Tag Archives: Upstate New York

Daily Catskills: 10/05/22

A rainy morning walk through misty mountains. Another overcast day, with thick foggy cloud and a high of 61F. The sun making a brief appearance mid to late afternoon, brightening the gorgeous fall colors. A lovely half-moon rise though streaky cloud.

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Daily Catskills: 10/03/22

Cloud stretched taut over the sun like thick gauze, chilly with a high of 52F. Chronic overcast conditions are dulling these fall colors that are best experienced up close: oak on the right, maple on the left. The oak will be the last man standing.

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Daily Catskills: 09/28/22

More gloom. Overcast, with a slight chill taking the edge off the humidity and a high of 65F. Misty clouds sail through the valley towing their falling rain.

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Daily Catskills: 09/22/22 Autumnal Equinox

Loud overnight thunderstorms begin in the early hours of the autumnal equinox, the first day of fall. Intermittent rain, some afternoon sun, and a high of 69F. Humid with a chilly breeze.

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Daily Catskills: 09/20/22

A bright, crisp morning, but overcast. A high of 67F, and pockets of sunshine despite stormy cloud cover and afternoon sprinkles. A slight yellowing of the foliage and a few splashes of red.

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The Farm Stand

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I developed a curry sauce made from scratch during the pandemic. Curry is part of Ayurvedic diet in which you eat foods that protect your health, so this year I tried to grow some of the ingredients. There are plenty of foods in this diet that don’t grow well in this climate, but we do have some good replacements. For example, spice bush, native to the Catskills and Northeast America, is a good stand-in for spices because you can eat the leaves, twigs and berries. I’ve never found spice bush when foraging here, but I did buy a few seedlings from Barkaboom Native Plants based here in the Catskills.

Some of what I planted at Lazy Crazy Acres farm did not do well, or even grow at all, but what did grow really well were arugula, red bliss potatoes, garlic, tomatoes, and hot peppers. We have shishito, jalapeno, cayenne, anaheim and exactly one dark green poblano. We got at least 30 shishito peppers from one plant alone, although we had to get it under cover because the deer started to eat the plant. I also planted mint and lavender as companion plants. The mint has kept the tomatoes pest-free except for one lonely, recent hornworm. All these are on the farm stand, except the hornworm who was invited to move across the street. Considering that we’re on dead-end road, this little fledgling farm stand is not doing too badly. Visitors to Tree Juice Maple Syrup are the biggest customers, which is where the farm stand is, and some of the garlic will be going into the syrup.

Whatever does not get sold will get dried or preserved. We grew 300 heads of garlic and the cloves from the biggest bulbs will get planted in October.

The farm stand is open when it’s not raining. We’ve yet to add a roof, but we all have to start somewhere.

Happy Birthday Upstate Dispatch!

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Tomorrow will mark the five year anniversary of Upstate Dispatch. I’m not sure how that happened, but it’s been a wild ride. I can honestly say that this city girl has learned so much more about life, work and herself these past few years than could have been imagined.

To commemorate, I will be a guest on the radio tonight of Steve Burnett in his show The Evening Tickler at 6pm. Listen in on WIOX here.

You may have noticed that there hasn’t been much on the website these past few months and there’s a reason for that. I’m taking my life in an entirely new direction. I’ve no idea where it will lead, but there will be a new website devoted to more of my writing life than just this neck of the woods, and new media-based work in the arts and further afield. But there’s so much content here, you could peruse this site for the next year on the old posts alone. Below find links to the most popular posts of the past five years. Coming up for UD in the future, we’ll be more food-focused with new contributors to write on recipes, farming and the local economy. We’re looking for sponsors to underwrite our fall content and invite pitches to info@upstatedispatch.com.

Meanwhile, over the summer, it has been nice to relax into the scenery, just exist in the woods, forage, harvest and meditate, without having to document every leaf, stream and view of it.

Upstate Dispatch Links

We never finished the Catskills 35! I have just six bushwhacks left and will do those over the winter because the summit is easier to find without the leaves on the trees. However, our hiking section is the most popular.

See our Instagram feed here.

An interview with Bill Birns got us about 13,000 new views and Rob Handel is one of the most accomplished young chefs in the region.

An interview with Steve and Kristie Burnett.

Catskills drinking!

Thanks so much for reading.

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.

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Daily Catskills: 03/22/19

Almost a foot of overnight snow descends, putting an end to exactly a week of thatched, nascent landscape and its rich earth tones. Sticky snow like spray foam clings to trunks, boughs and branches, turning outdoor furniture into ghosts, making ski-runs deep and slow. Mountains shrouded in foggy snow clouds. More snow fall during the day and a high of 38F.

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Daily Catskills: 09/17/18

Mist sinking into the valleys early morning with wispy clouds getting thicker as the day progresses. A mostly sunny afternoon with a high of 80F and light rain beginning at dusk. Balmy.

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Retrolinks Sunday: The Best of Upstate Dispatch

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Upstate Dispatch recently celebrated its fourth birthday and I took a bit of a break to ponder on why and how it started in the first place. As a writer, I’ve always lived in deserted areas of cities with cheap rents: Shoreditch when it was a post-industrial wasteland on the other side of Liverpool Street train station – a two-pub pocket of London that was deserted at weekends where I learnt to play pool; Williamsburg when there were still cars burning on the streets of Kent Avenue: Bed-Stuy, when there was an actual car burning outside our studio one time and where a musician came every Sunday with a set of speakers and an electric guitar to play where nobody heard him; leafy Fort Greene when the rents were laughably low and one local dive bar in a basement that teemed with characters fit for novels, bursting with life. As I moved on from one city to another, and one area to the next, in the above order, the expanding population followed hard on my heels. Shoreditch is now a tourist mecca akin to Piccadilly Circus or Times Square.

The Catskills, where I now live, is also a sparsely populated area where there are so many characters fit for novels and brimming with life in a completely different way: rural, and wild-forested natural history. Farmers, artists, historians, writers, homesteaders, cooks, teachers and more, nestle in the valleys of the Catskills and perch on mountaintops. Our forested ridge is fast filling up with young people seeking a more calming environment, good food and company. In the time since we bought our house, an astonishing eleven years ago, our dog has had the run of a 40-acre ridge-top and we only had two friendly full-time neighbors, a retired couple. All that is changing – our dead-end road is filling up with young, curious people and for the first time last night, as I read by an open window, I heard music coming from another distant house that mingled with owls, evening chirping and the waning laughter of crows.

New York City is charging out of its concrete jungle, sending out its long, withered, under-nourished tendrils towards us – the only vegetation that it can muster – gasping for life and some nurturing soil. This slow march from the city to the country is viewed with consternation by some, but if you’ve had children, you can’t really complain about the fast-swelling population.

Upstate Dispatch was started as a Catskills diary, a daily documentation of life in the Catskills and latterly my experiences as a writer in the past four years in local print and on my radio show on the eclectic WIOX Radio.

There is a so much to read on this site. Here are some more links to the best of Upstate Dispatch:

Our hiking page has been the most popular. Find our efforts to climb the Catskills 35 and document some of the best views in the Catskills over the years.

Every day, for the first 18 months of the website, I published one picture a day from around the area in the Daily Catskills section. Click here to scroll back through the years in this category.

More on my personal history in First Person Dispatch.

Conversations with other Catskills residents in Catskills Conversations.

Our adventures with our small farm and a steep learning curve in the world of foraging.

Now, back to documenting this year’s slow fall. The mountains look like those heads of broccoli that you leave in the fridge too long: slightly yellowing, “on the turn” as they say in England.

Thanks for reading.

J.N. Urbanski 9/11/18

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On The Finger Lakes Trail: Little Pond & Touch-Me-Not

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The Finger Lakes Trail wends through the Catskills, beginning at the western edge of the Slide Mountain Wilderness and continuing on to Downsville and way beyond, stretching for about 500 miles.

A few miles’ worth of the Catskills’ portion of the FL trail goes past Big Pond, and Little Pond (pictured above). The trail to Little Pond begins across the road from Big Pond’s small beach – and it’s even smaller parking lot – and forms a loop around Little Pond that’s made up of two trails: The Little Pond Trail and Touch-me-not Trail. Continue reading

Foraging: Chanterelles

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Chanterelles are in the same family as the northeastern Black Trumpets (Craterellus), but they have a few toxic look-a-likes, so they’re much trickier to identify than Black Trumpets. When you’re foraging for mushrooms, a positive identification is essential before you even think about eating. For example, there are plenty of bright orange mushrooms in the forest that you should not eat and so if there is any confusion, forget it. The intricacies of mushroom hunting are so varied and convoluted that, for the layman, most mushrooms are not worth the risk of misidentification. Rest assured that mycology – the study of fungi –  is a lifetime of learning and that most of what you find in the forest should be left alone.

So – to identify these chanterelles pictured here, as I did with the boletes I found two years ago, I sought the opinions of at least two experienced foragers to help identify them. Continue reading

Daily Catskills: 08/17/18

A rainy, soggy morning with a brief interlude of warming sun around midday with brief periods of sunshine, returning to torrential rain and thunderstorms late afternoon. A high of 80F.

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Daily Catskills: 08/16/18

A dull, foggy, humid start rising to an 87F high by late afternoon with blazing sun. Hordes of post-rain mushrooms stage a revolution on the forest floor.

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Interview with Joyce St. George, candidate for NY State Senate District 51

“I remember when you went for a job and there were signs saying WOMEN NOT WANTED or MEN ONLY or BOYS ONLY”.

Reportedly, this year the US has had a record number of female political candidates running for office. Joyce St. George is one of these women. Joyce was a guest on my radio show on April 30th and we talked about some aspects of her career, being a woman in politics, her career in law enforcement, her run for state senate and what she does to unwind (she also practices and teaches karate here in the Catskills).

Joyce is a powerhouse with an intimidating resume. She began her career in the 1970s, when she became the first female investigator to serve in the New York State Attorney General’s Special Prosecutor’s Office on Anti-Corruption. Following the dramatic testimony of Frank Serpico, Joyce and her colleagues rooted out corruption within the criminal justice system in NYC, investigating police officers, judges and district attorneys. That was only the beginning of her career and I’m wondering why nobody’s made a movie about Joyce herself.

Joyce is approachable, affable and engaging with a big heart. With her husband Frank Canavan, she works with the Margaretville Food Pantry that serves 500 local families. Joyce was hired by FEMA to provide crisis services in Delaware County following the floods from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, and served on the Flood Mitigation Council for the area.

Daily Catskills: 08/08/18

Early morning sun barely breaking through thick fog. Overcast and humid with periods of break out sun, a torrential afternoon shower, and a high of 83F. The Catskills is a rain forest, consisting of a innumerable number of creeks, streams and rivers in a world that is running out of fresh water.

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Mushroom Hunting

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This week’s torrential rain created ideal mushroom growing conditions and the chicken mushroom, turkey tail, ghost pipe, chaga and polypores are all ripe for the foraging. Get out there and pick them, paint them or just generally admire them before they dry, rot, or get eaten by other creatures, like the hungry bears that the July drought had forced towards more urban areas. There’s even a bolete or two in advance of their normal August season. The reservoir is high, creeks are gushing and mushrooms are glowing in the understory like little alien beings. Like a movie cliche, yesterday the dog bound off into the forest to chase a much faster creature than him, and I ran off after them both and stumbled into a grove of hemlocks dotted like acne with polypore and a carpeted with ghost pipe. The polypore pictured above is a tinder polypore, good as a fire-starter for campers, was an ancient antibiotic and a sort of chewing tobacco used by certain indigenous Alaskan tribes. 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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Kimchee Harvest Kitchen, Grand Opening Friday July 13th

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East Branch Farms has announced their grand opening of Kimchee Harvest Kitchen on Main Street in Roxbury, on Friday 13th July from 7am, with extended hours to 6pm. This farm-to-table restaurant offers delicious, Asian cuisine using produce grown by farmer and owner Madalyn Warren and cooked by chef Toko Harada.

Kimchee Harvest Kitchen, 53470 State Highway 30, Roxbury, NY 12474.

Kimchee Harvest Kitchen Restaurant, Roxbury

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Something we’ve been pining for here in the Catskill Mountains is Asian food. There’s precious little of it around these parts, but now we have something really wonderful. Kimchee Harvest Kitchen in Roxbury, New York serves Korean food that is delicious, and local. The produce featured on the menu is grown by owner, farmer Madalyn Warren on her farm East Branch Farms on Route 30 in Roxbury, whose speciality is kimchee made with a variety of locally grown and foraged vegetables like dandelion, radish, rhubarb, garlic scape or cabbage. Madalyn’s mother is from Pusan, Korea and they make the kimchee together. The meat on the menu is sourced from other local farms. Continue reading