A warm morning, mostly sunny and a high of 73F. Brief mid-afternoon rain with the cloud cover breaking up into jigsaw puzzle pieces at sunset.
Warm and humid with milky blue clouds. A high of 71F.
A warm and sunny Saturday. Rolling clouds with grey undertones and a high of 71F.
Clear skies all morning with the odd faraway cloud and a hazy horizon, with clouds moving in mid-afternoon. Warm and humid with a high of 69F. Fields full of new white wild flowers to take over from the dandelions. Lilac budding. Brief early evening rain produces a double rainbow.
Balmy, with huge clouds looking like an armada of space ships and a high of 64F. Rivers still running high and spruce tips busting out.
Rolling clouds, a high of 61F with the landscape of greens becoming greener by the hour in the warm sunshine.
Periods of sunshine with billowing cloud and a high of 55F.
Gloomy and overcast. A high of 52F. Threatening rain all day and finally delivering at before sunset.
A sunny morning leading to afternoon rain. Overcast and raining for most of the afternoon and a high of 47F.
Humid and overcast with rain for most of the day, ending just before dusk. A high of 48F. Fields of dandelions closed for the day.
Another gorgeous day: a beautiful morning with a cloudless sky, rising to 58F. Cool in the sap bush.
Finally, the sun comes out. A high of 58F and a hazy sky. Ramping continues.
Overcast and misty with fog hugging the mountains and a high of 58F. Rain for most of the day ending at dusk.
Humid and overcast with fog curled snugly over the peaks. Some rain and a high of 71F. All colors of green budding in the lush forest. Gorgeous.
Overcast and humid, rising to 61F by mid-afternoon with a light breeze. Sprinkles of warm rain at noon turn heavier by mid-afternoon. Heavy rain and fog for the rest of the day.
A cold start to the day rising to 73F by noon with blazing sunshine and billowing clouds. Trees budding. Tractors out. A great day for planting.
Spring in the Catskills: “frostbite in the morning, sunburn in the afternoon”. Overnight snow on the peaks and overcast with a bitter wind, rising to 60F and sunny by mid-afternoon with fat cotton wool clouds.
A YouTube interview with Catskills artist Amy Masters, who I last interviewed five years ago in 2016 in her gorgeous studio, designed by Ted Sheridan, when she was working on print making. Yesterday I spoke to Amy about how her pandemic has been, what she has been working on and her plans for 2021, which includes opening a gallery on Main Street in Fleischmanns, Upstate New York this coming summer.
Interview with Dr Bill Birns, retired school teacher of the Catskills. Upstate Dispatch caught up with him at the beginning of this year, 2021 for a quick update on what he’s reading and writing, and how his pandemic has been.
Overcast and chilly with a high of 45F. Some light drizzle. Socially distant jazz at RAG.
More fog, mist, rain and humid with a high of 45F.
Rain, mist and fog shroud the Catskills all day. Overcast with a high of 54F. Rain turns to snow at dusk. Heavier snow the more west you go. Spring blooms stand out against the stormy landscape.
Another moody day: overcast and humid with a high of 63F. The old collapsed barn on Breezy Hill, built in 1885, is finally taken away.
A gloomy start with plump clouds clearing late afternoon for a sunny evening and a high of 63F.
It’s always a joy to interview Laura Silverman, founding naturalist of The Outside Institute. We caught up with her just before the holidays to see how she had spent her quarantine, what she was working on, and her thoughts on the pandemic and beating the blues by getting back into nature.
Overcast with dark stormy clouds with mist and light rain. A high of 45F. Moody.
Humid and overcast with swirling, dark, foggy cloud and light rain. A high of 60F.
Glorious spring day: a high of 73F, hazy cloud, and a balmy, enigmatic sunset.
The weather takes a grim turn: overcast and humid with late afternoon rain. A high of 63F. Gloomy.
Warm and sunny. Clear skies with the odd lost cloud passing through. Breezy with a high of 70F. This year’s ramps are coming up early.
Clear skies except the occasional wisp of cotton ball cloud and already 57F by mid-morning. A high of 71F. The first scorcher of the year. The last maple boil of the season took place at Tree Juice Maple Syrup today.
As the saying goes: the only constant in life is change, and I am moving on to pastures new. Upstate Dispatch is hopping over the mountain to a new HQ. We are selling the homestead in which I quarantined alone during the pandemic with my dog Alfie, the homestead that we spent over 10 years developing – for these recent events, no less – which is featured on this blog. Scroll through Upstate Dispatch and see how the property has grown over the past decade.
It’s not perfect, and we spent our time paying much more attention to the outside than the inside because we were establishing a homestead first and foremost. The focus was mostly on the land, and it’s truly a sweet spot, zoned agricultural, between Fleischmanns and Red Kill Mountain, situated on a secluded dead-end road, on top of a mountain at 2,200 feet on 6 acres with magnificent views especially in the winter.
Half of the property – the three-acre field – is old pasture land lined with stone walls in which we have built a full, fenced garden with raised beds, bee hives with electrified enclosure and a fruit orchard, set amidst a mix of rolling lawn and wildflower meadow, with mullein, mint, lilac, forsythia, masses of wild thyme, trout lilies, wild strawberries, wild blackberries, a line of young hemlocks, an ancient apple tree and a small-but-expanding ramp patch. In the orchard, we have ten apple trees, peaches, plums, eight hazelnut trees, Concord grapes, rhubarb, lilac, over-wintering sage and pears. The other half of the property is forest with its own trail and a small clearing within it, in which stands the house. In our woods, over the years I have foraged mushrooms: chanterelles, turkey tail, boletes, morels, ghost pipe and medicinal reishi.
The southerly views were a source of strength throughout the pandemic. From the deck you can see Belleayre Ski-Mountain and Slide Mountain to the south, and Brush Ridge and Halcott Mountain to the east. The views are mostly filled in with a line of towering oaks during the summer, but you don’t need them then, because the sheer beauty of the property is more than enough. The three-acre field used to be all hay. When the realtor showed us the property, we got out of the car – remember getting rides in cars? – and my husband walked towards the hay and then slowly took off at a cantor until he disappeared and all we could see were the soles of his feet rising up and down in the tall brush, arms outstretched as if he were conducting a grassy orchestra. I turned to the realtor and said: “I think this is the one”. The oaks also serve as privacy from your lovely neighbors on the ridge which is a subdivision of nine houses.
In the depths of winter, with the panoramic views, you can see the weather approaching from hundreds of miles away. For years we would work at our dining table that was situated in front of large-paned sliding doors and watch nature in all her glory. Sometimes a dense chalky cloud would loom into view, hover briefly over a neighboring mountain as if it were merely stopping to drop someone off, and engulf its peak, silently laying a white cap of snow like it was a huge machine icing a cake before moving slowly on. Storm clouds would glide past in the middle distance like floating balled up socks, flashing erratically, dropping blurry sheets of rain like shower curtains, exploding with flashing lights and emitting furious, powerful thunder that made the house shudder.Continue reading
Another gorgeous day, warm and sunny with a high of 63F.
Brilliant sunshine all day, breezy with hazy skies and a high of 60F.
A high of 58F with a mix of sun and cloud. Early spring plantings are underway.
Clear skies, breezy and warm with a high of 50F.
A high of 33F with a mix of cloud and sunshine. Snow lingering on the peaks.
Sticky wet snow coats the landscape, and gradually wanes into the shadows before noon. A mixture of sun and rolling cloud with a high of 41F.
A plump mass of swirling grey clouds like a giant duvet, greening grass and a high of 55F. Grass needs 60F to start growing.
Sunny, breezy and beautiful. Gauzy cloud, turquoise horizon and a with a high of 60F.
Gusty winds, bright sunshine, but freezing. A high of 41F and a light dusting of morning snow on the very peaks. Gushing streams.
Rain beginning early morning and continuing all day. Overcast with a high of 54F and windy.
A high of 58F, humid and breezy with billowing clouds. We’re getting some beautiful light this Spring in the Catskills.
A balmy morning with fog on the peaks and misty rain. Blustery winds tossing leaves like confetti and thunderous clouds passing in a hurry. A high of 71F. Moody.
After a whole day’s rain comes a misty sunrise and a balmy Spring day with a high of 70F.
Overcast with rain beginning mid-morning and continuing for the rest of the day. A high of 50F. A humid and soggy day with mist rising off the rivers. After a brief period of dryness, mud season kicks off.
The sap began to flow at the end of February – 27th – when temperatures rose briefly. Now it’s flowing intermittently when temperatures rise during the day. Equipment is still freezing up overnight and has to be shut down while the lows are in their twenties: 21F, 24F and 29F, but it was 39F last night.
Maple syrup is highly processed, requiring complicated equipment for each stage of production: sap is drawn from the trees through tubing with a vacuum system; the sap is then passed through a reverse osmosis machine that removes water and makes the sap more concentrated. (This process produces purified water called permeate.) The sap is then boiled to about 220F, then clarified through a filter press. The boiling point varies with atmospheric pressure.
The amount of sap that each tree produces depends on the girth of the tree. Each tree makes roughly one quart of finished syrup. One gallon of syrup will start life as roughly 42 gallons of sap this year, the ratio being dependent on how sweet the sap is. The sugar content (measured in degrees Brix: one degree of Brix is one gram of sucrose per 100 grams of solution) of the sap now running is 2%. Tree Juice Maple Syrup has two sap bushes: the Red Kill sap bush has sweeter sap than the Rider Hollow sap bush, which has more red maple than Red Kill. If enough sap flows on a warm day, boiling continues all day and night until the collection tank – 6300 gallons – is empty.
The final product is subtly sweet, not overwhelmingly so, and tastes smooth and earthy: nature’s amber nectar.
A warm, sunny morning quickly warming up to a high of 64 by mid-afternoon. Some green is emerging amidst the flaxen landscape.
Three days of continuous sunshine is putting the spring in our Spring. A high of 62F in the valley. Mostly clear and sunny with a low of 29F. The last of the winter snow keeps the rivers high.
28F by mid-morning rising to a high of 61F and mostly clear skies.
First day of Spring, the Vernal Equinox with equal duration of day and night. A gorgeous day in the Catskills, high of 51F, balmy in the sunshine, breezy, and clear with a pink-orange sunset. Snow still lingering in the shadows. A serene start to the season after a winter of near-constant snow.
A high of 28F, bright and breezy with swirling cloud sweeping through the valleys bringing low-lying flurries.
A reprieve: a bright milk glass sky, slight breeze, a high of 27F and a ploughed road on the way to the sap bush. Late evening flurries.
Another whiteout: steady snow until mid-afternoon. Two or three inches of soft, fluffy snow and a high of 29F. A surprising, brief hour of sun late afternoon.
Maple tapping has begun and it’s complicated, arduous, physical labor in freezing cold weather. The “sap bush”, which is an area of trees that get tapped, needs specific equipment and so does the person doing the tapping. Each tree gets tapped by hand in a different place on its trunk each year and some of the tubing – called a dropline (in darker blue above) – is replaced. The sap line (in turquoise above) stays in place. Every year the tree gets a new tap and Tree Juice Maple Syrup has roughly 8,000 taps to replace. Tapping began this year on January 31st, 2021 in 15 degrees Fahrenheit and it continues this week even in a foot or two of snow, into which even the snow shoes are sinking.
“The tap network is a lot like the body,” says Jake Fairbairn part-owner of Tree Juice Maple Syrup. “The dropline is the capillary, the bigger arteries are the sap lines that lead to the bigger main lines (in black above). As you get more centralized you get bigger and bigger arteries”.Continue reading