28F by mid-afternoon and bright and sunny with rolling clouds. Toe-numbing coldness until the afternoon.
A wide stretch of electric blue, after a week of low light and vibrant snow storms. Clouds sailing quickly along like they have warmer places to be. So many fresh tracks in the snow made it look like a Million Animal March. Perhaps there was an unofficial wildlife conference last night? 24F by mid-afternoon.
It’s good to know when to give up and turn around and yesterday was one of those days. Rusk Mountain, a bushwhack that seemed easy on paper, was an almost vertical ascent the way we went, covered in a layer of thick snow, making it difficult to maintain traction even in snow shoes. After an hour of climbing, slipping, sliding and clinging to tree branches, the final straw was the formiddable rock ledge (pictured above) that greeted me about 20 minutes from the top. There were tracks up the side of this ledge from hikers that were ahead of us, but the snow was crumbly and there were no tree roots or rocks for support. Plus, I was cold, fatigued and we had started too late, so we were in a bit of a rush. Last time I ignored the conditions, I slid 30 feet down a mountain and slammed into a tree. I learned my lesson back then.
29F at 10am, snow flurries, turbulent sky, with flashes of blue.
Leave it to the inestimable Park Rangers to impress us with their louche cool and a rogue Twitter account – and those fantastic outfits. Get all the other hilarious rogue Twitter accounts here at CNN from NASA and other regional Park Service employees.
Tonight, a Scottish Weekend begins at the historical Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz.
Catskill Park Coalition Information Session at the Catskill Center tomorrow, Saturday January 28th.
Next Friday, February 3rd, The Annual Winter Hoot at the Ashokan Center.
For writers, a Museum of Linguistics is arriving in Washinton DC called “Planet Word”.
Upstate Dispatch Retro Links
A local cocktail, Vly Creek Vodka Lemonade with local maple syrup and vodka.
My description of the most breathtakingly beautiful climb on the Catskills 35, Balsam Mountain. My first peak on my mission to hike the Catskills 35, Panther Mountain. By the way, don’t steal signs! Hikers rely on them.
My thoughts on being introduced to camping.
A spring day out to plan: a swim in Big Pond, then a visit to buy some local trout.
31F at 9am, light breeze, milky sky, six inches of overnight snow.
34F by 2pm, overcast, gloomy, with mild overnight ice storm having left few inches of gravelly ice that were topped by six inches of afternoon snow on the peaks. Slushy, muddy valleys.
Early morning fog hovering in the valleys and 50F by mid-afternoon with slushy snow on the peaks, running waterfalls and brilliant sunshine.
34F at 9am, overcast, recovering from overnight ice storm. Every leaf, branch, blade, needle trapped in a glassy prison. House covered in icy granola.
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.
Ted Sheridan is more architect that artist, having designed the cozy studio attached to the house that he and Amy Masters share. He went into architecture because of his love of drawing which he has done since he was young: technical drawing and line drawing in pencil. “Even though computers have taken over the traditional drawing and drafting, I still hand draw a lot of my projects,” he says. As far as his artwork is concerned: “architecture is so controlled and precise, I was looking for ways to work in a medium that would work against that and be unpredictable, not be in control all the time.”
17F by noon and calm with the sun straining through another frosted sky.
9F at 9am, calm and quiet with the sun straining though a sky like gauze. 15F by mid-afternoon with light, glittering snowfall.
17F by noon with a sky made of gray-blue glass and crunchy snow underfoot like chopped meringue.
18F at 10am with a dusting of crunchy overnight snow and a very brief, early morning theatrical sky that looked like a rippling New England stormy sea when I went to the local farmer for a gallon of milk, and cleared up by the time I got home.
If you thought farm work ceased over the winter, think again. Before Christmas, Kristi Burnett of Burnett Farms in Bovina Center was figuring out the water system for the pigs: they have a boar, two sows and a couple of piglets to “winterize”. At the beginning of December, the pond had frozen and when they ran the hose, it froze. They put a heater in one of their big cow troughs, so they can pull water out of it. December and January are months during which the Burnetts work out ideas for the forthcoming season. Farmers swap notes and share ideas at community dinners. “You definitely need a bit of rest time, but if you have animals you have to take care of them. The fence goes, water freezes, you carry buckets of grain and you’re slipping. It’s hard.”
Lisbeth Firmin is a studio artist and the bitter Catskills winters present a chance to hole up and focus after a summer spent mostly teaching in upstate New York and New England. Although most of her subjects are in transit, either walking deeply in thought or musing by the window of a moving train, they are rendered indoors. “It’s cozy in the studio and there’s less demand on your time in the winter” she says, not to mention her steep driveway that becomes dangerous when it ices over, prohibiting visitors.
Being in the studio full-time is “like being in a monastery. It’s very ascetic: depriving yourself like a hermit, wearing same clothes every day and painting every day,” she says. “I think it was Milton Avery who said, in his work as an artist, if you just approach it like a job, even only just two or three hours a day every day, you’ll be surprised what you can get done”.
We asked Bebert for one of his favorite recipes and he submitted a chicken tagine, which we tried for the first time by turning it vegan a few weeks ago and you can find our recipe here. Here’s the recipe for the original chicken dish, using Bebert’s own preserved lemons and spices.
Chicken, Preserved Lemons with Olives & Almonds
1 Chicken 3-4 lbs, cut into 8 pieces
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6-8 cardamom seeds
½ teaspoon pepper
(Or substitute 2 tablespoons of Bebert’s organic spice blend for the above spices)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, sliced in half rounds
1-2 slices of preserved lemon including pulp and juice
(lemons are preserved in salt… not necessary to add more salt)
1 cup kalamata olives, pitted
½ cup dried raisins
½ cup sliced almonds
¼ cup white wine
¼ cup chopped, fresh cilantro
¼ cup chopped fresh, flat-leaf parsley
Put all ingredients together in a tagine, Dutch oven or casserole. Let marinate in refrigerator for at least 20 minutes. Cook on 350F oven for 2 hours.
39F by noon with mostly clear skies.
Today, December 21st, is Winter Solstice, officially the first day of winter. The northern hemisphere of the earth is pointed the farthest away from the sun and, tonight begins its slow return towards it until the June Solstice of 2017. The ancient tradition of Yuletide, one of the oldest winter celebrations in Europe began this morning and will end on January 1st, 2017. Yuletide was a fire festival celebrated by the Northern Europeans. Pre-Zoroastrian Persians and ancient Romans celebrated something similar before the common era. Hannukah, the ancient Jewish festival of lights takes place almost concurrently with Yule this year, starting December 24th. The most enduring British tradition from Yuletide is the Yule Log, a small firestarter from a larger bonfire that was shared with many households by landowners in England. Evergreen trees were fashioned into wreaths and other decorations for the interior of the house for their refreshing smell. The Brits still make cakes fashioned into Yule logs and, of course, we still bring in pine trees, decorate them with lights, but now we call it Christmas. Happy Solstice!
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.
Amy Masters and Ted Sheridan share an elegant and softly lit studio in Arvkille, which they had built as an addition onto their Catskills home three years ago. This winter will be the third winter they’ve worked in it. Warmly inviting, the studio is decorated in muted tones, covered in art and filled with books and trinkets collected over the years. Winter is a time for thought and meditation, especially when there’s a foot or two of snow accumulated outside and your studio is the warmest part of the house, like Masters’ is.
Marcey Brownstein is the proprietor of Marcey Brownstein Catering serving the Hudson Valley, Catskills, NYC, the Tri-State area and beyond since 2001. She moved to the Catskills full-time in 2012, settling in Woodland Valley, one of the the most picturesque and historical valleys in the Catskills. Her favorite winter recipe is Shepherd’s Pie, a rib-sticking favorite.
A frigid 27F by mid-afternoon with squally snow showers and thick snow on the peaks.
My piece in Edible Hudson Valley’s Winter Issue on Wayside Cider was published this week. I wrote a long profile of owners Irene Hussey and Alex Wilson, a short version of which appears in the Whisk section in the front of the magazine. What I had not submitted for publication, was the results of the photoshoot I did with Alex Wilson of Wayside Cider, that took place in Andes. I followed him around with the camera, over hills and dales, while he foraged for apples. Edited out of the published piece was a brief paragraph or two on the humble Catskills apple.
New York State has been an apple state since before the first settlers decreed that each household should have its own orchard back in the sixteenth century. A wave of planting crept up and down the Eastern seaboard shortly after the settlers arrival, but Native Americans were cultivating apples long before then. Andes is, in fact, adjacent to the homesteads that were once historic Shavertown, one of the first settlements in the area and home to an ancient apple orchard that was planted hundreds of years ago by Native Americans. Sadly, both ancient orchard and town are now submerged under hundreds of feet of water that is the Pepacton Reservoir.
Still only 26F by 2pm, blustery with a glittering sky.
All over the Catskills you can find ancient shells, clam-like fossils and other marine life partially buried in the sandstone because, during the Devonian period, the Catskills were at the bottom of the sea, somewhere around the Bahamas. The Devonian Period was 400 million years ago and since then the Americas have moved farther north to the position they are in today. On hikes to places like Slide, Giant Ledge and Panther Mountain, the rocks look like they had pebbles thrown at them while they were molten. According to Catskill Mountaineer, Panther Mountain sits on top of a meteorite hit that happened 375 million years ago. In the middle of the picture above, taken on Slide Mountain, you will see what looks like the remnants of a curling shell.
Bread Alone’s warm cauliflower egg sandwich was on the specials’ menu on Monday in two thick slices of their delicious health bread. This time it has some sort of orange sauce plus cheese. The cheesy cauliflower goes well with the soft, slightly chewy wholewheat bread and the warm scrambled egg just melts in the mouth. Scrumptious.
37F at 1pm with a glassy sky and an overnight layer of snow.
39F by noon with mostly clear skies.
34F by noon, with a gunmetal grey sky and a fresh layer of snow.
Chris Bradley has been Phoenicia Diner‘s executive chef since May of this year. He picked his favorite winter dish, which is currently being considered for the new menu that comes out next week and it’s delicious. The duck was tender and juicy, the vegetables perfectly roasted and not salty. A gorgeous winter recipe that’s rib sticking, but won’t sit heavily in your stomach. Plus, it’s no longer a mystery as to how their grits are so utterly mouthwatering. Here’s the recipe for it.
Cider Braised Duck, Butternut Squash & Brussels Spouts
47F by noon with continuous rain, grey and gloomy.
50F by mid-afternoon, raining and overcast.
Saturday December 3rd 2pm
Function or Form: Utilitarian Art Exhibit, Erpf Gallery, Arkville, NY
The exhibit, Function or Form: Utilitarian Art, will be on display in the Erpf Gallery December 3rd, 2016 through January 21st, 2017. It features beautiful functional items by 17 local artists. An Artist’s Reception will be held on Saturday, December 3rd, from 2pm-4pm, at the Erpf Center in Arkville.
45F by noon, warmer with hazy sunshine and snow melting.
As winter draws closer and dusk settles at 4.30pm, the tendency is to batten down the hatches, fire up the wood stove and curl up on the sofa with a book. This is also the perfect way to get cabin fever and it’s easy to go days or even weeks without socializing. The Brits handle their cabin fever by frequent attendance down the pub. A gloomy British winter – one that extends all the way from summer’s end to the following summer – would be unbearable without a local pub. Hobart now has one, The Bull & Garland and I think we’ve mentioned here how truly authentic and cozy it is. Hobart is called the Catskills’ “book village” and it’s modeled after another British tradition: Hay on Wye’s annual book festival.
Co-incidentally, Creative Corner Books in Hobart, a stone’s throw from the pub, is hosting a jewelry-making class on December 8th from 7pm to 8.30pm. It really couldn’t get any better: a few pints, a Scotch egg, books, more books and then some hilarious wrangling with a pair of tweezers and some tiny beads – or the other way around. Run by Heather Rolland, the class will teach the basics of earring making. The cost is $15 per pair of earrings inclusive of instruction and materials.
Creative Corner Books, 607 Main Street, Hobart, NY (607) 386-2525
The Bull & Garland, 760 Main St, Hobart, NY 13788 (607) 538-3006
45F by noon, overcast with receding snow.
35 by 2pm, overcast and snowing.
35F by noon with hazy cloud and bright sunshine.
30F by noon, overcast and windy.
27F by noon, light breeze and glassy, grey sky, snow for most of the afternoon.
30F by mid-afternoon, with thick, deep overnight snow. Overcast and blustery.
Support local producers and shop locally for your holiday gifts this year. Shopping locally benefits the local community in countless ways. Every dollar spent in your local community benefits that community by 5-7 dollars. Here’s a list of crafts, food and bodycare products from Christmas stocking stuffers and gifts for colleagues and friends, to more expensive gifts that go under the family tree. Below find our best picks for scrumptious local food, beautiful gifts and local crafts.
SPECIALITY FOOD & DRINK
Everyone loves food. Bebert’s Moroccan Cafe in Fleischmanns has a wealth of beautifully packaged herbs, sweets, condiments and spices that make fabulous gifts for the home cook. Special items are the Spices Des Fes blend for making tagine, preserved lemons, fruit compotes and Casablanca chutney. Perfect stocking stuffers or make great gifts for friends and colleagues.
Grab a bottle or two of Wayside Cider when you’re next in Andes and, maybe stop awhile for a quick refreshing apertif on your way to a dinner party.
Enjoy their tap room and pick up a bottle of locally distilled vodka at Union Grove Distillery in Arkville.
If you’re in Margaretville and feel like something sweet or need a sweet gift, The Cheese Barrel stocks mouth-watering cookies like Bahlsen, Italian chocolate, nougat, jarred condiments, tea, coffee and jams that make great stocking stuffers or dinner party gifts. At Homegoods of Margaretville you’ll find everything the modern cook could want from cute salt and pepper shakers to Le Creusette pans and everything in between. They also stock tea, lotions, cookbooks and spices.
Tay Tea has a shop in Delhi selling all things tea: a large selection of house-blended tea, teapots, arts and crafts. Their tea is beautiful and stylishly packaged. If you’re looking to give up coffee, their Coffee Lover’s Tea is a wholesome, flavorful alternative with light caffeine content.
For authentic local maple syrup go here to read local guide published earlier in the year.
The Catskills have the finest lotions, potions and unguents on offer made by hand by local artisans. Click here for our guide published earlier this year.
Catskills Northern Essentials
Northern Essentials products are fabulous. Yes, a single bar of soap can change your day! Perfect for small gifts and wedding favors, they are beautifully packaged, make a creamy lather and contain comforting essential oils like rose and invigorating lemongrass. There’s a wide range of soaps to choose from, using speciality ingredients like goat’s milk, sea buckthorn, pine tar and activated charcoal.
Lady Bug Soap, 42 Creamery Road, Greenville, NY
Lee Lewis started making her own lotions, soaps and potions to cope with eczema. She has over 80 products available including bug and tick repellents. Her hand soap is gentle on dry hands and lightly aromatic, a perfect foil for winter dryness. Store hours are Thursday & Friday 3pm – 7pm and Saturday 11am- 3pm. You can also shop online at Lady Bug Soap.
LOCAL STOCKISTS & GENERAL STORES
Here are our three favorite general stores to support this holiday season, stocking all your essentials.
The Roxbury General Store, 53538 State Highway 30, Roxbury, NY 12474
The General Store has some seriously classy, high-quality local gifts for everyone your life, whether it’s a colleague, friend or family member. You also have the added bonus of perhaps catching a wine tasting on the opposite corner at Roxbury Wines & Spirits.
The Blue Barn, 7053 Route 28, Shandaken, NY 12480
The Blue Barn has always been reasonably priced and a great go-to for antiques and more modern items from local furniture dealers and craftspeople. A no-brainer if you’re passing through or for locals: an Upstate Dispatch favorite. Read our write-up of the Blue Barn here. Check their facebook page for their winter hours which are usually weekends only.
Lucky Dog Farm Store, 35796 State Highway 10 (Main Street), Hamden, NY 13782
This delightful general store is a one-stop shop for all manner of high-quality food, condiments, clothing, kitchenware, lotions, soaps, candles and wool products. They stock Jos Vulto’s delicious cheese, local honey and many, many other speciality local products. They also deliver and offer case orders at a 20% discount. Go here to see their extensive product list. Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday.
ARTS & CRAFTS
Catskill Mountain Artisan’s Guild, Main Street, Margaretville, NY
The Artisan’s Guild offers an extensive range of high-quality arts and crafts like painted silk, leather goods and jewelry and has the benefit of being open all week long.
MURAL on Main, 631 Main Street, Hobart, NY 13788
The Gallery Gift Shop at MURAL began several years ago as a way to support their endeavours to promote art in the region. Proceeds from the gift shop keep the fine art gallery open to the public free of charge, keep the costs of their invaluable workshops and events low, and provide an additional revenue stream for local artisans. You can also find Solveig Comer’s Most Precious Pottery here.
Bovina Brown Bats, Bovina Center, NY
Bovina Brown Bats is run by owner John Virga, a graphic artist and carpenter who makes custom bat boxes in addition to other things. The best time to put up a bat box is in the Spring.
Arkville Bread Breakfast, 43285 State Route 28, Arkville, NY 12406
This legendary sandwich shop, beloved by all, run by Jack, is having a local, holiday market on Black Friday featuring a selection from the Upstate Dispatch Daily Catskills Collection, Steve Burnett’s metalworks (pictured above), Catskill Clothing Company and other local craftspeople. Steve Burnett makes striking metalwork sculptures (pictured above), watercolors and drawings. His last show was at Rachel’s Framing and Fine Art in Delhi.
2nd Annual Holiday Pop-Up Market, 778 Main Street, Margaretville, NY.
Last year’s market was a “phenomenal success”, so this year’s holiday market will be expanding into two days, November 25th and 26th, 10am – 5pm. Local crafts, clothing and jewelry including Halia Grace jewelry and more.
Support local artists by shopping in the Catskills for holiday gifts. As the quote goes, “vote with your wallet for the kind of change you want to see in the world”. Consumer power is real. If you stop buying products produced overseas, fewer will be imported. The latest economic conversion metric for shopping locally is: every dollar spent locally benefits that community to the value of 5-7 dollars. Support your local artists.
50F by noon after a moody morning with swirling cloud, clearing up by mid-afternoon
To an immigrant, the value of a taste of home can’t be overstated. When that taste of home is of such a high standard there’s all manner of excitement. Bull & Garland, a British-style pub with grub in Hobart, began operation as an inn this past summer and now they offer food available to eat at their cozy bar or in their dining room. Theirs is a fledgling operation with a limited but superb and authentic menu and a fine selection of beer, wine and spirits.
43F by 8.30am with mid-morning rain. Thickly overcast and misty.
37F at 8.30am and chilly.
48F by mid-afternoon, thickly overcast, misty and raining.
62F by 2pm, with wispy cloud and warm in the sun.
36F at 8.30am with clear skies and warm in the sun. 55F by mid-afternoon.
Jeff Vincent of Catskill Mountain Wild is running a Bushwhacking 101 class next week, Saturday November 12th, on Rusk Mountain. Apparently, it’s No-Trail-November and now that the trees are almost bare, trail-less hiking is much easier.
In this class you will learn how to bushwhack safely and properly; go over basic map and compass reading; learn how to navigate the land. This is described as a hands-on class and culminates in hiking to the summit of Rusk, which is one of the hikes required to complete the Catskills 35.
The group will be meeting at 9am on Spruceton Road in West Kill, NY, one of the most picturesque valleys in the Catskills. The Spruceton Inn will be giving the group 50% discount on drinks at their bar after the hike. Hike to the top of a mountain and then sip half-price drinks as the sun goes down in the beautiful Catskills: a guaranteed good time.
Jeff Vincent is a guide licensed by the NYS DEC, certified in First Aid & CPR, a 2014 Appalachian Trail thru-hiker and Catskill 3500 Club member.
50F by mid-afternoon, humid with a light breeze and overcast.