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.
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.
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:
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
The last remnants of snow linger in the shadows on the lower peaks, but the honey bees are out and busy. Bright sunshine, a high of 70F with a cooling breeze. The warmest day of spring so far.
Celebrate Earth Day with John Burroughs at Woodchuck Lodge and help us raise funds to pay for the pruning of the apple orchard.
This event will take place Sunday April 22nd at 1pm at Woodchuck Lodge, Burroughs Memorial Road, Roxbury, NY 12474. (In bad weather, the event will be held at The Catskill Center in Arkville.)
Meet veteran birder Joe Siclare of the Denver Valley who will offer a class called “How To Get Started in the Birding Hobby: A Door to the Natural World”.
In this class, learn how to: Continue reading
The Shavertown Trail that runs over the summit of Perch Lake Mountain in Andes is a moderate hike suitable for all ages that offers its rewards early on: stunning views from Snake Lake about a mile up from the trailhead. This hike is perfect for a large family party or house full of visitors of assorted ages. The first mile is the most strenuous, after which less fitter members of the group can loiter at the lake and picnic – if spring ever visits us again – while admiring the views over the Pepacton Reservoir. Those who need more of a workout can can go further. After the lake, the trail is a solid, long hike for 1.5 miles through a dense hemlock forest to a loop which turns you around to hike back to where you started. The entire trail is 5.3 miles long and the elevation gain is only 700ft.
This guided hike – led by volunteers of the Catskill Mountain Club – was supposed to be a spring hike, but winter is hanging on like the overbearing party guest who has outstayed his welcome. Yes, he’s handsome and charismatic, but cold, and exhausting. Plus, the house is a mess. Continue reading
A high of 33F and mostly gloomy and overcast with brief bursts of sunshine. Fast moving clouds brush over the peaks to dump a few inches of snow then swiftly move on.
At least six inches of overnight snow, soft and powdery, not like Monday’s snow which disappeared pretty quickly. A high of 34F with clouds that ripple and shimmer in the sunlight. A beautiful day despite the shoveling.
Get hooked on fishing this weekend: Trout Tales starts this afternoon (April 7th, 2018) for an entrance fee of $10, take a wander around historic Spillian (pictured below in better weather) and listen to an afternoon of lectures dotted around the property that culminates in happy hour drinks, dinner and an evening of stories. Most interesting will be the Women in Fly Fishing, as the practice does seem to be dominated by men, like most of history. Hear stories from the ladies of the fly fishing world, including one record holder, Heidi Nute. For the foodies: learn to cook trout on a campfire.
Tomorrow Sunday April 8th, join The Catskill Mountain Club to hike the Shavertown Trail in Andes, the summit of which affords sweeping views of the Pepacton Reservoir. It snowed last night, here in the Catskills, depositing about six inches, so dress for the cold. Bring plenty of water. Pre-register here by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spillian, 50 Fleischmanns Heights Road, Fleischmanns, NY 12430.
I recently got back in touch with an old guest on my radio show, writer Linda Leaming, an American who moved to Bhutan twenty years ago. Linda and I are beginning a podcast series of interviews that we will conduct between here in the Catskills and her home, Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, because we have found that there are many similarities between our lives. We are both living in stunningly gorgeous, mountainous, rural regions in countries in which we were not born, with different cultures, and in doing so, we’ve learned so much about ourselves, the world and have much to share about this experience. Continue reading
Here’s a picture of me working hard at the radio station while I take a break from Upstate Dispatch this week. My guest on the radio next week, March 19th at 9am, will be Linda Leaming, author of Married To Bhutan and A Field Guide to Happiness. You can stream the show online here: WIOX Radio. In both books, Linda writes about her life in Bhutan, a tiny buddhist country in the Himalayas between India and Tibet, and what we can learn from Bhutan’s trail blazing accomplishments in areas like the importance of the arts, conservation and the well-being of its citizens. The government has a metric called Gross National Happiness that it measures often, instead of Gross National Product. Bhutan has decreed that a very large portion of their country will remain forested. There is no styrofoam and very few plastic bags in Bhutan. In Married to Bhutan, Linda writes that the Bhutanese “have foregone opportunities to make money off their considerable natural resources – lumber, water, minerals, plants and animals in favour of their quality of life. That alone makes it a world apart”. A Field Guide to Happiness is her second book on Bhutan and gives us tips on how to be happy.
These subjects were on my mind while was in New York City last week and between appointments decided to pick up Linda’s book on happiness instead of just ordering it online. I went to Rizzoli Bookshop, Strand Bookstore, Bookoff and Barnes and Noble. I was told that Linda’s books are not stocked in any Barnes & Noble in NYC, (but they should be – and he will put in a request to order them). Then, because I just decided to be on a mission – I was in NYC after all – I called Greenlight Books, Bluestocking books, Community Books, BookBook and Unnameable Books in Brooklyn but not one stocked A Field Guide to Happiness. It occurred to me that the book did not exist in New York City because if happiness was actually attained there, the earth would violently tip off its axis due to the sudden unloading of the weighty burden of abject disgruntlement in that part of the world. If everybody in NYC became satisfied with their life or just simply decided not to be in a huge hurry, or if everyone smiled at the same time, the city would crumble into dust and wash out into the ocean out of purposelessness. On occasion I smile at people in NYC and they look at me with a confused “do I know you?!” expression. So I caved and ordered the book online. It came from a happy place far away. Continue reading
There’s so much content in Upstate Dispatch, literally thousands of posts and hundreds of photographs over three years of writing. The temptation for writers is to keep chugging along at a pace, churning out better work, but sometimes it’s a good idea to pause and reflect on the past, take a break, regroup, do some reading. Here are some links to past work in the Catskills Conversations series that we have just resurrected with a podcast featuring Mike Cioffi of the Phoenicia Diner.
Other past, popular Catskills Conversations:
Jeanette Bronée, wellness coach and author of Path for Life and Eat to Feel Full has been on my radio show a couple of times talking about mindfulness and new year’s resolutions.
Laura Silverman of Glutton for Life just last year started The Outside Institute.
A really lovely interview with Jeff Vincent, of Catskill Mountain Wild, a licensed guide company based in the Catskills.
Talented chef, Rob Handel, former chef of Heather Ridge Farm and now based at Fin Restaurant talks about his life in food.
Bill Birns, local write and historian.
Farmers Kristi and Steve Burnett based in Bovina.
A high of 29F and gloomy with rippled, moody clouds and a bitter chill. Late afternoon flurries cover iced ponds.
A 45F high with a thick layer of morning frost and foggy for most of the day.
During the winter, if you have a spot in the house that gets a great deal of sun, turn it into a hothouse for cultivation. It couldn’t be easier to grow your own celery. When you next use celery, chop off the entire root system in one slice. Place the celery, root pointing down, in a glass of water (pictures below) and then plant it once your get some new growth that looks like frilly lettuce (pictured above). Continue reading
A high of 52F, humid with intermittent rain showers.
As a friend pointed out, there’s a lot of content on Upstate Dispatch and, moreover, a great deal of content that doesn’t much get read, or hasn’t been read by regular readers.
So, as winter approaches and I scout around for ideas for winter content, I offer some links to past work that are first person articles that are desperately in need of a follow up.
Deer hunting season approaches: a link to a 2015 post I wrote about hunting.
My first Catskills 3500 ascent: Balsam Mountain two years ago.
Eat Your Weeds, instead of throwing pesticide on them that ruins the water table.
Scroll through last year’s November. The gift guide still holds.
And finally, writing of gifts, here’s our donate page. UD takes thousands of hours a year to write and does not do paid or sponsored content or advertising.
Last night’s rain storm turns dangerous with blustery winds downing trees, causing power failures and fast-moving rivers, ending abruptly by afternoon. A high of 50F and late afternoon sunshine. Update: snow reported on the peaks.
Another blazing autumn day with a high of 80F, hazy sunshine and steady breeze.
A high of 75F and humid with clear skies and the odd fluffy cloud. Fall is remarkably muted with none of the glorious, fiery colors of last year. This year’s temperatures are about ten degrees higher, which could be the reason for the dull color.
A high of 70F, humid and overcast with hazy, foggy cloud that brought late afternoon rain.
71F by mid-morning, humid, with patches of morning fog and occasional turbulent breeze scattering the leaves. Surly. Update: 77F high with a strong, leaf-churning wind and more rain.
77F by mid-afternoon, humid with rippled clouds and hazy sunshine. Oranges bloom amongst the reds.
A cloudy, moody start, with a mix of sun and cloud throughout the afternoon. A high of 72F. Vivid reds bloom in the landscape.
A high of 80F with scanty cloud and warm in the sun. Happy Autumnal Equinox! The first day of Fall.
Another balmy morning at 65F with the blazing sun chasing fog into the valleys. A high of 82F, hot in the sun with a cool breeze, like summer wants another chance.
A foggy start to the day, rising to 83F and scorching in the sun until the storm clouds sailed through with a mini-storm. Sunburn one minute; a thorough soaking the next. This year’s fall is more like a fade… a draining of color from vivid green to yellow. The forest floor is carpet of brown and yellow.
A high of 75F, humid and overcast with scene-stealing, multifarious clouds leading to isolated showers and a balmy evening. Dashes of red appearing on the landscape like hot pepper seasoning. Moody.
Another chilly misty morning warming up to 82F and sunny with a hazy cloud transforming into ominous, grey armada that issued early evening rain.
79F by mid-afternoon and sunny with hazy cloud. Cool in the shade. Splashes of red dot the landscape.
A high of 74F, warm in the hazy sunshine, but chilly in the shade. Wild leeks, the infamous “ramps”, issue their unique seeds, like tiny, opaque spheres of shimmering onyx.
A morning of warming sun smothered by clouds late afternoon with a 70F high. A chilly harvest.
80F and brilliantly sunny with few scudding clouds and a strong, cooling breeze. Very hot in the sun and nippy in the shade. Goldenrod season.
A 62F high, humid with torrential rain for most of the day until late afternoon.
A high of 62F after a misty morning. Gloomy, chilly afternoon with rain showers except for a brief, sunny interlude at lunchtime.