Monthly Archives: May 2018

Catskills Cocktail: Vodka Soda with Rhubarb Syrup

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Simple syrup season is here – the time where we have lilacs, forsythia and other blossoms to soak in sugar water to make floral or fruit sodas and cocktails.

My rhubarb/vodka cocktail is called a Catskills cocktail is because we have burgeoning rhubarb with very little effort on our mountaintop here in the Catskills. Alan White of Two Stones Farm told us years ago to grow what thrives in abundance on your property and swap with your neighbors. So we’ve been growing rhubarb as thick as broomsticks for years. Animals avoid the leaves because they’re poisonous and because the rhubarb itself is bitter, but the fruit provides useful nutrients and fibre. The tartness of the rhubarb pairs well with the vodka. I also like to add a sprig or two of rosemary when cooking the syrup as I think the flavors pair well. Just the soda alone – the rhubarb juice and the sparkling water together – is delicious and refreshing. You can also use the rhubarb syrup as you would a liqueur in Prosecco or Champagne. Continue reading

Daily Catskills: 05/22/18

Continual rain until mid-afternoon, as summer falters. Overcast and dripping wet with a high of 59F.

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Daily Catskills: 05/21/18

A high of 80F and hot with the landscape lush with an extraordinary abundance of blossoms and wild flowers. Summer’s here.

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Trail Blazing

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In the midst of cabin fever the winter before last I was out in the freezing, driving rain with the dog and decided to make a trail out of an old logging road on our property. We’d been using this trail through the forest, the dog and I, for some time and, unexpectedly – because it was about -10F at the time – the urge to start a trail came over me. To this day, I’ve no idea what prompted this move, but back then I just didn’t want to go back inside. I traipsed around in the forest for a couple of hours collecting large stones with which to line the trail until I was soaking wet and my woolen gloves had numbed my hands. Over the past year, we’ve added to it by lining the trail with a branches that look like they might one day thicken like a hedgerow. Continue reading

Daily Catskills: 05/18/18

A high of 65F, bright with hazy cloud and warm in the sun. The forest fills in with chartreuse.

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Daily Catskills: 05/17/18

A high of 82F and sunny with hazy cloud. Dandelions attract bumble bees.

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Daily Catskills: 05/12/18

A high of 63F with continual rain with the mountains shrouded in mist and fog.

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Asparagus Season

First out of the bed: asparagus, with rhubarb hot on its heels.

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Daily Catskills: 05/10/18

A high of 70F with huge, scene-stealing clouds and intermittent rain showers. Humid with early evening fog descending into the valleys and rising off the Esopus. Shoots a-shooting. Buds a-budding and the maple leaves unravel first. The forest comes alive and the soft earth ejects a few ancient objects.

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Cultivating Lion’s Mane Mushroom

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I first encountered lion’s mane mushroom last August on a hiking trail. It was growing on a dead log and I took half of it home and sautéed it with scrambled eggs. It was delicious, meaty and delicately fragrant with the texture of lobster. The mushroom is a powerhouse of beneficial nutrients and is said to improve neurological function and alleviate anxiety.

After searching high and low for the rest of the summer, I never saw it again. So,  I bought a grow kit from Catskills Fungi (pictured below) in December. Continue reading

Daily Catskills: 05/06/18

57F and raining all day. Seeds sprouting. Ramps thriving, but the memory of a long, hard winter is not yet cold. Harvesting wood to season for next year.

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Daily Catskills: 05/03/18

A high of 85F, overcast, humid with morning sun and then frequent, refreshing afternoon rain showers being the only thing that stop the flies from dive-bombing our eyeballs. Hazy like mother nature accidentally dropped a bag of flour somewhere on the horizon.

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Birding in the Catskills

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If you’d have told me ten years ago that I would become a bird watcher, I would have told you to shut up and pass the whisky, but the truth is that birding is yet another remarkable stress reliever of the natural world, a brief distraction from daily worries in which you can focus on something completely different even for a few minutes.

The ability to forget your troubles, even for an hour, will save you more than a few grey hairs and there’s nothing more pressing right now than conservation of nature and the environment. Bird watching is another useful way to get involved. Anywhere there is park land, you’l find birds.

A modern approach to birding would be, of course, an app on the phone. Cornell University offers such an app, called Merlin, for free and, if you turn on location services for this app and submit the date and identification of every bird you spot on your property, whatever species you find gets recorded in their database. The app offers color pictures of birds, recordings of their calls, drums and tweets. This helps the university monitor bird species and, in return, you get forget to where you are, or what day it is, for a few minutes while you’re walking the dog while you stare at a species of woodpecker for half an hour wondering if it’s a downy or a hairy. You will play the song 20 times. Then you can play it’s drum 20 times and, then, ask the dog, who is now wondering what’s up there, several times, because it’s cloudy: “is that a red streak on its head”? The dog will choose not to divulge any information on the subject whatsoever, but will simply stare at you wondering where breakfast is. The second time, you’ll remember to bring the binoculars. After having used the app for a few days, it’s clear that no one bird song is the same as another even in the same bird. There are variations in every species possibly depending on the season, temperature, how high the bird is or how old, but it’s exhilarating to accidentally call over a chipping sparrow, who’s sporting some unusually beautiful plumage ordinarily only seen in spring when he’s interested in making some new chicks.

You can find information for beginner birders here. You can learn about “birding by ear”, which makes more sense than birding by sight, and all sorts of useful information on the subject at the Audubon website.

Bird watching is encouraged at the Mountain Top Arboretum in Tannersville.

There’s a “falcon whisperer” that goes to the top of bridges to monitor the bird population. Presumably, he’s in control of any vertigo. He will speak at the Catskill Center in June.

Some birding events coming up in the Catskills:

The Warbler Weekend, run by the Catskill Center in Mount Tremper on May 25th and 27th.

Taking Flight: A Birding Conference at the Ashokan Center on June 10th to 12th.

Daily Catskills: 05/01/18

77F by the afternoon, with mostly clear skies. Birds chirping. Blooms and leaves continue to bud like they weren’t covered in snow yesterday. Most of the snow melted by dusk, even on the ski slopes.

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