Daily Catskills: 6/21/18 Summer Solstice

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81F and mostly sunny, the wild roses have migrated from the road into our 3-acre field, specifically into a patch that we never mow because it’s too rocky. We’ve stopped mowing half the field to help out our new bees and getting a riot of color from the new wild flowers.

Summer Solstice has arrived, the longest day of the year and the shortest night, when the northern hemisphere is tilted as far north as it will go as it orbits the sun. After today, it will begin to swing backwards again until it’s the southern hemisphere’s turn to get all the light.

It’s time to light a big fire, hold hands and drink some vodka like the Swedes do. Over in England, they’ve been frolicking around some very old stones all day.

Go to CNN to find out about all the different celebrations happening on this day all over the world.

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Church of the Robin’s Ha-Ha! John Burroughs’ Natural Religion by Anne Richey

“Talk of Heaven! Ye Disgrace Earth”. Thoreau

Anne Richey, both student and teacher of the works of John Burroughs, the writer and naturalist (1837-1921) from Roxbury, New York, has published an homage to his works in the form of a collection of poetry and prose.

John Burroughs had what Anne Richey describes as an “essentially religious connection to nature. For the famed naturalist and writer, ‘heaven on earth’ was no mere cliche, but a reality”.

His parents were religious and this confounded him. Richey writes: “His parents’ Calvinist preoccupation with the heaven to come seemed to him tragically misguided and counter-productive”. In Burroughs’ time, 150 years ago, the Catskills were mostly deforested by loggers and tanners, so he had to watch his majestic boyhood home dwindle to rolling hills. The trees have now grown back, but for how long will this stalwart chunk of craggy green in the middle of New York state survive?

It’s a matter that hangs heavily in the air here in the Catskills, this mountainous region in Upstate New York, a lush, verdant environment protected only by virtue of being part of the New York City watershed. The Catskills State Park, about 700,000 acres and the surrounding area – its multitude of tributaries and it’s ecosystem – produces all of the city’s pristine drinking water. Gas pipelines snake through the state, on the flat lands either side of the Catskills, which have been protected from the ravages of the oil industry by their elevation and their status as water bearer: the ancient Aquarius in a modern Industrial Age.

Anne’s work is beautiful and unusual, like a private diary, a slim journal incorporating notes, remarks, “found poetry” and lines like the following to inspire the imagination:

“Where an ice-sheet once ground south,
the breath of summer rises
now, and the Hudson basks like a snake
in the sun”.

Find out where to find your copy here.

Anne will be reading her work and discussing it at two events, here in the Catskills: on June 23rd, 2018 at the Catskill Center Book Fair on Route 28 in Mount Tremper and on Saturday July 7th at 5pm at the Woodstock Library Forum.

Bee Dispatch: Week 1

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After a week, the bees are still there, but they appear to have created a couple of swarming cells which is not a good sign. Not entirely sure we still have a queen present, but we have a good smattering of capped drone and brood cells. They drank all the sugar water we installed in the hive with them last week. Over the last week, the have started building out two new, empty frames we installed in the brood box with them with a waxy comb.

On Friday, we added another brood box refilled their sugar water container. I’m told that this may have made them too cold, but the swarm cells possibly contain a new, growing queen, so an extra brood box may stop them all from leaving for a bigger home. Time will tell.

Some outtakes: Continue reading

Pakatakan Farmer’s Market

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The Pakatakan Farmer’s Market is up and running and this year. East Branch Farms are offering a variety of locally grown mushrooms and Madalyn Warren’s delicious kimchee: good probiotics for the gut. This week’s kimchee is rhubarb with ramps, wild dandelion and buchu with ramps. There’s also Honeybee Herbs and Kelley will be on my radio show on Monday on WIOX. Find these and a vast range of local goods, including local publisher, Purple Mountain Press at the Pakatakan Market on 46676 Route 30 in Halcotsville, New York. Saturdays. Hours: 9am to 2pm.

Find out exactly what’s going on from the market’s newsletter.

Please support your local community.

“Food may not be the answer to world peace, but it’s a start”. Anthony Bourdain. Continue reading

Monday’s Radio Show: Beekeeping

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We’re all saddened to have learned of Anthony Bourdain’s passing. He was a tireless advocate for good food, travel and culture and I intend to use my radio show to continue his message by advocating for good food, featuring guests from all over the world.

Monday’s radio show – on WIOX, based in Roxbury, New York – will be about beekeeping with Kelley Edkins of Honeybee Herbs. Join us as we discuss honey products, herbs and all things beekeeping on Monday June 11th at 9am. Click here and scroll down to the middle of the page to find the Adobe Flash Player button. Click the button to stream the show online.

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Catskills Sandwich: Bull & Garland’s Scotch Egg

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Behold, the Bull & Garland Scotch Egg. As a native Brit, I have to say, the egg couldn’t be any more authentic than if we were in England, at a pub, enjoying the rain and warm beer. I don’t know how they get the egg to be runny, but it’s a joy to see the hearty, local, orange yolks running over the warm sausage meat. The grainy mustard isn’t even necessary because the dish is delicious all by itself.

Goldenrod Restaurant

Goldenrod, a seasonal pop-up restaurant focusing on locally sourced food, is opening on June 9th in in Delhi, New York

Goldenrod is the brainchild of Carver Farrell, a native of Bovina, NY, and the former owner of The Pines, a Gowanus, Brooklyn-based restaurant in which he sourced most of his ingredients in the Catskills. Goldenrod will continue in the tradition of The Pines, sourcing the main components of each dish exclusively in Delaware County, and offering local beers, a small wine list, and cocktails built around wild and foraged ingredients.

Upstate Dispatch went downstate and reviewed The Pines almost three years ago. Find that review here. Some of the dishes on that menu at the time were pork shoulder, beef burger sliders, crostini with cranberry ricotta, polenta with roasted Brussels sprouts, kale salad, pheasant soup and a plate of roasted, assorted spuds. They were on their way into winter at that time and Goldenrod’s menu will likely be more summer-themed. Nevertheless, everything at The Pines was delicious, so tasty that nobody bothered to photograph any of it and there were five of us. Sometimes, you just have to put the phone down and enjoy.

Farrell will be joined by a team of three seasoned chefs that have worked at some of the finest eateries in the world, including Gramercy Tavern, Daniel, Del Posto, Prune, Le Bernadine, and Union Square Café. The menu will change nightly based on the freshest ingredients available on any given day.

Goldenrod will open on June 9th. Dinner is available Thursdays through Sundays through Fall 2018 with a bar menu available as well.

Goldenrod
53 Main Street, Delhi, NY
Thursdays through Sunday 4:00pm to 10:30pm
Kitchen opens at 5:30

For reservations, contact 607.746.8875 or 607goldenrod@gmail.com

Bee All You Can Bee

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Upstate Dispatch is now the proud owner of a nucleus (“nuc”) of bees developed for us by a Hudson Valley beekeeper and after picking them up, and driving them home, through the Catskills for over an hour, they were pretty agitated. Not for them the excitement of driving over the top of Kaaterskill Peak, past Kaaterskill Falls in enigmatic fog. We installed them in their new home, gave them sugar solution and fresh water, but they remained pissed off for several hours, buzzing around the hive frantically and attempting to sting us. When bees are pissed off, they fly angrily, darting around like little black bullets, all in perfect unison.

When you pick up your bees, you should do so at twilight, after they have come back to their nuc or hive to rest. Drive them under cover of dusk and install them in the hive after dark. We did none of this because the timing was all wrong. The nuc was suddenly ready, without ample warning and we weren’t able to plan very well, but this is the essence of farming. You do the best you can and Mother Nature does whatever she wants.  Continue reading

Daily Catskills: 06/03/18

An overcast morning at 60F with a chilly breeze and hazy horizon, rising to a 65F high with brief interludes of afternoon sun and intermittent light rain showers.

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Lilac Syrup

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Lilac blooms don’t last long, at high elevations at least. A reminder of the fleeting nature of the seasons, the blossoms begin to brown and drop off barely week after the all buds on each stem have opened. It makes sense to snip a few to put in a vase or soak a couple of cups in syrup. Lilac syrup makes a subtle floral soda and pairs well with gin.

Lilac Syrup

1 cup of water
1 cup of sugar
2 cups of lilac blossoms, flowers only, not stems

You can make more syrup, but the ratio must be the same: 1:1 of water and sugar. Slowly boil the sugar and water together until the sugar has dissolved and let it simmer gently for on low for a minute until it’s syrupy. The thicker you want your syrup to be, the longer you should simmer it. Wait until the mixture has cooled a little: you don’t want to burn the flowers, but you want the mixture to be hot enough. Rinse the flowers in cold water and add them to the syrup. Stir the flowers gently into the liquid until they are soaked in syrup. Cover and steep overnight.

In the morning, strain the syrup a couple of times and bottle. Unless you preserve the syrup by canning or other means, it will last for a few months in the fridge.

Mix on ounce of syrup with six ounces of club soda and pour over ice.

Catskills Cocktail: Vodka Soda with Rhubarb Syrup

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Simple syrup season is here – the time where we have lilacs, forsythia and other blossoms to soak in sugar water to make floral or fruit sodas and cocktails.

My rhubarb/vodka cocktail is called a Catskills cocktail is because we have burgeoning rhubarb with very little effort on our mountaintop here in the Catskills. Alan White of Two Stones Farm told us years ago to grow what thrives in abundance on your property and swap with your neighbors. So we’ve been growing rhubarb as thick as broomsticks for years. Animals avoid the leaves because they’re poisonous and because the rhubarb itself is bitter, but the fruit provides useful nutrients and fibre. The tartness of the rhubarb pairs well with the vodka. I also like to add a sprig or two of rosemary when cooking the syrup as I think the flavors pair well. Just the soda alone – the rhubarb juice and the sparkling water together – is delicious and refreshing. You can also use the rhubarb syrup as you would a liqueur in Prosecco or Champagne. Continue reading

Daily Catskills: 05/22/18

Continual rain until mid-afternoon, as summer falters. Overcast and dripping wet with a high of 59F.

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Daily Catskills: 05/21/18

A high of 80F and hot with the landscape lush with an extraordinary abundance of blossoms and wild flowers. Summer’s here.

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Trail Blazing

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In the midst of cabin fever the winter before last I was out in the freezing, driving rain with the dog and decided to make a trail out of an old logging road on our property. We’d been using this trail through the forest, the dog and I, for some time and, unexpectedly – because it was about -10F at the time – the urge to start a trail came over me. To this day, I’ve no idea what prompted this move, but back then I just didn’t want to go back inside. I traipsed around in the forest for a couple of hours collecting large stones with which to line the trail until I was soaking wet and my woolen gloves had numbed my hands. Over the past year, we’ve added to it by lining the trail with a branches that look like they might one day thicken like a hedgerow. Continue reading

Daily Catskills: 05/10/18

A high of 70F with huge, scene-stealing clouds and intermittent rain showers. Humid with early evening fog descending into the valleys and rising off the Esopus. Shoots a-shooting. Buds a-budding and the maple leaves unravel first. The forest comes alive and the soft earth ejects a few ancient objects.

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Cultivating Lion’s Mane Mushroom

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I first encountered lion’s mane mushroom last August on a hiking trail. It was growing on a dead log and I took half of it home and sautéed it with scrambled eggs. It was delicious, meaty and delicately fragrant with the texture of lobster. The mushroom is a powerhouse of beneficial nutrients and is said to improve neurological function and alleviate anxiety.

After searching high and low for the rest of the summer, I never saw it again. So,  I bought a grow kit from Catskills Fungi (pictured below) in December. Continue reading

Daily Catskills: 05/06/18

57F and raining all day. Seeds sprouting. Ramps thriving, but the memory of a long, hard winter is not yet cold. Harvesting wood to season for next year.

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Daily Catskills: 05/03/18

A high of 85F, overcast, humid with morning sun and then frequent, refreshing afternoon rain showers being the only thing that stop the flies from dive-bombing our eyeballs. Hazy like mother nature accidentally dropped a bag of flour somewhere on the horizon.

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Birding in the Catskills

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If you’d have told me ten years ago that I would become a bird watcher, I would have told you to shut up and pass the whisky, but the truth is that birding is yet another remarkable stress reliever of the natural world, a brief distraction from daily worries in which you can focus on something completely different even for a few minutes.

The ability to forget your troubles, even for an hour, will save you more than a few grey hairs and there’s nothing more pressing right now than conservation of nature and the environment. Bird watching is another useful way to get involved. Anywhere there is park land, you’l find birds.

A modern approach to birding would be, of course, an app on the phone. Cornell University offers such an app, called Merlin, for free and, if you turn on location services for this app and submit the date and identification of every bird you spot on your property, whatever species you find gets recorded in their database. The app offers color pictures of birds, recordings of their calls, drums and tweets. This helps the university monitor bird species and, in return, you get forget to where you are, or what day it is, for a few minutes while you’re walking the dog while you stare at a species of woodpecker for half an hour wondering if it’s a downy or a hairy. You will play the song 20 times. Then you can play it’s drum 20 times and, then, ask the dog, who is now wondering what’s up there, several times, because it’s cloudy: “is that a red streak on its head”? The dog will choose not to divulge any information on the subject whatsoever, but will simply stare at you wondering where breakfast is. The second time, you’ll remember to bring the binoculars. After having used the app for a few days, it’s clear that no one bird song is the same as another even in the same bird. There are variations in every species possibly depending on the season, temperature, how high the bird is or how old, but it’s exhilarating to accidentally call over a chipping sparrow, who’s sporting some unusually beautiful plumage ordinarily only seen in spring when he’s interested in making some new chicks.

You can find information for beginner birders here. You can learn about “birding by ear”, which makes more sense than birding by sight, and all sorts of useful information on the subject at the Audubon website.

Bird watching is encouraged at the Mountain Top Arboretum in Tannersville.

There’s a “falcon whisperer” that goes to the top of bridges to monitor the bird population. Presumably, he’s in control of any vertigo. He will speak at the Catskill Center in June.

Some birding events coming up in the Catskills:

The Warbler Weekend, run by the Catskill Center in Mount Tremper on May 25th and 27th.

Taking Flight: A Birding Conference at the Ashokan Center on June 10th to 12th.

Daily Catskills: 05/01/18

77F by the afternoon, with mostly clear skies. Birds chirping. Blooms and leaves continue to bud like they weren’t covered in snow yesterday. Most of the snow melted by dusk, even on the ski slopes.

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Daily Catskills: 04/30/18

36F at 8am, snowing heavily, with the mountains shrouded in the thick fog of our profound resignation. We live in the mountains and, consequently, get all the weather. We catch all precipitation however cold it may be. The budding maple leaves that have been reddening the bare, umber brush like a light rash are covered once again in white powder for most of the day. Locals say that the weather was always like this and that back in the day, there was nothing planted before Memorial Day. Plus, of course, water is life. Keep it flowing.

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Daily Catskills: 04/29/18

A high of 45F and overcast, with icy rain, a flurry of snow, the occasional flash of late afternoon rain and mist settling in the mountains. The leaves of the Trout Lily spring up over the forest floor like spring’s green army.

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