Monthly Archives: March 2019

Book Review: A Cast in the Woods by Stephen Sautner

It’s a familiar story: writer buys home in the Catskills for [insert reason] and ends up losing heart, time and, no doubt a smidgeon of sanity to conservation, restoration and protection of these beloved mountains and its river network. For Stephen Sautner, the reason was a familiar one: fly fishing. An avid outdoorsman from boyhood, he decided to buy a fixer-upper cabin on the banks of a tributary and turn it into a “fish camp” for holidays and weekends until retirement. Well, that’s what he thought. Turns out Mother Nature had other plans for him and this portion of the river that ran through his 14-acre property, that he named simply “Six-Foot-Wide Stream”, but it was anything but simple. Several devastating floods, flora and fauna infestations and a scare over fracking gave him an all-consuming education he didn’t anticipate. But he would do it all over again, he says: “come spring, when the warblers have returned, and mayflies are hatching and brook trout are rising to them, and I’m siting on the front porch sipping coffee and watching it all, I believe I wouldn’t have changed a thing”.

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The Mysterious Life of Trees

© J.N. Urbanski 3.45pm Usage prohibited without consent

In a recent article in Atlantic Monthly Magazine entitled Death Cap Mushrooms Are Spreading Across America, the author details how deadly amanitas are popping up all over cities and being eaten by city people because they are tasty, and I find it highly intriguing, being a former city girl, gone country.

Some naturalists theorize that man was “created” by the natural world, or Mother Nature, as a smarter, better way to spread seeds across the world in order to more successfully propagate forests – a sort of supreme effort by trees at world domination, if you like. If this is so, we turned the tables on this activity a few hundred years ago and in terms of the history of the planet that’s pretty recent.

To risk stating the obvious, we have stopped being useful to the trees. We have been chopping them down at an alarming rate for hundreds of years. A good way to get rid of us as a species, should they have the capacity to decide, would be to grow very tasty, highly poisonous mushrooms in abundance on the ground, ones that don’t affect local animals – only us as a species. Might the trees be trying to kill city dwellers?

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March in the Catskills: Update & Links

© J.N. Urbanski 1pm

Upstate Dispatch has been pretty quiet so far this month. It’s been like a reference library at HQ as we research future projects. There’s been a lot of reading going on and some fiction-writing.

As another superb ski season comes to a close, fly fishing season will be hard on its heels. April 1st is opening day across the Catskills. Esopus Creel is preparing to open a store next to Woodstock Brewery in Phoenicia. Stephen Sautner has published a new memoir about conservation, fly fishing and life in the Catskills titled A Cast in the Woods. I interviewed Stephen, a lifelong fisherman, for my radio show today, and will be posting a print interview with him online in the next few days. Trout Tales gears up for a couple of months of events, classes, and activities in rivers and streams flowing through these mountains.

While we work on content, specifically podcasts, we offer some interesting links to articles on the arts, food and the outdoors.

Have a great week.

J.N. Urbanski

Human-shaped mushrooms found in the UK, from This Is Insider.

From National Geographic, a man who only eats what he grows and forages.

Are you ready from Spring migration? The National Audubon Society’s birding app.

It would have been Walt Whitman’s 200th birthday this year on May 31st, 2019. John Burroughs Woodchuck Lodge is hosting a celebration that begins at Union Grove Distillery in Arkville on the evening of May 31st, 2019. Check the website for details.

Paper bird sculptures.

The Catskills Outdoor Expo on March 30th, 2019.

And finally, an example of how hoards of people descend on a natural wonder and ruin it, from the LA Times. Please adhere to Leave No Trace guidelines when enjoying nature: take only photographs and leave only footprints.

Bee Update: Our Catskills Bees Survived the Winter

© J.N. Urbanski 11.30am 3/15/19 – Usage prohibited without consent

On March 15th last week, we woke to a bare Catskills landscape like it had thrown off its white quilt in the night and saw a high of 65F that day: such a stark difference from last year on the same day in the same place, where it remained at 37F and covered in snow.

Just before noon last week, we decided to check the last surviving bee hive. To our delight, after five years of trying to keep bees and failing, we discovered that our white hive of bees survived the winter. (The Warre hive into which we had installed a swarm last year did not.)

We re-stocked the surviving bee hive with food patties for the bees, just in case we got another cold snap, and put back the lid. Last year, we built a heavy “roof” for our hive and insulated it with old, woolen sweaters and pillows and this seems to have kept them warm. The hive is thriving.