian desserts like chocolate pudding and crème brûlée for days like this.

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Daily Catskills: 08/05/17

74F by the afternoon, billowing clouds revealing occasional sunshine. Refreshing breeze in the trees punctuated by the annoying buzz of a neighbor’s drone in the distance. Garlic curing in a shady spot.

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The Catskills Tasting Train

I grew up by a London railway line and spent my formative years being shaped by watching people go places. I would wave at the trains chugging past and wish that I could jump aboard. In retrospect, I now see that those poor people were going to and from work and would have loved to have traded places with me, sitting in a backyard reading books. It’s no surprise that I now love trains, traveling and, gasp, I’ll admit here that I even love airports.

We have an aging rail network here in the Catskills that groups have tried to save and its future is uncertain. Lengths of the track were damaged by Hurricane Irene and there are proposals in the works to turn the rails into walking trails. Personally, I think we should maintain the network and get funding to turn it into a set of museums, but I’m obviously biased even though I clearly love hiking. The Rip Van Winkle Flyer, run by the DURR, whose home is in Arkville, has opened for the season judging by its website. On the weekends, the Rip Van Winkle Flyer takes tourists through the mountain from Arkville to Roxbury and back.

Now, the DURR is teaming up with local food producers and The MARK Project in Arkville to run the Tasting Train next Thursday, August 10th from 5pm to 7.30pm. Tickets are priced from $25 to $40. They call it the “Local-Motive”, on which you can try all manner of delicious local fare from producers, cheese makers, artisan bakers, craft beverage distillers, breweries and more. It couldn’t really get any better than sitting on a train and stuffing your face for a good cause. The train departs at 5pm and returns to Arkville by 7.30pm.

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