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.
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.
Letters to a Young Farmer is both a compelling history and a vital road map – a reckoning of how we eat and farm; how the two can come together to build a more sustainable future; and why now, more than ever before, we need farmers”. And: “We are about to witness the largest retirement of farmers in U.S. history. There are now more farmers over the age of 75 than between the ages of 35 and 44″.
A story with a happy conclusion – an urban farmer saves his “gangsta garden”.
An article on how to combat ticks around your property.
The New Farmer’s Almanac Volume III from The Greenhorns, “360 pages of original agrarian content, essays, cartoons, imagery and historical snippets—harnesses the wisdom of over 120 contributors from our community of new farmers and ranchers”.
Will our senator, farm-friendly Kirsten Gillibrand run for President?
The US military “marches forward on clean energy”. New York State sees an 800% growth in solar power according to CNBC. On solar power and renewable energy for new jobs; a new solar experiment in Brooklyn; Panasonic makes a new solar panel for Tesla.
I have thought that a good test of civilization, perhaps one of the best, is country life.” John Burroughs
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.
Saturday March 25th, Trout Tales: All Things Fly Fishing at Spillian in Fleischmanns.
Saturday March 25th, The Tanning Industry and How It’s Changed at the Catskill Interpretive Center in Mount Tremper.
Saturday March 25th, Designing with Native Plants at the Phoenicia Library.
Saturday March 25th, Childrens’ Art Workshop at MURAL on Main, 631 Main Street in Hobart, NY. Students aged 6-12 will learn about using color in art and then create their own cray-pas on canvas painting. All necessary materials and instruction will be provided and creativity will be encouraged. The cost for this workshop is $5 and sign up is available through the workshop page on the MURAL website or by calling the gallery at (607) 538-3002.
If you’re a landowner and wish to lease your land to farmers, here’s a workshop running on April 1st in Delaware County and April 8th in Otsego County, that might be useful from CADE, the Center for Agricultural Development & Enterpreneurship.
Buses converted into mobile grocery stores for low income neighborhoods: a great idea for the Catskills.
Thirteen things I learnt as a market farmer, from Women Who Farm.
Old books converted into art and sculpture.
Biodynamic farming is on the rise wherein farmers integrate their crops and animals. “I’m trying to feed my neighbors – and if everyone did that, we would be able to replicate this,” says one California Farmer.
The National Audubon Society’s Field Guide to Mushrooms by Gary Lincoff, as recommended by writer Laura Silverman.
A brief article about Lyme from NPR. A local event focussing on Lyme at Table on Ten in Bloomville. Another good article about Lyme research from NPR here. Note that these experts say that most people are bitten while gardening because ticks lurk in their hedgerows.
Sound advice from the National Audubon Society on keeping ticks at bay.
Pure Catskills brochure is an excellent guide to farm stands, markets, farms, restaurants, stores, producers and much more in the Catskills: an invaluable resource.
It’s maple season: find our list of maple syrup sellers and producers here in the Catskills and some of the beautifully designed packaging makes these products excellent gifts. Maple syrup is vegan and packed full of vital nutrients.
A Call For Entry at the Center for Photography in Woodstock: CPW’s WOODSTOCK AIR is a residency program for US-based artists and critics/scholars/curators of color, working in photography. Deadline is Monday January 16th.
A Writer’s Evening at the Stamford Library, 117 Main Street, Stamford, NY on Monday January 16th at 7pm. Sign up to present your latest work.
Governor Cuomo announced plans to develop a hiking trail across New York State by 2020. The plan include “filling in” gaps between already existing trails in NYS. This amazing trail, once laid, will be the longest in the nation and connect Lake Erie in Buffalo to the Capital Region and New York City to Canada (connecting with the Capital Region).
If you’re interested in hiking the Catskills 35, join the Catskills 3500 Club. Sign up for scheduled hikes. Next week Saturday January 21st, there is a schedule bushwhack (no marked or maintained trail) to North Dome and Sherrill Mountains. Peaks that have no trail are easiest to navigate in winter when there is no foliage blocking your view.
Buy or sell your produce through Lucky Dog Farm Hub.
The first of two workshops on Lambing and Kidding at Heather Ridge Farm, 989 Broome Center Road, Preston Hollow, NY on Saturday January 21st at 11am.
Young at Art at the Roxbury Arts Group: an art exhibit for children. Opening reception at 11am on Saturday January 21st.
The Phoenicia Library hosts Invasive Plants and How To Deal With Them next week Saturday January 21st at 10.30am – a must if your land is being taken over by invasive species.
A Beginning Farmers and Ranchers training program in Oneonta, NY beginning next month.
From the Imperial War Museum in London: in addition to being asked to “keep calm and carry on”, citizens of England were encouraged to start their own small farms and allotments during World War II to supplement their strictly rationed diet. In fact, we only have carrot cake because of war-time rationing. As sugar was almost non-existent in England for years, finely grated carrots were used instead. Of course, upstaters can use maple syrup or honey. Most upstate dwellers have at least a kitchen garden and, if you want to control the quality of your food, growing it yourself is the best way of doing it. It’s hard work, though, and tough lessons are learned. It takes trial and error to find places where food grows well on your property, and in a short growing season this kind of challenge can take years to overcome, but the rewards are infinite.
When farmers retire and sell, “typically it’s a large corporation that purchases that land”. American Farmers are rapidly retiring. Who will succeed them? From Modern Farmer. “The lack of replacements for aging farmers is a real concern. The average age of U.S. farmers is 58.3 years, and over the next 25 years, more than one-fourth of all farmers are expected to retire, which would require an additional 700,000 to replace them.”
The UK’s Guardian asks: “can we feed 10 billion people on organic farming alone?”
A brief history of farmed chickens, also from The Guardian.
“Scientists have turned the humble spinach plant into a bomb detector”. “Bionic” plants that can detect explosions from the BBC.
What the oldest woman in the world eats every day from Huffington Post.
This is your brain on nature from National Geographic.
“Rewilding” the English landscape from the BBC.
The Leave It On The Lawn Campaign for soil health from the DEC.
The UK’s first food waste supermarket.
The dark side of “agritainment” by Civil Eats. “Farmers in Sonoma County—real farmers with dirt under their fingernails and aching backs—make an average of $12.21 an hour, or just under $34,000 a year. The average household income in the U.S. for small farmers (the 82 percent of U.S. farming operations that have annual sales of $100,000 or less) is $81,000. Around 85 to 95 percent of that income number comes from off-farm day jobs”.
A very important film about seeds and a short clip from the Lexicon of Sustainability about how we eat hardly anything that our ancestors ate even 100 years ago and why this is the case. “The diversity in our seed stocks is as endangered as a panda or a polar bear”. And: “When we invaded Iraq, we destroyed that seed bank and we destroyed the ancient seeds that had been collected for the benefit of mankind”.
From the New York Times, could ancient remedies be the answer to the looming antibiotic crisis?
“Humankind, despite its artistic abilities, sophistication and accomplishments, owes its existence to a six-inch layer of farmable soil and the fact that it rains.” Anonymous quoted by John Jeavons. “In Nature, soil genesis takes an average of 500 years on the Earth to grow one inch of this wonderful element. This means it takes 3,000 years to grow six inches”.
Some old and new links on farming:
How dairy farming works: inside the milk machine by Modern Farmer.
An article in the UK’s Guardian suggesting that half of all produce is thrown away mostly because it doesn’t conform to fruit and veggie standards of beauty.
Another article on turning waste into electricity in Northern Wales from the Guardian.
Civil Eats on why farmers quit.
Our best shot at cooling the planet might be beneath our feet from The Guardian again.
News of a commercial farm within a residential development on Staten Island from Modern Farmer.
Register for the Young Farmers’ Conference at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in New York.
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.
63F by 9am, clear and sunny. 73F by mid-afternoon.
Hand picking worms off the organic apple trees in a young orchard. Last year was a banner year for apples in the Catskills.
Published on New York Upstate out of Syracuse today was the news that Kelsey Grammar is to open a farm brewery in Margaretville, a town here in the Central Catskills. After a long discussion on our Facebook page, however, local sources say it’s actually New Kingston, which is one town over. The brewery is allegedly only in the planning stages, but the news has caused quite a bit of excitement.
The New York State brewery revival started a few years ago with the advent of the new Farm Brewery Law as reported in the Watershed Post by your humble correspondent. Since then breweries have been springing up like wild-fire. Local historians have said that New York State was the largest hop growing state in the country one hundred years ago. Here’s to retrieving that status from the annals of history. Like the hops plant itself, pictured above, the Catskills craft beer industry is reaching for the sky with some of the tastiest beer in the country.
JN: How long have you lived in the Catskills?
RN: Lived in Woodstock for about four and a half years now.
Where did you move from?
I just moved across the river from Rhinebeck.
Did you grow up in Rhinebeck?
No, I grew up in Oklahoma, smack in the middle of the USA, but I have moved quite a bit. I’ve probably lived in about 28 states.
November 6th to 15th is Cider Week in NYC and there is Farm to Table style gathering at The Pines in Brooklyn, the owner of which is from Delaware County and a keen supporter of farmers and producers here.
They are hosting a Catskills backyard blowout on November 9th from 6pm to 10pm. They will be bringing down Delaware County-grown eats, wild-apple ciders and all manner of special things and special guests to the banks of the Gowanus including Wayside’s special crab apple cider.
They will be firing up seasonal snacks on the grill, roasting s’mores around the fire pit, and pouring cider all night long. Entry cost is $35 all-you-can-eat and cider specials a la carte. If you’re in NYC next week, please go to The Pines and support our local producers.
284 Third Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11215
Buy tickets here.
Word of Delaware County-based Wayside Cider is spreading like wildfire and they’ve completely sold out of two varieties, Halfwild and Catskills. They have very limited amounts remaining of the Skinny Dip that included local quince. Wayside has been in business for a year and thus far have pressed about 30,000 gallons. Before the end of the season, they’ll press another 7,000 gallons. This has been a tremendous year for the Catskills wild apple and many supportive neighbors have invited Wilson, and his business partner Irene Hussey, onto their land to pick their heritage apples and they’ve found five or six varieties of apples that are geo-specific to the Catskills. Some of those trees they have marked for grafting and Wilson is putting together a “roster of apples” from what exists here in these mountains.
Further north in Cold Spring, Glynwood is hosting its third annual Cider Dinner on November 13th from 6.30pm to 10pm. Guest Chef Shawn Hubbell of Soons Orchard & Farm Market joins guests in November during Cider Week NYC for a farm-fresh meal paired with the best craft hard cider the Hudson Valley has to offer.
362 Glynwood Road
Cold Spring, NY 10516
Halloween is a treasured time at the end of summer, a time where we all get together after having been out of touch for so long, after a hectic high season in the tourist industry that sustains the Catskills. Take a ride up Route 28 and join us for these events during the forthcoming week. The Upstate Dispatch Halloween weekend will include the following:
UPDATE: An earlier version of this post included Friday night drinks at the Phoenicia Diner Lounge, but the Lounge has closed for the season. This will make the long wait for Spring even more arduous. It’s a good thing that Mike Cioffi, owner of the Phoenica Diner is working on a new bar after buying property in Woodstock. Meanwhile, we are working on a list of great bars in the vicinity of the Lounge in a new post. Watch this space for a link to the list of places to drink on Friday night. Of course, there is also our beloved Peekamoose as detailed below. Friday night drinks at Peekamoose Tap Room are everyone’s favorite way to decompress after a hard week. The bar and restaurant is further up past Phoenicia by about ten minutes on Route 28 in the town of Big Indian.
JN: How long have you lived in the Catskills?
BH: I was actually born here and then I moved away for college. I lived in New York City for a while and Boston for a while. I came back here and practiced law for a bit and then moved to the Finger Lakes area when our first child was born. I lived in Dutchess County for a while and came back about four years ago, right after Hurricane Irene.
So you like to travel?
No, I actually don’t like to travel, but my first wife was a navy brat and she did like to travel, so we did.
I was having a conversation with somebody else about that, about how young people are moving away and how we can keep young people in the region.
And that’s been an issue ever since I went to school here. I can remember the Rotary Club had about eight of us come down from my class in 1976 and asking us what would it take for [us] to come back here, but in being 18 years old, we didn’t really have an answer at the time.
Upstate Dispatch now has a YouTube Channel for all our video content. Please take a look around. We are in the midst of uploading video taken at the tops of all the Catskills mountains, doing farm tours and reporting on food and the arts in our region. Above is our 20-minute short of the day we spent with Chase Kruppo while he inspected his beehives and prepared them for winter. Chasing Honey Farm is a pesticide free apiary in Fleischmanns in its first year of business. He installed his bees in May of this year and after the summer, he harvested 147.625lbs pounds of raw honey comb plus 10lbs of liquid honey for his CSA members.
Last week, I spent a morning on Chasing Honey Farms in Fleischmanns watching Chase Kruppo harvest honeycomb from his three hives. I had to beat a hasty retreat after the bees became agitated and it turns out I was correct to turn on my heel when I did. Shortly after my departure, some of the bees swarmed and stung a fellow observer, but I’m told the chap took it like a champ.
Local lore has it that the Catskills was once Cauliflower Central having been first planted here in 1891. From 1900 to 1940, cauliflower became a thriving industry here and it’s one of our healthiest foods. The cauliflower originally came from Cyprus, and was introduced to France from Italy in the middle of the 16th century. Mark Twain called it “cabbage with a college education”. Delicious smothered in cheese and baked, or roasted in oil, it’s high in fiber, calcium and vitamin C; it’s also a good source of magnesium and potassium. The 12th Annual Cauliflower Festival will take place on Saturday, September 26th from 10am until 4pm at the Margaretville Village Park and Pavilion in Margaretville.
2015 must be The Year of the Apple in the Catskills such is their abundance this year. a neighbour guesses that we have heritage apples on our property. Yesterday, I borrowed a dehydrator in exchange for ten pounds of apples. It’s clear that I’ll be making apple products like apple sauce, fruit leather, dried apples and apple crisp, for days and days to come. The image above is my breakfast for the foreseeable future: plain yoghurt layered with homemade apple sauce.
A dewy, balmy 60F at 7.30am with mist hovering over the mountains.
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.
It has been a remarkable summer for wild apple trees that seem to be everywhere you look. Much more conspicuous this year due to being so heavily laden with fruit, they’re all full to bursting with apples that are about two inches in diameter and mostly green in colour. Here in the Catskills, bear and deer are going to be feasting on them well into winter. The fruit is very tart to taste but make a superb apple sauce with the addition of sweeteners like honey, sugar or orange juice. They make a fantastic compote with berries. A noteworthy source of vitamin C and fibre, the apples will fit in just about any pie, cake or sauce. Soak them in vodka for a tart cocktail, a replacement for Cranberry juice, or add them to cider.
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.
73F at 8.30am with dewy spider webs in freshly mown fields drying in the hazy sunshine.
63F at 7.30am with the rising sun quickly burning through the thick mist hovering over the mountains. Update: the morning mist cleared quickly and the day turned out to be a 85F scorcher with high humidity.
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.
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.
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.
When I lived in the city, I regret that I hardly ever took a lunch hour. I simply wanted blaze on through and get everything done. Now I realise that a two-hour break to focus on something completely different is as essential for the mind as water is for the body. Painting with watercolour is just difficult enough for me to get thoroughly absorbed in two hours and even if I don’t get it right, which is hardly ever, the accomplishment of having practiced is exhilarating in itself. I have one or maybe two watercolours that I’m exhibiting in our show this year. Plus, the weekly En Plein Air group takes me to various places and allows me to photograph some wildly gorgeous landscape. And goats. The anxious demands of work will always be there waiting for you until, in fact, you retire. Take a break.
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.
Good news for Farm-to-Table in New York City. Lucky Dog in Hamden receives $40,000 in grant funding for its efforts. The link details some of the NYC restaurants that receive local produce. View the news release from the Delaware County Economic Development, a video by VeccVideography.
Farmers Almanac explains all those seed copters that are flying around this week.
Ever come to the country, been woken up by birdsong and wondered who was singing to you? Browse for birds by name and listen to their call from The Cornell Lab for Ornithology.
Travel the Milky Way on June 21st when Catskills Creameries open up their gates to the public.
The Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown is due a visit.
Outdoor cinema in the Catskills looking for funding.
The old asparagus plant that was planted three years ago is now over six feet tall as is the rhubarb. Only a few spears were cut in its second year and this year we harvested over twenty spears. The point of letting the asparagus go wild in its third year is to allow the long stalks and buds to transfer nutrients to the roots which will improve yield for forthcoming years.
In season now, are wild strawberries. That’s a teaspoon, so they’re tiny, but delicious. Look for the serrated-edged leaves and if the grass is low, just run your hands over it and you’ll reveal the berries lying against the ground. Notice that the tiny ones have just as many seeds. Don’t worry if you tread a patch into the ground. You should leave some behind to proliferate in the same place next year.
I am told by my pal, Laura Silverman, that spruce tips are ready to go. They are the brilliant green shoots that unfold from growths at the ends of the spruce spindles in May. They are much a much brighter green than the needles on the spindle and stand out in stark contrast to the tree itself. Snip the green shoots off and eat raw; they are packed with chlorophyll and Vitamin C. The aroma of only one of these little shoots is sensational. Literally spruce up a living room, pocket, bag or underwear drawer. They freeze well, so you can get your Vitamin C in the winter too. You can make tea, use in soups and salads. You can also crush them and make a pesto like you can with the garlic mustard. Recipes will be forthcoming over the weekend.
Straight out of the ground and into the belly: a powerful organic, raw, vegan lunch and you don’t even need a plate much less a table. The tomatoes may have been endangered by last night’s frost, but the sheep sorrel which grows in the asparagus bed is a hardy little plant. Sheep sorrel is an edible weed that has the texture of spinach with the tasty tang of lemon, which makes it perfect for soups. It wilts quickly once picked, so it’s best just to eat it raw with some juicy asparagus. Sheep sorrel has an arrowhead leaf and grows in a rosette formation.
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).
Green shoots are emerging from the raspberry sticks; the beetroot is flourishing; the cauliflower is shooting; the asparagus is prolific, as is the rhubarb; the hops are hopping, but the spuds and blackberries have yet to emerge. The dog is already too hot and has dug a mud hole under some equipment. His home for the summer.
On May 1st, we planted a long bed of twenty new asparagus and in less than ten days we already had a six-inch tall shoot from one of the mounds (bottom middle of the picture). All the other roots planted have shoots of about an inch. The image of the “tall poppy” below was taken yesterday morning.
76F at 8am. Warm and sunny with no breeze. Asparagus acting like a sundial will be later eaten for breakfast. Update: they were juicy. The crab apple tree in full bloom.
Many foragers, hikers, herbalists and conservationists consider it a travesty that instead of pulling and eating their edible weeds people throw chemical weed killer on them. It’s bad for the water table and our health. Dandelions that are so prevalent in our gardens now are fully edible raw and full of vitamin A. One cup of chopped dandelion is said to have 111% of your daily vitamin A intake, for example.
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.
Asparagus is going in at Upstate Dispatch HQ. A perennial, it takes a few years to get started with a low initial yield, but it’s a low maintenance crop that’s ideal for the novice gardener. Not only is it delicious, highly nutritious and otherwise quite expensive, it freezes well so you can eat it year-round. Let the asparagus grow to long ferns in the first year and the whole plant can last 20 years. Today, two beds (6-12 inches deep and 6 inches wide) were dug and a 2-3 inch layer of wet compost and peat mixed together was added. 10 asparagus roots went in each bed, 18 inches to 2 feet apart from each other. Soak the asparagus roots for a half hour before you plant. Spread the roots out like a flattened spider, lay crown-up, and cover with a 2-3 inch layer of dirt. Don’t fill in the trench with dirt until the shoots make it through their individual dirt pile. Keep adding dirt as the shoots grow over the forthcoming weeks. The weeds you see growing in the middle of the trenches are last year’s over-wintered parsnips. They were pulled.
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.
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.
Poignant relics of Catskills’ history like this antique tractor are to be found all over the Catskills, as much part of the landscape as the forest. Over the next few weeks, as spring begins, we’ll be photographing these enigmatic idols as they sit silently conveying their story like stoic immortal pioneers. May they always be around to remind us of the work involved in settling these mountains. Along Route 28 and other routes, you will find pieces of farm equipment and other machinery arranged into statues. We’ll be documenting those too.
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.
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.
“My muse is always nature.” Molly J Marquand, Catskills transplant and fellow native Brit, photographer, writer, naturalist, and wild flower gardener dishes the dirt to Upstate Dispatch in our new series Catskills Conversations.
How long have you lived in the Catskills? About two and a half years, I moved from New York City where my fiancé and I, Martin, lived for three years. I was born in England and moved to the Hudson Valley just before high school. I did go back to England to get my Masters Degree, in Taxonomy and Conservation of Plant Diversity (Botany) a joint programme with Kew Botanical Gardens and The University of Reading. But my undergraduate degree, which was in Ecology, I did at Bates in Maine.
What made you move here? I’d always had my eye on it, because I knew that I always needed space. We had this dream of having a farm and having wide open tracts of land. At the same time, I wanted to be close to my mother who lives in the Hudson Valley. [My fiancé and I] were both attracted to landscapes like the Rockies and Montana and places like that, but knowing that we were never going that far away because Martin’s family live in New York City.
The Catskill Center, a non-profit organization formerly known as the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, has been an advocate for this area since its inception in 1969, instigated by Sherret Chase, Armand Erpf and Kingdon Gould Jr, to tackle preservation issues and “foster harmonious economic development” in the region.
In terms of conservation, this region has an advantage over neighbouring areas because it supplies New York City with its drinking water, which travels unfiltered to the city in huge underground tunnels. Should anything sully the NYC drinking water supply, a billion-dollar filtration system would have to be built, something that New York State is keen to avoid, so the waterways are protected by regulation. This regulation hampers development, a significant disadvantage to the local economy, so the proceeds from year-round tourism – 2.5 million tourists annually – are our biggest benefactor. The people of the Catskills sacrifice the growth of their economy so that New York City can drink pristine water.
Last year, Mike Cioffi, owner of The Phoenicia Diner, and I ruminated on the costs of running a restaurant on my radio show The Economy of the Kitchen. Next week, Monday 12th January at 9am, in our second and final show, The Economy of the Diner, we’ll discuss the diner as American icon. The diner also has a rich cinematic history: Pulp Fiction, Twin Peaks, Superman, Back To The Future, Heat, Thelma & Louise, Diner: the list goes on and on. Who can forget Jack Nicholson trying to get an order of wheat toast in Five Easy Pieces or the tipping scene in Reservoir Dogs? Not to mention Meg Ryan’s glorious turn in Katz’s Deli in When Harry Met Sally and the actual movie called Diner, starring Steven Guttenberg directed by Barry Levinson.
As a foreigner, the diner is the ultimate American experience and my first diner visit was Relish in Williamsburg, sadly now slated for demolition. I’ll never forget my first order of biscuits, sausage and gravy and with whom I shared it.
My new challenge is eating my way through the menu at The Phoenicia Diner and I continued today through the skillet section. I tried the Duck & Grits skillet ($11), House Cured Corned Beef Hash skillet ($11) and the Arnold Bennett Skillet ($10). My first taste of American grits (not a British staple) was back in Brooklyn and had been quite vile experience, like eating cold porridge. PD’s grits are creamy with a hint of cheese; their scrambled eggs are the perfect combination of moist and firm. If Chef Mel uses salt in the dishes, you can’t really taste it and this is how it should be. Salt should be the choice of the customer. The Arnold Bennett Skillet ($10) came out on top in this round: locally smoked trout (delicately tasty), parmesan cheese, crème fraîche and scrambled eggs. PD makes its own bread too, which is thick, slightly chewy and tasty. Portions are generous and the eggs are noteworthy – some of the best I’ve eaten in the Catskills – for their vivid orange color. Most ingredients are sourced locally and when they run out, so does the item on the menu for the day. Eat here before you ski, on your way to Belleayre for the hearty nourishment that lasts all day. You can take sides and leftovers to go in compostable containers.
Tune in to The Economy of the Diner on WIOX at 9am on Monday January 12th, 2015.