Locally made snacks for your outdoor adventure

Written by Charlene V. Martoni
Published in VISITvortex

Part of what makes the Hudson Valley such a beautiful place this time of year is its many destinations that have been taken over by autumn colors. Now is the time to plan some outdoor adventures like a hike up Overlook Mountain, a climb on the Shawangunk Ridge, or a bike along the Hudson Valley Rail Trail.

It’s always important to be prepared whenever you explore the outdoors by bringing maps, first aid kits, and some form of communication. You should also bring energy-packed snacks to keep you going until the end of your excursion.

Here are some healthy, locally made snacks to pack for your next Hudson Valley adventure:

BJORNQORN

This homegrown, non-gmo popcorn is popped by the sun and seasoned with all-natural, gluten-free, and vegan ingredients—no butter or cheese. The BjornQorn signature flavor is created with nutritional yeast, making it high in protein and B vitamins. Bjorn and Jamie, the duo behind BjornQorn, met at Bard College where Bjorn was known for his family’s popcorn recipe and Jamie for his wild ideas. Thus, BjornQorn was born. You can buy this snack at The Big Cheese in Rosendale, High Falls Food Co-op in High Falls, Kelder’s Farm Stand in Kerhonkson, and at other locations throughout the Hudson Valley. Visit bjornqorn. com for a full listing of locations.

THE BAKERY’S ENERGY BARS

Runners and bikers swear by the New Paltz Bakery’s energy bars, made with nuts, dates, apricots, seeds, sesame tahini, honey, and vanilla. They’re gluten-free, have no refined sugar, and are high in protein. Dave Santner has been making this recipe for his whole baking career, even before opening The Bakery in 1981. The bars have been featured in Runner’s World, and the recipe is included in Runner’s World Cookbook. 13a North Front Street, New Paltz. 845-255-8840. ilovethebakery.com.

COMPARETTO’S FRUIT BARS

A cross between an energy bar and a candy bar, the fruit bars sold at Comparetto’s Bakery in Marlboro were originally created to provide bursts of energy for a local football team. They’re packed with molasses, nuts, and raisins to keep you going—a reward during a big adventure. 20 Western Avenue, Marlboro. 845-236-4440. comparettobakery.com.

RAGI’S DIVINE DELIGHTS

Organic, vegan, and gluten-free, Ragi’s little energy balls are handmade in Woodstock with coconut, coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla, and a hint of sea salt. They were created to provide energy without dropping blood sugar.

Try their cacao, cashew, strawberry, or mango varieties. You can pick them up at Mother Earth Storehouse in Kingston, Village Apothecary in Woodstock, and at many other locations throughout the Hudson Valley. Find more locations and varieties at rajisdivinedelights.com.

CHROMATIC CULINARIES ENERGY BITES

These delicious bites were inspired by creator Mark Reynolds’ childhood favorite—key lime pie. Mark’s energy bites are 100-percent raw, vegan, and organic, made with dates, coconut shreds, seeds, lime juice, lime zest, and Celtic sea salt.

With 2.4 grams of protein and 6.5 grams of fiber, these 290 calorie bites are loaded with vitamins E and B complex for eye, digestive, and muscle health. You can find them at the Tea Haus in Rosendale. For more information, visit facebook.com/chromaticculinaries.

RASPBERRY GRANOLA

If you’re looking for a unique granola, this granola made at Raspberry Fields Farms in Marlboro is just the ticket.

Rolled oats combine with crisp rice, whole dried raspberries, sunflower seeds, coconut, and more to create a delicious granola perfect for an outdoor excursion. Check out other varieties at raspberryfieldsfarm.com. 601 Lattintown Road, Marlboro. 845-236-2551.

UPSTATE GRANOLA

If you’re going to explore the Hudson Valley, Upstate Granola just makes sense. This Woodstock company offers unique varieties of granola, like praline pecan, sunflower, and blueberry granola or maple pecan and dried cherry granola. They also offer gluten-free and paleo options. For a full list of flavors, visit upstategranola.com. 65 Tinker Street, Woodstock. 845-532-1218.

CHAI GRANOLA AND ROCK SCRAMBLE

Perfect for the fall, the chai granola sold at LaGusta’s Luscious in New Paltz will reinforce the autumn-ness of your fall hike or bike. Taste the flavors of the season as you trek into the golden Hudson Valley wilderness.

LaGusta’s Luscious also sells a pre-packaged Rock Scramble, made with corn flakes, pistachios, marshmallows, and organic fair-trade dark chocolate—perfect for the chocoholic hiker. 25 North Front Street, New Paltz. 845-255-8834. lagustasluscious.com.

GROK BITES

Grok Bites appeared on the Hudson Valley scene in 2015 and have quickly gained popularity in the area. These snack-sized, packaged squares are handmade in New Paltz with raw, vegan ingredients like dates, cashew nuts, cacao powder, and coconut. Each package contains about 10 percent of your daily protein and 15 percent of your daily dietary fiber. Try the Nutty Expressor variety for a caffeine kick, or try the new flavor, Purple Rain, made with mulberries, pomegranate, and lavender.

Grok Bites can be found at many local businesses, like The Tea Haus in Rosendale, The Cheese Plate in New Paltz, and Monkey Joe’s in Kingston. Find other locations and flavors at thegrokbar.com. 845-384-2264.

HIGHLAND FARM SNACK STICKS

For a savory protein kick, try some venison snack sticks from Highland Farm in Germantown. At just two bucks a pop, these sticks are loaded with 8 grams of protein and come in smoked, teriyaki, pepper, hot, and cheddar varieties to satisfy any savory craving. Visit eat-better-meat.com to discover even more snacks from Highland Farm. 283 County Route 6, Germantown. 518-537-6397.

FRESH PRODUCE

The easiest food to pack for an outdoor adventure is a fresh, locally-grown apple—or other fruit—from a local farm or farmers market. Pick your favorite!

IMMUNESCHEIN GINGER ELIXIR

Add this elixir to tea or juice for an immune boost during your outdoor adventure. Packed with ginger and turmeric, it will aid in digestion and help to control inflammation in your body.

Visit the ImmuneSchein Tea Haus in Rosendale for some drinks with this elixir already mixed in. You can also buy bottles of it to make your own personalized drink! 446 Main Street, Rosendale. 828-319-1844. immune-schein.com.

FOR YOUR POOCH

If you’re bringing your dog along on your excursion, remember to pack some food and water for her too. Highland Farm in Germantown sells all-natural, raw pet food, made with no preservatives, chemicals, or additives.
Try some farm-raised venison and game blended with locally-grown produce. It’s flash-frozen and vacuum-sealed, so just pack it in your bag. You can also request made-to-order custom blends for your pooch. 283 County Route 6, Germantown. 518-537-6397. eat-better-meat.com.

Another great option for pets are the biscuits made by Gooddog Biscuit Company in Poughquag. They’re always made with natural and organic ingredients.
Try the peanut butter cookies or the sweet potato dehydrated chips! You can buy these snacks at many markets and festivals in the Hudson Valley. Visit facebook.com/gooddogdiscuitco to find out where they’ll be sold next. 845-243-0673.

Tiny Arts Day in tiny West Fulton

Written by Charlene V. Martoni
Published in The Watershed Post

The town of West Fulton may be tiny, but it has a lot of heart—and art.

“West Fulton is a very interesting place, made up of extremely creative people,” said Cornelia McGiver, the artistic director of Panther Creek Arts, a new arts venue in the small Schoharie County town. “And what I find special about that place is that there is a willingness to exchange and complement ideas.”

Panther Creek Arts, which is located in a former grain and feed store from 1919, is all about inspiring this exchange through artistic, recreational and educational events. The building’s upper level, known as The Hall, includes a stage and long, natural-wood picnic tables that can seat 80 to 200 people. Meanwhile, the ground level houses BITE ME, a cafe that serves delicious foods like curried chicken salad over fresh greens, gluten-free sweets, kombucha and more.

“It’s been our mission to bring world-class music and arts to that venue,” McGiver said.

On Saturday, June 4, The Hall will turn into an art gallery for the second annual Tiny Arts Day in a Tiny Town, a mini-festival that, with the help of a community arts grant from the Greene County Council on the Arts, will showcase the work of five artists. Last year’s fest drew upwards of 150 people, and this year’s is expected to draw even more.

“You’ll have someone who is a curator of a museum in Manhattan talking to local farmers, and for me, I’m so warmed by that—so touched,” said McGiver. “There are people who would never see each other—would never meet—but here they are enjoying each other.”

If you go to Tiny Arts Day, you will have the chance to meet Elisa Jensen, an artist from Brooklyn. She is a 2015 New York Foundation for the Arts fellow and was a 2012 finalist for the foundation’s Basil Alkazzi Award for Painting. Jensen is also currently a faculty member at the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture and is a visiting faculty member in the Foundation Drawing Department at Pratt Institute.

The other artist who will be featured in The Hall is Pamela Salisbury, who lives and works in Kinderhook. She completed her undergraduate studies in sculpture at Bennington College in Vermont and received her MFA in painting from the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture.

Copper and stonework by West Fulton’s own Mark Swanberry, whose designs are inspired by nature, will be shown on the ground floor, and there will also be metal sculpture by Mario Bustamante of Brooklyn on display in the park, just a stone’s throw away from the center itself.

“A very big piece of artwork by David Wilson will also be on display across from the park. It’s a surprise,” said McGiver. “And when I say big, it’s big.”

But traditional artwork won’t be the only type of art at this festival. McGiver and Panther Creek’s advisory board and volunteers have also curated a fine list of local craft brewers, distillers and food vendors, including Green Wolf Brewing Company, 1857 Spirits, Kymar Farm Distillery and Sap Bush Hollow Food and Drink. Food and drinks will be available throughout the day.

The festival will start at 3 p.m. with an enchanting origami and handcrafted mask storytelling performance by Kuniko Yamamoto, featuring myths and fables from ancient and modern Japan made fresh. Then, the art gallery will open at 4 p.m., offering guests the opportunity to purchase their favorite pieces.

“I’m very interested in artists being paid for what they do,” said McGiver, “because I think our culture could benefit from understanding and valuing artists to a greater degree.”

The day will conclude with yet more art: a musical performance starting at 8 p.m. by Brooklyn’s Musette Explosion, featuring the accordion, tuba, and guitar.

McGiver is already looking to the future, considering bumping up the musical performances to two, incorporating theatre art and staged readings, and including more local vendors for next year’s festival.

“I do like the idea of incorporating more of the town into the project,” she said, “with people strolling through the town.”

Though Tiny Arts Day in a Tiny Town is only in its second year, it’s clear that it has an important influence.

“We all know what it’s like to be a part of the arts in an urban center like New York City, Albany, or Boston,” McGiver said, “so it’s exceptional for people coming to West Fulton to find that there is such a broad sense of community in such a small place and that they are welcomed into it.”

Volunteers are also welcome. If you would like to help out, contact McGiver at panthercreekarts@gmail.com. You can also contact her if you need ticket sponsorship. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door, and tickets for the storytelling performance are an additional $5.

Tiny Arts Day in a Tiny Town. Saturday, June 4, 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. The Hall at Panther Creek Arts, 1468 Sawyer Hollow Rd., West Fulton. panthercreekarts.com.

Care for our bees and butterflies: Plant a pollinator garden

Written by Charlene V. Martoni
Illustrations by Teresa Hewitt
Published in VISITvortex

Honey bees are actually not native to North America, but neither are many of our crops and garden plants. Nevertheless, these little golden soldiers have become essential to our horticulture.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, honeybees are responsible for pollinating 80 percent of our flower crops, which accounts for one-third of everything we eat. Nuts, alfalfa, apple, cantaloupe, cranberry, pumpkin, sunflower, and many other delicious and healthy foods depend on pollination by honeybees.

Yet the USDA also said that honey bees and other pollinators have had to face increasing obstacles in recent years, including deformed wing virus, nosema fungi, new parasites, nutrition problems, and possible effects of pesticides.Eric Stewart of Greenman Garden Design in Accord said that applying herbicides and pesticides to lawns and gardens not only harms beneficial pollinators like bees and butterflies, but it also exposes people and animals to these same harsh chemicals.

Stewart also encouraged taking action against the use of chemicals by petitioning local governments to stop spraying herbicides and pesticides. He said that in 2015, local legislators and activists convinced the New York City Department of Environmental Conservation to stop spraying a controversial herbicide, glyphosate, along the Town of Olive’s roadways.

PERHAPS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WAY TO HELP OUT, THOUGH, IS TO PLANT A POLLINATOR GARDEN.

“DON’T LOOK AT THE VIOLETS, DANDELIONS, HAWKWEED, AND CLOVER AS ENEMIES TO BE EXTERMINATED,” said Stewart. “VIEW THEM INSTEAD AS FOOD SOURCES FOR BEES AND OTHER WILDLIFE.”

HERE ARE SOME OF ERIC’S PICKS AND WHY HE LIKES THEM:

ANISE HYSSOP

Blue fortune is a vigorous variety of anise hyssop that grows three to four feet tall on tough, semi-woody stems. It features colorful spikes of violet-blue flowers that readily attract bees and other pollinators. This plant is not picky about soil and thrives in most any sunny location. Plus, the fragrant green leaves can be made into a tasty tea, and it is resistant to grazing by deer and other garden pests. To brighten your garden, try golden jubilee, another variety of anise hyssop with yellow-green foliage.

GOLDENROD

This native species is commonly found growing in meadows throughout the area. Often reaching three to four feet tall, its clusters of bright golden-yellow flowers provide a bonanza of nectar for bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. If you have a stand growing on your property, do Mother Nature a favor and leave it be. Or, transplant a few stems to a garden where it can spread vigorously.

MILKWEED

Milkweed is the primary source of food for monarch butterfly caterpillars. It’s a tall, native perennial with large, smooth leaves that ooze white sap when cut or broken, and it produces large clusters of small mauve flowers that transform into silky parachutes in the fall. You can usually buy two variations of milkweed at your local garden store: butterfly weed and swamp milkweed.

BEE BALM

As the name suggests, this attractive perennial is a magnet for many pollinators, including hummingbirds. A member of the mint family that flourishes in average to moist garden soil, it features showy clusters of claw-like flowers in scarlet or magenta as well as foliage that can be used to make a delicious bergamot-like tea.

FENNEL & DILL

These plants are food sources for both you and for swallowtail butterfly caterpillars. Dill, the familiar herb used in pickling and on fish dishes, is a delicious yellow-flowering annual. Fennel is a tender perennial that can grow four to five feet tall and boasts airy clusters of pale yellow flowers with tasty seeds. Purpureum is a particularly attractive variety of fennel with lovely bronze coloring.

BY SEASON

According to Victoria Coyne of Victoria Gardens, “One of the best ways people can help honey bees is by planting plants and flowers that help to feed them.”

HERE ARE HER PICKS BY SEASON:

EARLY SPRING

Earlier blooms are literally a lifeline for bees to sustain their hive in March and April. Some favorites are valley valentine and brouwers beauty, which are floriferous and provide bees with much needed pollen and nectar. Also, hellebores perennials bloom in March, sometimes pushing blooms up from under a layer of snow.

LATE SPRING

In May, a great option for bees and other pollinators are annuals. Two favorites are lantana and sweet alyssum. These beauties will bloom all season long, providing sustenance for bees, butterflies, and humming birds.

SUMMER

Bees excitedly buzz from bloom to bloom once we enter the full swing of summer. Two of their summer favorites are lavender and pincushion flowers.

LATE SUMMER

As other perennials fade, these flowers will extend your garden’s food supply for busy bees getting ready for winter: lion’s tail, red hot poker, salvia, and butterfly weed.

AUTUMN

Autumn can provide boisterous color in your garden, even as the leaves change. Blanket flower, coneflower, yarrow, and sedum provide bees (and you) with continuous blooms right up to the first sub-freezing frost.

OTHER FLOWERING NATIVE SPECIES:

Stewart said an additional species to plant in your garden is the lovely butterfly bush, a shrub that acts as a butterfly magnet with its large panicles of fragrant pink, white, blue, or purple blooms.

HERBS like lemon balm and lavender are excellent for honey bees, and currants and blueberries are also great at attracting pollinators.

FLOWERING TREES, such as crabapples, dogwoods, and hawthorns also make wonderful additions to pollinator gardens. Other bee-friendly trees include willows, maples, sweet gum, and sumac.

GREENMAN GARDEN DESIGNelsgreenman@aol.com

845-687-0407

VICTORIA GARDENS

1 Cottekill Road, Rosendale

845-658-9007 victoriagardens.biz

Ways to help this holiday season

Written by Charlene V. Martoni
Published in VISITvortex


The holidays have a way of inspiring the best in people, and whether it is helping to shovel a neighbor’s driveway or helping to take care of a friend’s dog, volunteering your time to make another person’s life better is really a noble thing—and it can be fun. Here are some suggestions to help you get into the holiday spirit and get involved with your community:

Volunteering at a soup kitchen, like the Caring Hands Soup Kitchen in Kingston, is a popular activity around this time of year because it involves helping to feed hungry bellies while meeting exciting new people. Volunteers may find themselves preparing and serving meals or assisting with an emergency food pantry and food deliveries. In doing these activities, there is always the hidden opportunity to learn something new.

The Caring Hands Soup Kitchen is a nonprofit organization partnered with the Clinton Avenue United Methodist Church, which serves meals Monday through Friday at noon. On average, the kitchen receives between 60 and 120 hungry people per day. That means there are a lot of occasions to help out.

To volunteer at the Caring Hands Soup Kitchen, located at 122 Clinton Avenue in Kingston, contact Stephen Crawford, office manager, at 845-331-7188. Walk-in volunteers are welcome, but some notice is appreciated so the regular kitchen staff can plan accordingly.

Image from VISITvortex.comAnother popular activity around this time of the year is helping those who do not have places to call home, and making care packages is a great way to do so. Put snacks and supplies into a waterproof container like a large zip-lock bag, and keep these packages in your car to hand out to people asking for help.

Try hosting a party to encourage your friends to keep some of these care packages in their car too. Go to the grocery store together, bring everything home, and assemble the packages while drinking some wine and watching holiday movies.

Some food supplies to pack include crackers, nuts, granola bars, fruit snacks, and pull-tab canned or pouched goods. Remember to only include items that can be easily opened. Keeping some water bottles in your trunk is a good idea too, and it is also important to pack things like socks, gloves, and air-activated hand warmers during these cold months.

For hygienic supplies, pack some individually wrapped toothbrushes and travel-sized toothpaste, 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner, deodorant, tissues, lotion, and hand sanitizer. Of course, some first aid items like Band-Aids, lip balm, and Neosporin packets are always helpful, and a few gift cards to local food venues and a letter with some words of encouragement would be nice additions as well.

Can’t find anyone to give the packages to on the road? Try dropping them off at local family support service locations like Family of Ellenville or Family of Woodstock.

Image from VISITvortex.comOne additional, and beloved, tradition during the holidays is participating in toy drives, like the CSEA Local 610 sponsored Annual Holiday Toy Drive, which benefits Family of New Paltz, a nonprofit walk-in crisis center that provides counseling and case management and also houses a food pantry and clothing store.

Anthony Adamo, New Paltz local president for the CSEA, passionately said the mission of the toy drive is to “make sure no child goes without a toy during the holidays.”

To make this happen, toy drive volunteers may find themselves requesting that community members donate toys by soliciting outside local businesses, communicating with Family of New Paltz in order to provide more personalized gifts to the children, and publicizing for the toy drive throughout town.

And of-course there is the opportunity to donate some toys yourself, which should be unopened and unused for safety reasons.

To volunteer for the toy drive or to donate, contact Anthony Adamo at 845-399-7426.

For additional volunteer opportunities during the holidays and throughout the rest of the year, visit ulstercorps.com, a non-partisan, countywide resource dedicated to fostering a community of volunteerism.

Field trip: The Rail Trail Cafe

Written by Charlene V. Martoni
Published in The Watershed Post

Above: The Rail Trail Cafe. Photo by Charlene V. Martoni.

A nook off the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, a 24-mile hiking and biking path through Ulster County, is the last place you’d expect to find a food truck. But that’s just where to look for the Rail Trail Cafe, a non-motorized food cart with a decidedly rustic take on mobile dining.

The kitchen is housed inside a 96-square-foot cabin made of reclaimed wood; a hand-built clay oven sits nearby, and the dining area opens to the lush green canopy overhead.

Husband-and-wife proprietors Brian Farmer and Tara Johannessen have been serving freshly made pizzas, dumplings and baked goods out of the cafe since May. Most of their menu items are made using local products, including microgreens sourced from their own farm, the Farmer’s Table, located a quarter of a mile away. Farmer, who has experience as a professional chef, says that using produce that they grow themselves makes the distance from farm to table even smaller.

Plus, according to Johannessen, it’s just good business practice.

“It’s important to buy and eat local not only because it supports local economy, but also because interfacing with farmers and business owners creates stronger communities,” she said.

Open Friday through Sunday in the warmer months, the cafe serves up hearty items like smoky wood-fired pizza topped with farm-grown zucchini, and steamed dumplings with sesame-ginger-shoyu dipping sauce. Snacks on offer include oat-buckwheat-cranberry scones and Cosmic Nectar Balls, made with raw cacao, pecans, coconuts and dates.

The couple had considered opening a food truck for some time. They stumbled upon the perfect place when they were working their farmland near the rail trail one day, and noticed the amount of foot traffic passing through. Realizing the potential of the spot as a pit stop for hungry hikers, they launched a Kickstarter campaign in 2013 to raise funds. Soon, they had almost $7,000 in startup capital to fund the construction of the cafe’s mobile kitchen, parked on a small plot of land leased from nearby Stone Mountain Farm.

“We wanted to provide a service that relies on the beauty and simplicity of enjoying a meal in the woods,” said Johannessen.

Farmer designed and built the structure himself—with help from Johannessen—out of donated leftover lumber donated by friends and investors. He equipped the 96-square-foot kitchen with refurbished kitchen appliances from Green Demolition and items from Craigslist.

Most of the baking goes down outside the kitchen, however, in the alfresco wood-burning oven, built by Farmer’s friend, Shawn DeRyder, out of a mixture of sand, clay and straw.

Above: Brian Farmer feeding wood into the clay wood-burning oven at the Rail Trail Cafe. Photo by Charlene Martoni.

The Rail Trail Cafe is an eco-friendly operation from stem to stern. The eatery’s seating area is comprised of found tables and chairs that have been upcycled and decorated using leftover paints. Farmer and Johannessen reduce waste by composting food scraps and using biodegradable cups.

The cafe hosts performances by local musicians on Saturday nights, and the owners are hoping to host a speaker series and poetry readings going forward.

“We want the cafe to create a closer community, one that knows itself,” said Johannessen.

The cafe will stay open until Columbus Day weekend, and Farmer and Johannessen plan to return for business next May. Another Kickstarter campaign is in the works to raise funds for improvements like a sheltered seating area and the hiring of additional staff.

The restaurant’s success so far is due mainly to word-of-mouth from customers like Stone Ridge resident Alex Kahan, who stopped for a bite one Saturday afternoon with his girlfriend.

Continue reading “Field trip: The Rail Trail Cafe”

Maple syrup season gets underway in New Paltz

Written by Charlene V. Martoni
Published in The Watershed Post

Six-year-old Lucas Lemos gets a taste of fresh maple sap at Brook Farm in New Paltz.

New Paltz—Three bundled-up boys huddled in the morning mist to catch drops of sap as it trickled out of a freshly drilled 1-inch deep hole in the bark of an old maple tree. Lucas, 6, licked the sap from his finger and looked up at his father, 39-year-old Luciano Lemos of Riverdale, in shock.

“It tastes a little like syrup,” he said, smiling. “Like watered down syrup.”

A handful of folks from all over New York State traveled to Brook Farm on Saturday, February 23 to take part in a maple sugaring prep-work party. The volunteers scrubbed metal buckets for sap collecting and piled up firewood to be used later for distilling the sap. They also set up maple tree taps on the 20-acre property.

The Brook Farm Project is a nonprofit sustainable farm just west of the village of New Paltz. The farm runs on a community supported agriculture (CSA) model, where members purchase shares of the season’s produce and pick up fresh crops each week from June through November.

But Saturday’s gathering was all about harvesting maple syrup, and it proved to be an opportunity for experiential learning. Creek Iversen, a 46-year-old farmer who recently took over as Brook Farm’s new manager, explained that it takes a lot of maple sap to make just a little bit of syrup.

“From each tree you tap,” Iversen said, “you could get about 10 gallons of sap, which will boil down to just about a quart of syrup.”

Iversen told an old Native American legend that explains why it takes so much effort to make maple syrup. A long time ago, Iversen said, people could lick sap right out of the tree and it would be as sweet and tasty as syrup.

“Since it was so easy,” he continued, “people would sit around all day drinking syrup from the maple trees.”

Legend has it that this behavior angered a spirit, who decided to pour water into the trees to weaken the sap.

Stephen Gilman, 44 of Stone Ridge, said he and his son, 6-year-old Ben, enjoy volunteer activities like this that involve some educational aspect. Gilman is the board president of UlsterCorps, a local nonprofit organization that works to connect people with volunteer opportunities.

Gilman said he and his son have a lot of maple trees on their property, so they were interested in learning something about them.

“We got several great things in one morning,” said Gilman. “We got to learn something, support a CSA farm and do something fun.”

The volunteers were encouraged to sing fun work songs, which Iversen explained were traditional on farms to keep workers’ spirits up and to keep them in rhythm when sawing wood or pulling ropes. He also said that some of the songs were meant to help lumberjacks learn the alphabet.

“A is for axe,” he sang, and he soon came to the chorus. “So merry, so merry are we. There’s no one on earth who’s as merry as we,” he belted.

Below: Creek Iversen teaches a group of Brook Farm volunteers a lumberjack alphabet song. Video by Charlene V. Martoni.

Lily Bergstein, a 16-year-old from New Paltz, has been volunteering at Brook Farm since she was 11 years old. She said she enjoys volunteering at the farm because she likes singing, and she is interested in studying sustainable agriculture when she goes to college.

When it came time to tap the trees, Bergstein grabbed the drill and tried it for herself before returning inside to enjoy fresh homemade applesauce and a potluck lunch with the rest of the volunteers.

Iversen’s partner, 31-year-old Lisa Mitten of New Paltz, said that yesterday’s event is one of many to come. On the second Saturday of each month, the Brook Farm Project will host a volunteer workshop. Upcoming workshops will include a seeding party and a how-to on making natural cleaning supplies. The farm’s calendar can be found at brookfarmproject.wordpress.com.

The maple sugar taps that were installed Saturday will be collected, and the sap will be distilled into syrup on March 10 at a workshop where volunteers will learn how to make maple syrup at home.

Across the Catskills and New York State, syrupmakers are getting ready for Maple Weekend, an annual celebration of the harvest featuring events, syrup-making demonstrations and pancake breakfasts. This year, Maple Weekend will span two weekends: March 16-17 and 23-24. More than 110 New York State maple producers will host open houses similar to the ones at Brook Farm. For more information and a schedule of events, visit mapleweekend.com.

New Paltz students reduce stress by practicing yoga

Video by Charlene V. Martoni
Published in The Little Rebellion

This piece is part of a series that examines how SUNY New Paltz students spend their free time.

Yoga is a popular extracurricular activity at the State University of New York at New Paltz.  The Athletic and Wellness Center on campus offers students free weekly yoga classes, and many students also attend meetings of the school’s Yoga Club.  Whether they are beginners or advanced yogis, SUNY New Paltz students cultivate their yoga interests by joining together to exercise.

Budding business

Written by Charlene V. Martoni
Published in The New Paltz Oracle

New Paltz resident Lynda Saylor strolls The Flower Kart along the sidewalk, pausing for some time on the corner of Plattekill Avenue and Main Street to speak with customers.

Saylor, 45, said she opened the cart in August as an additional source of income when the Hudson Valley Rehabilitation and Extended Care Center, where she had worked as a nurse for 12 years, began to cut back on overtime.

“I’ve been wanting to do something involved with plants and flowers for a long time,” Saylor said. “My co-workers kind of teased me about this for years.”

Saylor, a single mother, said she considered getting an additional nursing job, but her passion for flowers convinced her otherwise.

“I do make some income,” Saylor said. “But it’s really more about the experience.”

Saylor’s daughter, Trisha, 17, sometimes helps her transport the cart into town, and Saylor’s ex-husband, Michael Saylor, 43, built the cart for her over the summer.

“He built it and I painted it,” Saylor said. “But before I let him build it, I wanted to make sure I could get my permit.”

Saylor said she spoke to businesses in town to find out their thoughts on the potential flower cart. For the most part, she said businesses did not mind.

“When I actually went to the town hall they were very accommodating,” Saylor said. “I think it took two weeks for them to okay it.”

Saylor said she has permission to roll the cart around town, but she usually stays in the sidewalk area outside of Starbucks.

“Sometimes I stroll down to Snugs,” she said, “but people usually end up just coming to me.”

Saylor said she usually has an assortment of 100 roses, some sunflowers and about 20 bouquets made of gerbera daisies and big mums.

“I like my flowers to be shocking,” Saylor said, “and I usually have some sort of cooking herb in a bundle to use for a meal.”

Most of the flowers and arrangements, which cost $3 to $25, come from Alders, a flower wholesaler, and the smaller bouquet flowers are grown in her home garden, Saylor said.

Saylor said she will try to have her flower cart available until the end of October.  She usually brings it into town Thursday and Friday evenings and Saturday and Sunday during the day, weather permitting. She also said she hopes to get her cart back out for Valentine’s Day.

“I really do enjoy it,” Saylor said. “My co-workers always say that it fits my personality to go up and down the streets with a little flower cart.”

Hasbrouk: A student’s extended family

Written by Charlene V. Martoni
Published in The Little Rebellion

Alton Campbell is a Hasbrouck employee by day, graphic novelist by night. He disguises himself with a blue or orange shirt and matching visor. He quietly serves students salad and refreshes cheese by the panini machines.

When he goes home, he enters a new world—a post-apocalyptic world—where a hero with super-human powers is desperately needed.

“No, really, actual super-human powers,” he said.

Behind every Hasbrouck meal, there is a staff of numerous employees who work to prepare it. Underneath every employee uniform, there is an individual with a unique story. Students may not realize it, but they encounter people like Campbell every day: paintball fanatics, first generation immigrants and motor hobbyists. Continue reading “Hasbrouk: A student’s extended family”