It’s blackberry season and they are sweeter and juicier this year. Berries in general grow well in the Catskills’ rocky soil and high elevation. A few years ago, a local farmer gave sage advice: grow whatever grows the best on your property and grow a lot of it. Blackberries are in abundance this year in the forests too and in fields we are seeing more huckleberries, a blueberry type fruit. We are also having a good apple season, although the apples on the heritage apple trees are not yet ripe.
This week is National Farmer’s Market week. The invaluable, local farmer’s market that is sorely missed all winter is more than just a Saturday errand, it’s a living legend, a place where all the hard work, sweat and tears of production finally gets its showcase. Shopping at farmer’s markets greatly stimulates the local economy, creating jobs and increasing access to fresh, healthful food. Continue reading
Seedling potatoes stored in a paper bag in the basement started shooting straw-like tubers over the winter. Apparently, this is a vegetational hazard; you’re supposed to check your spuds mid-winter. If they sprout you can add soil to the bag and plant them in spring. We’ll see if these spuds survive.
Spillian hosted a cheese tasting last Saturday for friends and neighbors who took a first look at Two Stones Farm’s new batch of cheese. I wrote an extensive account of Alan and Robin White’s Two Stones Farm in Halcottsville over a year ago in a piece entitled The Fine Art of Cultivation, which you can read here. The White’s farm is its own ecosystem and they are breeding goats that will eventually be perfect for the Catskills climate and terrain. The goats live in barn that’s heated by manure and are protected by two self-sufficient guardian dogs who have been known to fish out of the river: a fascinating place and worth a visit. From the goats’ milk, they are now making cheese.This delicious local cheese is produced naturally without synthetic hormones or antibiotics. Alan wanted to supplement the goat’s milk with cow’s milk, but was obliged to obtain the milk in multiple plastic bottles and because he didn’t want to put all that plastic back in the environment, he bought a cow. Presently, they produce soft cheese like a feta and a chevre, plus two types of tomme and a gouda-style cheese without the wax coating.
28F by mid-afternoon and bright and sunny with rolling clouds. Toe-numbing coldness until the afternoon.
If you thought farm work ceased over the winter, think again. Before Christmas, Kristi Burnett of Burnett Farms in Bovina Center was figuring out the water system for the pigs: they have a boar, two sows and a couple of piglets to “winterize”. At the beginning of December, the pond had frozen and when they ran the hose, it froze. They put a heater in one of their big cow troughs, so they can pull water out of it. December and January are months during which the Burnetts work out ideas for the forthcoming season. Farmers swap notes and share ideas at community dinners. “You definitely need a bit of rest time, but if you have animals you have to take care of them. The fence goes, water freezes, you carry buckets of grain and you’re slipping. It’s hard.”
Now that the sun sets at 4.30pm and night falls before dinner, the journey to Saturday night eats becomes more romantic. Almost an hour spent on winding, country roads, through picturesque towns like Roxbury and Gilboa – site of one of the Catskills’ famous dams – to Preston Hollow is like winter film noir. Bright squares of light from homesteads and farmhouses flash by in the waning dusk and you catch fleeting glimpses of the toughest work days being put away. Farmers enjoying their own dinner at tables are spotted briefly through front windows. A farmer’s work is never done though and those farmers who have full-time jobs have to tend to animals through the night or help family members milk cows.
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.
Farming is a risky business. Every year, at least one crop gets a blight. This year it was the squash that gave up just after it blossomed, making me kick myself that I didn’t take those blossoms, stuff them with goat’s cheese and fry them. This year the tomatoes (that suffered their blight three years ago) are doing well like the onions, potatoes and garlic. The rhubarb, now ready to harvest once three years old, was so exceptional that we planted four or five more plants – from previous years’ saved seeds – in our meadow and in the orchard with some asparagus. They sprang forth quickly. Rhubarb likes it around here and we like it. Last year’s tomatoes were equally good. Once you grow your own tomatoes, you’ll never buy store bought variety again. Plus, it’s so easy to have an indoor tomato plant on the windowsill and fill your kitchen with that heady tomato smell.
Friday September 2nd 9 – 9.30pm: The 3rd Annual Lighting of the Fire Towers
From a high place in the Catskills, witness the 3rd Annual Lighting of the Fire Towers when from 9 – 9.30pm, we are invited to find a place with a view of a fire tower or towers on the horizon and watch their cabin light up the night sky.
Saturday September 3rd, 10am – 3pm: Tour of the Sculpture Garden at the Catskill Interpretive Center
The Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center is the gateway to the Catskill Park. Located on a 60 acre site, the Catskill Interpretive Center includes sculpture installations which are chosen by jury and displayed for a year. Come and see the 2016/2017 installation and get a tour by the artists who created the sculptures (not suitable for children under 8 years of age).
For the first two years of my radio show, I ran a series called The Economy of Farming and interviewed local farmers and their advocates here in the Catskills. The subject has been dormant on this website for a while, but deserves some intensive focus because farmers of smallholdings are struggling. If you watch those videos circulating on social media depicting the deprivation of animals – and their hideous death – in industrialized meat production facilities, there’s something simple you can do about it. Buy locally raised meat that is ethically reared and humanely slaughtered.
61F at 8.30am and overcast with overnight rain dripping from leaf and branch onto soggy forest floor. Breezy with rolling clouds and 73F at 3pm.
81F by noon and mostly clear skies with rolling clouds.
75F at 8.30am, overcast and breezy. 84F at 3pm with rain and a half-hour torrential downpour, then back to sun again.
Lazy Crazy Acres Farm is one of the most inspiring and eclectic places to paint. Signage of all kinds competes with farm equipment, animals, barns, outhouses, thick vegetation, stunning views and a babbling brook running through it. Plein Air painting is a practice that requires speed and focus because your light source is literally moving overhead. If you’re in it to capture shadows and light, time is of the essence.
64F at 8.30am, rising to 81F by 1pm with rolling clouds, but bright and sunny: another scorcher.
70F at 8.30am and sunny with rolling clouds. 81F at 2pm.
The first harvest of beetroot and carrots has been pulled and there’s no end to the possibilities. You can eat the carrot straight out of the ground but some sources say that they have to be steamed to give you all their benefits. If you want a raw treat, grate them and mix with balsamic vinegar and feta cheese for a truly healthful side dish that I posted last year. Scroll down for the recipe.
Beetroot, Carrot & Feta Salad
3 medium-sized beetroot (with leaves)
4-5 medium-sized carrots
1.5 ounces of balsamic vinegar
3 ounces of goat’s milk feta
Grate the carrots and beetroot. Chop up the beetroot greens. Cut the feta cheese into cubes. Mix the grated vegetables, and cheese together in a bowl with the balsamic vinegar for a quick, easy, utterly delicious, juicy and crunchy salad.
63F by mid-afternoon, humid and overcast with some rain.
43F by 11am with clear skies and a hazy horizon, rising to 48F by 1pm.
Local grass-fed beef is now available at the Hubbell Family Farm on 46124 Route 30 near Halcottsville, New York. Call in at their machine rental business, Catskill Rentals, where you can also pick up eggs and maple syrup. Grass-fed offerings are porterhouse, sirloin, short ribs, bones, burgers, brisket, and more, that was butchered two weeks ago and available frozen. You can also put your name down for heritage pork coming up in a few weeks. Talk to Andrew, John or Cheryl. Eat locally raised meat and support your community.
20F at 8.30am and lightly snowing with isolated snow flurries moving across the landscape.
65F at 7.30am with the usual fog receding into the valleys, rising to another scorcher at a hazy, breezy 79F by the afternoon.
A dewy, balmy 60F at 7.30am with mist hovering over the mountains.