Tag Archives: Writing

Lazy Crazy Acres Farm

© Jenny Neal – Usage prohibited without consent

It’s been a while since I wrote with any regularity here, and I need to get back to my roots as a writer, so I started a new project: documenting the history and workings of this 93-year-old working farm to which I moved exactly two years ago: Lazy Crazy Acres Farm and its resident farmer Jake Fairbairn who makes hay and maple syrup on 100 acres. It’s a collaboration between Lazy Crazy Acres Farm and Upstate Dispatch. The farm is in need of some serious TLC. The house needs renovating and the farm equipment needs constant repair. Will we be able to fix up the house in time for the farm’s centenary? Who knows? But we have started by fixing the back porch, which was falling down.

You can follow along on the Instagram.

Farming is a hugely risky endeavor. The weather is boss and this has been an extraordinary year in that this is the first year that Jake has not been able to make hay in June. In May 2023 we had a month of drought conditions: browned grass and hay growth that was only about 60% of last year’s mass. In June we have had near-constant rain. At time of writing, July 4th, Jake is fixing the steering wheel on one of the farm’s 50-year-old tractors, because it is still raining.

Furthermore, it’s not only good practice for me as a writer, but I also feel the need to publish my own authentic story. To this end, my next post will be a piece of my memoir that was published two years ago in Farmerish.net, which I am publishing for the first time here on Upstate Dispatch.

Thank you for reading!

Jenny Neal

Catskills Food Guide 2017

© J.N. Urbanski

I’m proud to have had the opportunity to contribute text and images to this year’s Catskills Food Guide published by the Watershed Post that hit the stands today. I’ve tried many of the region’s burgers and sandwiches for the WP. I’ve interviewed and photographed local producers and store-owners too, but the best assignment I’ve ever had was interviewing Ray Turner, an eclectic old-timer who traps eel on the Delaware River in a gigantic weir that he built with his own hands. The weir is truly to be seen to be believed – constructed with available stone and wood – and the man himself is a true Catskills character. He has a pet emu. We had some seriously eccentric exchanges. He only likes Black Labradors:

Him: “The only good dog is a lab, all the others are goats as far as I’m concerned.”
Me: “I LOVE goats!”
Him: “…”

I hadn’t been at his establishment an hour before he had me in a pair of thick rubber waders in a canoe out on the river.

Me: “None of this equipment likes water”.
Him: “No standing in the canoe”.

Pick up a copy of the Catskills Food Guide at any establishment in the Catskills. The guide includes a large pull-out, color map of the region detailing the places where you can eat, drink and shop locally.

© J.N. Urbanski

Shaking Off The Winter Blues

© J.N. Urbanski

After informal discussions amongst neighbors, I’ve gleaned that the cabin fever or winter blues hit a high this past winter. During a chance encounter with an acquaintance, I was asked: “how did you survive winter?”, to which I replied, “barely”. Although, most agreed that the weather wasn’t as bad as the year before. To be honest though, cabin fever aside, happiness seems to be quite rare these days. Last year, I was surprised when at a social group in NYC, as 20-plus ladies sat around in a circle, I asked how many of them were on anti-depressants and they all raised their hands. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a journalist or if people are being more honest lately, but in my experience, we’re opening up about anxiety. There’s a lot of be anxious about; the proposed revival of the coal industry is one of them. (Coal, really? Are we in Victorian England?) In my experience, the winter blues and bouts of cabin fever have been held at arm’s length by writing, reading, diet and lots of booze exercise (and the latest research, below, seems to indicate that what you eat affects your mental health). Even if you’re not a writer, a ToDO list or a journal can help enormously. As a writer, one has to get used to solitude, but spring is on the way, the buds are on the trees and after last night’s rain there might be mushrooms. There are definitely ramps in the valleys.

Here are some links on the latest news on health and exercise from some respected media outlets and some tips on writing:

On the benefits of solitude from The Atlantic and how to be alone from Brain Pickings.

More research into how gut bacteria can affect our minds as well as our bodies. A study suggests that eating probiotics like yoghurt relieves anxiety. The book Gulp by Mary Roach and foods to restore our gut bacteria from The Scientific American.

Interval training benefits the aging body. It’s never too late to start exercising. Links to some remarkable interval training DVDs from Jillian Michaels.

How perfectionism kills creativity from Anne Lamott.

Zadie Smith’s 10 Rules of Writing. “Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never ­being satisfied.”

And for fun:

How one writer tried to stop complaining.

How one writer said yes to everything, including crossfit, and ended up in the hospital, from Vice.

A Village Idiom: This Writer’s Life

© J.N. Urbanski

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone for reading Upstate Dispatch. This week, we were thrilled to receive some high praise, kind attention and a surprise donation: it’s enlivening to know that all the hard work is appreciated. All the analytics and visitor metrics in the world won’t tell us if you actually enjoyed reading it or not! UD has thousands of readers every month, from near and far, but hardly any comments. I also received some other feedback: you want to read more about me in particular, my life. My writing and consulting work takes me far and wide, introduces me to some incredibly interesting people and places. While I’m formulating a plan on how to deliver more of these stories on this website, here are some back links to some popular posts (at the bottom of the page). UD was started in September 2014, so there’s a lot of history here. Feel free to dig around and comment. I’ll be publishing back links from this site every couple of weeks.

This year, as a writer, I decided to get back into fiction and vowed to read more. I also vowed to attend at least one writer’s group, or start one, because my romance with the blank page can’t beat a night out with actual people. I will also be going down to the local library more: Skene Memorial Library in Fleischmanns to write my fiction. Country life can be isolating, especially if you work from home like so many local writers, farmers and producers. If you buy books, like I do, donate them to the local library when you’ve finished. It’s a great way to share some of your collection, while still having access to it.

Finally, I have been neglecting the high peaks, having ten more hikes to complete the Catskill 35. Tomorrow: North Dome and Sherrill – that’s if I haven’t signed up too late.

Popular Links from Upstate Dispatch:

Alfie, my black lab/shepherd rescued from the Kingston ASPCA, has his own fans and this post, entitled For The Love of Dog, about him was picked up by Mrs Sizzle in New York City. He was photographed by Shannon Greer at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

My thoughts on work, now that I’m closer to the real work of country life and also my thoughts on food and the food system.

Our instagram feed and my own: jnurbanski.

My local: go drink some vodka, drink local. A recipe for a winter warmer: mulled, spiced port.

Last year, I became a trustee on the board of Woodchuck Lodge, John Burrough’s ancestral home. I’ll be writing a post on community service at a later date.

Thanks again for reading,

J.N. Urbanski

Catskills Culture: November Events

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

It’s been another spectacular fall with vivid, fiery reds and yellows transforming to their final phase: brilliantly rusted shades of amber, bronze, tan, copper and gold. Tourism is the Catskills’ most lucrative business and it’s a given that many friends and neighbors fall out of touch over the summer, engaged in the reception and entertainment of visitors from all over the world. For those not in that business, summer was a time to fix up the homestead: new boiler, woodstove, siding and perhaps a window or two. Summer is our busiest time, and quiet moments snatched in between interminable chores and work in the glorious warmth of the lush summer season, are few and far between.

But, winter is coming… Winter is coming and it’s a chance to gather with everyone and entertain each other. It might get so cold that it freezes the balls off a brass statue, but our entertainment is just warming up. Join us for some Catskills culture as we kick off November with a week of art, literary and eclectic musical events.

Some forthcoming cultural events in the Upstate Dispatch sphere next week are as follows:

The Spillian Scribblers:

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

It’s National Novel Writing Month in November and Upstate Dispatch is chronicling the life of the writer with guests on WIOX on alternate Mondays in November (2nd, 16th & 30th) at 9am. Furthermore, the Scribblers, a writers’ group that started last month after a myth-writing workshop run by Leigh Melander, will meet on Tuesday, November 3rd at Spillian in Fleischmanns. Convening In the majestic splendor of a historical Catskills landmark by a cozy fire, we read each other’s works aloud and offer comments over cake and booze. Spillian has a cash bar. If you are a writer and wish to join in, please email [email protected].

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Writing Myth at Spillian on Saturday

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

There could be some fiction on these pages and there’s a smattering of poetry but none by me. I’m one of those writers with a pile of fiction on hold: a play, a book and a head full of ideas that I call my fictional endeavors, but not for long! I’m attending Writing Myth: A Spillian Writing Imaginarium at Spillian in Fleischmanns, a writing workshop culminating in dinner and some spoken word, in that we will drink, dine and read aloud the works we have written that day. The dinner and reading are open to the public, even if you are not participating in the workshop. The last time I read my fiction to an audience I bombed with aplomb. In fact, it must have been fun to watch me crash and burn like a professional because I was invited to read my works on the radio. So please join us. Give a group of Catskills writers an audience and enjoy a lovely meal in a beautiful setting. Scroll down for pictures of Spillian.

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Catskills Conversations: Heather Rolland

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Jenny: How long have you lived in the Catskills?

Heather: I moved to the Catskills in 2007, so I’ve been here going on eight years.

Where did were you living before?

I was living in Dutchess County in Dover Plains and I had been there 17 years. I grew up in Nyack. I’ve actually never lived anywhere more urban than Nyack. It’s been a slow and steady march northward.

What started that slow march?

When I was in High School. I had a buddy who – and this is a crazy story – we both turned sixteen, got our driver’s licenses. She quit high school and moved all by herself as a sixteen year old to Woodstock.

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Proof at the STS Playhouse, Phoenicia

ProofFlyerThere’s still time to catch Proof written by David Auburn at the STS Playhouse on Church Street in Phoenicia this weekend, starring Jennifer Paul, Farrell Reynolds, Stephen Powell and Kimberly Kay. Last night’s show was remarkable: deeply engrossing, funny with excellent performances from the cast. Proof explores the world of madness and mathematics.

From the director, Wallace Norman:

“When rehearsals began it was asked, ‘What the hell IS a proof?’ A mathematical proof is an argument, which convinces other people (usually mathematicians) that something is true – incontrovertibly. There is a precise vocabulary and grammar that underlies all mathematical proofs. The vocabulary includes logical words such as or, if and Q.E.D.”

Further shows tonight April 18th at 8pm and tomorrow afternoon, April 19th at 2pm.

The Three Muses: Becca Andre

Becca, of The Three Muses, will be reading at the Joma Cafe on Saturday night.


I wish I had stayed in St. Paul,
holding on, one night longer, to that stolen kiss
with my crystal flute playing friend.

But then, I would have missed my only night in New Orleans:
arriving late to a B&B,
hanging on the porch dripping of sweat and the blues.

Ahh, there was no resisting
that first barista-made coffee
and the art laden sidewalks of Portland.

Then, there was Dallas.
I never got his name, but that two-steppin cowboy
floated me across the Red River dance floor
making me forget all about my broken heart…
for three minutes, maybe four.

And El Paso, make me smile.
staring across the Rio Grande for a while,
so close to romance with the conductor of a train…
but no, I had to hop a bus to Tucson,
weave my rented Chevy through Sedona,
to stand glorious and triumphant
on the edge of the Grand Canyon.

All this, after my night spent on the wooden bench
of a depot in San Antonio,
listening to the thunder roll from the storm that left me,
delayed and betrayed.
BUT, I was in Texas, so I almost stayed…

And never, never will I forget that ride along the rails
of the Pacific coast.  Landing in Sacramento,
with only my camera and clothes,
standing at the Hard Rock Cafe,
staring at the giant spinning guitar,
(that sidewalk singer,
I swore he called out my name).

Until this day,
I wonder if I should’ve stayed
in Sacramento,
Just stopped right there, started life anew.
This I wonder often…
Yet it is “no” that I conclude,
for none of these places, these cities, these towns would ever do.
Because none of them,
not one,
held the sweet promise of meeting you.

©2014 Becca #43

Poetry in the Catskills




A rupture


Steers the bloom…


April is Poetry Month and next week there are a couple of noteworthy events to celebrate the season: The Three Muses at the Joma Cafe in Shokan and Poetry in Your Pocket hosted by the Roxbury Arts Group.

For Poetry In Your Pocket day, RAG is celebrating by placing poems in the pockets of community members and encouraging them to read them aloud throughout the day.

RAG “would love the opportunity to highlight the work of our local and regional poets! To be included, send your poem to [email protected] by April 17”.


Transplant Tales: Laura Silverman

© Mark Hanauer Courtesy of Laura Silverman

© Mark Hanauer Courtesy of Laura Silverman

Laura Silverman was a guest on my radio show on WIOX almost exactly two years ago and is a fellow writer of Edible Hudson Valley. Laura has a popular local food blog called Glutton For Life and is Editor of Delaware Valley 8 a new bi-annual newspaper based in the Catskills to be published on Memorial Day and Labor Day this year.

There’s been a rash of articles in the media about the Catskills turning hipster. What do you think about that?

I think that cities in general are becoming much more challenging places to live especially for creative people. I think more people are moving out of the cities and more people are dreaming about moving out of cities.

How long have you lived in the Catskills?

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Transplant Tales: Molly J Marquand

© Erik Johanson/@halcott718

© Erik Johanson/@halcott718 Molly Marquand at her office at CRISP in the Catskills Center

“My muse is always nature.” Molly J Marquand, Catskills transplant and fellow native Brit, photographer, writer, naturalist, and wild flower gardener dishes the dirt to Upstate Dispatch in our new series Catskills Conversations.

How long have you lived in the Catskills? About two and a half years, I moved from New York City where my fiancé and I, Martin, lived for three years. I was born in England and moved to the Hudson Valley just before high school. I did go back to England to get my Masters Degree, in Taxonomy and Conservation of Plant Diversity (Botany) a joint programme with Kew Botanical Gardens and The University of Reading. But my undergraduate degree, which was in Ecology, I did at Bates in Maine.

What made you move here? I’d always had my eye on it, because I knew that I always needed space. We had this dream of having a farm and having wide open tracts of land. At the same time, I wanted to be close to my mother who lives in the Hudson Valley. [My fiancé and I] were both attracted to landscapes like the Rockies and Montana and places like that, but knowing that we were never going that far away because Martin’s family live in New York City.

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Daily Catskills: 11/01/14

A grey morning and a sullen grey day, with not a scrap of sky to be seen. 40F at midday. The outside world might have stopped for all we know. There would be an eery stillness in the air, if it wasn’t for a light breeze that moves the branches gently and chases the odd leaf here and there. An endless-cups-of-tea kind of day. National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) starts today: 1666 words by midnight. Update: Light snowfall began late in the evening.

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