Tag Archives: Catskills Writer

Pakatakan Farmer’s Market

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The Pakatakan Farmer’s Market is up and running and this year. East Branch Farms are offering a variety of locally grown mushrooms and Madalyn Warren’s delicious kimchee: good probiotics for the gut. This week’s kimchee is rhubarb with ramps, wild dandelion and buchu with ramps. There’s also Honeybee Herbs and Kelley will be on my radio show on Monday on WIOX. Find these and a vast range of local goods, including local publisher, Purple Mountain Press at the Pakatakan Market on 46676 Route 30 in Halcotsville, New York. Saturdays. Hours: 9am to 2pm.

Find out exactly what’s going on from the market’s newsletter.

Please support your local community.

“Food may not be the answer to world peace, but it’s a start”. Anthony Bourdain. Continue reading

Bee All You Can Bee

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Upstate Dispatch is now the proud owner of a nucleus (“nuc”) of bees developed for us by a Hudson Valley beekeeper and after picking them up, and driving them home, through the Catskills for over an hour, they were pretty agitated. Not for them the excitement of driving over the top of Kaaterskill Peak, past Kaaterskill Falls in enigmatic fog. We installed them in their new home, gave them sugar solution and fresh water, but they remained pissed off for several hours, buzzing around the hive frantically and attempting to sting us. When bees are pissed off, they fly angrily, darting around like little black bullets, all in perfect unison.

When you pick up your bees, you should do so at twilight, after they have come back to their nuc or hive to rest. Drive them under cover of dusk and install them in the hive after dark. We did none of this because the timing was all wrong. The nuc was suddenly ready, without ample warning and we weren’t able to plan very well, but this is the essence of farming. You do the best you can and Mother Nature does whatever she wants.  Continue reading

Daily Catskills: 06/03/18

An overcast morning at 60F with a chilly breeze and hazy horizon, rising to a 65F high with brief interludes of afternoon sun and intermittent light rain showers.

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Lilac Syrup

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Lilac blooms don’t last long, at high elevations at least. A reminder of the fleeting nature of the seasons, the blossoms begin to brown and drop off barely week after the all buds on each stem have opened. It makes sense to snip a few to put in a vase or soak a couple of cups in syrup. Lilac syrup makes a subtle floral soda and pairs well with gin.

Lilac Syrup

1 cup of water
1 cup of sugar
2 cups of lilac blossoms, flowers only, not stems

You can make more syrup, but the ratio must be the same: 1:1 of water and sugar. Slowly boil the sugar and water together until the sugar has dissolved and let it simmer gently for on low for a minute until it’s syrupy. The thicker you want your syrup to be, the longer you should simmer it. Wait until the mixture has cooled a little: you don’t want to burn the flowers, but you want the mixture to be hot enough. Rinse the flowers in cold water and add them to the syrup. Stir the flowers gently into the liquid until they are soaked in syrup. Cover and steep overnight.

In the morning, strain the syrup a couple of times and bottle. Unless you preserve the syrup by canning or other means, it will last for a few months in the fridge.

Mix on ounce of syrup with six ounces of club soda and pour over ice.

Catskills Cocktail: Vodka Soda with Rhubarb Syrup

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

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

Daily Catskills: 05/22/18

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

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Trail Blazing

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

Daily Catskills: 05/18/18

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

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Daily Catskills: 05/17/18

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

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Daily Catskills: 05/10/18

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

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Cultivating Lion’s Mane Mushroom

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

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

Daily Catskills: 05/06/18

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

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Daily Catskills: 05/03/18

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

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Daily Catskills: 05/01/18

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

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Daily Catskills: 04/30/18

36F at 8am, snowing heavily, with the mountains shrouded in the thick fog of our profound resignation. We live in the mountains and, consequently, get all the weather. We catch all precipitation however cold it may be. The budding maple leaves that have been reddening the bare, umber brush like a light rash are covered once again in white powder for most of the day. Locals say that the weather was always like this and that back in the day, there was nothing planted before Memorial Day. Plus, of course, water is life. Keep it flowing.

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Daily Catskills: 04/29/18

A high of 45F and overcast, with icy rain, a flurry of snow, the occasional flash of late afternoon rain and mist settling in the mountains. The leaves of the Trout Lily spring up over the forest floor like spring’s green army.

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Daily Catskills: 04/28/18

A sunny morning filled with hope and enthusiasm, with a high of 65F by afternoon, followed by late afternoon showers and more gloom with brief flashes of sunshine. A vivid, beautiful sunset chased by mist sinking enigmatically into the valleys at dusk.

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Monday’s Radio Show: Joyce St George, running for NY State Senate

2018 is allegedly “Year of the Woman” and many women I know have been spurred to run for office. Go ladies, and thanks for your dedication. Joyce St. George will be the guest on my radio show on Monday April 30th at 9am. (You’ll find the show streaming online by clicking here and scrolling down to the grey bar above the address and clicking on it.) We’ll be talking about as much as we can: about being a woman in politics, her career in law enforcement, and her run for state senate.

Aside from being a fellow colleague on the radio with her show “Conflict Revolution”, a show that brings different people and perspectives together to discuss differences and find common ground, Joyce is a powerhouse with an intimidating resume. She began her career in the 1970s, when she became the first female investigator to serve in the New York State Attorney General’s Special Prosecutor’s Office on Anti-Corruption. Following the dramatic testimony of Frank Serpico, Joyce and her colleagues rooted out corruption within the criminal justice system in NYC, investigating police officers, judges and district attorneys. That was only the beginning of her career and I’m wondering why nobody’s made a movie about Joyce herself.

Joyce is approachable, affable and engaging with a big heart. With her husband Frank Canavan, she works with the Margaretville Food Pantry that serves 500 local families. Joyce was hired by FEMA to provide crisis services in Delaware County following the floods from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, and served on the Flood Mitigation Council for the area.

Tune in to WIOX on Monday April 30th at 9am.

All candidates running for office are welcome on the show. Please email your request to: wiox@wiox.wskg.org.

Update: an earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Joyce was running for State Assembly.

Daily Catskills: 04/27/18

44F at 10am and gloomy with mist rising off the Catskills and a light drizzle. There’s a burn ban in effect until May 15th, so the sky is keeping us well-watered and the sun decided help by completely disappearing. Wild leeks love the weather.

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Daily Catskills: 04/21/18

Sun! 48F by noon with a high of 55F and brilliant sunshine fading to a hazy horizon. One lonely cloud takes a wrong turn. Spring waits in the wings, cooling its heels, like the introverted understudy, while the farmer prepares for the best.

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Daily Catskills: 04/20/18

More overnight snow squalls deposit a few inches of snow. Winter is the party guest that won’t go home, but won’t help with the dishes. He makes himself a cup of coffee and bangs on about how cool he is. True, he was handsome once, and was so photogenic. But someone please put him a taxi. Pay his fare if you have to. 35F by noon with a brisk chill in the air and overcast with cloud rippling like my brain on cabin fever. A high of 37F.

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Daily Catskills: 04/19/18

An inch or two of overnight snow and 35F by morning. Overcast with glowing, gunmetal clouds composed entirely of the sheer grey exasperation of waiting for spring. Snow, made exclusively from the frosty tears of our disappointment, resumes at lunchtime, but melts like our hopeful summer dreams into the soggy turf, dull and colorless like our mood, by the afternoon. Snow joke.

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Catskills Diary: This Writer’s Life

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There’s been a lot of very precious writing emerging in the last few years here in the Catskills where we are riding a tsunami of elite influencers, food writers and stylists. One such darling is Tamara Adler, Hudson Valley writer, who detailed every minute of a few days in her splendid life for Grub Street back in February. Click on the link and read about how she takes her tea in a mason jar and “cooks her eggs over smoldering coals” in a “hand-forged egg spoon” by popping them into her wood stove, poaching them, just so. She calls gouda, a Dutch cheese, “culturally transgressive”. Oh my. Does she mean “culturally”, as in fermented (in rennet) or culturally as in hip? And by “transgressive”, does she mean that gouda is an asshole?

Contrived observations aside, country life seems startlingly easy in the Adler household. She issues statement like, “I fire up the wood stove”. If you have a wood stove, you’ll know why this is understatement of the year. If she has ever dropped a 15 lb log on her foot, she doesn’t let on, but more important – who can afford to let their wood stove burn down to a smolder in the darkest depths of winter? If I had put an egg into my raging wood stove in February, it would have exploded. The spoon would have melted.

Now the New York Times has weighed in because there has rightly been a backlash against the egg spoon now that Alice Waters sells them – also hand forged – for a whopping $250 per spoon. I’m an enormous fan of Alice Waters and her work, but a $250 egg spoon is a luxury and after all her hard work promoting a sustainable food system, she probably deserves it. But I also certainly don’t agree that the backlash is sexist. It’s economical. I think it’s pretty extraordinary that the writer is linking the backlash to the MeToo movement.

I need to weigh in myself because I really don’t want readers to think that country life in the Catskills is easy. It’s not. Ask my husband who’s had a learning curve so steep, he could probably build us a new house from scratch. Here he is, replacing our siding last year, nonchalantly getting on with it without complaining:

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Further, we are still in the tail end – I hope! – of a six month winter and are running low on wood. We have run out of kindling, which is crucial to starting a fire quickly. There was plenty of it loose on the ground by the woodshed a few days ago, wet from the recent rain, but I forgot to sweep it up and dry it last night and now it’s covered in snow and completely useless. Today it took me exactly an hour to get the fire going. Now I have to go outside with the axe and make my own kindling for tomorrow because I feel like spring will never get here. It’s April 18th.

Yes, these mountains make you gasp in awe at their beauty every day of the year, but we do have our bad days. Cabin fever is a serious business if you work from home in winter. Maybe the fact that people are trying to cheer themselves up with old spoons is revealing in itself. Anyhow, in case it looks easy, here’s a more realistic rendering of a winter day in the life of a country lass and you can insert your own f-words before every noun. Continue reading

Daily Catskills: 04/17/18

35F, but humid at 8am and lightly but steadily snowing over mountains shrouded in fog. A monochrome morning transforms to color by lunchtime because the snow’s too delicate to survive the soggy grass and muddy roads. A high of 39F and snow all day.

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Daily Catskills: 04/16/18

An overnight storm: house-rattling winds and freezing snow melting to slush in the morning. Rain mixed with hail begins mid-morning and becomes torrential with very high winds until mid-afternoon. A late afternoon high of 47F as fog hugs the mountains.

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Monday’s Radio Show

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On Monday’s radio show (April 16th) at 9am on WIOX, my guest will be Leslie T. Sharpe, editor and educator, author of The Quarry Fox and other Critters of the Wild Catskills.

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Leslie gave a remarkable speech at the Catskill Center on Saturday entitled “John Burroughs and H.D. Thoreau: The Roots of American Nature Writing” that transported the audience back in time with a teen-aged Washington Irving he sailed up the Hudson; described Thomas Cole as he painted the Catskills; showed us how John Burroughs forthrightly traipsed through dense hemlock forests.

Leslie, a member of PEN America, began her writing career at Farrar, Straus & Giroux and has been an editorial consultant, specializing in literary nonfiction (especially memoir, creative nonfiction, biography and cultural criticism), literary fiction (novels and short stories) and poetry. She has been Adjunct Associate Professor of Writing at Columbia University’s School of the Arts, where she taught in the undergraduate and graduate (MFA) writing programs for twenty years. Join us as we talk about her life as a naturalist, why she wrote her memoir and what’s so special about the quarry fox.