Country life means throwing on the wellies, sprinting out of the house at 8am ahead of the town mower to save a patch of wild mint and chicory before it’s razed by the town’s enormous lateral road leveler. Their incredible new machine has an industrial rake on it and the monster takes out eight-feet-tall thistles like it’s plucking daisies.
Experienced foragers often say that roadside foraging should be avoided because of brake dust and ice-melting salt, but big buckets of mint make a natural air freshener for musty rooms and workshops. Last year, the slugs got the mint, but they didn’t this year. This summer was a banner year for chicory, which is all over the roadsides everywhere. Get it into water immediately otherwise it will quickly wilt and makes good freshly cut flowers in clear vases for guest bedrooms.
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.
Some of the wild flowers I’ve seen fade so quickly that catching them in their prime requires daily survey. I don’t know what these flowers are, but they are blooming and wilting in abundance. Update: this is crown vetch which was introducted to the United States in the 1950s, primarily for soil erosion control, from the Meditteranean region. According to the USDA: “crown vetch is a useful but overused erosion control plant. Its spreading growth habit, and strong root system provide soil holding ability and ground cover. The dark green foliage and profuse flower have aesthetic value. It is a good plant for road bank stabilization in areas where rocky conditions predominate, but… in general, however, crownvetch dominates other plants and tends toward a monoculture”.
70F by 9am, misty clouds moving quickly over the mountains and the wind gently shaking last night’s rain out of the trees. Humid, with gunmetal skies issuing threatening sprinkles by noon. Stormy weather forecast. Update: Rain late afternoon and into the evening.
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).
Marguerite Uhlmann-Bower is a registered nurse, herbal educator and wild foods forager who conducts“weed walks” in which she teaches us how to forage for wild edibles.
How long have you lived in the Catskills?
Manhattan and Brooklyn. I was born in Manhattan and spent part of my young life in Brooklyn. When I experienced the country when I was eleven, I knew that was where I was going when I got old enough.
“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.