Tag Archives: Upstate NY

A Halloween Journey with Cara Cruickshank

© J.N. Urbanski 10/31/14 9am

“Security is mostly a superstition…Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” -Helen Keller

I first heard a little bit about the artistic director Cara Cruickshank recently through a fellow board member at Woodchuck Lodge. Every year she creates a magical, dusk wonderland in Big Indian called The Halloween Journey that seems quite hard to resist: “a community event for young, old and everyone in between”, now in its eighth season. This year’s event will take place on October 27th and 28th beginning at 5pm in Big Indian, NY.

Sounding rather like a cultural treasure hunt designed “to promote wonder instead of fear on Halloween”, the journey features legendary characters of Catskill history and folklore. Rip van Winkle, Sojourner Truth, Catskill poet John Burroughs, “fairies, animal spirits and other fanciful creatures come to life, sharing their respect for nature, inspiring wonderment and appreciation for the treasured Catskill region”.

As night falls, the patron is welcomed with a bonfire, live folk music, hot apple cider, homemade chili and seasonal treats before the adventure begins.

Tickets range in price from an Early Bird Special that’s $15, to a VIP package for $150 that includes a “private tour, after-party pass, secret treasures and treats”, to a Deluxe VIP Package that includes hotel packages and much more. You can buy a ‘Wizard Pass” for $15 or example, that will allow you to skip the queue to the event.

Halloween Journey this year is non-profit, in partnership with the Pine Hill Community Center, The Catskill Center, and 100 Thousand Poets for Change. We are sponsored by Woodstock Healing Arts, Catskill Native Nursery and Manhattan Youth.

Daily Catskills: 10/09/17

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.

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Planting Garlic

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Garlic goes in about a month before the first frost of the season. One clove, planted two inches deep (with four inches between cloves) will grow into one bulb of garlic by next spring. The garlic pictured above is German hard neck garlic and the cloves are huge and juicy. The reason farmed garlic is so much bigger than wild garlic is that every year the largest cloves are planted, yielding bigger and bigger produce. Go to our Instagram feed to see footage of the planting.

Saving Seeds: Sunflowers

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Sunflowers are astonishingly beautiful and uplifting, towering over the farm like sentry guards radiating happiness, accumulating and distributing sunshine. They’re also packed with thousands of highly nutritious, edible seeds. Once they start to droop towards the ground, you may have to compete with the birds, chipmunks, and squirrels, who climb up them in search of the seeds and break the stems. When the blooms are resting on the ground, like they’re on some floral time-out, they seeds are fair game. You can either wrap the live heads in paper to stop animals from eating them, or you can cut the heads off completely even before they’re ready to harvest.

The seed is the white pellet underneath the yellow face of the bloom (pictured above). They develop a black strip as the flower dies, eventually turning a dusky, dark grey/black (pictured below). They are even delicious like this without any cooking, and packed full of raw nutrients like iron, calcium, vitamin B-6 and high in potassium and magnesium. Continue reading

Daily Catskills: 09/28/17

58F by 6.30am, balmy with clear skies and sunrise ushering in dappled cloud. 65F by mid-afternoon.

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Catskills Conversations: Rob Handel

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Rob Handel, the talented, dynamic and accomplished full-time chef at Heather Ridge Farm in Preston Hollow, grew up on a Catskills resort in Upstate New York and became interested in food at an early age through his grandmother, who ran the kitchen. “She really shared her love of food and cooking with me at an early age and I learnt a lot from her as a child. She sparked the interest in foraging in me. Whether the resort was there or not, I think her love of food would have been what turned me onto cooking in the first place,” he says.

After a short time away at college, Rob returned to work in the family resort, but quickly looked to further his career early: “I had been working with my family at the resort and I wanted to leave and strike out on my own and do something that involves more creativity and more latitude, using more local and foraged ingredients. You know, the resort was a classic Catskills family-style resort, so I was making roast beef for 150 people every night and that’s what those people wanted and it was a system that worked for them. But I wanted to be able to do more”. Continue reading

Heritage Apple Cake

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If you need something to do with all the heritage apples that are falling all over the Catskills now, here’s a recipe passed on to me by Tamara Ehlin of the Forsyth BnB in Kingston. This recipe is gorgeous because a sugary, chewy crust forms on the top of the cake and gradually softens all the way down to its fruity bottom.This cake is as wild as our apples.

However you add the fruit, it still ends up at the base of the cake. I didn’t put enough apples in the little loaf pictured above because whenever you do this recipe it will feel like you’re putting too much fruit in. The batter barely covers the apples and you have to press the mixture down before you put it in the oven. I made a larger cake by doubling the ingredients and it came out perfectly with all the fruit sunk to the bottom.

This recipe is good for soft and stone fruit too.

Fruit Cake

1 cup AP flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 oz butter (1 stick)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 tsp almond extract
2 eggs
2 cups sliced fruit (a mix of tart and sweet works best, like sour cherries, plums, peaches, blueberries, or peeled apple)

Soften the butter and whip it together with the sugar, vanilla, almond extract. Add the two eggs and beat them in. Mix the whole mixture well. Sift the flour and baking powder and add it into the butter/sugar mix gradually. Mix until you have a batter. The batter will be very stiff. Once you have a smooth batter, stir in the apples and mix well. Add to a greased loaf tin and bake on 350 for about 50 minutes.

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Catskills Weekend: Sept 23rd & 24th

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Saturday, September 23rd and Sunday September 24th: “Gravity is Your Mortar: Stone Wall Building Workshop at the West Kortright Center. Find tickets here. Find more information on their Facebook page.

Learn the basics of building free-standing dry-laid stone walls under the instruction of a stone wall professional with over 20 years experience.
Students will learn how to sort & choose stones, use gravity to create a stable structure, and carve their initials in the new wall.

$200 per person/$180 (WKC members); Ages 17+; Limit: 10 students

Saturday September 23rd: 10am to 12pm. Children’s Book Launch of Fred and the Lumberjack, at the Catskill Interpretive Center. The book is a brand-new picture book about loneliness, finding friendship in unexpected places, and plaid — lots and lots of plaid by local children’s author/illustrator Steven Weinberg, who will read the story and share a glimpse into his drawing process.

The Catskill Interpretive Center, 5096 Route 28, Mount Tremper, NY 12457.

Saturday September 23rd: 1pm to 3pm: Mutual Muses in the Catskills at the Catskill Interpretive Center. Photographer Rudd Hubbell, who’s been documenting the natural beauty of the Catskills since the 1970s, will share his work and a conversation with nature writer Leslie T. Sharpe, author of the new book The Quarry Fox and Other Critters of the Wild Catskills (2017).

Fall Events in the Catskills: The Barn Tour

© J.N. Urbanski 10/8/16 4.15pm

Here’s a chance to explore the fabulous barns of the Catskills. Take a sneak peek behind the historical architecture of our mountains.

On Sunday Oct 1st, 11am to 4pm: The West Kortright Centre will hold its first Barn Tour fundraiser. Take a self-guided tour of the structures that characterize our region’s agricultural heritage and hilly farmland. Get an up-close look at iconic bank and ramp-style barns, the cupolas that decorate and ventilate them, their timber frames, and the stone foundations upon which they are built.

You’ll explore both traditional and innovative dairy operations, horse stables, and repurposed barns. Additional attractions include a fleet of working vintage tractors, amazing chicken coops, beautiful duck ponds, stately draft horses, sloe-eyed cows, and gaggles of geese.

Professor Cynthia Falk, author of Barns of New York: Rural Architecture of the Empire State, will be on-site at the first barn to provide introductory information about barn history and architecture.

Tickets for this event are $16 per person, to benefit the West Kortright Centre. Pre-registration is required to receive directions to the first barn. Go here to pre-register, or for more information, call (607) 278-5454, or visit their website to purchase tickets before 3PM on Friday, September 29th.

© J.N. Urbanski 9.40am

Daily Catskills: 09/19/17

Hot in the sun with hazy sunshine, with a cool breeze ushering the fall and a high of 82F. These last few days of summer end on Thursday. Fall begins on Friday with the Autumnal Equinox.

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Daily Catskills: 09/18/17

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.

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Daily Catskills: 09/16/17

A balmy morning at 65F by 9am. The morning fog rolled away to reveal trees, bushes, forest floor and fields liberally bestrewn with lacy spiders’ webs, as if the forest had been dressed for halloween overnight.

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Daily Catskills: 09/14/17

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.

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Daily Catskills: 09/11/17

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.

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Daily Catskills: 08/31/17

A chilly high of 67F, with the sun straining to break through multifarious clouds, gusty winds and a lunchtime shower. August almost goes out with a whimper to the sound of a thousand wood stoves firing up, but the sun comes out at the last minute and turns the clouds into a milky glaze.

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Foraging: Lion’s Mane

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There are several reasons to get excited about Lion’s Mane. First of all, it’s arrestingly beautiful, and when you spot it in the forest it appears to be luminous, as if a beam of light is shining through the forest canopy directly onto it. Lion’s Mane cascades over a log like a dreamy waterfall, frozen in time, with it’s milky stalactites. It’s also called the pom-pom mushroom for the obvious reason.

Second, it can’t really be mistaken for anything else. Some guides tell you to compare it to the poisonous yellow-tipped coral because when Lion’s Mane gets old the tips turn yellow, but the coral grows upwards. Even as a novice mushroom hunter though, I was pretty certain that what I had found (pictured above) was the real thing and that thought was backed up by two others more experienced than I am. (I have just eaten it, so if it’s not, it was nice knowing you.)

Furthermore, you can cultivate Lion’s Mane and it is widely said to have medicinal benefits, like Shitake and Reishi. Experts say that it improves neurological function and alleviates anxiety.

On top of that, it’s utterly delicious, tasting (raw) like a more meaty, fragrant, cooked lobster, with exactly the same texture.

If you’re looking to eat less seafood, you can buy kits to cultivate this exquisite delicacy and grow it yourself. Once you’ve tasted it, it’ll seem like a no-brainer. This mushroom is about 20% protein.

To prepare it, I sliced off the top part that had a lot of forest debris in it. Then broke off about five clumps of the tendrils and washed them thoroughly. (You never know what animal might have peed on it.) Then I separated the tendrils until I had what looked like about almost a cup of loose lobster meat and sweat it in butter. Then I added three beaten eggs and scrambled the mixture. You can see a piece of raw mushroom top left (below).

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Daily Catskills: 08/27/17

After another overnight low of 45F, a high of 74F and sunny with wispy cloud. Hot in the sun; cool in the shade.

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Daily Catskills: 08/18/17

Surprise! More heavy rain. A high of 80F, with oppressive humidity, a heavy blanket of cloud and mist swirling over the mountains like the ghost of summers past. Steamy.

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A Pit Stop at The Forsyth

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When you have frequent summer guests to your rural home, who come from far and wide, Exit 19 in Kingston on Route 87 is a good pit stop for travelers who are hungry, tired or cranky from the long drive. Stylish, comfortable B&Bs are popping up all over this city, which offers some excellent attractions.

I popped into The Forsyth, a charming and elegant B&B in the historic Rondout area of Kingston, for a look around with owner Tamara. Her friend Allison cooked me a crispy-bottomed, fried, runny, local egg, which I mopped up with a date scone and washed down with a cup of Earl Grey. Local eggs are vividly yellow, sweet and creamy. Rondout, in the city’s waterfront area, has a sophisticated vibe and is walkable with historic landmarks, public art, antique stores and restaurants. The Stockade District, just a brief taxi-ride away from the waterfront, has bars and clubs that will suit your house guests from NYC who need their noisy friday night before they settle in for a country weekend. Continue reading

Weekend Links: Food & Drink Edition

© J.N. Urbanski 4.50pm

Come to a party at Ella’s Mercantile in Halcottsville on Saturday August 12th beginning at 4pm.

Booze your way to good health with Laura Silverman’s recipe for a thyme cocktail for Well and Good Magazine: “if you feel the inkling of a late-summer cold coming on, it’s the perfect reason to get out your cocktail shaker”. If you need a reason, that is.

I’ve said it before, Pakatakan Farmer’s Market is full of scrumptious food and beverages like sausage pie, vodka, kimchee, restorative herbs and fresh royal jelly in addition to your farmer’s market staples like meat, vegetables, dairy, baked goods, mushrooms, and more booze. Nearby, just up the road, you will find Outsider’s Cafe for breakfast too.

Peace, love and food trucks in Bethel.

A blueberry pie eating contest in Woodstock next Wednesday.

A Summer Party in Halcottsville

© J.N. Urbanski 2.30pm

On Saturday August 12th at 4pm, Ella’s Mercantile is having a summer party in Halcottsville, a favorite haunt of mine. It’s an exquisitely picturesque haven on a large boating lake, through which the historic railroad (DURR) runs. It’s postcard perfect. I’ve taken watercolor classes there; participated in a plein air painting group (with or without attendant goats); interviewed the reverends of the church for a local publication; exhibited my prints in The Grange and tasted tea with a friend. You can stay at Susan’s Pleasant Pheasant Farm and kayak on Lake Wawaka. There’s even a fledgling Shakespeare Company in the works. The whole village is arguably one of the Catskills most beautiful places. Continue reading