Author Archives: JNUrbanski

July 2021 Catskills Update

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It’s been quite a summer already, which I hope marks the end of a tumultuous two years. Upstate Dispatch has moved to a new HQ in the gorgeous Dry Brook Valley. I’ve spent the rainy July selling up and moving, which included the transportation of a beehive containing the badass overwintered bees who have survived the move, and Alfie, the black lab, has ruptured his MCL and needs surgery. He’s been hopping around on three legs.

I’ve just finished unpacking and exploring this lush, new area over the mountain which is so different from the Red Kill Valley and planting a garden, finding out what grows best on this land. The almost-daily July rain brought a bounty of mushrooms that need to be identified, but one key benefit from all this rain is that I will have a huge crop of melon for the first time.

The most noticeable part of these pastures new though are wild plants in huge numbers: ramps, reishi, burdock, bergamot, mullein, dandelions and welcoming, calming wild camomile growing in abundance that is just flowering now. I find that symbolic after such a challenging two years. The camomile plant is known for its almost extreme hardiness and a wide variety of properties beneficial to health. Steeped in hot water, camomile flowers are calming and good for the stomach. You can also make a facial moisturizer by mixing the concentrated tea in an inert oil like sunflower, or coconut oil. I grew it in the garden before I realized it was all over the place and it doesn’t seem to be taking well to being treated kindly!

Speaking of facial moisturizer, I’ve been testing Heaven on Main Street products, in my search for natural, local make-up and face cream. A trip to Catskills Harvest in Andes made me realize just how many local artisans we have making soaps, potions and lotions here: more than ever before, it seems.

My next stop will be Island Girl Henna in Delhi to treat myself to a full-sleeve temporary henna tattoo, but I just have to come up with design ideas. Updates on all this will be forthcoming.

But lastly, here I have landed, in the Dry Brook valley, home of possibly the most gorgeous hike I’ve ever experienced, my first Catskills 35 hike, which begins at the end of Rider Hollow Road, a truly magical place: the hike to Balsam Mountain and it’s glorious view. I leave you with my account of that hike to read here. Daily Catskills will resume in August.

Happy Summer!

Daily Catskills: 06/20/21 Summer Solstice

Hot and humid with scattered clouds and 75F by noon. A high of 82F. The tilt of the earth (in relation to the sun) causes the seasons: the northern hemisphere is getting direct sunshine today, our longest day of the year, the day with the most daylight. Summer begins.

© J.N. Urbanski 8pm – Usage prohibited without consent

Catskills Conversations: Dr Bill Birns, Part II

This year, Catskills Historian Dr Bill Birns celebrates 50 years of living and working in the Catskills, mostly as a school teacher. He has quite a following here in the Catskills and in Part II, we talk about Writers in the Mountains, what he’s reading, writing and how his post-pandemic life is unfolding.

I’m posting yesterday’s interview on YouTube, unedited, so we can tell you that Bill will be at John Burroughs’ Woodchuck Lodge this Saturday June 5th, 2021, as a docent after their Wild Saturday presentation.

Lilac Lemonade

There are all manner of syrups and mixers that you can make with spring blooms: but one plant we haven’t covered here is lilac because it has such a short window of blossoming. It has reached its prime in the last week here in the Catskills. Lilac has such a distinctive, unique flavor and pairs well with any citrus, but tastes better in lemonade. To add a little body, add some thyme to the mix to make this a mixer that works better with gin.

For A Lilac Lemonade (with or without thyme)

Pick a ziplock bag of blooms for every mason jar. Cut them off the stalks. Stuff only half of them in the mason jar if you’re adding thyme. Add a quarter cup of freshly picked thyme, then add the other half of the bag of blooms. Steep in the fridge overnight and strain in the morning. It will go bright pink.

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