Tag Archives: Business

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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Daily Catskills: 11/23/15

35F at 8.30am, brilliant sunshine with scant cloud like cotton wool balls. A light, frigid breeze. A thinly spread, easily broken sheet of ice on the pond where the beaver has been beavering.

© J.N. Urbanski 9.20am

© J.N. Urbanski 9.20am

 

Downstate Dispatch: The Pines in Brooklyn

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Pork shoulder, beef burger sliders, crostini with cranberry ricotta, polenta with roasted Brussels sprouts, kale salad, pheasant soup and a plate of roasted, assorted spuds, all washed down with local cider from Wayside in East Delhi. That was last night’s delicious menu at The Pines’ backyard Catskills Comes To Brooklyn blowout that was packed to the rafters with hungry New Yorkers feasting on local produce and roasting s’mores over the fire. We even got to taste Wayside’s limited edition crab apple cider, which was worth the trip in itself, but not sure if it beats our current favorite, Wayside’s Skinny Dip, which is made with local quince. Owner of the Pines, Carver Farrell hails from upstate and a big supporter of local food. When you’re next in the city, visit The Pines. There are no photographs of the food, because it sadly did not stay on the plate long enough. Plus Wayside’s cider slips down so very easily and smoothly, just like we did after three glasses. You will just have to go and find out for yourself.

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

 

Catskills Conversations: Peg DiBenedetto

© Peg DiBenedetto Self-Portrait

© Peg DiBenedetto Self-Portrait

JN: How long have you lived in the Catskills?

PD: I was born in Margaretville, so I’m a lifelong resident except for five years that Michael and I – the year after I got married, I was very young – we moved to Texas. We lived there for five years so we could finish school for basically free. Then came back and started raising our family here in the Catskills. So we moved back to my Dad’s farm and he gave a piece of it to each sibling.

Nice.

So my children grew up climbing on the same stone walls that I grew up climbing on and also my grandchildren are [doing that] as well. My brother and I used to bring the cows from the barn down the road up here to this field and then take them back again at the end of the day to be milked.

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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

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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Catskills Sandwich: Goatie White’s

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Fleischmanns’ Goatie White’s pork sandwich, on a light roll, made more moist and delicious by the addition of a generous helping of fried onions stuffed between the thinly-sliced pork and a thin layer of cheese. Not too heavy or greasy, it’s excellent pre-hike sustenance. A sandwich to love.

Catskills Conversations: Marino De La Cruz

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Marino De La Cruz is the owner of Vivae Colores barbershop in Fleischmanns.

JN: How long have you lived in the Catskills?

MDLC: About ten months now. My wife’s family is from here and my parents recently moved as well.

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Catskills Conversations: Lisbeth Firmin

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Lisbeth Firmin works out of her warmly inviting art studio in Margaretville, in upstate New York. She was part of the Catskills Open Studio Art Tour last weekend in which she showed many strikingly gorgeous cityscapes in oil.

JN: How long have you lived in the Catskills?

LF: I moved from New York City in 2000, but I kept my apartment down there, so I went back and forth for a while.

What were you doing in the city?

I was a painter and I had a two-bedroomed apartment on Sullivan Street and I painted in one of the bedrooms. My career was just taking off and I needed a bigger space, so I bought a storefront in Franklin, upstate New York.

That sounds very Williamsburg. I remember, back in the day, artists used to buy storefronts and paint out of them. Those were the days.

Oh man, those days, Williamsburg. You can’t even go anywhere near the city these days. I’ve heard Newark is happening.

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Catskills Conversations: Alex Wilson of Wayside Cider

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

How long have you lived in the Catskills?

I think we’ve had our house for about six and a half to seven years, right after we got married. Basically, we needed an escape from Manhattan. We started looking around Woodstock and realized that if you went a little bit further you could get a lot more for your money.

What were you doing back in the city?

I was producing and editing film, both documentary and commercial stuff. It’s just that being stuck in an edit room all day, the high pressure, deadlines, late nights: you need an escape from that. My wife’s an attorney so she worked long hours. We got married in a beautiful place in Vermont and we wanted to recreate that beautiful place up here. I grew up in a rural area in England and I’m never happier than when I’m in the countryside. I had to work in New York City, but I didn’t really love it. I was a big fan of London and I quickly learned that I didn’t enjoy New York as much. There wasn’t so much of a social scene with work. In London, your boss would always take you out for a drink on Friday night and you would get to know the people you worked with, but in New York City everyone went home after work. There wasn’t the same camaraderie that I had enjoyed in London and not as much space. It’s slightly more intense and slightly more money-centric. People just live to make money [in NYC] and I think, well what’s the use of money if you can’t enjoy it? Up here, you don’t need very much money but you have everything. Trout fishing, hiking, riding: friends of mine down the road have horses and I go and exercise them. I absolutely adore it.

I had a pretty serious traffic accident and I couldn’t really edit for about a year and a half because my hand was completely out of action. That gave me pause for thought in terms of what I really want to do, my love for this area and the potential in this area.

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Catskill Open Studios Art Tour: Day 2 Halcottsville

The second and final day of the Arkville Roxbury Margaretville Art Tour wherein more than 20 artists showed their work and/or opened their studio to the public. Today’s highlights were Oneida Hammond, fine artist, who showed at the Halcott Grange on Main Street in Halcotsville and Alix Travis who has a studio in the hamlet.

Barn Door by Oneida Hammond

Barn Door by Oneida Hammond, Watercolor

It was worth making the trip just to peruse Oneida’s sketch pad and her Mexican travelogue.

Oneida Hammond's Travel Sketchbook

Oneida Hammond’s Travel Sketchbooks

And, of course, there was an array of public art that’s on show year round:

Mark Pilato's 911 Memorial in Halcotsville

Mark Pilato’s 911 Memorial in Halcotsville

Rust in Peace on Route 38 between Route 30 and Arkville, Lynn Johnson

Rust in Peace on Route 38 between Route 30 and Arkville, Lynn Johnson

Catskills Art Studio Tour: The Commons, Margaretville

Lisbeth Firmin

Lisbeth Firmin

Highlights in the Margaretville area: the EBDR Plein Air Painters’ group exhibition at the Commons Gallery, Lisbeth Firmin and Robert Axelrod. Robert’s stunning landscapes are on show at the Longyear Gallery. Lisbeth has opened her studio upstairs in the Commons Building to visitors today and will continue tomorrow. Her New York City scenes are lushly gorgeous and her studio is also reminiscent of a New York City painter’s studio with its warmly inviting office nook. It’s somewhere you’ll want to park yourself for a while, with a frosty beverage, and just soak up the atmosphere.

IMG_4733

Lisbeth Firmin’s Studio

Robert Axelrod

Robert Axelrod

Sunset Hikes with Catskill Mountain Wild

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

As Jeff Vincent explained a couple of months ago in our conversation, “one day of hiking with somebody, you feel like you’ve known them for months and months” and it’s true. Jeff runs Catskill Mountain Wild, an outdoor guide business and he is also authorized to conduct marriages on top of mountains in what he calls “wild weddings”.

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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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Catskills Conversations: Louann Aleksander

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Louann Aleksander sells herbs, which she grows from seed, wholesale and in The Annex in Andes.

How long have you lived in the Catskills?

It’s going to be eight years on August 1st.

So what made you decide to move here?

We had friends who had moved to Andes and before that my husband would come up maybe once a year and he absolutely loved it. We wanted to get out of the rat race of Long Island. It was getting where you work to go back to work. We weren’t enjoying life at all.

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Catskills Conversations: Rob Greenberg

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

So what brought you to the Catskills?

First of all, I’ve been upstate for many, many years in different areas, Syracuse, Poughkeepsie and I lived in Kingston for a couple of years. I was born in Brooklyn. We moved out of Brooklyn when I was pretty young. I was 11 or 12 years old. I wound up coming to the Catskills from Long Island. I lived on Long Island for twenty something odd years and I used to backpack up here and hike, and that really was the original motivation to come to the Catskills. I had no idea about moving here or living here [when I visited]. I thought it was a great place to come for long weekends and to embrace the mountains that way.

It’s tough to live up here to make a living.

That’s why so many of the young people leave and they come back to retire here or semi-retire here. If you’re not in the service industries, it’s tough.

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More Tea in the Catskills: Pu-Erh

Photo courtesy of Nini Ordoubadi

Photo courtesy of Nini Ordoubadi

A new favourite tea to add to the list of delicious tea available here in the Catskills: Coffee Lover’s Tea from Tay Tea in Andes. It took me a long time to realize that I was not suited to coffee after adopting it as a breakfast beverage when I first moved to New York City in my twenties. Back in England, I had been raised in a tea family and the familiar refrain: “put the kettle on” still rings in my ears because English people drink tea continually all day. The kettle is always on and whoever gets up first, from couch or desk, must boil the next batch of water. The nice thing about tea is that it doesn’t make you suffer like coffee does. I’ve never ever said the words: I’ve drunk too much tea. It just doesn’t happen, whereas I’ve had fraught conversations and business meetings wherein I’m pretty sure the most anxious people in the room have drunk far too much coffee. I may have the odd cup of coffee when I need a jolt of energy, but for the most part, I’ve returned to my first love, tea. Preparing a pot of tea is a peacefully meditative ritual, and sharing a pot of tea is like breaking bread. At Tay Tea this past weekend, I interviewed owner Nini Ordoubadi, tried a range of tea and some stellar tea-infused biscuits, but came away feeling invigorated and refreshed. And I now know much more about tea.

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Outdoors: Equipment Bags

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

I went hiking and found myself. So every chance I get I like to climb a mountain with my laptop and do some work. I’m also a painter, photographer, writer, editor and often hike with a ridiculous amount of gear: easels, cameras, sketch pads, laptops, iPads, etc. I’m always stupidly overburdened. In fact, I go almost everywhere with my laptop. I’ve also mentioned that I’m aiming to complete the Catskills 35 in the next year and I’m totally unprepared.

For example, I was previously using this for day hikes:

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Pizza Night at Table on Ten

© J.N. Urbanski 6/19/15 8pm

© J.N. Urbanski 6/19/15 8pm

Two pals couldn’t have picked a more idyllic evening to attend Table on Ten’s pizza night: an early evening drive through the balmy, bucolic mountains of Roxbury so astonishingly beautiful in the waning light that we had to stop a couple of times to get out of the car and drink in the atmosphere. (“What’s that? Sheep. Let’s stop. Hey Ewe!”) Hay, barns, lush undulating ridges, rail trails, stone walls and bridges over roaring creeks: a gasp of admiration at every turn. A quick jaunt past the restaurant into the hamlet of Bloomville, New York, revealed a picturesque rural scene of tractors, antiques and a white-sided two hundred year old church atop a meadow.

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Date Night: Peekamoose

© J.N. Urbanski 6/13/15 6pm

© J.N. Urbanski 6/13/15 6pm

After we closed on our mountain homestead (“sign here, here and here, here, here and here and sign here, here and here… initial here, here and here…”) we wondered aloud where we should go to celebrate and without a moment’s hesitation, our realtor swung away from her conversation with our lawyer to respond: Peekamoose. That was eight years ago and there really wasn’t anything like it then and there really isn’t anything like it now. When we first went to Peekamoose I wanted to just hand the keys back to the bank and move in. The country farmhouse atmosphere is so cozy and relaxing and the food is phenomenal, end of story. The chef’s freshly made doughnuts feel like they could fly away if you don’t hold them down with a generous dollop of whipped cream. I could go on, and I will.

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Hiker’s Tea: Trekker’s Reprieve

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Regular readers already know about my love of tea and my obsession with Earl in Paris from Organic Traveler’s Tea, which makes a delicious cold brew that I take on the road. Yes, I travel with the Traveler’s, which is an organic tea that’s blended and sold locally. Now that the weather’s good for hiking, I’ve found tea that’s perfect to take up a mountain: Trekker’s Reprieve. You can cold brew it or take bags up a mountain and make sun tea with it while you eat your lunch. It’s gunpowder green with orange peel, spearmint, cinnamon and blue vervain. Blue vervain is a native plant from the mint family that grows all over the American prairies, meadows and plains and allegedly revered as a herb of great healing powers by the ancient Greeks. According to the USDA, it’s used internally to treat depression, fevers, coughs, cramps, jaundice, and headaches. So it’s healing for the hiker, tasty and refreshing. The citrus element serves to repel insects although nothing will stop the flies from dive-bombing your eyeballs.

Girls’ Night: Drinks at Phoenicia Diner

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

If the most excellent Phoenicia Diner gets any hotter it will start sizzling such is the expanse of its popularity, having been featured everywhere recently in publications like Conde Nast Traveler, Vogue, Elle and my country’s Daily Mail and Telegraph. I told Mike Cioffi, the Diner’s owner, that he could put ten diners up and down Route 28 and they would still be full to bursting every weekend. I’m sad to say that I’m severely behind in my New Year’s Resolution of eating my way through the outstanding menu and am usually banging my head against the desk on Mondays when I look at my watch and realize it has closed until Thursday.

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Catskills Conversations: Tim & Jess Luby

© J.N. Urbanski 3pm

© J.N. Urbanski

Tim and Jess Luby own the Storehouse in Phoenicia. Last year, they were married on Giant Ledge, having hiked two miles in wedding attire and hiking boots.

JN: What brought you to the Catskills?

TL: The mountains. When Jess and I started dating, we both enjoyed hiking, so we planned a trip up there.

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Catskills Conversations: Jeff Vincent

Photo Courtesy of Jeff Vincent

Photo Courtesy of Jeff Vincent

Jeff Vincent is proprietor of the new mountain guide business Catskill Mountain Wild, in Catskill, New York.

JN: How long have you lived in the Catskills?

JV: I was born in the town of Catskill 28 years ago.

So you’re a born and bred mountain man. You never wanted to leave? Usually young people leave here by the thousand every year.

I have left a few times and I came back. I lived in Denver for a year or so. I was in San Diego for a little while, but I really, really love this area, now that I’ve grown up and got all of that out of my system. I through-hiked the Appalachian Trail last year, so that got me away for six months.

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Weekend Links

© J.N. Urbanski 5/16/15 4pm

Seed Swap at local libraries from April 1st to June 1st in Delaware County, publicised by Transition Catskills.

If you didn’t have time nor space to nurture seedlings this past harsh winter, the Catskill Native Nursery will have it for you. They are hosting the Annual Seedling Sale at the Wildflower Festival this weekend.

For next weekend: get recycled furniture and doors for your new country digs at the Western Catskills Revitalization Council which “provides homeowners and builders with unique, affordable materials for home improvement projects”. The nonprofit organization is “dedicated to improving housing, community revitalization, and economic development in Delaware, Greene and Schoharie counties”. Open to the public on Fridays (10-4pm) and Saturdays (10-3pm).

Catskills Conversations: Peter DiSclafani

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Peter DiSclafani is proprietor and chef of the Catskill Rose Lodging and Dining in Mount Tremper, New York with his wife Rose Marie Dorn.

How long have you lived in the Catskills?

Rose and I moved here in 1987 after we got married. I was born and raised in Saugerties. I was out in Colorado in the seventies after high school just to check things out and that’s where I met Rose. She’s from Colorado.

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Catskills Then and Now: Lake Switzerland

Built in 1907, the dam that created Lake Switzerland was later thought to be structurally unsound and removed. Just to the right of today’s picture is the road and the spot on which the St Regis Hotel still stands. If you look at the postcard of the St Regis Hotel, it will give you an idea of the area covered by the lake. In the right of today’s picture are some white concrete barriers where the bridge used to be. The image at bottom of the post is the view of the St Regis today from other side of the bridge.

© J.N. Urbanski 4/30/15 11am

© J.N. Urbanski 4/30/15 11am

Postcard courtesy of Jeanine Pascarella

Postcard courtesy of Jeanine Pascarella

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Catskills Conversations: Jeanine Pascarella

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

How long have you lived in the Catksills?

I moved upstate with my family in 1979 when I was nine years old and my parents were partners with my mother’s parents – my grandparents – at the Emery Brook House, that’s now the Evergreen. They ran it as a German Cuisine bed and breakfast.

Were you born here?

I was born in Huntington, Long Island.

So what made your family move to the Catskills?

Well, my grandparents had found the area. They had a boarding house in Rockaway and the area was being developed so they had to sell, or were bought out. I don’t really remember the story of how they left Rockaway, but they were looking for a German community and that’s how they wound up in Fleischmanns. There was a nice German community here and they were looking for a similar situation to what they had left: a boarding house. So when they contacted a real estate person in the area, the real estate person told them about the St Regis, which is huge and much bigger than anything they had envisaged managing, so they then found the Emery Brook and that’s where they settled.

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Catskills Conversations: Lorraine Lewandrowski

Lorraine Lewandrowski does not live in the Catskills, but our radio interview and half of our phone conversations, which are always fascinating, take place in the Catskills, so I’m printing them here. Lorraine is an agricultural lawyer and dairy farmer with 60 cows in the Mohawk Valley, New York. She is a very active spokesperson for the farming community, speaking at agricultural conferences and writing articles for trade publications. She tries to do things like link deep rural farmers with urban food groups. Lorraine is a descendant of Polish immigrants who arrived in the valley about 100 years ago and one of a long line of farming advocates. Her grandfather was one of the founders of a co-op, of which her father was the president for many years. She’s on Twitter with 15,000 avid followers.

I’ve never met a dairy farmer and lawyer before.

There are a few of us around. Actually, I know some attorneys and dairy farmers in England and we keep in touch on Twitter to compare notes on contracts and things that are going on. In fact, I keep in touch with farmers in Wales, New Zealand, Australia, all over the place and to the best of my ability in France. I’m not that great with French. We try to share information that way. The global corporations have far more extensive communications networks than we do, but this is a way of us getting at least some idea of what’s happening.

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Catskills Conversations: John Hoeko

© J.N. Urbanski 4/2/15

© J.N. Urbanski 4/2/15

John Hoeko, a lifelong fly fisherman, owns Fur, Feathers and Steel in Fleischmanns. He’s writing a book about his life and times and his work with the Catskills waterways.

How long have you lived in the Catskills?

My whole life, except for one day. I was born in Jamaica, Queens. My grandfather was Chief of Radiology in a hospital in Queens. He thought that the local hospital here in Margaretville, the old one, was too provincial. So he insisted I be born in New York City.

So you’ve lived here in Fleischmanns ever since?

Yes, my parents originally lived off Ellsworth Avenue, while they were building our house.

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Catskills Conversations: Todd Pascarella

© Jeanine Pascarella

© Jeanine Pascarella Brian Mulder and Todd Pascarella (right)

Former Mayor of Fleischmanns Todd Pascarella is embarking upon a new effort to keep us all in good spirits. Union Grove Distillery in Arkville is due to open this year, producing vodka to start and eventually offering aged rye whiskey and aged rye bourbon.

When did you move to the Catskills?

I moved to the Catskills in Spring 2001. I was drawn here partly because of my experience of going to college down in Virginia and the Blue Ridge Mountains. I grew up in Long Island and it was quite a contrast from the life in Long Island to the way things were down there: the natural beauty and the niceness of the people down there. I decided to try and move up here by myself as a yearlong experiment and I moved to MT Tremper. And I started meeting a lot of people who I was fascinated by, so I decided to buy a fixer-upper house in Highmount. I lived in that for a couple of years and that’s when I met Jeanine.

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Transplant Tales: Jessica Vecchione

© Jessica Vecchione Selfie with Drone Camera

© Jessica Vecchione Selfie with Drone Camera

Jessica Vecchione is the founder of the Catskill Mountain Film Festival and is a documentarian, videographer and photographer.

How long have you lived in the Catskills?

I moved up here in 2001, three weeks before 9/11. It was such a shock. We had no cell service and I don’t think we had even gotten our dial-up yet. I had no idea that anything had happened until the afternoon when I heard some phone messages. It really did seem like everything changed after that. [House] prices went up. They were still very affordable but they were much lower before when I was looking in the period before moving, late August.

What made you move here?

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Transplant Tales: Keith Carollo

Photo courtesy of Keith Carollo

Photo courtesy of Keith Carollo

Entrepreneur Keith Carollo closed his NYC business and moved to the Catskills full-time with his husband Chris. They are both pursuing careers in the arts, with Chris directing the local school play.

How long have you lived in the Catskills?

We’ve lived here full-time for about a year now and we had our home four years before we moved here full-time. It was just a weekend home.

What made you move here?

It was for financial reasons really. We had a business that we closed and at the same time, they were increasing our rent in the city, so it just seemed like it made sense to come here where our expenses would be lower. And that became the next adventure for us.

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Transplant Tales: Tim Trojian

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

“…the mountains feel like they’re hugging you and holding you in”.

Tim Trojian, one of the proprietors of the Foxfire Mountain House in Mount Tremper has, for the past year, been living in the establishment while he oversees its renovation.

What made you move to the Catskills?

I was looking for a place with my wife Eliza, where we could start a business that would allow us to be together. She has been working in television all her life and we were trying to find a good location. I have been a chef and an hotelier all my life. The Catskills are perfectly situated being two hours from NYC, where Eliza could work while we were getting this project up and going. We could have the amenities of the city, but still live in the country, which we love.

Where are you from?

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Catskills Conversations: Margaret D. Helthaler

Margaret

© Chris Helthaler

Margaret D. Helthaler is a graphic designer and fine art photographer living in the Catskills. She is taking the Daily Catskills images for Upstate Dispatch for the next three days.

How long have you lived in the Catskills?

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Transplant Tales: Erik P Johanson

© Nicole Vente

© Nicole Vente – Erik at his office in the Catskill Center

Erik P Johanson has lived in the Catskills for little more than a year, but has already developed a business plan for the redevelopment of the Maxbilt Theatre in Fleischmanns, which has resulted in the building being put on State and National Register of Historic Places in 2014: a formidable achievement in such a short time. He now works full-time for the Catskill Center in Arkville. After having lived in New York City for ten years, Erik and his boyfriend tried the Berkshires, New Mexico and looked to purchase property in Los Angeles before buying a house in the Catskills and moving here full-time.

What first brought you to the Catskills?

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The Sugar Shack: Tapping Season

The maples have been tapped and the sap is boiling, old-school style, at the Hubbell Sugar Shack and will be boiling for the next month. This sugar shack runs on a wood-burning furnace and the product, Liquid Gold is sold at Catskill Rentals and Sandford Auto Parts.

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

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The Hubbell Cider Press

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

The Hubbell Cider Press dates back to the 1880s. The mountain railroad allowed farmers of the Catskills access to heavy machinery left over from the civil war. Chopped apples come down the chute, top left and land in the barrel, bottom left. The mush is then pressed flat between racks on the press in the background. Juice is collected in trays beneath the press running down the centre.

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First Person Dispatch: Work

© J.N. Urbanski A Tom Otterness sculpture somewhere in Idaho

© J.N. Urbanski A Tom Otterness sculpture somewhere in Idaho

Scrolling through back issues of Brain Pickings this week, I stumbled upon the post entitled “How To Avoid Work” and read it with interest. My eye lingered on one quotation in the article: “Your life is too short and too valuable to fritter away in work”. The artist in me agrees with this sentiment but my other half is too pragmatic not to find it irksome. Frequently paired with this idea is the notion of only “doing what you love” and the pursuit of this idyll. Because Upstate Dispatch is devoted to the city folk who are making the country their home and their business, I decided to ask the question: what is work?

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How To Get Out Of A Rut

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, especially when one has enormous financial commitments. Moreover, if you have cabin fever, it will be compounding any feelings of stagnation as this fresh snowstorm moves in. Many of us are afraid to take a vacation or even lunch breaks. Some of us feel we can’t leave our jobs because of hefty student debt. It’s tempting to approach a certain age or milestone and resign with a sigh, thinking “this is it”.

It doesn’t have to be, however. Even the slightest actions or chance meetings can trigger profound alterations in your life.

Tips:

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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: 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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The Fine Art of Cultivation: Two Stones Farm

Two Stones' Barn

Two Stones’ Barn

“The goal of farming,” wrote Masanobu Fukuoka, farmer and author of One Straw Revolution, “is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings”.

The delicate words of this Japanese maestro echo all over the Catskill Mountains as young people, city-bred and country-born, return to farming in droves. Agricultural courses spring up like new shoots across the Northeastern states to respond to demand. Furthermore, there’s a flurry of articles regularly in the media about diverse people quitting New York City. Young, old, wealthy and those tired of the city’s rising cost of living are all looking to make upstate their home. Homesteading is an art in itself and the Catskills are bustling with creative activity. Small-scale farming, the kind that covers the property’s operating costs, doesn’t have to be an enormous amount of work and new busy upstaters with enough capital can now hire farmers and farmer’s apprentices to run their farms while they continue their existing businesses. City transplants who have made the leap quickly find that there’s an invigorating honesty in land cultivation that is rarely found in city life.

Novice homesteaders looking for an exquisitely picturesque organic farm on which to model their fledgling operation should look no further than Two Stones Farm in Halcott, New York.

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