Happy Birthday Upstate Dispatch!

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

It’s been another beautiful Catskills summer. In the last few weeks, red leaves have been scattered sparingly on the forest floor like clues to a treasure hunt, leading me to my autumnal prize. A spectacular show, like the forest’s own Mexican wave, a static riot of color will commence later this month. A benevolent Mother Nature now has a cool wind in the works while Old Man Winter waits behind her gleefully rubbing his hands. I hope she flicks an acorn in his eye.

It’s at the waning end of this glorious summer that Upstate Dispatch celebrates its birthday. It turns a year old tomorrow, September 9th. I would, firstly, like to thank you for reading and all your wonderful comments, feedback and admiration. Readership support means such a great deal.

This website is a journal of country life through the eyes of a city girl, photographer, journalist and radio show host. Back when I started the project, I had no idea how much work I would impose upon myself. Upstate Dispatch was born on September 9th but was inspired by that pivotal day all those years ago and the move north for so many people. After September 11th, in New York City, it was a highly emotional time. Relationships were formed and broken; too many dear friends to count packed up and left. I live here now and would not be anywhere else because it’s a place of fortitude and healing. I needed a safe place to buy that wasn’t a box in the sky, or in the ground. I wanted a place to grow my own food, live well and have a meaningful life. The thing is, I was a city girl through and through, a dyed-in-the-wool urbanite. Am I still?

The first Daily Catskills image was published on Upstate Dispatch on September 10th. By that date this year, whenever you need to prove what the weather was like a year ago, you can refer back to that particular day on the website. Last year, I took a picture of the new Freedom Tower on September 11th for Daily Catskills, but this year for the first birthday, we’ll publish a Catskills image on that day.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all the photographers who worked on the Daily Catskills project: Chase Kruppo, Erik Johanson, Fernando Delgado, Melissa Zeligman, Margaret Helthaler, Lydia Brunt, Gavin DuBois, Lori Robin, Bob Block and Mountain Girl Photography & Design. Special thanks to Margaret Helthaler for holding the fort countless times this year. Myself: I have taken thousands and thousands of images of these mountains in the past year.

There’s so much that hasn’t yet been documented about country life on this website, however. Steep learning curves like learning how to replace your own windows, hiking best practices, shopping for wood, land stewardship and how to not kill yourself in a white pick-up truck with a manual gearshift. I would have loved to have already published a list of Catskills museums, farms and wellness centers or made more of an effort to catalogue our historical artwork and sculptures. Country life brings you closer to your food sources and you see first hand how much effort it takes to hay a field, keep animals, produce good food and manage a permaculture. I couldn’t be without my dog, Alfie, because he keeps the wild animals away from our food, guarding the homestead day and night like a bossy shepherd. Without my brave dog there would be a bear in the apple trees as I write. He gets a lot of praise and nice comments of which, sadly, he’s utterly clueless.

The saddest thing about the impending winter in the Catskills is that stores reduce to their winter opening hours. No more popping into the Blue Barn mid-week for a knick-knack. I’m already banging my head against the desk on Monday afternoons when I realize Phoenicia Diner has closed, though I can catch Peekamoose open at that time and there’s nothing like Monday afternoon drinks in their bar with their mouth-watering pastrami. Speaking of which, I have not succeeded in my New Year’s Resolution of eating everything off the menu at the Phoenicia Diner, but I have a few months remaining. Still, during their winter hours which have already started, Arkville Bread Breakfast is still open every day until 2pm (1pm on Sundays) except Christmas Day. Their fish and chips are my favourite and they sell many familiar English products.

The future is bright for my little Catskills Dispatch. A printed magazine, a book, a podcast series and a video channel are in the works. And please, if you are interested in participating in a Catskills Conversation, or know someone who would like to tell their story, email me on info@upstatedispatch.com.

Thank you again for reading. Happy Autumn!


© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

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