We enter the New Year 2018 with formidably low temperatures. Christmas was bitterly cold and New Year’s Eve’s overnight low is predicted to be -8F. I cannot remember it ever being much lower than zero in previous winters. It feels like a thorough cleansing, as if Mother Nature wants to properly destroy everything before she resuscitates the landscape next Spring. Previous milder Winters have been blamed for the prevalence in ticks, for example. This year – this past Fall – we had a record number of ticks on our ridge and extremely low winter temperatures do their part to kill the eggs and larvae hibernating in the soil. Continue reading
Monthly Archives: December 2017
Daily Catskills: 12/22/17
A high of 33F and cloudy with freezing rain. Mountains shrouded in mist. Tea with a friend.
Daily Catskills: 12/21/17 Yuletide & The Winter Solstice
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 2018. The ancient tradition of Yuletide, one of the oldest winter celebrations in Europe began this morning and will end on January 1st, 2018. Last year, 2016, Hanukah, a festival of lights, coincided almost exactly with Yuletide, from December 20th to January 1st. Yuletide was a fire festival celebrated by the Northern Europeans. Pre-Zoroastrian Persians and ancient Romans celebrated something similar before the common era. 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!
Sunday on Bearpen
I’ve written about Bearpen Mountain before after climbing it in March 2016. As I wrote then, it’s aptly named, being bearish not bullish, a long, gentle incline around a mountain following a snow mobile trail. Bare trees allow stunning, almost panoramic views, glimpses of the surrounding countryside, so it’s easy to keep your bearings. When the mountain’s covered in a few feet of snow, you can follow the tracks of previous hikers up or down a handy short cut that’s a dashed black line on the map and helpfully signed “Danger”, but this part of the trail is scantily marked, so I’ve never had the courage to bother with it before. It was a blessing on the way down on Sunday because all the hikers before us had decided to take the short cut so we had broken trail most of the long way up and – as usual – I had forgotten something, snow shoes, that would have made the going far easier. Continue reading
Daily Catskills: 12/17/17
A high of 28F and overcast with a glassy, grey sky. Thick snow on the peaks.
Daily Catskills: 12/16/17
A high of 26F with continual, light snow.
Literary Catskills: Burroughs
In the hushed, revered halls of the New York Public Library on 42nd and 5th Avenue you’ll find The Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, in which sit several collectible works of John Burroughs. The historical, literary treasures of the substantial Berg Collection sit in their own private reading room. Visits must be booked in advance to view any works in this room, in which coats are prohibited and other books are not allowed near whatever you are viewing. I’m imagining being presented with white gloves and whispering, so I don’t accidentally spit on the ancient goods. Visitors must obtain a NYPL Library card which is about as thrilling as it gets for a bookish, foreign writer like myself. I might frame it. Continue reading
Daily Catskills: 12/14/17
20F by midday and still with cloud cover moving on by the afternoon exposing a vivid blue sky.
Buy Local Art
Artist Lisbeth Firmin will be busy during the holiday season finishing large and small works for sale. Currently in her studio in Margaretville working on two new oils and starting a third, she welcomes studio visits, and takes commissions. “I love painting people’s pets, too” she says. “I just did a commission for a friend in NC, a portrait of him and his dog in his beloved Mustang”.
Her signature style is rich, stout brush strokes that create a lush dreamscape, a ruminative environment where subjects are often caught deep in thought, or on their way somewhere – and often both! – with the ambient lighting, like sparkling daylight or a sunset, beautifully captured.
For small works, Lisbeth does small gouaches (9″ x 12″) for $300 and has the tractor prints available this Christmas, at $50 each. She’s also in Small Works Show in Roxbury through the Holidays, with three small gouache studies @ $150 each (6″ x 6″) and have a nice gouache of a house in Franklin in the MURAL Holiday show in Hobart ($195). Here’s a list of all the latest exhibitions in which Lisbeth is showing.
For the art lovers in your life, consider buying local art for the holidays.
Correction: A previous version of this post mentioned a January 2018 class entitled Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain in Hobart NY. The class was actually a summer class that took place this past summer 2017. Apologies!
Daily Catskills: 12/13/17
A morning temperature of 10F with blistering, face-numbing, phone-freezing winds, rising to 17F by mid-afternoon with brief flashes of sun. Bitterly frigid.
Grow Your Own Mushroom Kits
I know what you’re thinking. This looks hideous. Who would eat this? But, If you’re an avid mushroom hunter, a devotee of all things mycological, then you’ll miss the vast array of mushrooms that were available in the forest during the warmer seasons. Pictured above is a mushroom grow kit, specifically Lion’s Mane, a delicate, fragrant mushroom with a taste and texture that’s a cross between lobster and truffles. I found only one stash of Lion’s Mane back in August in the forest and it was delicious. I’m trying to recreate this mushroom in my kitchen with a grow kit purchased from Catskill Fungi, but I think the room is a bit too light and warm. Mushrooms are extraordinarily sensitive and I have not been able to encourage this packet to achieve its full potential. In the wild, it looks like this: Continue reading
Daily Catskills: 12/12/17
A high of 35F, and overcast with shimmering cloud and continuous snowfall. A quick Urdhva mukha svanasana. Yoga on the go.
Daily Catskills: 12/11/17
A high of 31F and overcast with brief flashes of sun through the rippling clouds.
Amy’s Take-Away: Farm Fresh Soups
Upstaters are busier than ever, especially around the holiday season. Many of us – writers, farmers, makers and artists – work from home and if you do, you might spend hours a day cooking your own meals that detract from your billable hours or projects. Amy’s Take-Away & Catering in Lanesville, ten minutes north of Phoenicia, NY, makes delicious, hearty soups with local ingredients offering vegetarian, vegan and meat options in equal numbers. If you’re having a particularly busy week, you could buy five of Amy’s soups at the weekend and save hours cooking lunch and cleaning up.
Amy’s is open on weekends from 12-6pm or “by chance or appointment”, meaning you can make an appointment, or if you’re in the area and Amy is on the premises, you can call 845-688-9759. The premises is only ten minutes from Hunter Mountain and quite a few Catskills 3500 peaks. If you’re ski-ing and hiking at the weekend, it’s a no-brainer to take Route 214 and pick up soups on the way.
Moreover, owner Amy Jackson is a farmer’s advocate having been a long-time member of NOFA, Chefs’ Collaborative, and Just Food. She is a certified food processor, a Master Gardener and has helped start farmers’ market and RSAs. Plus, she gets her produce directly from local, upstate farmers, driving to the farms herself to pick up what she needs.
On the current menu: corn chowder, cauliflower cashew, broccoli apple, minted pea and spinach, Ukranian borscht, turkish orzo, moroccan turnip and chickpea, “buddhist delight” and many more. Ingredients are sourced from Adams Farm, Bulich Farm, Migliorelli, RSK and Story Farms.
Daily Catskills: 12/10/17
A high of 29F and gloomy with rippled, moody clouds and a bitter chill. Late afternoon flurries cover iced ponds.
Daily Catskills: 12/09/17
A high of 30F and cold with afternoon snow beginning as a light sprinkles at lunchtime and continuing well into the evening. Cars over-shooting their turns, sliding gracefully off roads and into ditches, just before dusk ahead of the snow ploughs. Winter has finally arrived.
Daily Catskills: 12/4/17
A 45F high with a thick layer of morning frost and foggy for most of the day.
Daily Catskills: 12/02/17
A high of 41F, mostly overcast with brief glimpses of sun.
Catskills Conservation: Where to Buy a Specially Grown, Local Christmas Tree
Support a local farmer and cut a local, sustainably grown Christmas tree this year. Tree growing is one of the few ways farmers making a living in an area highly regulated against industry in order to keep New York City water pure for drinking. Continue reading