Hot and humid, mostly sunny with an omnipresent armada of giant, scene-stealing clouds, thunder and late afternoon torrential downpours. A high of 89F. The black lab loiters in the shadows. Super steamy.
Monthly Archives: June 2019
Pea & Mint Soup
The wild mint is out in force with the wild flowers, but we must wait longer for the peas or find them in the freezer. There’s something about pea and mint soup that screams summer. This is a family recipe, but there’s really nothing to it. Fry up some onions, garlic and thyme in oil or butter, add stock, boil until warm then add peas and mint. Simmer for only a minute, then blend with a hand blender. If you love the taste and texture of fresh peas, use frozen peas and put them in the stock straight from the freezer. They will thaw, but not cook all the way. Only blend half the soup and add a knob of butter in each bowl of soup when you serve it to get the taste of buttered peas with a little crunch of sweet pea. You can also garnish with a dash of balsamic vinegar if you’re not into the butter and want to add a tangy element. If you’re going to go with the balsamic option for the first time, put the balsamic vinegar on the side, dip toasted or warm bread in the vinegar, and dip the vinegar toast in the soup.
Pea & Mint Soup
- Half an onion
- Two tablespoons of oil
- One tablespoon of minced garlic
- One tablespoon of dried thyme
- One liter of chicken broth, or non-chicken vegetarian broth
- One pound of frozen peas
- Ten leaves of fresh mint, or more depending on how minty you want it
- Butter to garnish
Finely chop the onion and fry it with the garlic and thyme in the oil until lightly brown. Add stock and bring to the boil. Add the peas and simmer for a minute only. Add the mint. Blend with the hand blender, but only blend half the soup. Stir the soup with a spoon. Garnish with butter or a dash of balsamic vinegar. You can make the soup as minty as you like it. Start with less mint first, because you can add it, but can’t take it away once you’ve blended it in. If you want to add more mint after you’ve served it, just pop in a few more leaves into the saucepan, stir the soup and then remove the leaves. Fresh mint will always leave a lot of mint oil behind, so you don’t necessarily need the leaves in there. You’ll notice that there’s no salt in this recipe because there’s enough salt in the broth and, if you over-salt, it clashes with the mint.
Daily Catskills: 06/22/19
Overcast with brief periods of sun and a high of 72F.
Daily Catskills: 06/23/19
Gorgeous summer day, sunny with a gentle breeze and a high of 75F. Wild clover feeds the bees.
Daily Catskill: 06/21/19
On the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, some forest bathing. Humid with a high of 72F, frequent rain showers and brief periods of sun.
Daily Catskills: 06/20/19
High humidity and overcast with shimmering cloud and scattered showers. A high of 76F late in the afternoon. Muggy, with late afternoon rain showering into the evening.
Ganoderma Tsugae or Lacquered Polypore, has many names, but the most popular one is Reishi and it’s out in the Catskills now, mid-June, although it does appear from Spring through Fall. It is sometimes found in Winter months too, but here at the higher elevations, it’s both literally and figuratively at its peak. Other names for it are Varnished Polypore and Hemlock Varnished Shelf. Reishi grows on hemlocks in particular, or can also be found on other coniferous wood. The surface under its cap has pores, not gills, so it is spongy to the touch and, in fresh samples, off-white in color.
It grows directly from dead or living trees or roots of removed trees. The specimen above was growing on a logged tree stump and is the size of a hand, but they can grow much bigger. It causes white rot, acting as both parasite and decomposer.
For millennia, Reishi has been used for medicinal purposes in China. It’s reportedly an immune booster. It’s usually peeled and sliced and simmered in boiling water, with the water drunk as tea, but it tastes hideous. Another form of Reishi (Ganoderma Lucidum) is widely available in health stores as a powder to put in a hot beverage, or hot water, or in pill form.
Here in the Catskills, I know more than one person who claims mushroom supplements have stopped their allergy symptoms.
To store Reishi, put it in a paper bag in the fridge. You can preserve mushrooms by drying them. To do this, slice the mushrooms and arrange them flat on a baking tray. Put them in the oven on the lowest setting (170F) for two to three hours, until they’re fully dried, or buy a dehydrator.
Daily Catskills: 06/19/19
A sultry early morning with high humidity and clouds of swirling fog turning the trees to ghosts. A high of 75F with glimpses of sun and scattered rain showers.
Daily Catskills: 06/18/19
Rain beginning in the morning until early afternoon. Overcast with a luminous blanket of foggy cloud and humid with a high of 71F. Snapping turtle lays her eggs in a freshly dug hole by the side of the road. 90 days from now roughly 40 baby turtles will pop out of this anonymous mountain birthplace.
Daily Catskills: 06/17/19
Hot and humid with clouds hanging in the air like billowing smoke, and a gentle breeze. 73F by early afternoon and a high of 78F. Intermittent rain showers.
Monday Morning Motivation
John Burroughs’ writing desk at his home, Woodchuck Lodge in Roxbury, Upstate New York.
Writers might be hard pressed to find a more storied place in the Catskills to work for a few hours than this desk, at over 100 years old at Woodchuck Lodge.
Daily Catskills: 06/16/19
Rain starting mid-morning and continuing for most of the day. A high of 66F and humid with the ubiquitous hovering mist.
Daily Catskills: 06/15/19
A mix of sun and cloud, balmy and humid with late afternoon showers leaving a coat of mist, making it look like the mountains accumulated a layer of dust.
John Burroughs’ Bathroom is Hipster Heaven
Hipsters ferreting around at Roxbury’s historic landmark Woodchuck Lodge might bypass his fading 100-year-old collection of Atlantic Monthly (still going strong) magazines and stop in the bathroom with a loving gaze. Here’s one part of the lodge that doesn’t need any update, or if anything, the window should be made floor-to-ceiling so that one can bathe in full view of the mountains. It’s the writer’s perfect rustic meditation spot, complete with clawfoot tub and gorgeous light all year around. It’s so impossible to take a bad picture in here at any time of day, that it’s tempting to believe this might have been where Burroughs did most of his important thinking late in his life. The colors: burgundy and mint green are faded, but no less attractive than they were 100 years ago and we can just imagine the old man at 84 years of age, soaking away, pondering his early escapades on Slide Mountain.
Board members of John Burroughs Woodchuck Lodge are in dire need of donations to restore the lodge, but on social media I see home owners putting in similar bathrooms to John Burroughs’ all over the Catskills, so I feel like they can breathe a sigh of relief on this score, because there are plenty of renovations and remediation work necessary elsewhere on the property.
Woodchuck Lodge was built by John’s brother in 1862, 15 years after John was born, on the east end of the Burroughs family farm. The Burroughs’ homestead where both boys grew up is a mile away up the road and was built when John was 13 years of age. Woodchuck Lodge was John’s retreat in retirement. Boyhood Rock and his grave are a few minutes’ walk up the road. John Burroughs Woodchuck Lodge is a non-profit corporation. Your donations are tax deductible.
Daily Catskills: 06/09/19
Hot, with thick ribbons of wispy cloud and a high of 80F. Refreshing breeze in the shade gets stronger towards sunset. Yellow lily pads flowers are unfurling their petals.
Daily Catskills: 06/08/19
A high of 85F with cloudless skies and a hazy horizon. Scorching in the sun, balmy in the shade. Steamy summer day. Fields full of buttercups soaking up the sun.
Daily Catskills: 06/07/19
Only the birds tweet here. A balmy day, sunny with clouds of gauze, looking like they’ve been white-washed on with thick brushstrokes and a high of 78F. Little hatchets keep their siblings warm.
Daily Catskills: 06/06/19
Humid, with brief periods of sunshine, but otherwise overcast with a sky like a thick jumble of shorn wool and a high of 72F.
Daily Catskills: 06/05/19
A balmy summer day, humid with strong lunchtime sun taking the high to 81F. A thick milky sky developing after lunch and early evening rain giving the ground a soaking. Hops grow up their bines.
Daily Catskills: 06/04/19
An overnight plunge into the 30s, and a frosty morning rising to a high of 69F. Overcast with a milk glass sky and humid.
Daily Catskills: 06/03/19
Warm in the sun, with a decidedly unfriendly chill lurking in the shade and a high of 62F. Blueberry blossoms come out in force early and hang in abundance like tiny paper lanterns.
Daily Catskills: 06/02/19
Overnight rain storms, thunder, and lightning drench the landscape. Humid and sticky for a high of 73F and overcast with a blanket of cloud like shimmering fleece. Lengthy periods of afternoon rain dragging on until early evening. Juicy purslane first out of the gate in the raised beds.
Daily Catskills: 06/01/19
Bright and sunny despite thick rippling cloud like crumpled blue-gray cotton. A high of 85F with a shy sprinkle of rain mid-afternoon. An overwhelming smell of green wafts through the forest. Historical Catskills takes a moment in the preparation for summer visitors.