Category Archives: Shopping Locally

Shop Locally

© J.N. Urbanski

March is Women’s History Month and March 8th has been declared A Day Without A Woman during which women are called to abstain from paid and unpaid labor, avoid shopping and wear red in solidarity with all underpaid, disadvantaged ladies everywhere. Basically, women are called to strike and stop shopping. The one exception is that we are called to shop only from small, minority-owned or female-owned businesses and that’s significant for us in the Catskills because there are more female entrepreneurs here than I can count. In fact, this entire region is teeming with female entrepreneurs. There are nutritionists, filmmakers, farmers, producers, artists galore, writers, photographers, stylists, hoteliers, store keepers and bar owners, all doing there thing up here in the fresh air of the mountains where living is the hardest, as opposed to nearby fertile valleys like the Hudson. The growing season is shorter here in the upper elevations, the soil is rockier and we are at the mercy of the harshest elements. Female farmers, I’m pretty sure, along with thousands of their compadres, can’t afford to down tools on Wednesday, because we don’t pay enough for our food. They must strive on, and we must help them by becoming their customers.

For those in NYC: please consider putting this list of female-owned businesses in the Catskills region on your radar and support them every day, not just out of protest.

Lizzie Douglas’s cafe, Stick in the Mud in Margaretville; the Cheese Barrel for all sorts of exotic sweets and chocolate; Tay Tea in Delhi; Vegan “cheeze” from Cheezehound in Fleischmanns; Homegoods of Margaretville; Northern Catskills Essentials for gifts, lotions soaps and cosmetics; Mural on Main Art Gallery; Amy’s Takeaway near Phoenicia; Bebert’s Moroccan Condiments; The Blue Barn, vintage goods and antiques in Shandaken; Earthgirl Pottery & Flowers in Callicoon; Maison Bergogne in Narrowsburg; Table on Ten in Bloomville; Betty Acres FarmTree Juice CSA from Lazy Crazy Acres; Roxbury General in Roxbury.

Update: Goods available to purchase online or by phone on Wednesday: Tay Tea, Cheezehound, Tree Juice Maple Syrup, Bebert’s Moroccan Condiments, Northern Catskills Essentials.

Local Catskills Holiday Gift Guide

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Support local producers and shop locally for your holiday gifts this year. Shopping locally benefits the local community in countless ways. Every dollar spent in your local community benefits that community by 5-7 dollars. Here’s a list of crafts, food and bodycare products from Christmas stocking stuffers and gifts for colleagues and friends, to more expensive gifts that go under the family tree. Below find our best picks for scrumptious local food, beautiful gifts and local crafts.

SPECIALITY FOOD & DRINK

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Everyone loves food. Bebert’s Moroccan Cafe in Fleischmanns has a wealth of beautifully packaged herbs, sweets, condiments and spices that make fabulous gifts for the home cook. Special items are the Spices Des Fes blend for making tagine, preserved lemons, fruit compotes and Casablanca chutney. Perfect stocking stuffers or make great gifts for friends and colleagues.

Grab a bottle or two of Wayside Cider when you’re next in Andes and, maybe stop awhile for a quick refreshing apertif on your way to a dinner party.

Enjoy their tap room and pick up a bottle of locally distilled vodka at Union Grove Distillery in Arkville.

If you’re in Margaretville and feel like something sweet or need a sweet gift, The Cheese Barrel stocks mouth-watering cookies like Bahlsen, Italian chocolate, nougat, jarred condiments, tea, coffee and jams that make great stocking stuffers or dinner party gifts. At Homegoods of Margaretville you’ll find everything the modern cook could want from cute salt and pepper shakers to Le Creusette pans and everything in between. They also stock tea, lotions, cookbooks and spices.

Tay Tea has a shop in Delhi selling all things tea: a large selection of house-blended tea, teapots, arts and crafts. Their tea is beautiful and stylishly packaged. If you’re looking to give up coffee, their Coffee Lover’s Tea is a wholesome, flavorful alternative with light caffeine content.

For authentic local maple syrup go here to read local guide published earlier in the year.

BODY CARE

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

The Catskills have the finest lotions, potions and unguents on offer made by hand by local artisans. Click here for our guide published earlier this year.

Catskills Northern Essentials
Northern Essentials products are fabulous. Yes, a single bar of soap can change your day! Perfect for small gifts and wedding favors, they are beautifully packaged, make a creamy lather and contain comforting essential oils like rose and invigorating lemongrass. There’s a wide range of soaps to choose from, using speciality ingredients like goat’s milk, sea buckthorn, pine tar and activated charcoal.

Lady Bug Soap, 42 Creamery Road, Greenville, NY
Lee Lewis started making her own lotions, soaps and potions to cope with eczema. She has over 80 products available including bug and tick repellents. Her hand soap is gentle on dry hands and lightly aromatic, a perfect foil for winter dryness. Store hours are Thursday & Friday 3pm – 7pm and Saturday 11am- 3pm. You can also shop online at Lady Bug Soap.

LOCAL STOCKISTS & GENERAL STORES

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Here are our three favorite general stores to support this holiday season, stocking all your essentials.

The Roxbury General Store, 53538 State Highway 30, Roxbury, NY 12474
The General Store has some seriously classy, high-quality local gifts for everyone your life, whether it’s a colleague, friend or family member. You also have the added bonus of perhaps catching a wine tasting on the opposite corner at Roxbury Wines & Spirits.

The Blue Barn, 7053 Route 28, Shandaken, NY 12480
The Blue Barn has always been reasonably priced and a great go-to for antiques and more modern items from local furniture dealers and craftspeople. A no-brainer if you’re passing through or for locals: an Upstate Dispatch favorite. Read our write-up of the Blue Barn here. Check their facebook page for their winter hours which are usually weekends only.

Lucky Dog Farm Store, 35796 State Highway 10 (Main Street), Hamden, NY 13782
This delightful general store is a one-stop shop for all manner of high-quality food, condiments, clothing, kitchenware, lotions, soaps, candles and wool products. They stock Jos Vulto’s delicious cheese, local honey and many, many other speciality local products. They also deliver and offer case orders at a 20% discount. Go here to see their extensive product list. Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday.

ARTS & CRAFTS

Steve Burnett Metal Sculpture

Steve Burnett Metal Sculpture

Catskill Mountain Artisan’s Guild, Main Street, Margaretville, NY
The Artisan’s Guild offers an extensive range of high-quality arts and crafts like painted silk, leather goods and jewelry and has the benefit of being open all week long.

MURAL on Main, 631 Main Street, Hobart, NY 13788
The Gallery Gift Shop at MURAL began several years ago as a way to support their endeavours to promote art in the region. Proceeds from the gift shop keep the fine art gallery open to the public free of charge, keep the costs of their invaluable workshops and events low, and provide an additional revenue stream for local artisans. You can also find Solveig Comer’s Most Precious Pottery here.

Bovina Brown Bats, Bovina Center, NY
Bovina Brown Bats is run by owner John Virga, a graphic artist and carpenter who makes custom bat boxes in addition to other things. The best time to put up a bat box is in the Spring.

Arkville Bread Breakfast, 43285 State Route 28, Arkville, NY 12406
This legendary sandwich shop, beloved by all, run by Jack, is having a local, holiday market on Black Friday featuring a selection from the Upstate Dispatch Daily Catskills Collection, Steve Burnett’s metalworks (pictured above), Catskill Clothing Company and other local craftspeople. Steve Burnett makes striking metalwork sculptures (pictured above), watercolors and drawings. His last show was at Rachel’s Framing and Fine Art in Delhi.

2nd Annual Holiday Pop-Up Market, 778 Main Street, Margaretville, NY.
Last year’s market was a “phenomenal success”, so this year’s holiday market will be expanding into two days, November 25th and 26th, 10am – 5pm. Local crafts, clothing and jewelry including Halia Grace jewelry and more.

Catskills Holiday Gift Guide: The Arts

Robert Schneider, "All Hallow's Eve" Oil on Panel, $1200, photo courtesy of MURAL on Main

Robert Schneider, “All Hallow’s Eve” Oil on Panel, $1200, photo courtesy of MURAL on Main

Support local artists by shopping in the Catskills for holiday gifts. As the quote goes, “vote with your wallet for the kind of change you want to see in the world”. Consumer power is real. If you stop buying products produced overseas, fewer will be imported. The latest economic conversion metric for shopping locally is: every dollar spent locally benefits that community to the value of 5-7 dollars. Support your local artists.

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Round Barn Saturday Farmers Market in Halcotsville Extending Through November

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

The Pakatakan Farmers Market in Halcotsville on Route 30 is extending its Saturday market through the end of November. Today there was a limited edition of what you’ll normally find there, but if you’re looking to stock up on local vegetables, Lucky Dog and Straight Out Of The Ground were present. Madalyn Warren’s famous kimchee is delicious. She also had fresh ginger, heirloom tomatoes, pumpkins, Jerusalem artichokes and other greens. Lucky Dog had all its usual green vegetables and herbs. Owing to the late Summer/warm Autumn combination (yesterday it was 70F), there will be more to sell for the next month. Under the large awning there was local chicken for sale, more vegetables, a bakery, soups, coffee, tea, local cheese and Catskill Funghi. Open 10am-2pm every Saturday from now through November. The final market will be on November 19th but a special holiday market will take place on November 26th. Today was dismally freezing with a biting wind, but it’s worth braving the cold to get such excellent produce. Support your local farmers.

A Local Guide to Catskills Products: Local Sugar

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

We published a piece about local sugar that you’ll find here in September 2014. Below is a more comprehensive list of the Catskills maple syrup producers. Tree tapping began much earlier this year, with tapping beginning in the southern Catskills as far back as Christmas. New York State’s Maple Weekend takes place on March 19th and 20th, and again on April 2nd and 3rd, 2016. There’s no reason not to get local sugar. At last count, for every dollar spent locally, the community benefits to the value of five to seven times that dollar, and all that money stays in the community. If you spend $20 on a bottle of maple sugar, it is the equivalent of putting $140 back into your community.

Maple syrup also has many health benefits:

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A Local Guide to Catskills Products

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

The New York Times recently published a “guide to Delaware County’s thriving craft culture” and although a few of our friends and neighbours were included, a significant portion of our wares was omitted. Here in Delaware County and in the wider area of the Catskills, you can’t throw a stone without hitting a local producer of the highest quality. We have a vast array of everything artisanal, handmade and locally produced. The Catskill Mountains are home to a huge community of entrepreneurs, craftspeople and artists but the aforementioned article only included ten local purveyors. This post is the first part of a guide to all things made in the Catskills.

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The Annex in Andes

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

My persistent, resolute village envy has been exacerbated by the opening of The Annex in Andes, a boutique indoor market selling freshly cut flowers, cider, honey and herbs grown from seed, all locally produced. The building is on the corner of Main Street, that is Route 28, where it does a sharp right on its way to Delhi. Its interior looks like a rustic, aged restaurant made lovelier by the presence of herbs and flowers in the front and thirst-quenching Wayside cider in the back. Phoenicia Honey Co makes a welcome appearance.

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Local, Antique & Vintage Holiday Gift Guide 2014

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Go to Blue Barn Antiques, in Shandaken/Phoenicia for some excellent bargains on high-quality antiques like this Rockwell-painted plate (above) for $15. There is still a pile left with different Rockwell paintings. Other utterly gorgeous vintage and antique dresses are still there alongside modern artisanal products like Pillowtique’s pillows and handmade crafts.

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Saturday Shopping: Vintage & Antiques

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

The artistic and entrepreneurial spirit is thriving indomitably in the Catskills where you’ll increasingly find more accomplished artists, tastemakers and downright fascinating people bringing their urban pursuits to the country. Furthermore, most businesses worth spotlighting here in the Catskills seem to be owned by women. Faye Storms has owned Blue Barn Antiques on Route 28 in Shandaken since 1979, having moved to the Catskills from NYC. “My husband brought me up here to recover from a sports injury and I fell in love with the place,” she says. “Then he put a bid on the store after we got married”. Storms learned the antiques trade after she bought the property, went to auctions, studied books, talked to people and set up the store. Shortly thereafter, she and her husband got into reproduction furniture which made them hugely popular. “There was nothing like it in the area at the time. We had cars lining up down the street.” The property has an interesting history having been a farm, a store and a luncheonette with a dancehall stage at the back that is still intact.

A graduate of FIT in New York City, Storms is also an accomplished artist  – something that antique store owners seem to have in common in the area – a town council member and a real estate broker. She has firsthand knowledge that game changers and influencers, artists willing “to take a gamble or leap of faith” are pouring into the area and buying up property with the intent to start enterprises and encourage growth in the area.

Blue Barn’s prices are also reasonable, making it the place for an exciting bargain. A red, antique, ankle-length dress made in Shanghai, pictured below was $36. The store is also frequented by stylists for motion pictures, dinner theatres and fashion shoots.

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

There are two buildings on the Blue Barn property: a one-storey building (pictured top) and a two-storey building next to it, which Storms is slowly turning into a dealer center with all different dealers of various wares in addition to antiques like clothing, arts and crafts. You’ll find Theadora Anema’s Pillowthique, which featured early on Upstate Dispatch.

From 12pm to 5pm this coming Saturday December 6th, there will be an open house at the Blue Barn.

Blue Barn Antiques, 7053 State Route 28, Shandaken, (3 miles west of Phoenicia), New York. Open winter hours: Saturday and Sundays, 11-5pm.

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

 

Saturday Shopping: Vintage

© Laura Levine

© Laura Levine

Every dollar that you spend locally is 5 to 7 times the value of that expenditure to your community. When you shop at a big box store you’re diverting your capital directly out of your community to places like Asia, where most American products are made and wherever the owners of the big box store live. Furthermore, big box stores notoriously pay low wages to their workers, so by regularly shopping in those stores you’re contributing to the large-scale expansion of a low-wage job sector, such is the power of your wallet. Moreover, it’s no secret that government is bought and paid for by large corporations through lobbying and campaign fund contributions, the Supreme Court now having ruled that those contributions may be unlimited. Even if every American decided to vote in the next election, this fact would remain unchanged. This means we are remarkably more powerful when we are spending our money than when we are voting. All the power is in our purse and how we spend our hard-earned money, quite an extraordinary fact. Think about what would happen if we all stopped shopping for a few days, or stopped buying brand-new products, or only purchased food from our local farmer.

One way to buy local and recycle is to choose vintage stores for your Christmas shopping, thereby saving your economy and your environment in one fell swoop. One such place here in the Catskills is Mystery Spot Antiques in Phoenicia owned by Laura Levine, an artist who has shown work at the MOMA and has work in the permanent collection in the National Portrait Gallery. Laura has a superbly discerning eye and has filled her “odditorium” with magnificent, beautifully unique gifts like a snakeskin purse, a shearling coat, Liberty of London ties, gorgeously dainty Czech glass goblets and a bucket of polaroid cameras.

Vintage snakeskin purse © Laura Clapp

Vintage snakeskin purse © Laura Clapp

“I have always collected weird things my entire life,” she says. “I’m from the city. I grew up in the city, but my parents had a little cabin upstate when I was a kid and we used to go to yard sales and in the city I always used to go to flea markets.” Her antique store used to be in a little multi-dealer store in Phoenicia Plaza, near where the Phoenicia Diner is now. She had a 10 x 10 booth and stocked it with antiques until the placed closed down. “I had 30 days to move my things out and I was either going to sell it all or take the next step and open my own shop. I wasn’t going to do that, but I found a little space on the boardwalk in Phoenicia for $200 a month, so I took it. I opened over the summer for 20 days a year and the store grew from there.” That was over 13 years ago and five years ago the shop moved to its current, much larger and more prominent location on Main Street.

The store has just invested in two pick-up truck loads from an estate sale that she is still picking her way though, but her favorite thing of the moment is a steel shoe mold from a shoe factory, in a men’s size eight. “The thrill of the hunt is really the fun part,” says Laura who still lives in New York City and has an employee run the store for most of the time. “When I am at the store, I love meeting my customers. I’ve made some really great friends. I feel like it attracts kindred spirits and I always end up having something in common with the customers, like our paths crossed in the music business or the art world or something.”

Czech glass goblets © Laura Clapp

Czech glass goblets © Laura Levine

For this weekend’s Small Business Saturday, the store is displaying a table of gift suggestions which range in price from 25 cents (for vintage greeting cards) to about $200, but the average price at the table is $20-$30. Gift certificates are also available: perfect for Christmas and especially if you’d like your in-laws to visit more! Entice them back to claim their gift.

If you’re wondering why Davy Crockett is outside, he’s a loaner from the neighboring Sportsman’s Cantina, moved there after Hurricane Irene, that Laura was thrilled to receive. It’s Davy’s birthday on August 17th and last year they had a Davy Crockett day during which customers dressed up as Crockett and local businesses donated prizes.

Go and have a dig around yourself in Mystery Spot Antiques, 72 Main Street, Phoenicia, New York: (845) 688-7868. Open weekends only for the winter, Saturday 11am to 6pm and Sunday 11am to 5pm. Find them on Facebook and Instagram. THIS WEEKEND ONLY: for Small Business Saturday on November 29th, get 20% off everything, except Mystery Spot Antiques’ tote bags and t-shirts.

Liberty of London Ties  © Laura Clapp

Liberty of London Ties © Laura Clapp

Bucket of Polaroids © Laura Clapp

Bucket of Polaroids © Laura Clapp

Saturday Shopping: Winter Farmer’s Markets

© J.N. Urbanski Greenheart Indoor Farmer's Market

© J.N. Urbanski Greenheart Indoor Farmer’s Market

Could there be anything more emblematic of the revolution in our consumption habits than seeing a branch of Bank of America transformed into a farmer’s market? Route 28, the essential thoroughfare that winds through the Catskills from Kingston’s Exit 19 on Route 87 (the main arterial route travelling north through New York State from New York City) to Delhi, now has a handful of winter farmer’s markets to visit after the fair-weather markets close on or just after Thanksgiving. Year-round farmer’s markets are rare, but if we frequent them, they will spring up to meet our demand.

Here’s a modest list from Upstate Dispatch that runs east to west starting with the Kingston and Rhinebeck markets and ending in Andes.

Should you know of any more, please reply to this post and I will add them.

Kingston Farmers’ Market, Old Dutch Church, 272 Wall Street, Kingston, NY 12401. 1st & 3rd Saturdays from December through April 2015.

Rhinebeck Farmers’ Market, Rhinebeck Town Hall at 80 East Market St, Rhinebeck, NY 12572. Alternate Sundays: Dec 7 & 21, Jan 4 & 18, Feb 1 & 15, March 1, 15 & 29, April 12 & 26

Greenheart Farm Market: the former Bank of America on 2808 Route 28 in Shokan, between the Door Jamb and the intersection of Route 28 and Shokan Road, is open 24 hours. Go here to see it as its former self on Google Maps. Call Al, on (845) 657-2195.

Migliorelli Farm, 5150 Route 28, Mt. Tremper, NY. Contact: MaryAnn Migliorelli Rosolen. Phone: (845) 688-2112.

Andes Indoor Farmer’s Market, 143 Main Street, Andes, NY 13731. Contact: Cheryl Terrace. Phone: (607) 832-4660. All year round Amy delivers frozen soups to farmers and homeowners. Amy is based at the Andes Indoor Farmers Market every Saturday.

On Route 28 in Delhi, you can pick up locally-grown produce from Maple Shade Farm.

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Saturday Shopping: Chocolate

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski Girl and Bee chocolate bark

Girl and Bee sells chocolate truffles, chocolate bark and infused honey but it’s the chocolate bark that stands out for both its rough-hewn texture and exquisite organic embellishments which include goji berries, lavender, cacao nibs, bee pollen, peppermint and chamomile. Devastatingly delicious, the bark is a tactile experience, coming in palm-sized slabs and thin enough to permit a satisfying snap that releases a burst of color and aroma. It’s tasty and pretty: perfect for a holiday gifts. The bark comes in 4-ounce boxes for $8 and a 12-ounce tin for $20. If you’re in it for the truffles, they are each lovingly prepared by hand: thick, firm and intensely flavored by the likes of vanilla, rose and lavender. “Every truffle has had my hand on it,” says proprietor Melissa Zeligman who sells the 4-truffle sampler box for $14 and an 8-truffle sampler tin for $25. Gold leaf adorns the vanilla truffle like a little crown and combines a dark chocolate shell with pulverized Madagascar vanilla beans in the center.

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Saturday Shopping: Bread

© J.N. Urbanski Seven-grain bread from Machu Picchu bakery in Roxbury

© J.N. Urbanski Seven-grain bread from Machu Picchu bakery in Roxbury

In the heart of the English word companionship you will find the word bread, such is the reverence given to this humble foodstuff. It’s from the old French compaignon, literally “one who breaks bread with another”. You’d never know this now of course because wheat has suffered a sharp, unfriendly rebuke of late. The staff of life has stuck in the mud, been rolled into the metaphorical fire and the problem is the now-infamous gluten.

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Saturday Shopping: Local Dairy

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

If you’re one of those people not swearing off dairy for anything from heartburn to allergies, you might consider shopping for local New York State dairy products. If you’re an ethical consumer concerned about the effects on animals and people of large-scale dairy farming, you could help by shopping the Catskills Family Creamery trail. The Catskills Family Creamery is “a group of farmstead dairy producers exploring collaborative marketing, distribution and educational activities” including small farms like Lazy Crazy Acres, Cowbella and Dirty Girl Farm producing gelato, butter, yoghurt, kefir, cow and goats milk cheeses and fluid milk.  (Lazy Crazy Acres bottles the DiBenedetto family’s Crystal Valley Farm milk.) Their motto is “Small Dairies Making a Big Difference” and you could make a difference by choosing to support small dairy operations in which farmers treat their animals with respect and protect their environment: the same environment that gives clean, unfiltered drinking water to almost nine million NYC residents. Not only does it take effort to ethically farm, it takes additional time and work to protect the NYC watershed.

Mark Bittman wrote a column about milk in the New York Times this year stating:

But the bucolic cow and family farm barely exist: “Given the Kafkaesque federal milk marketing order system, it’s impossible for anyone to make a living producing and selling milk,” says Anne Mendelson, author of “Milk.” “The exceptions are the very largest dairy farms, factory operations with anything from 10,000 to 30,000 cows, which can exploit the system, and the few small farmers who can opt out of it and sell directly to an assured market, and who can afford the luxury of treating the animals decently.

We could all be a market for a local, small-holding dairy operation that Mark mentions. Vote with your dollar for the kind of farming you’d like to see in the world.

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Saturday Shopping: Wood

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Plastic has gradually displaced wood over the last forty years in all products ranging from toys to furniture, to siding for houses and everything in between. Plastic is disposable though and most of it ends its life floating in the South Pacific. In the Catskills, wood is carved and carved upon, built with, juiced, chopped, stacked and burned. We have associations and organizations that manage and conserve our forests. You’ll possess a finely crafted wood product for life and pass it down like art in your family as a treasured heirloom. Supporting local carpenters and craftsmen keeps that craft alive and keeps one more piece of plastic out of the ocean. It doesn’t take much to buy a carving board from local New York State wood like maple (pictured above from Knap Knoll) or wooden toys for children that will last many lifetimes. If you’re looking for a larger handmade heirloom for your family, visit Gary Mead’s Fruitful Furnishings in the Catskills for some of the finest craftsmanship in the Catskill Park region. And, as a side note, to protect our forests from invasive species, like Emerald Ash Borer and Asian Longhorn Beetle, please do not transport firewood.

Saturday Shopping: Lotions and Potions

The pharmaceutical industry is a trillion-dollar industry in which “simple lab work done during a few days in the hospital can cost more than a car” and patients are reportedly paying $37.50 for a tylenol according to recent investigative journalism like the Time piece by Steven Brill. Consumer expenditure on holistic and natural remedies pales in comparison. Moreover, the toiletries you find on typical supermarket shelves are loaded with preservatives and chemicals like phthalates, parabens and other hormone-mimics that disrupt the endocrine system. There’s much in the natural world that will clean and nourish us more safely and, in coming months, Upstate Dispatch will run a preparatory series on foraging and incorporating natural remedies into our cosmetics and diet. It’s possible to wash your hair and body with products that are entirely free of harmful chemicals purchased here in the Catskills. Today’s potions were Red Clover balm made by Moody’s Mountain Medica of Margaretville, found in The Roxbury General Store and soaps and balms by Green Spiral Herbs containing only natural and organic oils.

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Side Note: Autumnal bliss and more tea…

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Upstate Dispatch is waking up with the brilliant Berry Breakfast this overcast, surprisingly warm and humid morning (61F at 7.30am), in order to join the Halcottvsille Plein Air Group on top of a mountain in Roxbury for a watercolor session. Then it’s back to oils for the winter. We can’t get enough of this surperbly, delicately crafted tea.

The Roxbury General: Local Luxury

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If you’re looking for a killer girls’ weekend of luxury shopping, stylish accommodation and the some of the most beautifully-crafted and generous cocktails in the Catskills, go to Roxbury. This weekend would have been the perfect weekend for it: brilliantly sunny, t-shirt warm, a performance by a group of fiddlers and a tasting of the divinely luscious Organic Traveller’s Tea at The Roxbury General Store, where you can also rent bikes.

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Saturday Shopping: Pillows

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Theodora Anema has been a designer for her entire career after having attended an art academy in Amsterdam, the Rietveld Academy. She bought her house in the Catskills in 2000, quitting her job in 2012. On her website Pillowtique, you can find her home accessories: appliqued pillows and ottomans made with leather, suede and ultrasuede.

When her daughter was born, she wanted to design some fun accessories for her bedroom, “some things to spruce up her room. Around that time those abbreviations were widely in use, like LOL, LMAO, etc. So I started doing that and made a whole series of them”.

There’s something homely and comforting about pillows and blankets in tactile soft suede, especially as we go into winter. Beautifully-made soft furnishings like this also make excellent gifts. Continue reading

Saturday Shopping: Vegan Cheese

copyright J.N. Urbanski

copyright J.N. Urbanski

Wholesome, healthful and utterly delicious organic vegan cheeze from Cheezehound, made with the utmost care here in Fleischmanns, New York. The cheese is a raw, plant-based vegan cheese and most of the cheeses have a nut base including macadamia and cashew. Shelf life varies depending on the cheese: some three to four weeks and others up to four months.

Proprietor Lori Robin is at the Andes, New York Indoor Farmer’s Market Saturdays from 10-3pm and Emmanuel’s Market in Stoneridge, New York – Rte 209. For both one time orders or to join her Cheese Club email: Info@cheezehound.com or call 845 625 9003.

For local orders: in a 30-mile radius, Wednesday and Friday deliveries, plus two cheezes are delivered free of charge.

Upstate Dispatch orders the Qasbah (pictured above) which is not only the tastiest, but also  seems to miraculously allow the Editor to sail through grueling workouts and long work days.

Saturday Shopping: Local Sugar

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copyright J.N. Urbanski

There are plenty of maple syrup producers in the Catskills. It’s worth paying more for local sugar and seeing how it’s made. It’s one of the fussiest and most complicated ways of harvesting a pure product. The machinery and equipment used gets more sophisticated and expensive every year. Farmers and producers use miles of tubing to collect the sap that sometimes get chewed by bears and squirrels, at which time somebody has to spend all day walking miles around a forest to find the leak. You have to condense, by boiling, 50-60 gallons of maple sap to yield one gallon of syrup. It’s completely organic.
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Amish Furniture

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On Saturday September 21st, there was a march in New York City for Climate Change. The Amish were not noted for their attendance, but they’re the ultimate environmentalists. Quietly and unceremoniously saving the planet, they’re still riding horses to work, making furniture,  raising barns all on their own and getting none of the credit.

It would make sense to support these stoic, pastoral custodians and buy a piece of their furniture.

Saturday Shopping: Tea

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copyright J.N. Urbanski

Tea is a thoroughly British custom imported from China via India in the 16th century. It’s a ceremony; a ritual designed to soothe jangled nerves, break the ice or refresh a visitor, usually coupled with a digestive biscuit.

Most flavored teas leave an alien, chemical-like film on the tongue. You can usually taste the distinctly artificial flavoring, but not so Organic Traveler’s Tea, a locally blended brand based in the Catskills. The best flavored teas, like Harney’s Paris, taste like black tea and leave a hint of aroma in the nostrils, their flavor as delicate as water in the mouth. Organic Traveler’s Tea is comparable with Harney’s, using only organic additives like lavender, ground vanilla, coconut and flower petals. Afternoons at Upstate Dispatch are spent with a Hobnob and the Earl in Paris.

It’s more expensive than regular teas at $10 for a 1.5-ounce bag, but worthy of the price because it’s organic, fair trade and you can dry and steep the leaves again like you can with gunpowder green.

The price of most tea brands is kept artificially low. According to the BBC website, tea pickers are leaving the industry:

rural workers are moving en masse to cities in search of higher wages and a better life.

Traditionally, wages have been low in the tea industry, with many workers struggling to survive on less than a realistic living wage. The attraction of service-sector jobs in the city can be hard to resist.

Climate change is also forcing some farmers to move away from tea to other crops. Because of this, Tea 2030 was born with corporations who produce tea collaborating to save their industry. Tea might once more become the luxury it once was.