Warm and sunny with faint patches of pale red dotting the landscape. A light breeze blows handfuls of yellow leaves over the road. A high of 67F. Sunset over a cloudless, milk glass sky. Fall is on its way.
Humid and muggy with low-lying mist and a high of 73F. The last days of t-shirt weather. Weekend picnics continue at East Branch Farms.
Happy Birthday Upstate Dispatch! It’s been six years since the website begun and the birthday was spent filming the pilot of our local Catskills news broadcast. I’m one of the news anchors with Kent Garrett (pictured right), under my maiden name, Jenny Neal. The project is being developed for MTC Corporation, who are opening up their News Channel 10 for our weekly newscast; The MARK Project and apparently tireless producer Jessica Vecchione.
Kent Garrett and I were formerly colleagues at WIOX Radio and now we’re going to be colleagues on television.
Humid and misty with rain for most of the day. Muggy with a high of 79F and fog clinging to the landscape until late evening. A soggy day.
A warm start to the day, rising to 77F by 11.30am. Humid with shimmering cloud, brief periods of brilliant sun and a high of 81F. Sultry.
Dewy grass sparkles in the rising sun. A gorgeous, serene day with some clouds and a high of 81F. Lavender sky at sunset.
A cool, dewy morning with a stiff breeze. A cloudy day with a high of 73F and breezy with thin late-afternoon clouds dispersing towards dusk.
A cooler day with a high of 65F, but quite humid, with pre-dawn rain for an hour at 4am that broke the four day sun forecast and ruined the downed hay. Layers upon layers of tumultuous clouds that lighten up by dusk.
Bright and sunny for most of the day with distant armadas of plump clouds and a high of 74F. The orchard is ready for apple picking.
At last, some sun. Sunny for the most of the day with clear skies until late afternoon when wisps of cloud appeared and gradually got thicker. A high of 74F but cool in the shade. A slight, barely perceptible reddening of the landscape.
A dew-soaked morning full of mist, turning sunny for a brief while and then, in moved the clouds, light blue and creamy, like blueberry milkshake until they went all gray like dirty dishwater. Humid with a high of 75F. Dismally dull until late afternoon when the clouds dispersed into wisps until dusk.
Morning: more rain, heavy and wet, the kind of rain that you go out in for a few seconds and get totally soaked. The rest of the day: September’s pervasive mist and muggy with layers of impenetrable clouds and a high of 72F. Sultry.
A chilly morning. Overcast with misty rain for most of the day and a high of 70F. A moody day.
A cool but bright, sunny day with low clouds and a high of 71F. Perfect hazelnut drying weather.
A cool, breezy morning with scattered showers and piles of chunky, grey clouds looking like your comforter on a Sunday morning. The clouds clear to allow some afternoon sun and a high of 72F. The summer of 2020 winds to a close with some show-stopping weather.
Rain began just before dawn and continued until late morning. Muggy with moody, low lying cloud looking like rolling, grey waves. Late afternoon sun and a high of 79F. Early evening rain storm turns sunset into an extraordinary light show. An enigmatic day.
More rain in a week of continual rain, including Thursday’s afternoon tornado and surrounding storm. Humid with high of 77F with a thick blanket of cloud.
You can now order one of the Catskills’ best beauty products by phone or email from Northern Catskills Essentials and it’s worth it for the $4 delivery charge anywhere in New York State. This $7 soap is made by hand in Stamford, Upstate New York – just north of the Catskills State Park and it’s a gorgeous product. Reasonably priced in stylish packaging, the soap makes a superb gift in addition to the company’s creams and lotions. It’s beautifully light with a smooth creamy lather that doesn’t dry out the skin, which is a miracle as far as soap is concerned. The scents made with natural essential oils are robust, but not overwhelming. Finally, the packaging is sustainable paper and with each bar, you’ll be throwing out one less plastic bottle of shower gel. Treat yourself and you’ll never use another soap again.
A hot, humid and sunny morning and a high of 82F. Another gorgeous summer day.
A mix of sun and thick cloud with a high of 85F. 20 minutes of heavy, late afternoon, hay crushing rain.
Sunny and hot with a high of 81F and hazy cloud.
A chilly start to the day: 48F at 7am, rising to 75F by mid-afternoon by which time we had clear sky and only slivers of cloud remained.
A cloudy, humid morning but still cold at 49F, rising to 63F. Overcast with intense cloud cover for most of the day, with the sun coming out late afternoon. A high of 73F. Alfie guards the orchard.
A hot and hazy start to the day. A high of 76F with a cooling breeze and big billowing clouds. Gorgeous summer day.
A warm and sunny morning with an even hotter afternoon for a high of 76F until the rain at 4pm. All the clouds passed through today, like there was a cloud convention down the road and everyone was required to show up.
A much cooler morning, fresh and breezy with mist over the mountains. A mix of sun and clouds for most of the day with a high of 72F. Clouds clearing mid-afternoon. A beautiful summer day.
The wild goldenrod is in bloom and makes a tasty and healthful tea. It grows by rhizome and you’ll usually find whole fields of it. They are tall rods, about three to six feet high with hand-sized draping clusters of many tiny vivid yellow blossoms at the top of the rods. Thin leaves, two to six inches long, grow all the way down the stem alternately, and are hairy.
Put fresh blossoms into a mason jar of hot water (not boiling) to make a delicious fresh tea that tastes like a strong green tea. Sweeten with a dash of honey.
Goldenrod is said to have a number of health benefits. It soothes a sore throat, reduces pain and inflammation. It is also used for gout, joint pain (rheumatism), arthritis, as well as eczema and other skin conditions.
The flowers don’t freeze well, so if you want to save some tea for winter, make a condensed batch and freeze to dilute later with water. To make a condensed batch of tea, simply soak as much fresh goldenrod as you can fit in a mason jar of hot water. Strain through a sieve and freeze.
The last year has been quite an extraordinary one, maybe even the most extraordinary year of my life and quite an incredible experience. The upshot is that I quarantined alone on this hill for over three months without any human contact. I had split up with my husband last August and our farm lay abandoned as I considered my options: go back home to England? Move back to New York City? I tried both, then along came Covid-19.
We had made a mess of beekeeping too. Someone suggested that we smear honey on the outside of the hive, for some reason that I can’t remember, and the bees just kept getting robbed until they absconded for good.Continue reading
Halfway through August already. Dreamy morning sky with clouds just sparse enough for it to be bright and sunny. A high of 75F. Breezy and mild. Day 3 of hay making: baling.
A high of 81F yet cooler than yesterday because of a stronger breeze and plump, billowing clouds, some on the dark side. Tractor Lesson Day 2: fluffing up the downed hay like an eighties hair-do.
We had an extraordinary year for apples in 2017 and one of the guests on my radio show at the time gave me a fabulous recipe for a Heritage Apple Fruit Cake that is my one go-to cake. This is turning out to be a poor year for apples on our farm, so I’m using blueberries because I have so many of them. I’ve also modified this recipe even further because I like my cake really moist, chewy and fruity, so I bake it in a flatter pan, for less time and I’m using an extra half-cup of fruit. The special thing about this cake is that all the fruit sinks to the bottom and you get half-fruit, half-cake pudding with a slightly crispy topping that is really delicious. Needless to say, if you need to have your cake thoroughly cooked all the way through extend your cooking time to 40 minutes.
1 cup AP flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 oz butter (1 stick)
1 cup sugar, plus one tablespoon for sprinkling
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 tsp almond extract
2.5 cups blueberries
Soften the butter and whip it together with the sugar, vanilla, almond extract. Add the two eggs and beat them in. Mix the whole mixture well. Sift the flour and baking powder and add it into the butter/sugar mix gradually. Mix until you have a batter. The batter will be very stiff. Once you have a smooth batter, gently fold the blueberries into the batter but do so very gently – trying not to smash the fruit. You will end up smashing the fruit, but just try not to. Put the mixture into a square, flat, greased cake tin (9x9x2 inches). Flatten it into the pan gently and sprinkle the top with a tablespoon of sugar. Bake on 350 degrees for 30 minutes. (Or if you need your batter thoroughly cooked all the way through, do 40 minutes).
Hot and dry with an assortment of scene-stealing clouds and a light breeze. A high of 80F but feels like a scorcher. A good day for hay-making.
Another hazy morning with mist in the valley and the occasional, gentle breeze shaking last night’s rain out of the trees. A high of 81F. Sunny at dusk. Peachy in the orchard.
A smoking hot Tuesday: balmy with a high of 86F. Hazy sky. The perfect week for hay baling. Except until it rained torrentially at 10pm.
Another misty start to the day and fresh, but getting gradually hotter and hotter until a high of 90F. Rain at 5pm. Steamy.
Another misty morning rising to a sunny high of 83F with rolling clouds.
Misty, hazy morning sky, with mixed clouds and warm in the sun. Grey-bottomed clouds threaten rain in the distance. A high of 81F.
More overnight rain spilling into mid-morning. A mix of sun and clouds for the rest of the day. A high of 75F.
Cool and breezy with a high of 77F. Warm in the sunshine. A sky full of mixed clouds like they were thrown into the air. This had better not be the end of bikini weather. That’s all I’m saying.
A fresh and breezy morning with plump clouds set in a milky sky. A high of 75F. Post-rain forest perfect for foraging.
Torrential rain all day until 5pm, (3.7 inches by 4.30pm), tornado watch and a high of 69F. Stormy. Two hours before dusk, the clouds roll away across the sky like curtains opening on stage to reveal a sunny sky like nothing happened, but we’re still all soaking wet and cursing.
Sunny and dry with scattered clouds and high of 81F. Baking in the sun.
Early morning rain continued most of the afternoon with scene stealing clouds rolling away. Sunny for the rest of the day. A high of 86F. Scorcher.
Steamy, muggy with heavy swirling cloud and a slight breeze with a high of 84F. Hazelnuts ripen.
Sunny and mild. A high of 82F: a fair close to July.
A muggy morning with mist rising lazily from the valley and evaporating into a cloudy sky. A high of 80F and more torrential rain late afternoon. Steamy.
A fresh, cooler morning with hazy skies, and a mostly overcast day with a jumble of clouds in assorted light greys. A high of 86F. Torrential rains starting early evening bringing a power cut.
A quiet, overcast morning with torrential overnight rain winding down to a slow shower in a gentle breeze. A high of 80F, humid and muggy.
A warm, hazy morning, growing to a 90 scorcher by mid-afternoon. Torrential rains begin late evening.
I’m writing a book, so the farm has gone “holistic” for the last week or two and I’m producing a great deal of seeds. Even some of the purslane has blossomed yellow flowers. I’m allowing the asparagus to grow wild, so that the roots will benefit for next year’s season. I also let the Adirondack Red spuds linger too long in the kitchen and they wrinkled up, went moldy and sprouted. The good news is that they smell weird, so the chipmunks won’t go near them. I received a farming pro-tip: throw them in the bed and cover them with straw. Keep the straw wet. I’ve no idea why. It took five minutes in the scorching 90F weather today, so I felt a small accomplishment. We’ll see what happens.Continue reading
A high of 86F, dry with clear skies. Making hay while the sun shines.
We’re living in extraordinary times, wherein a global pandemic is the new normal and locals here in the Catskills are choosing, or have chosen by default, families and colleagues with whom to quarantine for the foreseeable future. Covid-19 has been rare in our pocket of the mountains with roughly 100 cases in Delaware County, but a region that was already isolated, once again, has become more insulated. Pandemic pods or social bubbles are common, one such bubble being the Tree Juice Maple Syrup bubble.
Covid-19 emerged right during sap season and the Tree Juice team couldn’t afford to halt production, so they quarantined while still working at the sap house on Lazy Crazy Acres Farm in Arkville, Upstate New York, owned by Jake Fairbairn. You probably couldn’t imagine a cuter or nicer team than the four members of TJ hunkered down over the frigid months of February and March, shoving wood around the clock (every 8 minutes) into the sap boiler after having tapped 7500 trees, and together producing over 2400 gallons of maple syrup.
Jake, co-founder of Tree juice Maple Syrup lives on Lazy Crazy Acres, the Fairbairn family farm, which was established in 1841.
JN: How does it feel to be part of history?
JF: Old? I also feel like there’s a sense of responsibility that comes with it.Continue reading
Using the last of the ramp (wild leeks) as the season comes to a close: ramps can be mixed into butter. There are many anecdotal recipes across the Catskills. You can blanche the leeks first in hot water or heat the butter, but the best way to get the taste of the plant and all its raw nutrients is to just finely chop the ramps and mix them well into the butter. You’ll get the sweet onion taste, but not overwhelm the dish to which you add it. A knob of raw ramp butter on a steak or steamed fish, for example, will complement it well. You can add a couple of tablespoons of this butter to a stew before you serve it. The butter above will be going over roasted asparagus and into a Guinness stew.
Chop the ramps on a plastic surface, so you don’t lose any of the juice into a wooden chopping board. Soften the butter slightly – I tuck it in my armpit for a few minutes – and then fold the ramps into the butter and whip it for a few minutes. Ensure that every part of the chopped ramps are either fully submerged in the butter or, if the ramps stick out of the butter slightly, that they are thickly coated in it. You don’t have to worry about this too much if you freeze the final product, which makes it easier to handle. If you do freeze it, roll it in to a log, or similar shape to a stick of butter and wrap it in the discarded butter wrappers, so you can cut it into knobs when you use it.
It’s wild leek (ramp) season and this year we’ve had more than the usual amount of rain needed to nourish these delicate, wild beauties. Every local in the Catskills has their secret ramp spot and few years ago, I transplanted a handful of wild leeks to a shady, wet spot by our house that they love. They love a water source and our house at the top of a ridge has brilliant underground drainage, so when it rains, all the water flows downhill through the ramp patch. Our patch is now several patches. Just before they die off, they send up stalks with dark, perfectly spherical seeds that look like tiny balls of onyx.Continue reading
Is it Spring or not? I’m afraid not. Up here in the Catskill mountains in the last weekend in April, winter has still not left us. Listen to our first podcast, a spring walk recorded over the weekend of April 25th and 26th, 2020. Saturday was filled with birdsong. However, Sunday we had snow, hail, and freezing rain, but your editor, narrator J.N. Urbanski still walked through the forest and waded through a stream to a waterfall to capture some ambient sounds of the countryside for those listeners stuck in quarantine in the city.
Click on the Sound Cloud link here to listen to the 21-minute podcast. Kick back and pretend your walking with Jenny and Alfie, the black lab mix.