After a morning of rain: 77F by mid-afternoon with the sun burning through a veil of cloud.
Julia Reischel is a co-founder of the Watershed Post and resident of Margaretville.
JNU: What brought you to the Catskills?
JR: I came here because of my family. I’m not from here. I like to describe myself as a carpet-bagger [laughs]. Lissa, my wife, grew up here and has about six generations of family in the Margaretville area. When I started dating her in Boston, I knew pretty much immediately that I was going to end up here if I stuck with her, because she has this magnetic pull to this area. All her potential stories ended here. So the Catskills were in my future and when we got married we moved here. We started the Watershed Post, our now defunct news site that we ran for seven years.
Is The Watershed Post still up?
It’s up, but just not being updated. We’ll keep it up as a sort of archive and honestly, it’s Lissa’s call on that because I formally quit a while ago. [Laughs]
Did you have a contract with her? [Laughs]
We actually do have a contract in place.
That’s very sensible!
[Laughs] If we were going to have some sort of acrimonious split, one of us would have to buy out the other. What actually happened was that I decided to give her de facto control over it in exchange for not doing anything for it anymore. So I’m still technically part owner. She ran it by herself for a couple of months and came to the same conclusion that I did, which was that there’s no money in journalism. Continue reading
80F by mid-afternoon, fresh and sunny.
89F by mid-afternoon, overcast, muggy with showers at 4pm. Hot and sweaty. Berry blossoms in abundance.
89F by mid-afternoon, sun blazing with hazy cloud moving in around dusk.
88F by mid-afternoon, hot and sunny with a cool breeze in the shade. Looks a like this will be a good year for apples.
80F by mid-afternoon, warm and sunny.
74F by mid-afternoon, mostly sunny with some cloud and a persistent, cool breeze.
70F by mid-afternoon with a summer breeze and a blue sky naked except for sporadic, plump clouds.
56F by mid-afternoon, overcast, with heavy rain clearing up late afternoon. Still chilly, but perfect for mushrooms and ducks.
70F by mid-afternoon, humid and breezy, clouds ready to burst all day, mist crawling over mountains. Sultry.
54F by mid-afternoon, gloomy, chilly with continual afternoon rain.
66F by mid-afternoon with a cool breeze and rolling, cotton wool clouds.
Years ago, when we were losing our crops to blight and other things, our neighbor Alan White, told us to find out what grows well on our ridge and plant a lot of it, then swap for other produce you might need with neighbors. Rhubarb loves it here, as do potatoes, asparagus, garlic, asparagus and berries. This year, my husband is trying arugula, because I spend money on that stuff and it’s imported from god knows where. That’s not to say that I don’t eat our weeds like sheep sorrel and dandelion, because I do. Our mint has also gone quite rogue and I’m picking new growth in our lawn along with the other weeds.
Since I became a trustee of Woodchuck Lodge, John Burroughs’ last home and site of his final resting place in Roxbury, NY, I’ve become fascinated with his bookshelves. He left behind a vast collection of Atlantic Monthly magazines and (pictured above) a sturdy collection of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Atlantic Monthly is still published to this day and is a progressive periodical devoted to covering “news and analysis on politics, business, culture, technology, national, international and life”, but what was it like back then? Last month, at one of Woodchuck Lodge’s Wild Saturday events, I had just about enough time to flick through most of an Atlantic Monthly magazine from April 1923 and took photographs of what I considered the most interesting bits (below). I cannot help but wonder what John Burroughs himself thought when he read about Mrs A trying desperately to avoid “social suicide”. Continue reading
If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I’ve been making natural sodas with forsythia and spruce tips. I’ve discovered that spruce tip syrup goes particularly well with whiskey, too, like the forsythia, which made a tasty Catskills Collins. I’m also working on rhubarb juice that makes a first-rate bitter addition to cocktails for people who find bitters too intense or overpowering for their taste. Here are a couple more refreshing cocktails for the summer.
Parts 5, 6, 7 & 8 of Fleischmanns, A Poem in Eight Parts
(Imaginative Historical Projection)
By Bill Birns
- Griffin Corners at Armstrong Park
Bit hard for me to make a hero
of him, Matthew Griffin, though
lots of folks do. It’s hard not to
admire his sheer American-ness.
That photo-of-the-founder look
on his weathered face as he sat
posing for that end-of-long-life
first-time photograph in
front of his office (or shop)
with the hand-lettered L-A-W-Y-E-R
over his head behind his chair. Maybe
he believed that founder stuff himself.
Armstrong Park must stay out of the public view,
a gentleman’s name need only appear
in print when he is married and when
69F by mid-afternoon, bright and sunny.
58F by mid-afternoon, overcast and gloomy with hovering mist and sporadic rain.
75F by mid-afternoon with rippled, early morning clouds evaporating in the brilliant sunshine.
The Outsider’s Kitchen & Cafe opened last week on Route 30 between Margaretville and Halcottsville at the old station by the railroad tracks opposite the golf course. Chocoholics can go right to the funny cake based on a Pennsylvania Dutch recipe: a delicious blend of crunchy cake topping, with a rich, sticky, gooey filling, all in a pie crust. The more health conscious can get house made orange, coconut, almond granola, with yoghurt parfait, or you can buy it packed dry to go. It’s granola with a citrus zing that’s complemented by the earthy coconut. There are also scones and muffins available too. For lunch: large, thick, square portions of breakfast pizza look like they can cure all sizes of hangover; thick sandwiches on ciabatta, salads and soups are offered along with the usual beverages like coffee and tea. There’s ample parking and a nice view of the golf course. A very welcome addition to the Saturday errands route: take the garbage to the transfer station and stock up on produce at the Pakatakan Farmer’s Market.
It’s spruce tip season: fresh, new tree growth at the tips of the branches of evergreen conifer trees present as vibrant, brilliant green nuggets about the size of a nut, varying between the sizes of a peanut and a pecan. They are instantly recognizable as a completely different color than the rest of the needles on the branch, from a distance looking like a Christmas tree has come down with forest chicken pox. For the past few weeks, they have been encased in a papery brown or fleshy red covering (that ejects clouds of a dense, yellow pollen when shaken), which they are now shedding to reveal the green tips. Continue reading
75F by mid-afternoon, sunny with wispy cloud. Clouds of yellow and green pollen coursing through the air and gathering on cars, barns and houses as if spring can’t stop sneezing. The may flies endure.
Parts 2, 3 and 4 of Fleischmanns, A Poem in Eight Parts
(Imaginative Historical Projection)
By Bill Birns
Part 2: Historic Proclamation of 1913
Mr. Julius Fleischmann and Mr. Max Fleischmann,
heirs to Senator Fleischmann, have offered
their good wishes and
the six and a half acre parcel
known as the Fleischmann Mountain Athletic Grounds
to the people of the Village of Griffin Corners,
to be used by the people in perpetuity,
insofar as no admission can be charged
for any event within the park and
that the park be called Fleischmann Park, and
a sum of fifty thousand dollars be on deposit
in the village bank for the endowment of the park.
Mr. Fleischmann and Mr. Fleischmann sincerely acknowledge
the intention of the village to change its name to Fleischmanns. Continue reading
52F by mid-afternoon, overcast, windy. Occasional patches of blue floating in the gloomy sky like empty spaces in a jigsaw puzzle.
54F by mid-afternoon, overcast, steady rain with periods of sunshine. More gloom, mist and steaming, soggy landscape.
48F by noon. Continuous rain, wet, muddy, gloomy and overcast.
The Zephyr’s Chili on the dinner menu stands out for its lightness, uncharacteristic for a chili bowl, achieved by the addition of sweet, juicy chunks of tomato amongst the beans. You won’t go home with a brick in your stomach, but you’ll have enough fuel for a long walk in the country air, the wet, wet, gloomy country air. I took a couple of bites of the cheesy biscuits, wrapped the rest up in a napkin and ate them later. Where’s spring? Yesterday was warmer at 62F and cloudy with some late afternoon sun. Today: more rain. My seasonal affective disorder is only just held at bay by remembering how low the Catskills reservoirs were last year and how much they need replenishing. Spring has been more of a gastronomical tour around the mountains, ducking into restaurants, sitting at the bar and trying some of the Catskills’ best fare. Try also, Traveler’s White Tea with Hibiscus, (which also goes well as a vodka mixer).
The experiment with essential oils used as a tick repellent continues and our success rate appears to be 100% so far. The dog and I have been foraging in the forest three times this week for 1-3 hours at a time and we’ve returned with no ticks. So, pictured above, you can see a air-travel-size bottle full of water into which we’ve put 10 drops of each essential oil: lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus
and tea tree. Shake for a few seconds before applying to your shoes, trousers, cuffs, belt and all over the hat. Sadly, this does not keep away the may flies that continue to dive-bomb our eyeballs. I’m also not doing audacious things like lying down in the brush to take a picture. That’s just begging for a tick in the ears, hair and everywhere, in my humble opinion.
For the dog, this is a miracle and all we’ve done is spray the top half of his collar with the liquid, not the bottom half because we don’t want him to be engulfed in the fumes, allowing the collar dry in the sun for a few minutes before we put it back on him. He’s an adorable, obedient lab who only cares about running and hugging, so he only objects to whatever stops him from doing these two things. He can handle smells. Your dog may not. For the record, we haven’t put Frontline on our dog since April 10th.
So, because of this experiment’s success, I have not been able to catch a tick and test more essential oils on it, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
Update: some of you have stated that tree tree oil can harm animals, so I’ve removed this from the recipe.
62F by mid-afternoon, scattered clouds, but warm in the sun with a cool breeze.
It may not be on the menu for much longer because it’s a winter warmer, but even though the apple blossom is being attended by huge bumble bees and brilliant greens are creeping up the mountains , it’s still colder than a well digger’s belt buckle up on the peaks. Let Phoenicia Diner’s luscious, juicy meatloaf, drenched in tasty mushroom gravy, stick to your ribs one more time. The sun may be out, but there’s still some thawing to do. Let’s hope we’ve seen the last of the spring frosts.
54F by mid-afternoon, chilly but warm in the sunshine once the clouds cleared late afternoon.
48F by mid-afternoon, overcast and gloomy.
This is Part One of Fleischmanns, A Poem in Eight Parts
(Imaginative Historical Projection)
By Bill Birns
Part One: On the Porch at Fleischmanns
36F at 8.30am with a layer of overnight snow melting in the sun, chilly and overcast with the snow flakes swirling in the wind. 44F by mid-afternoon.
46F by mid-afternoon, humid and overcast with continual misty rain. A good day to forage, harvest, cook and preserve.
60F by mid-afternoon, overcast, dreary and continual rain with occasional sunny breaks in the cloud.
50F by mid-afternoon, gusty winds, overcast, heavy rain leaving mist over the mountains.
Did someone yell Cocktail? I have all this forsythia syrup and didn’t preserve it, so I need to use it all up before it goes bad. What better way to put syrup to good use than a twist on a couple of classic whiskey cocktails: a John Collins and a New York Cocktail. The simple syrup is replaced in both cocktails by forsythia syrup, the earthy tones of which are compatible with a good Scotch and the lemon. Find my forsythia syrup recipe here.
This first is similar to a John Collins, but made with Scotch and missing the fruity garnishes. The second is a New York Cocktail without the grenadine.
51F by mid-afternoon, chilly, windy and overcast with a sunny afternoon.
Two years ago, I saw Proof at the STS Playhouse in Phoenicia and it was riveting and engaging. At the time, I called it “remarkable: deeply engrossing, funny with excellent performances from the cast. Proof explores the world of madness and mathematics”. It was a great production, starring Jennifer Paul, Farrell Reynolds, Stephen Powell and Kimberly Kay.
This year the Playhouse is putting on a production of Prelude to a Kiss, by Craig Lucas, directed by Michael Koegel, owner of Mama’s Boy Burgers. You may remember the movie with Alec Baldwin and Meg Ryan. Opening night is this weekend, May 5th, running until May 21st. Make a perfect night of it and get early dinner and drinks at nearby Peekamoose Restaurant– the play starts at 8pm.
STS Playhouse, 10 Church Street, Phoenicia, NY. Tickets $20 or $18 for seniors and students. Call 845-688-2279, or click here for more information.
58F at 9am, raining, overcast and humid. Last night’s rain gushing down the mountains. Breezy afternoon.
68F by mid-afternoon, humid, breezy, mostly overcast with lunchtime sun. Update: torrential overnight rain and turbulent storms across the region.
Another gigantic pile of deliciousness from The Zephyr in Pine Hill: their zucchini fritters. Two medium-plate-sized fritter rounds cut into halves is the entrée version (and half as much food for the starter dish). The image above, taken on the fly, does not do the fritters justice. They were not too doughy; just the right combination of firm and moist; sprinkled with cheese; drizzled with three sauces: a creamy garlic sauce, thick balsamic vinegar and some sort of herb oil. The whole thing was to die for, washed down with Traveler’s white tea with hibiscus. A memorable dish on the luscious list.
One of our first spring crops: a stand of asparagus. There’s nothing like cutting off a fresh stalk and eating it raw, still warm from the sun. Surprisingly juicy, the first bite of raw asparagus is also a satisfying crunch.
Back when we bought our house in 2007, there no ticks and for years we walked around barefoot on our property in our forest; rolled around on the lawn; foraged; did the gardening unimpeded by these infamous insects. In retrospect, I think it might have been the elevation that saved us because we are on a ridge at about 2400 ft in Delaware County. We are quite exposed to the elements and have superb soil drainage. Even in the most torrential rain there are only a couple of small patches of our six-acre property that get waterlogged. Ticks desiccate very quickly in hot, dry conditions. I found an article in Forbes that said scientists say ticks are killed after six minutes in the dryer on hot. When we got our dog, Alfie in 2014 I found my first (and only) tick when I was throwing the ball for him, a year and six months after we rescued him. I felt it bite my wrist and flicked it off as it tried to embed. Then I went immediately to the emergency room where they told me to go home. A few days later, I drove to Kingston where a doctor prescribed me an antibiotic and gave me a free refill for the future.
77F by mid-afternoon with hazy sunshine. Asparagus sundial.
75F by mid-afternoon with hazy sunshine after a gloomy start to the day, following a few sombre, rainy days. Spring springs once more.
UD: What brought you to the Catskills?
RA: My husband Mark and I would travel north from our Pennsylvania home just on a whim. This was before we had our daughter Isabella. We always ended up coming home from Lake Placid, the Adirondacks or wherever we ended up, through the Catskills. After we had our little girl and we weren’t traveling around the world anymore, we decided to get a vacation home here. Then once my daughter was of age to go to kindergarten, we made a decision to move here, so that she could start kindergarten here and not have to move mid-term.
It’s been a long time since I’ve had an egg as delicious as this: bright orange yolks, rich, sweet and creamy, almost like a dessert when soft-boiled on toast and in yesterday’s salad! Leigh Melander, a colleague at WIOX and founder of Spillian bought a bucket of eggs into the radio station to share. Leigh says her hens, who are completely free range, are very happy and I believe her. They were presented with some art a few days ago and all flocked around to inspect it.
Part of the lure to the country or Upstate New York, apart from the fresh air, is the local food. It’s worth battling five months of winter for glorious food like this. When wholesome food of this calibre becomes an expensive luxury in the city, it’s time to move upstate where your neighbors bring you eggs, cheese, bread, jam or any number of spring items that they have produced on their homestead. Just the fragrant aroma of a homegrown tomato feels like a miracle.Local, country board meetings are never without something homemade to pass around like goat’s cheese or bread. This second rainy and gloomy day of the week has been lit up like a summer’s day by simple eggs on toast using local bread.
Winter is tough up here, but the spring rewards are like Sunday Best, not taken for granted and savored all the more.
Forsythia, which is in bloom at the moment, is a shrub that produces gorgeous bright yellow flowers in the spring before its leaves start to shoot. After attending Rob Handel’s Wild Edibles class last week, I discovered that I had a huge forsythia bush on my property and that now is the time to make forsythia syrup with the flowers on this shrub.
71F by noon, warm with hazy sunshine.
68F by mid-afternoon: clear skies, hot and sunny.
This week, I interviewed Steve Burnett, the Bovina Farmer, on my radio show and tonight at 6pm, I’ll be a guest on his show The Tickler with his co-host Julian Richards, a fellow Brit.
The show is described thusly: “It’s like a culinary bungee. No sooner have we reached the apex of the bounce than we’re back at the chopping board with bloody fingers. Sunday 23rd, The Tickler welcomes writer, thinker and chronicler of all things Catskills – Jenny Urbanski – for a spot of dinner and a litre of wine (Delco Speedball). We’ll point at each other and laugh; and traffic in truth, the only currency.”
Prepare for utter absurdity, devout irreverence, and some senseless hilarity while we explore the meaning of life. Tune in.
TONIGHT 6pm, streaming live on www.wioxradio.org.
What an honor to be on the Board of Trustees at Woodchuck Lodge and what a privilege to be able to peruse his 100-year-old collection of Atlantic Monthly magazines, a magazine that is still in existence today. For the writer, this is a rare treat; though the copies are tattered and fading, they still adequately convey the times. Burroughs was published by The Atlantic his nature essays appeared regularly in his life and career. It’s a co-incidence that on Earth Day, April 22nd, I had access to his entire collection of magazines when on The Atlantic website there are details of today’s climate march for science in New York City.