Gloomy and chilly with rain for most of the day, and a high of 56F. A watery, soggy first day of Fall.
A bright day with cloud like a thin veil, and one big fluffy cloud that looked lost. A high of 69F and another fiery sunset. The last day of summer.
A chilly sunrise with overnight frost whitening the flora, and steaming mist rising into a crystal clear sky. A crisp day, with a high of 69F and the landscape looking like it’s slowly being sanded down. This is the penultimate day of summer.
Warm and sunny, with wispy bits of cloud like someone didn’t clean up the sky properly and a high of 70F. Overnight lows dipping into the thirties. Frost warning.
An overcast and gloomy morning clearing up mid-afternoon to late evening and a clear blue sunset. Chilly with some sprinkles and a high of 64F. Lows in the fifties.
Gloomy and raining, with all-day foggy mist creeping around the mountains, creating a enigmatic day and a high of 65F.
A chill in the air, and warm in the sun but mostly overcast with a flat swathes of menacing cloud. Late afternoon rain and a high of 67F.
Warm and sunny, mostly clear with a high of 71F.
A high of 67F, and sunny despite some flat cloud cover that transformed into a fiery sunset.
A heavily misty, dewy morning, lightening up to become sunny and warm with a high of 68F.
Gloomy and rainy, with intermittent showers leaving a trail of thick mist in their wake. A high of 71F and humid. The goldenrod is enjoying this late summer.
Bright and warm with scattered clouds like a handful of odd, mismatched clouds were chucked in the air, and a high of 79F.
Gloomy: overcast and dull with misty late afternoon rain and a high of 75F.
Muggy, still and overcast with low cloud and a high of 77F. Late afternoon drizzle gave way to some patches of blue. A barely discernible reddening of the landscape. The greens aren’t giving up yet.
Morning fog hugged the peaks. Some gauzy, thick afternoon cloud. A high of 83F. Post-sunset rain.
Yes, I’m still here! I know some of you can’t believe it. It is, however, the 9th birthday of Upstate Dispatch and this is the 2,355th post. Yes, I persist. The Daily Catskills section began again this year on September 1st for the fall season, but it’s just too much work to maintain it year-round. (BTW, there are a few splotches of red in the foliage here and there, and in small pockets, mostly shady areas, we have piles of fallen leaves, but because of the heat, it still feels like summer. Try telling that to the tomatoes, though.)
If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I have mostly been focusing on art, and writing. I’m working on a memoir, not because I’m special, but because there’s a story here that I need to tell. Part of this story was published in Farmerish and it was well-received. You can read it here.
I will be publishing an introduction, some excerpts, and companion pieces to this memoir on Substack: a “new economic engine for culture”, which is a paid newsletter that gives writers a chance to earn a living. For those of you who are interested in paying a very small subscription for my content. Here’s a chance to find out more about who I am. I hope to see you there!
Finally, I often go out for lunch, breakfast or dinner in the Catskills and hear about how Upstate Dispatch has helped local businesses. I really appreciate the feedback and thank everyone for their support.
Jenny Neal 9/9/23
Another steamy day, overcast and dry with a high of 83F. Post-sunset torrential downpours cool the evening air.
A steamy day. Hot and humid, with plump, fluffy cloud and a high of 89F. Mid-afternoon thunder and rain that took a pause for sunset and then continued with epic house-rattling thunder and lightning after dark. Some epic weather.
Heavy and humid, mostly sunny with a high of 90F, but cool in the shade. Sweaty.
A foggy sunrise with morning mist dissolving into the air. A high of 87F with some gauzy cloud: steamy and humid.
Early morning sprinkles, but otherwise sunny despite big, chunky clouds like a rumpled duvet, and humid with a high of 83F. The last of the downed hay needs to be dried out before its baled because of the overnight rain.
Warm and sunny with a high of 82F. Day 4 of haying: bringing the bales down off the mountain and “tedding” the second cutting.
A very rainy summer is coming to a dry, sunny end – well, fingers crossed, as summer’s not officially over until September 22nd this year. I have mostly been focused on my fine art studies at Andes Academy of Art. Every Wednesday, there is a figure drawing session with a live nude model, from 4pm-7pm at Streamside Yoga, 509 Main Street Andes that only stops during the darkest depths of a Catskills winter (and word is that we’re in for a bad winter). Local artists Lisbeth Firmin, Steven Burnett, Gary Mayer, Peter Mayer, William Duke, Sandy Finkenberg attend this class, and it’s been a thrill to be influenced by the best artists in the Catskills, and although my sketching is getting so much better, my watercolor is what sells.
This year I launched a print version of Upstate Dispatch – a magazine – that was well-received, but did not sell well. I’ve caught up with the retailers of the magazine who said that customers did not want to pay $20 for the magazine. I’ve mulled this over with booksellers and local artists, and we’ve come up with the theory that people see magazines as disposable and don’t want to pay for them. I collect some magazines, and all my artist colleagues – about 30 friends – all bought a copy of Upstate Dispatch because they see it as art.
This theory is proven by the fact that our sketch sale to benefit The Heart of the Catskills animal shelter at the Andes Academy of Art this week was mobbed by customers who were happy to pay $20 for a rough sketch or watercolor that took less than 20 minutes to draw in our figure drawing classes. The whole show of about a hundred works that were tacked up on the wall unframed, was almost sold out.
It really opened my eyes to what sells and what is valued. Art is, after all, a commodity. Periodicals, not so much.
This brings me to books. A local bookseller told me last night that nobody wants to buy books either! Journalists’ salaries have been in significant decline for decades, but do people really want all words to be free? How’s a writer supposed to live? Despite this, Upstate Dispatch celebrates its 9th birthday this year. Thank you to all who read regularly and, an extra thank you to a handful of you who contribute (through the donation page). Plans are in the works for an art studio and gallery. I hope you’ll come and visit.
Day 3 of haying in the Dry Brook Valley, mostly clear and sunny, a high of 72F, with late afternoon cotton wool cloud and some post-sunset sprinkles. Jewel weed is thriving down by the river.
Sunny and clear with a high of 80F. Tall goldenrod stems swing in a gentle breeze and its Day 2 of a hay window in the Dry Brook Valley.
The year 1992 was dubbed by The Queen of England to be her Annus Horribilis – a common Latin term for horrible year – after parts of Windsor castle burned down along with some of its priceless historical artifacts.
This year is farmer Jake Fairbairn’s Annus Hay-ribilis, an extraordinarily bad hay season, the worst in his entire decades-long career on the farm, due to this summer’s incessant rain. Nobody’s going to get that reference, Jake told me, but I just couldn’t think of another hay pun.
I didn’t think the reference was that well-known until along came The Crown on Netflix, which I stopped watching after Season 2. Being a Londoner, I had watched the real thing play out in British newspapers growing up and that was enough for me. No Brit who was old enough in 1992 can forget the images of the sour-faced Queen picking through the castle wreckage in her Welly boots and headscarf, tutting over charred objects that had been once admired by the likes of Henry VIII.Continue reading
The very first post on Upstate Dispatch on September 9th, 2014, which you can find here, was a post on my first watercolor completed under the tutelage of Alix Travis. After ten years, this watercolor is up for sale at the Andes Academy of Art on 506 Main Street, Andes, NY 13731.
The opening of the show is on July 15th, 2023 from 2pm to 6pm and curated by Peter Mayer.
Hope to see you there!
It’s been a while since I wrote with any regularity here, and I need to get back to my roots as a writer, so I started a new project: documenting the history and workings of this 93-year-old working farm to which I moved exactly two years ago: Lazy Crazy Acres Farm and its resident farmer Jake Fairbairn who makes hay and maple syrup on 100 acres. It’s a collaboration between Lazy Crazy Acres Farm and Upstate Dispatch. The farm is in need of some serious TLC. The house needs renovating and the farm equipment needs constant repair. Will we be able to fix up the house in time for the farm’s centenary? Who knows? But we have started by fixing the back porch, which was falling down.
You can follow along on the Instagram.
Farming is a hugely risky endeavor. The weather is boss and this has been an extraordinary year in that this is the first year that Jake has not been able to make hay in June. In May 2023 we had a month of drought conditions: browned grass and hay growth that was only about 60% of last year’s mass. In June we have had near-constant rain. At time of writing, July 4th, Jake is fixing the steering wheel on one of the farm’s 50-year-old tractors, because it is still raining.
Furthermore, it’s not only good practice for me as a writer, but I also feel the need to publish my own authentic story. To this end, my next post will be a piece of my memoir that was published two years ago in Farmerish.net, which I am publishing for the first time here on Upstate Dispatch.
Thank you for reading!
No sooner did I stop posting Daily Catskills on 5/31/23, than along came a swirling dark cloud of wildfire smoke that choked the Catskills, and much of the North East of the US, in a thick, dirty shroud unlike we’ve seen before in this area in living memory.
Historically, June has always been a bit boring for pictures, but not this year. Ordinarily, by the month of June, the Catskills has filled in with its multifarious greens, and daily shots during the summer all seem the same, so I suspend the Daily Catskills genre until autumn when the real colors start to pop. But this year in June, one hundred burning wildfires in Canada traveled on prevailing winds – looking much like a tornado from satellite images – blowing a layer of orange, sooty, ashy smoke for two days from Monday night (June 5th) until Thursday morning (June 8th). The sky became shades of orange, blue and grey – and blazing red around our bloodshot eyes. Everybody looked like they’d been up all night partying, coughing like they’d just smoked 20 cigarettes.
Moreover, it all got a little unnervingly chilly under that massive cloud of wildfire like we were in a Cormac McCarthy novel, I wondered, should we get the cart and starting walking??
But it all blew over.
The moral of the story is that we are all connected. It’s never been more obvious that the struggles of our neighbors are also our concern. Huge fires that burn thousands of miles away send smoke signals around the world, heralding the alert of climate change.
To compound the issue, we have had an unseasonably dry spring here in the Catskills and still have the big beige patches of crunchy brown grass to prove it. Hay season will bring roughly 60% of the yields of previous years in the Dry Brook Valley. The Catskills used to be a veritable rain forest, but not this spring. Our rivers are running low and the infamous Kaatskills waters are evaporating. Locally, we’ve received reports that springs are drying up, and that the water levels are at 50%.
We’ve had some rain in June thus far, but it’s been a mediocre mist at best. The first half of June has thus far been a drought.
Hot and sunny with a high of 85F.
Warm and sunny with a hazy horizon and a high of 75F. Crunchy yellow grass and parched dirt. We need water.
Sunny and cloudless with a high of 80F.
Clear skies and sunny with a high of 85F. Drought conditions continue. Rivers dwindle. The dirt has been parched and baked.
Sunny and clear with a high of 79F. The spuds are doing well despite the drought.
Another sunny day: drought conditions continue. Mostly clear sky and a high of 68F.
“Are you coming to the drawing tonight?” Gary Mayer asks me. I’m honored to be part of a Catskills figure drawing group with local artists such as Steve Burnett, Gary, Peter Mayer, and Sandy Finkenberg.
“No,” I say. “I’m going to a potluck dinner”.
“Well, you won’t find potluck in here,” he says as he steps up into his studio. “More like shit out of luck,” he laughs, highlighting a disparity between the lightness of his personality and the intensity of his work. He’s quick to laugh, good company and chatty, but this magnanimity belies the intensity of his imagery. “I have a wild imagination,” he frowns, nodding gravely. “I didn’t sleep a lot as a kid”. We have something in common. “Me, too,” I say. It’s a little exhausting. But I’m keen to keep him laughing because all the profile pictures I see of him make him look flummoxed, for want of a better word.
His general demeanor is nonchalance, however, like his image: hey, look at this shit I did. I don’t get it either. *Shrugs* The ad for his new gallery in Margaretville named Art Up is photo of a handwritten note, for example. I get the sense that his reward comes from expressing himself, while painting, rather than the final work being appreciated.Continue reading
Sunny and warm with a high of 64F and a cooling breeze. Drought conditions. Browning grass begging for some rain. Sunny sunset down by the dwindling river.
A moody day: some sun breaking through the cloud in the morning, then humid with showers in the afternoon, and a mist over the landscape making it look covered in a veil of thin whitewash. A high of 74F.
Hot, sunny but overcast with a milky blue sky and a high of 73F.
A still and humid day with sprinkles of rain, and overcast with heavy mist. A high of 71F. The Catskills have filled in with green, and the dandelions are taking their leave.
A humid morning with heavy, misty cloud and rain on the peaks. Sun in the afternoon and a high of 64F.
A sombre day: the ghost of springs past. Cloud shimmering, light breeze and a high of 67F. Some of the salad bloomed early.
A moody day with giant clouds and a strong breeze, but humid with a high of 67F. The sun sank slowly into the dusk like an ember fizzling into the sea.
Another sunny day: warm in the sun, cool in the shade with a high of 64F.
Sunny and clear, but a little colder with a sharp breeze and a high of 54F. Another frost warning for tonight.
Another gorgeous day with a gauzy sky and a high of 73F.
Another beautiful day, the sun glowing through a hazy sky of white smoke, and high of 70F.
Another glorious day: breezy, with only sheer cloud stretched over the sky late afternoon, and a high of 63F.
A glorious, clear summer day with high of 75F and strong breeze. Buds budding.
Another hot day with a high of 81F and a jumble of clouds. At lower elevations, the blossom is in full effect.
Baking in the sun with a high of 78F and an empty sky, save for the odd wisp of stray cloud, and throngs of dandelions taking flight in the light breeze like the tutus of tiny ballet dancers. The sky becoming more crowded late afternoon. A pre-summer scorcher.
Sunny and mostly clear with a high of 65F. Violets join the dandelions.
At upper elevations in the middle of the Catskills, the foliage has yet to fill in completely, and there is still no lilac. A waxy layer of cloud and a high of 63F with a warm breeze.
Brilliant sunshine with a gentle breeze, chiffon clouds and a high of 68F.
Sunny with a high of 69F and humid, with the cloud thickening to the texture of wrinkled wax paper by days end. Dandelions out in force.