Author Archives: JNUrbanski

Local Radio: WIOX

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Local, regional radio hosts and shows are finally getting the attention they deserve from the New York Times in a piece by Kirk Johnson entitled: “As Low-Power Local Radio Rises, Tiny Voices Become a Collective Shout”. I’m proud to be part of this chorus on WIOX Radio on Roxbury, Upstate New York in a show called The Economy Of, in which I tackle different subjects every other week with guests from all over the world. I’m also being considered for a Morning Edition slot from 7pm to 9pm one day a week on this station. The station and its programs are indeed incredibly diverse and informative. Started by a group of locals in a converted barn and now partnered with WSKG, a NPR affiliate, WIOX is the little engine that could, covering everything local in the Catskill Mountains, streaming online and locally on 91.3FM.

If you missed it, this morning my show was on farming. My guest was Dana DiPrima, aka Farm Girl, who writes the blog The Pitchfork about keeping a small farm on her property in Sullivan County. I’ve been farmer’s advocate since I began my show almost seven years ago. Time flies!

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How To Quickly Build A Roaring Fire in a Cold Wood Stove

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Quickly making a roaring fire is a fine art and in these plummeting temperatures the art form becomes a necessity when you’re starting a fire in an extremely cold cabin.

Materials pictured above from left to right: paper, tinder, kindling and thin, light logs of “starter” wood.

The real secret for great tinder is a certain type of egg box made with compressed paper or cardboard that is a strong enough structure to support the pyre while it’s burning, but light enough to burn easily. Paper alone is too light and burns down quickly. Once it has burned down, the embers can dampen your fire. Egg boxes burn slowly and cleanly. You can also use paper towel tubes, but the issue here is that you need to have saved them in advance. Continue reading

Happy New Year from Upstate Dispatch

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We enter the New Year 2018 with formidably low temperatures. Christmas was bitterly cold and New Year’s Eve’s overnight low is predicted to be -8F. I cannot remember it ever being much lower than zero in previous winters. It feels like a thorough cleansing, as if Mother Nature wants to properly destroy everything before she resuscitates the landscape next Spring. Previous milder Winters have been blamed for the prevalence in ticks, for example. This year – this past Fall – we had a record number of ticks on our ridge and extremely low winter temperatures do their part to kill the eggs and larvae hibernating in the soil. Continue reading

Daily Catskills: 12/21/17 Yuletide & The Winter Solstice

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Today, December 21st, is Winter Solstice, officially the first day of winter. The northern hemisphere of the earth is pointed the farthest away from the sun and, tonight begins its slow return towards it until the June Solstice of 2018. The ancient tradition of Yuletide, one of the oldest winter celebrations in Europe began this morning and will end on January 1st, 2018. Last year, 2016, Hanukah, a festival of lights, coincided almost exactly with Yuletide, from December 20th to January 1st. Yuletide was a fire festival celebrated by the Northern Europeans. Pre-Zoroastrian Persians and ancient Romans celebrated something similar before the common era. The most enduring British tradition from Yuletide is the Yule Log, a small firestarter from a larger bonfire that was shared with many households by landowners in England. Evergreen trees were fashioned into wreaths and other decorations for the interior of the house for their refreshing smell. The Brits still make cakes fashioned into Yule logs and, of course, we still bring in pine trees, decorate them with lights, but now we call it Christmas. Happy Solstice!

Sunday on Bearpen

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I’ve written about Bearpen Mountain before after climbing it in March 2016. As I wrote then, it’s aptly named, being bearish not bullish, a long, gentle incline around a mountain following a snow mobile trail. Bare trees allow stunning, almost panoramic views, glimpses of the surrounding countryside, so it’s easy to keep your bearings. When the mountain’s covered in a few feet of snow, you can follow the tracks of previous hikers up or down a handy short cut that’s a dashed black line on the map and helpfully signed “Danger”, but this part of the trail is scantily marked, so I’ve never had the courage to bother with it before. It was a blessing on the way down on Sunday because all the hikers before us had decided to take the short cut so we had broken trail most of the long way up and – as usual – I had forgotten something, snow shoes, that would have made the going far easier. Continue reading

Literary Catskills: Burroughs

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In the hushed, revered halls of the New York Public Library on 42nd and 5th Avenue you’ll find The Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, in which sit several collectible works of John Burroughs. The historical, literary treasures of the substantial Berg Collection sit in their own private reading room. Visits must be booked in advance to view any works in this room, in which coats are prohibited and other books are not allowed near whatever you are viewing. I’m imagining being presented with white gloves and whispering, so I don’t accidentally spit on the ancient goods. Visitors must obtain a NYPL Library card which is about as thrilling as it gets for a bookish, foreign writer like myself. I might frame it. Continue reading

Buy Local Art

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Artist Lisbeth Firmin will be busy during the holiday season finishing large and small works for sale. Currently in her studio in Margaretville working on two new oils and starting a third, she welcomes studio visits, and takes commissions. “I love painting people’s pets, too” she says. “I just did a commission for a friend in NC, a portrait of him and his dog in his beloved Mustang”.

Her signature style is rich, stout brush strokes that create a lush dreamscape, a ruminative environment where subjects are often caught deep in thought, or on their way somewhere – and often both! –  with the ambient lighting, like sparkling daylight or a sunset, beautifully captured.

For small works, Lisbeth does small gouaches (9″ x 12″) for $300 and has the tractor prints available this Christmas, at $50 each. She’s also in Small Works Show in Roxbury through the Holidays, with three small gouache studies @ $150 each (6″ x 6″) and have a nice gouache of a house in Franklin in the MURAL Holiday show in Hobart ($195). Here’s a list of all the latest exhibitions in which Lisbeth is showing.

For the art lovers in your life, consider buying local art for the holidays.

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Correction: A previous version of this post mentioned a January 2018 class entitled Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain in Hobart NY. The class was actually a summer class that took place this past summer 2017. Apologies!

Grow Your Own Mushroom Kits

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I know what you’re thinking. This looks hideous. Who would eat this? But, If you’re an avid mushroom hunter, a devotee of all things mycological, then you’ll miss the vast array of mushrooms that were available in the forest during the warmer seasons. Pictured above is a mushroom grow kit, specifically Lion’s Mane, a delicate, fragrant mushroom with a taste and texture that’s a cross between lobster and truffles. I found only one stash of Lion’s Mane back in August in the forest and it was delicious. I’m trying to recreate this mushroom in my kitchen with a grow kit purchased from Catskill Fungi, but I think the room is a bit too light and warm. Mushrooms are extraordinarily sensitive and I have not been able to encourage this packet to achieve its full potential. In the wild, it looks like this: Continue reading

Amy’s Take-Away: Farm Fresh Soups

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Upstaters are busier than ever, especially around the holiday season. Many of us – writers, farmers, makers and artists – work from home and if you do, you might spend hours a day cooking your own meals that detract from your billable hours or projects. Amy’s Take-Away & Catering in Lanesville, ten minutes north of Phoenicia, NY, makes delicious, hearty soups with local ingredients offering vegetarian, vegan and meat options in equal numbers. If you’re having a particularly busy week, you could buy five of Amy’s soups at the weekend and save hours cooking lunch and cleaning up.

Amy’s is open on weekends from 12-6pm or “by chance or appointment”, meaning you can make an appointment, or if you’re in the area and Amy is on the premises, you can call 845-688-9759. The premises is only ten minutes from Hunter Mountain and quite a few Catskills 3500 peaks. If you’re ski-ing and hiking at the weekend, it’s a no-brainer to take Route 214 and pick up soups on the way.

Moreover, owner Amy Jackson is a farmer’s advocate having been a long-time member of NOFA, Chefs’ Collaborative, and Just Food. She is a certified food processor, a Master Gardener and has helped start farmers’ market and RSAs. Plus, she gets her produce directly from local, upstate farmers, driving to the farms herself to pick up what she needs.

On the current menu: corn chowder, cauliflower cashew, broccoli apple, minted pea and spinach, Ukranian borscht, turkish orzo, moroccan turnip and chickpea, “buddhist delight” and many more. Ingredients are sourced from Adams Farm, Bulich Farm, Migliorelli, RSK and Story Farms.

Daily Catskills: 12/09/17

A high of 30F and cold with afternoon snow beginning as a light sprinkles at lunchtime and continuing well into the evening. Cars over-shooting their turns, sliding gracefully off roads and into ditches, just before dusk ahead of the snow ploughs. Winter has finally arrived.

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Catskills Conservation: Where to Buy a Specially Grown, Local Christmas Tree

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Support a local farmer and cut a local, sustainably grown Christmas tree this year. Tree growing is one of the few ways farmers making a living in an area highly regulated against industry in order to keep New York City water pure for drinking. Continue reading

Daily Catskills: 11/30/17

A balmy 43F by mid-afternoon, bright and humid after frosty morning. The dried husks of summer’s blooms, crowned with snow, wave in the breeze on tall stalks like stakes marking the spot where spring once was.

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Catskills Events: Conservation, History & The Arts

Saturday December 2nd

Renewable Heating Happy Hour at Union Grove Distillery in Arkville from Transition Catskills from 5.30pm to 8.30pm. Geothermal heating is an affordable, environmentally-friendly alternative to heating your home. If you’re curious how it works, there will be presentations at 5.30, 6.30 and 7.30 with Jake Kornack from Dandelion.

Holiday Arts Market at Roxbury Arts Group. 11am to 5pm.

The Polar Express returns to Kingston. Ulster County politicians want to rip up the historic railroad that runs through the Catskills. Come see why we should save the rails. 1pm to 9pm.

Nick Lyons’ A Life Well Fished at the Phoenicia Library. Legendary fisherman, author and publisher Nick Lyons will be at the Phoenicia Library to reminisce about his “Life Well Fished”. Nick is widely known for his popular “Seasonable Angler” column in Fly Fisherman Magazine, which he wrote for decades. In articles for Fly Fisherman and other publications, and in more than a dozen books, he chronicled his fishing adventures all over the world.

Function or Form: Utilitarian Art Show at the Erpf Gallery in the Catskill Center, 43355 New York 28, Arkville, NY, 12406. 10am to 2pm. Runs until January 8th.

Tuesday December 5th

Community Solar at Andes Hotel, Andes, NY. Join Southern Tier Solar Works at Andes Hotel to learn all about Community Solar. Enjoy free hors d’oeuvres, while hearing about how you can save money and steer the clean energy economy. Have all your solar questions answered. 7pm.

Catskills’ Local Holiday Gift Guide

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Food, booze and small favors like soaps and scented candles make great gifts without costing a fortune. Plus, they can be easily mailed to friends and family members across the country. The Catskills is filled to the brim with local producers, making it ever easier to shop locally for the holidays. The Catskills also have some of the best local artists selling everything from small works to large pieces in studios across the region. Watch this space for features on local artists selling their wares during the holiday season. We’re also compiling a list of places you can cut your own Christmas tree. It’s never been more important to shop locally. For every dollar you spend locally, the community will benefit to the value of five to seven dollars. Industry in the Catskills is strictly regulated because we have to protect New York City’s drinking water. Spending money on the Catskills’ small producers keeps our regional economy afloat. Shop Upstate for the holidays. Continue reading

Monday’s Radio Show: Local Government

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Tune in to WIOX on Monday November 27th at 9am to my interview with Brian Flynn, who is running for Congress next year for New York’s 19th District.

Brian is a lifelong progressive and small business owner. He has spent his entire adult life fighting, effectively, for the type of progressive change that makes a real difference in people’s lives. Brian’s activism emerged from a very personal event almost 30 years ago. His big brother, JP, was killed in the 1988 Pan Am 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland. This experience taught Brian that you can bring about meaningful change in Washington – if you’re organized, tireless and never stop fighting for what’s right. And Brian has been fighting for change ever since. He has marched in the halls of congress and the UN, held big businesses accountable, ensured terrorists are convicted, supported public education and fought for environmental protections. As a union member he’s walked picket lines. He’s worked on factory floors and worked to raise the wages of hundreds of American workers. He knows what it takes to get things done and he knows that we can never stop until it gets done. Brian lives in Hunter in Greene County with his wife and two children. You can find out more about Brian by visiting his website

Windowsill Celery

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During the winter, if you have a spot in the house that gets a great deal of sun, turn it into a hothouse for cultivation. It couldn’t be easier to grow your own celery. When you next use celery, chop off the entire root system in one slice. Place the celery, root pointing down, in a glass of water (pictures below) and then plant it once your get some new growth that looks like frilly lettuce (pictured above). Continue reading

Meet & Greet Democratic Candidates for the 19th District

In early December, two Meet & Greet events with local, Democratic politicians will take place. Jeff Beals and Brian Flynn are both running in the next election for the NY’s 19th District.

On Saturday December 9th from 3-5pm, Brian Flynn will be hosted by Carla Weinpahl and Dan Weaver at their home in Fleischmanns. I will also be interviewing Brian on WIOX on Monday 27th November at 9am.

This is a great opportunity for everyone to find out what these two candidate’s positions are on everything from jobs to national security. Brian Flynn lost a brother in the terrorist attack on a Pan Am flight in 1988 over Lockerbie and campaigned in Washington for better security on airlines. He’s been campaigning for Medicare for All for a decade and will focus on bringing good jobs back to the 19th District.

On Sunday December 10th from 3-5pm, William Duke will be hosting Jeff Beals at Willow Drey Farm in Andes. 

Weekend Links: Food, Farming & The Natural World

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The New Farmer’s Almanac from the Greenhorns: a compendium of articles, hand-drawn illustrations, poetry and essays on what is happening now in agrarian innovation throughout the country. The Greenhorns are now seeking submissions for the next edition.

Upstate farmers and food producers in Seneca Lake fight to keep their water clean, from Saveur Magazine.

A guide to wild bees.

The Northeast might be overwhelmed with snowy owls, according to Aududon Magazine. There are a lot of mice here for them to eat.

Trout Tales at Spillian, offering “a grand collection of workshops, expos, guided fishing adventures, feasts, art, and much more for you to discover the the mighty trout and its streams and forests in the Catskills”.

Librarians delivering books on horseback.

Daily Catskills: 11/16/17

A high of 46F, windy with a mix of sun and clouds. Late night snow swirls on the peaks, sprinkling the thatched landscape with a temporary dusting of icing sugar.

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The Anatomy of a Bird Box

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A base layer of dirt, then grass, then a thick wedge of insulation and finally, twigs topped off with a small, vacated wasp’s nest and a large insect exoskeleton, probably a caterpillar/butterfly. A once crowded bird box now getting repaired and cleaned out for new tenants.

Monday’s Radio Show: Local Government & Conservation

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After this week’s election victories, Monday’s radio show will feature two prominent guests: Jeff Senterman and Julia Reischel. From 9am to 9.30am, we will hear from Jeff who is Executive Director of the Catskill Center. Many people ask me what the Catskill Center does and now here is your chance to find out if you didn’t know. From 9.30am to 10am, we’ll hear from Julia Reischel, a former local journalist and co-founder of the now-retired Watershed Post, who is now going into politics.

You can stream the show online on WIOX on Monday November 13that 9am. Let’s hope it’s warmer than today’s 22F.

Women of the Catskills

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“There’s this thing happening… the women’s movement, and I want to cover it.”

Writer Nora Ephron uttered that sentence over 40 years ago and, as of last year, during the last election cycle, it seemed like our quest for equality hadn’t really advanced that far. Women still earned less than men for doing the same jobs, women’s rights were being eroded and sexual harassment in the workplace continued unabated. According to one New York City chef, writing in GQ Magazine, whole industries have been marginalizing the achievements of women in the restaurant business for decades. This year, though, we are experiencing a wholesale transformation in our zeitgeist. It’s a paradigm shift of epic proportions. Women are beginning to speak up, becoming more politically active and attempting to effect change by running for public office. “Women hold up half the sky,” the saying goes, and we should have half the representation.

Here in the Catskills, we have a remarkable abundance of female entrepreneurs: women blazing their own trail in this wilderness. The area is filled with strong, female icons, role models, influencers, artists, farmers, scientists and teachers. Last night, election night, saw a female entrepreneur, Julia Reischel, former journalist, take a seat on our local town council and all over the country democratic women won hard-earned seats in local office. Continue reading

Links: Food & Drink

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Despite wearing a watch, and having several electronic gadgets that will automatically tell me the time, I have been doing things an hour earlier since the clocks went back at the weekend. How long has it been? Only 48 hours you say? Feels like forever. Having been a city dweller for most of my life, it feels like city living forces the time on you where as country life coerces you into succumbing to nature’s rhythms (and the weather). I’ve hardly left the house in the past few weeks, but that’s about to change. Meanwhile, here are some links to past Upstate Dispatch posts to some recipes and food reviews to keep you occupied until I get back out into the Catskills.


Beberts Chicken Tagine

Jeanette Bronée’s Roasted Carrots & Prunes

The Bull & Garland Pub in Hobart.

Supper Club at Heather Ridge Farm in Schoharie County.

Fish & Chips in the Catskills.

The best burger in the Catskills (at the time of writing).

Oh, and by the way:

We already knew that temperatures were ten degrees warmer than last year, making fall a little disappointing, but here’s Bloomberg’s official report.

Daily Catskills: 11/02/17

A little warmer at 60F by noon and overcast with scattered rain showers. Always hike in light colored clothing, so you can easily spot ticks crawling up your leg, clinging to the fibers of your trousers like tiny, inexorable acrobats.

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Local Elections & Proposals on the Ballot: November 7th

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Local elections take place next week here in Delaware County, Upstate New York, Tuesday November 7th. Here’s a list of all the offices on the ballot.

There are also three propositions, or “Proposals”, on the reverse side of the ballot that are easy to miss. It’s also difficult to find information on these proposals, even if you don’t have three jobs. Flip over the ballot and vote on these proposals which are, in brief, the following:

1. New York State should have a Constitutional Convention. This is proposed because in the NYS Constitution its required that every twenty years we should have a Constitutional Convention, so there is a public vote required.

2. A public official found guilty of a felony should be stripped of their pension (if that has a direct and actual relationship to the performance of the public officer’s existing duties).

3. Constitutional Amendment that would create a modest land bank for Catskill (and Adirondack) community health and safety projects involving roads crossing the Forest Preserve. Basically, this will allow local communities to use forest land to re-build their infrastructure, like for example, a bridge that washed away, if they can prove that the land on which the bridge was on, is not viable. Right now it takes years to get permission to re-build a bridge if the land underneath it has been washed away by flooding and the proposed land is in the forest preserve because the forest preserve is protected. The proposal proposes to make it easier for communities to rebuild with one simple amendment.

The Catskill Center supports this amendment. Read their blog post about it.

Go to the Delaware County website to read all three propositions in full.

Upstate Dispatch Retrolinks

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As a friend pointed out, there’s a lot of content on Upstate Dispatch and, moreover, a great deal of content that doesn’t much get read, or hasn’t been read by regular readers.

So, as winter approaches and I scout around for ideas for winter content, I offer some links to past work that are first person articles that are desperately in need of a follow up.

Deer hunting season approaches: a link to a 2015 post I wrote about hunting.

Here’s the first post I wrote about our dog, Alfie and a post on the cost of food.

A guide to safe and considerate hiking in Upstate New York, that needs to be updated for winter. In fact, scroll through the entire hiking section of the site.

My first Catskills 3500 ascent: Balsam Mountain two years ago.

Eat Your Weeds, instead of throwing pesticide on them that ruins the water table.

Scroll through last year’s November. The gift guide still holds.

And finally, writing of gifts, here’s our donate page. UD takes thousands of hours a year to write and does not do paid or sponsored content or advertising.

Daily Catskills: 10/30/17

Last night’s rain storm turns dangerous with blustery winds downing trees, causing power failures and fast-moving rivers, ending abruptly by afternoon. A high of 50F and late afternoon sunshine. Update: snow reported on the peaks.

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