Tag Archives: Catskills NY

Interview with Linda Leaming, Writer & Author

I discovered the American writer Linda Leaming when I read her book, Married to Bhutan in which she describes her life in Bhutan after she first went there to teach English twenty years ago. Her story was extraordinarily familiar to mine. Like Linda, I also moved to another country to work, married a foreigner and ended up making a home in an unfamiliar mountainous region – The Catskills – but Bhutan is more or less the exact opposite of America. Although what the two countries have in common is a populace that works very hard, there are so many striking differences – like their happiness despite the comparative lack of convenience. Americans are devoted to the pursuit of happiness, but the Bhutanese actually have actually achieved it. Bhutan’s secret to happiness is time plus the nurture of its environment, which comes at the expense of the aforementioned convenience. Americans can learn a lot from both the Bhutanese and the people of the Catskills (more on that later).

This podcast was taped back in 2012, one of my first interviews conducted on WIOX and the one that has received the most feedback. I hope you find it as fascinating as I do all these years later. Find her husband’s artwork here.

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Back on the Burroughs Range: Slide Trail

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John Burroughs couldn’t have picked a range of mountains to frequent that’s more demanding for the hiker, but according to the DEC it’s the most popular range in the Catskills Forest Preserve. It’s probably popular because it has the most interesting network of trail hikes, but it’s extremely challenging in parts, the Slide Trail (between the summits of Slide and Cornell) feeling like a craggy, sheer rock-face covered in trees. Continue reading

Bee Update: Catching a Swarm

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On a chance walkabout in the orchard between torrential rain showers this afternoon, we discovered a swarm of bees in the plum tree: an extraordinary sight to behold. Our original bees had come under attack from robber bees three weeks ago and have been having a hard time in the last few weeks, so this swarm could have been our own hive splitting in half and evacuating with a new queen. The original hive is now calm and not being robbed. (We’ll take a look in there tomorrow.) 

The swarm on the plum branch seemed like a casual gift, almost accidental – like Mother Nature threw us a bone – to make up for the fact that our original hive was robbed. It was nice to be with bees that were happy. The swarm was docile, as all bees without a home are, as they have nothing to protect. We had to act quickly because more rain was forecast.   Continue reading

A Nature Walk & Cocktails with The Outside Institute at Foxfire Mountain House

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Finally, a chance to meet Laura Silverman when she conducted a nature walk at the Foxfire Mountain House on Sunday. Laura has recently opened The Outside Institute and has been a guest on the radio show on WIOX and featured on this website, but we had never met in person – a common dilemma in today’s working practices. The Foxfire property – an inn and wedding venue – abuts the Catskills Forest Preserve and we had a tour of local flora and fauna that included a brace of skittish turkeys, bullrushes, ancient grape vines, mugwort, wild thyme, sumac, a lonesome tinder polypore, milkweed and some poison ivy. Poison ivy is difficult to identify, but essential if you don’t want to be itching or burning your way through summer. Did you know you can eat bullrushes? The walk was followed by cocktails using local ingredients in Foxfire’s gorgeously appointed bar. The Outside Institute has published a field guide to the Hudson and upper Delaware valleys and we’re currently working our way through it.

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Lilac Syrup

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Lilac blooms don’t last long, at high elevations at least. A reminder of the fleeting nature of the seasons, the blossoms begin to brown and drop off barely week after the all buds on each stem have opened. It makes sense to snip a few to put in a vase or soak a couple of cups in syrup. Lilac syrup makes a subtle floral soda and pairs well with gin.

Lilac Syrup

1 cup of water
1 cup of sugar
2 cups of lilac blossoms, flowers only, not stems

You can make more syrup, but the ratio must be the same: 1:1 of water and sugar. Slowly boil the sugar and water together until the sugar has dissolved and let it simmer gently for on low for a minute until it’s syrupy. The thicker you want your syrup to be, the longer you should simmer it. Wait until the mixture has cooled a little: you don’t want to burn the flowers, but you want the mixture to be hot enough. Rinse the flowers in cold water and add them to the syrup. Stir the flowers gently into the liquid until they are soaked in syrup. Cover and steep overnight.

In the morning, strain the syrup a couple of times and bottle. Unless you preserve the syrup by canning or other means, it will last for a few months in the fridge.

Mix on ounce of syrup with six ounces of club soda and pour over ice.

Daily Catskills: 05/21/18

A high of 80F and hot with the landscape lush with an extraordinary abundance of blossoms and wild flowers. Summer’s here.

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Daily Catskills: 05/10/18

A high of 70F with huge, scene-stealing clouds and intermittent rain showers. Humid with early evening fog descending into the valleys and rising off the Esopus. Shoots a-shooting. Buds a-budding and the maple leaves unravel first. The forest comes alive and the soft earth ejects a few ancient objects.

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Daily Catskills: 04/27/18

44F at 10am and gloomy with mist rising off the Catskills and a light drizzle. There’s a burn ban in effect until May 15th, so the sky is keeping us well-watered and the sun decided help by completely disappearing. Wild leeks love the weather.

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Saturday Links: Farming, Fishing, Radio & Catskills Life

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It’s been an interesting week, in terms of weather. We’ve had high temperatures that have dried laundry in hours, rain, freezing low temperatures, snow and then more soaking rain. It’s still a bit squidgy out there today as the snow melts. Upstate Dispatch has been transformed into an editing suite most of the week, with the highly addictive ProTools, preparing a podcast series.

Here are some of the week’s links and happenings, locally and internationally.

Fly fishing clinic at Westkill Brewery Sunday February 25th. Beer and fishing? The two go together like cheese and biscuits.

Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint 101 Class at Hudson Valley Vintage in Rhinebeck, NY. Milk Paint has been around for over a thousand years and contains only five 100% natural ingredients. Leave the class with a painted project.

Yoga in the Catskills: near Phoenicia, NY.

Progress made in sustainable agriculture in Holland from National Geographic. “How The Netherlands Feeds The World”. And hydroponic greens grown by AeroFarms in Newark.

The Greenhorns and their farmer’s almanac.

“A man is worked upon by what he works on. He may carve out his circumstances, but his circumstances will carve him out as well.” Frederick Douglas

Fire Cider Making

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Fire cider is a traditional, ancient folk remedy and winter tonic in which curative roots, herbs and spices are steeped in apple cider vinegar. The basic ingredients of fire cider are garlic, horseradish root, jalapeños, habaneros, ginger and onion. Chop these ingredients finely, put them in a mason jar and cover with apple cider vinegar. To this mix you can add extras like grapefruit, rosemary, garlic, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne pepper or really anything that takes your fancy, usually a root or herbs because they steep better than powders.  Continue reading

Local Maple Syrup CSA

It’s syrup time. Taps went into trees a little earlier this year. Tree Juice is now offering a CSA.

There are many maple syrup producers in the Catskills and some of them welcome visitors. It’s worth paying more for local sugar and seeing how it’s made. Some of the modern equipment is more complicated that customers realize. Farmers and producers use miles of tubing to collect the sap. Syrup is produced by condensing the sap and 50-60 gallons of maple sap yield one gallon of syrup. It’s completely organic. Continue reading

Mid-Winter Planting: Hickory Nuts

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Yesterday, the temperature inexplicably rose up into the sixties for a few hours, followed by rain and a severe flood watch. Since then it has plunged back into the teens after an overnight snow storm, during which I woke up to the sound of cracking trees and thundering wind rattling my drain pipes. Never a dull moment here in the mountains. Continue reading

Daily Catskills: 01/12/18

Overnight, gusty, house-creaking, tree-waving winds continue into morning, with rain melting the last of the snow, and bright despite being overcast. A lush landscape of brunette tones is revealed, and the landscape welcomes a drenching before the ice storm. A balmy 61F. T-shirt weather. Flood warning. The carbon sink (compost piles) gets a thorough soaking.

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Bear Cub Birthing Season

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We have a large rocky outcropping on the edge of the forested part of our property that juts out sharply towards our neighbor’s ten-acre forest (pictured above). This rocky area, about an half an acre in size, is essentially a pile of assorted boulders that look like they’ve been tossed down the hill, but I suspect that this pile is home to various creatures great and small. Years ago, when I was brushing my teeth, casually looking out the bathroom window, I saw a fisher cat sneaking through the back of our woods behind the house towards this rocky outcropping. Continue reading

Hot Toddies, Seeds and Bee Bibles

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Cabin fever has you wondering if its possible to survive another six-month winter and why you would put yourself through another one, but there’s a reason we have winter in the Catskills. I like to think that it’s not because the earth suddenly tilts for no purpose whatsoever, as if holding its cold ass to the fire. No, winter’s for learning, seed planning, and drinking a lot of warming winter cocktails like hot toddies and mulled wine. If the earth must kick back, so can we. Continue reading

Happy New Year from Upstate Dispatch

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We enter the New Year 2018 with formidably low temperatures. Christmas was bitterly cold and New Year’s Eve’s overnight low is predicted to be -8F. I cannot remember it ever being much lower than zero in previous winters. It feels like a thorough cleansing, as if Mother Nature wants to properly destroy everything before she resuscitates the landscape next Spring. Previous milder Winters have been blamed for the prevalence in ticks, for example. This year – this past Fall – we had a record number of ticks on our ridge and extremely low winter temperatures do their part to kill the eggs and larvae hibernating in the soil. Continue reading

Grow Your Own Mushroom Kits

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I know what you’re thinking. This looks hideous. Who would eat this? But, If you’re an avid mushroom hunter, a devotee of all things mycological, then you’ll miss the vast array of mushrooms that were available in the forest during the warmer seasons. Pictured above is a mushroom grow kit, specifically Lion’s Mane, a delicate, fragrant mushroom with a taste and texture that’s a cross between lobster and truffles. I found only one stash of Lion’s Mane back in August in the forest and it was delicious. I’m trying to recreate this mushroom in my kitchen with a grow kit purchased from Catskill Fungi, but I think the room is a bit too light and warm. Mushrooms are extraordinarily sensitive and I have not been able to encourage this packet to achieve its full potential. In the wild, it looks like this: Continue reading

Catskills Conservation: Where to Buy a Specially Grown, Local Christmas Tree

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Support a local farmer and cut a local, sustainably grown Christmas tree this year. Tree growing is one of the few ways farmers making a living in an area highly regulated against industry in order to keep New York City water pure for drinking. Continue reading

Catskills’ Local Holiday Gift Guide

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Food, booze and small favors like soaps and scented candles make great gifts without costing a fortune. Plus, they can be easily mailed to friends and family members across the country. The Catskills is filled to the brim with local producers, making it ever easier to shop locally for the holidays. The Catskills also have some of the best local artists selling everything from small works to large pieces in studios across the region. Watch this space for features on local artists selling their wares during the holiday season. We’re also compiling a list of places you can cut your own Christmas tree. It’s never been more important to shop locally. For every dollar you spend locally, the community will benefit to the value of five to seven dollars. Industry in the Catskills is strictly regulated because we have to protect New York City’s drinking water. Spending money on the Catskills’ small producers keeps our regional economy afloat. Shop Upstate for the holidays. Continue reading

Windowsill Celery

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During the winter, if you have a spot in the house that gets a great deal of sun, turn it into a hothouse for cultivation. It couldn’t be easier to grow your own celery. When you next use celery, chop off the entire root system in one slice. Place the celery, root pointing down, in a glass of water (pictures below) and then plant it once your get some new growth that looks like frilly lettuce (pictured above). Continue reading

The Anatomy of a Bird Box

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A base layer of dirt, then grass, then a thick wedge of insulation and finally, twigs topped off with a small, vacated wasp’s nest and a large insect exoskeleton, probably a caterpillar/butterfly. A once crowded bird box now getting repaired and cleaned out for new tenants.

Monday’s Radio Show: Local Government & Conservation

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After this week’s election victories, Monday’s radio show will feature two prominent guests: Jeff Senterman and Julia Reischel. From 9am to 9.30am, we will hear from Jeff who is Executive Director of the Catskill Center. Many people ask me what the Catskill Center does and now here is your chance to find out if you didn’t know. From 9.30am to 10am, we’ll hear from Julia Reischel, a former local journalist and co-founder of the now-retired Watershed Post, who is now going into politics.

You can stream the show online on WIOX on Monday November 13that 9am. Let’s hope it’s warmer than today’s 22F.

Women of the Catskills

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“There’s this thing happening… the women’s movement, and I want to cover it.”

Writer Nora Ephron uttered that sentence over 40 years ago and, as of last year, during the last election cycle, it seemed like our quest for equality hadn’t really advanced that far. Women still earned less than men for doing the same jobs, women’s rights were being eroded and sexual harassment in the workplace continued unabated. According to one New York City chef, writing in GQ Magazine, whole industries have been marginalizing the achievements of women in the restaurant business for decades. This year, though, we are experiencing a wholesale transformation in our zeitgeist. It’s a paradigm shift of epic proportions. Women are beginning to speak up, becoming more politically active and attempting to effect change by running for public office. “Women hold up half the sky,” the saying goes, and we should have half the representation.

Here in the Catskills, we have a remarkable abundance of female entrepreneurs: women blazing their own trail in this wilderness. The area is filled with strong, female icons, role models, influencers, artists, farmers, scientists and teachers. Last night, election night, saw a female entrepreneur, Julia Reischel, former journalist, take a seat on our local town council and all over the country democratic women won hard-earned seats in local office. Continue reading