Interview with Joyce St. George, candidate for NY State Senate District 51

“I remember when you went for a job and there were signs saying WOMEN NOT WANTED or MEN ONLY or BOYS ONLY”.

Reportedly, this year the US has had a record number of female political candidates running for office. Joyce St. George is one of these women. Joyce was a guest on my radio show on April 30th and we talked about some aspects of her career, being a woman in politics, her career in law enforcement, her run for state senate and what she does to unwind (she also practices and teaches karate here in the Catskills).

Joyce is a powerhouse with an intimidating resume. She began her career in the 1970s, when she became the first female investigator to serve in the New York State Attorney General’s Special Prosecutor’s Office on Anti-Corruption. Following the dramatic testimony of Frank Serpico, Joyce and her colleagues rooted out corruption within the criminal justice system in NYC, investigating police officers, judges and district attorneys. That was only the beginning of her career and I’m wondering why nobody’s made a movie about Joyce herself.

Joyce is approachable, affable and engaging with a big heart. With her husband Frank Canavan, she works with the Margaretville Food Pantry that serves 500 local families. Joyce was hired by FEMA to provide crisis services in Delaware County following the floods from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, and served on the Flood Mitigation Council for the area.

Daily Catskills: 08/08/18

Early morning sun barely breaking through thick fog. Overcast and humid with periods of break out sun, a torrential afternoon shower, and a high of 83F. The Catskills is a rain forest, consisting of a innumerable number of creeks, streams and rivers in a world that is running out of fresh water.

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Interview with Linda Leaming, Writer & Author

I discovered the American writer Linda Leaming when I read her book, Married to Bhutan in which she describes her life in Bhutan after she first went there to teach English twenty years ago. Her story was extraordinarily familiar to mine. Like Linda, I also moved to another country to work, married a foreigner and ended up making a home in an unfamiliar mountainous region – The Catskills – but Bhutan is more or less the exact opposite of America. Although what the two countries have in common is a populace that works very hard, there are so many striking differences – like their happiness despite the comparative lack of convenience. Americans are devoted to the pursuit of happiness, but the Bhutanese actually have actually achieved it. Bhutan’s secret to happiness is time plus the nurture of its environment, which comes at the expense of the aforementioned convenience. Americans can learn a lot from both the Bhutanese and the people of the Catskills (more on that later).

This podcast was taped back in 2012, one of my first interviews conducted on WIOX and the one that has received the most feedback. I hope you find it as fascinating as I do all these years later. Find her husband’s artwork here.

J.N. Urbanski

Back on the Burroughs Range: Slide Trail

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John Burroughs couldn’t have picked a range of mountains to frequent that’s more demanding for the hiker, but according to the DEC it’s the most popular range in the Catskills Forest Preserve. It’s probably popular because it has the most interesting network of trail hikes, but it’s extremely challenging in parts, the Slide Trail (between the summits of Slide and Cornell) feeling like a craggy, sheer rock-face covered in trees. Continue reading

Farm Stores: Bovina/Andes

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Three pitstops to farm stores on the Table to Farm Tours today: Catskills Regional Harvest, a food business incubator, farm store and event space run by Nicole Day Gray, Burnett Farm stand in Bovina and Burn Ayr Farm, which is actually past Bovina and closer to Delhi, with a small inn on site that’s set on the babbling Little Delaware River. Continue reading

Mushroom Hunting

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This week’s torrential rain created ideal mushroom growing conditions and the chicken mushroom, turkey tail, ghost pipe, chaga and polypores are all ripe for the foraging. Get out there and pick them, paint them or just generally admire them before they dry, rot, or get eaten by other creatures, like the hungry bears that the July drought had forced towards more urban areas. There’s even a bolete or two in advance of their normal August season. The reservoir is high, creeks are gushing and mushrooms are glowing in the understory like little alien beings. Like a movie cliche, yesterday the dog bound off into the forest to chase a much faster creature than him, and I ran off after them both and stumbled into a grove of hemlocks dotted like acne with polypore and a carpeted with ghost pipe. The polypore pictured above is a tinder polypore, good as a fire-starter for campers, was an ancient antibiotic and a sort of chewing tobacco used by certain indigenous Alaskan tribes. Continue reading

Foraging: Burdock

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Burdock is a biennial, wild invasive species that looks rather like a thistle, but is a cross between rhubarb and celery and repellent to animals because of its bitter outer layer. It’s noteworthy because of it’s initial growth of the instantly recognizable, huge, spade-shaped leaves with frilly edges that have a whitish underside. At first glance, the first year plant looks like rhubarb.

It grows better in rocky, disturbed soil like roadsides, in full sun or partial shade. We have one that’s thriving in the garden, though, in mulched earth and letting it go to seed to see if it can be cultivated because if you only have one plant you can’t really make full use of it. You really need a patch to harvest at different times. Continue reading

Bee Update: Catching a Swarm

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On a chance walkabout in the orchard between torrential rain showers this afternoon, we discovered a swarm of bees in the plum tree: an extraordinary sight to behold. Our original bees had come under attack from robber bees three weeks ago and have been having a hard time in the last few weeks, so this swarm could have been our own hive splitting in half and evacuating with a new queen. The original hive is now calm and not being robbed. (We’ll take a look in there tomorrow.) 

The swarm on the plum branch seemed like a casual gift, almost accidental – like Mother Nature threw us a bone – to make up for the fact that our original hive was robbed. It was nice to be with bees that were happy. The swarm was docile, as all bees without a home are, as they have nothing to protect. We had to act quickly because more rain was forecast.   Continue reading

Rochester Hollow, Shandaken Wild Forest

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Compared to any of the Catskills 3500 hikes, Rochester Hollow is a gentle, family-friendly hike with not much of an elevation gain from the parking lot (about 850ft), and good for dogs in hot weather because it follows a creek for the first couple of miles.

Compared to Giggle Hollow, across the valley to the south west on Belleayre, its name is rather boring, but the trail is far from dull and is the home of a memorial (pictured above) to the late naturalist John Burroughs with a small stone seating area. Though the Rochester Hollow trail is relatively gentle, it’s still a worthy trek, the whole trail being a lasso-shaped loop that’s made up of three intersecting trails blazed red, blue and yellow for a total, round-trip length of 6.5 miles that can be completed by an experienced hiker in about 3 hours. Continue reading

A Nature Walk & Cocktails with The Outside Institute at Foxfire Mountain House

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Finally, a chance to meet Laura Silverman when she conducted a nature walk at the Foxfire Mountain House on Sunday. Laura has recently opened The Outside Institute and has been a guest on the radio show on WIOX and featured on this website, but we had never met in person – a common dilemma in today’s working practices. The Foxfire property – an inn and wedding venue – abuts the Catskills Forest Preserve and we had a tour of local flora and fauna that included a brace of skittish turkeys, bullrushes, ancient grape vines, mugwort, wild thyme, sumac, a lonesome tinder polypore, milkweed and some poison ivy. Poison ivy is difficult to identify, but essential if you don’t want to be itching or burning your way through summer. Did you know you can eat bullrushes? The walk was followed by cocktails using local ingredients in Foxfire’s gorgeously appointed bar. The Outside Institute has published a field guide to the Hudson and upper Delaware valleys and we’re currently working our way through it.

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Continue reading

John Burroughs Woodchuck Lodge Annual Meeting, July 15th

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The John Burroughs Woodchuck Lodge Annual Meeting will take place on Sunday July 15th, 2018 at 1pm.

The meeting will be open to the public and, after agenda items are discussed and trustees are voted in for another term, there will be a modest, family-friendly hike to the gorgeous new summer house, free gifts for attending (book, refrigerator magnet or CD) and light refreshments. Continue reading

Kimchee Harvest Kitchen, Grand Opening Friday July 13th

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East Branch Farms has announced their grand opening of Kimchee Harvest Kitchen on Main Street in Roxbury, on Friday 13th July from 7am, with extended hours to 6pm. This farm-to-table restaurant offers delicious, Asian cuisine using produce grown by farmer and owner Madalyn Warren and cooked by chef Toko Harada.

Kimchee Harvest Kitchen, 53470 State Highway 30, Roxbury, NY 12474.

Invasive Species Awareness Week

It’s Invasive Species Awareness Week (ISAW) in the Catskills. We have many voracious pests like the Emerald Ash Borer from Asia that is decimating the ash tree population of the Catskills. Ash trees are expected to be mostly extinct in the region in a few years’ time. Hemlock trees are also under threat from Hemlock Wooly Adelgid. The biggest way that invasive insects are transported is via wood like firewood. Never bring firewood to the Catskills from elsewhere for camping or cookouts. Always buy it here.

This week there are 17 events in the Catskills to highlight the growing problem from invasive species and help landowners and residents identify them.

Click on the Catskill Center’s link here to find out full details of all this week’s events that begin tomorrow, July 10th at 10am with a Mile A Minute Pull in Narrowsburg. This fast-growing vine threatens other native foliage by shading it out.

Kimchee Harvest Kitchen Restaurant, Roxbury

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Something we’ve been pining for here in the Catskill Mountains is Asian food. There’s precious little of it around these parts, but now we have something really wonderful. Kimchee Harvest Kitchen in Roxbury, New York serves Korean food that is delicious, and local. The produce featured on the menu is grown by owner, farmer Madalyn Warren on her farm East Branch Farms on Route 30 in Roxbury, whose speciality is kimchee made with a variety of locally grown and foraged vegetables like dandelion, radish, rhubarb, garlic scape or cabbage. Madalyn’s mother is from Pusan, Korea and they make the kimchee together. The meat on the menu is sourced from other local farms. Continue reading

Catskills Weekend: June 30th Events

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Get outside! Walk, wade, wallow in the natural world. Find peace, sip, eat and relax at these wonderful events in the Catskills that includes a strenuous bushwhack hike for the more adventurous.

Saturday June 30th

Catskill Mountain Wild have partnered with Hudson River School to offer a regular event called Hike The Hudson River Art Trail the first event being Kaaterskill Falls at 5pm on Saturday June 30th. “Hike into Thomas Cole’s paintings and visit the views in nature that Cole and his fellow artists made famous with outdoor guide extraordinaire Catskill Mountain Wild on the Hudson River School Art Trail #hrsat! The truly magical thing is that these places remain remarkably unchanged since Cole first visited in 1825 thanks to significant and ongoing preservation efforts”.

Catskill Mountains Trout Unlimited present Ladies and Leaders, a new series of events aimed at creating a fun, supportive, and social environment for women in fly fishing, the event “will be a low-key night on the stream of fishing followed by drinks and food to unwind and share stories. We will meet at 5pm and gather in the parking lot of Woodstock Brewing on Route 28 before heading out to the creek. We will fish until about 8pm and reconvene in the same meeting place before ending the night with food and drinks”. Woodstock Brewing 5581 Route 28 Phoenicia, NY.

For something more strenuous, a Hike to Alder Lake, Cradle Rock Road and Balsam Fire Tower with Catskill Mountain Club: a difficult bushwhack. Pre-registration required. Starts at 8am.

The Michael Kudish Natural History Preserve will host a Pop-Up Interdependence Party with a bonfire on 2515 Tower Mountain Road, Stamford, New York 12167 from 7.30pm to 10.30pm on June 30th. Bring your own snacks, beverages and musical instruments if you have them. Camp out overnight if you want to. More details = info@mknhp.org.

Full Strawberry Moon

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It’s the very little things we take for granted: enjoying nature before industry marches all over it, and looking up at the full, strawberry moon by an evening fire.

Back in April, Leslie T. Sharpe delivered a lecture at the Catskills Center in which she invoked a boat journey up the Hudson, two hundred years ago, when Manhattan and beyond was lush rain forest. In the boat was a young Washington Irving and Henry Hudson, marveling at the stunning beauty of the area. Now, of course, Manhattan is a gleaming, flinty mass of boxes jutting out of the sky like an gigantic block graph recording its own wealth. Turning to the future, how long will the Catskills – this craggy chunk of lush forest – be here?

The Catskills State Park, about 700,000 acres – its multitude of tributaries and it’s ecosystem – produces and protects by edict all of New York City’s drinking water. Gas pipelines snake through the state, on the flat lands either side of the Catskills that 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. There’s a second protective directorate in place for our region, which is Article 14 of the New York State Constitution which declares a part of the Catskills “forever wild”.

Up until 1822, wolves elk, panther and moose roamed the Catskills. By 1850, unregulated fishing and hunting had depleted fish and game stocks to new lows. The Catskills had been mostly deforested by the logging industry, and the tanning industry that only abandoned the Catskills after it had taken the bark of every hemlock standing. One hundred years ago, the Catskill Mountains were bare and deer were so rare, a preserve was created for them.

All that has changed and the Catskills were as they were before the civil war, only now there’s no industry, only tourism, plus a few new invasive species shipped in from around the world.

Today, this full moon day and into the weekend, get outside. By appreciating the wonders of nature more often, we develop a bond with it, and are more likely to try and protect it.

According to the Almanac, the moons were named after the agricultural practices in place at that time: “This Full Moon got its name from the Algonquin tribes who knew it as a signal to gather the ripening fruit of wild strawberries. It has also been known as the Honey Moon, Mead Moon, and the Full Rose Moon in Europe”.  Find out more and watch the Almanac’s video on the subject here.

Check out our weekend events in the natural world on June 30th.

The Great Hive Robbery

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An experienced, local beekeeper recommended that, because we have a developing, young hive, we should smear a small dollop of high-quality, raw honey on the landing pad for the bees to eat. This turned out to be another mistake and invited an attempted invasion by a group of opportunistic bees that were twice the size, just proving that beekeeping is such a personal endeavor subject to just about any possible variable. The survival of each hive is unique depending on location, weather, surrounding vegetation or position and each beekeeper should necessarily develop their own style.

The next mistake we made was at the time of the attempted robbery in trying to adjust the entrance reducer while they were defending the hive from the attack to prevent any more robbing bees from entering, but we just got attacked ourselves.

Hive robbing is a common problem during drought or hot conditions. A weak or young hive is especially vulnerable to attack when it hasn’t rained for a while, flowers are wilting or there’s little to no pollen around during that time between spring’s early blossoms like apple and the summer flowers like milkweed that’s just coming up now.

Our bees successfully fought off their attackers last week, but the bandits have returned today and there’s chaos at the front of the hive this afternoon. It makes for very angry bees and we’ve had a couple of bee stings today. We’ve left them alone to defend themselves and hoping for the best. To defend the hive they are darting around the front of the hive like bullets and “bearding” around the hive entrance. Beekeeping is not easy.

 

 

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