Thursday, September 19, 2013

Local Fruit: Harvesting The Wild Grape

wild grapeThe Norse Vikings referred to the east coast of North America as Vinland, with grapes so plentiful they could be smelled from the sea. Such historical abundance is questionable; the description may have been a marketing ploy similar to the misleadingly named Greenland. Yet wild grapes are plentiful throughout the Northeast and they’re ripening now, to the delight of the many animal species that eat them.

Among humans, European grapes seem to get all the attention. Chardonnay, Bordeaux, and the seedless table grapes found in grocery stores are all cultivars of the Mediterranean grape vine Vitis vinifera. The most common wild species in our area are V. labrusca, the fox grape, and V. riparia, the river grape. Both have remained a forest curiosity since European colonization due to their sour taste and low sugar content. Only the Concord grape, a 19th century V. labrusca cultivar used in juice and jelly, has met with commercial success. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

High Peaks Happy Hour: Drinking is Popular Again

PopularWe’re back! Winter found us sequestered at Pammy’s Pub finalizing (and editing, editing, editing) bar reviews for Happy Hour in the High Peaks: An Adirondack Bar Guide. Add to that the preparation, primping, and posing of 46 cocktails for their close-ups, and it’s easy to see why we’ve been absent. Spring coaxed our creativity with a marketing plan and promotion schedule. Summer put us on the road throughout the Adirondacks, selling and signing wherever we were welcome.

With all that attention to detail and embellishment, the realization hit. The current trend toward drink artistry, rather than guzzling gluttony, has led to a focus on flavor and presentation. Complicated preparations, the use of local and home grown ingredients, and the almost daily arrival of spirited new flavors populating liquor store and beer aisle shelves have prompted an emphasis on savor over swill. Drinking is popular again. » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 9, 2013

Adirondack Harvest Local Food Events Planned

adirondack harvest logoAdirondack Harvest, the community-based farm and local food development and promotion program, is celebrating the fall harvest season with several food events in Essex County.  The events provide consumers with opportunities to meet farmers, visit farms, taste local food products and become Adirondack Harvest members. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Locally Grown: The Locavore Challenge

NYLocavoreChallengeLogo“Think you’ve got what it takes to be a true locavore?”  That’s the question posed by the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York’s (NOFA-NY) annual Locavore Challenge.  For the past 4 years, NOFA-NY has sponsored this event in recognition of National Organic Harvest Month, and it’s gaining ground.  If you are a seasoned locavore, or just starting your foray into local eating, the Locavore Challenge has something for you.

What is a locavore, exactly?   At its simplest, the word defines someone who eats locally grown food whenever possible.   How you define “locally grown” is largely a personal decision. When considering where you’d like to purchase your food you must ask yourself what distance you are willing encompass and still feel comfortable calling it “local.”  50 miles? 100 miles?  If you draw a 100-mile radius around your home in, say, Chazy, you are going to include a sizeable chunk of New York, but also decent pieces of Vermont and Canada, possibly violating your own rules to stay within New York or even the United States! » Continue Reading.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Cabin Life: The Missing Chickens

The GirlsEvery once in a while, I reach for the faucet to turn on the water.  This usually happens when I’m brushing my teeth, but even though there’s a dish rag hanging on the spout and I haven’t had running water in almost two years, this old habit dies hard.

Summer, on the other hand, is dying a very easy and quick death.  As I walked out into the front yard this morning, I noticed a small maple that was almost entirely red.  The birches are beginning to turn yellow and even the big cherry tree in the yard was not so green anymore.

The days have been warm and the nights cool, feeling more like the heart of fall than the end of August.  This is my favorite type of weather, but I’m not quite ready for it yet.  I still want some summer. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Amy Ivy: An August Garden Report


DSCN4621Early August was the peak of the gardening season in northern New York. In spite of the challenging start to summer we had with the endless days of rain and cool temperatures, many gardens were able to put on a huge spurt of growth in mid-July when the sun finally appeared. Most crops are later than usual and production is down but plants that survived the first half of the summer are making up for lost time now.

Tomatoes are the most popular crop in home vegetable gardens and this has been a particularly difficult year for them. I was just about to call my eight plants a total loss in early July when the sun came out and they finally put out some new, vigorous growth. My plants still aren’t much to look at but they are setting fruit. The lower leaves are spotted and turning yellow from a common disease, Septoria leaf spot, which is widespread this year. It weakens the plant but usually does not kill it and you can still get a decent harvest. » Continue Reading.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Fred Kerslake’s Great Pig Circus

PA31892 FK Ad Buffalo“That’ll do, pig.” It’s a line I’ve heard more than once from my wife and business partner, Jill (we’re always razzing each other about something or other). It is, of course, the famous line near the end of Babe, a movie we both enjoyed. We’re also fans of Arnold from Green Acres, and of the pigs who played leadership roles in George Orwell’s allegorical novel, Animal Farm. You can see a theme developing here―a bunch of very smart pigs who, in fantasy worlds, did all sorts of things that a reasonable person knows a pig can’t really do.

Can’t really do? Not so fast. Yes, Orwell’s pigs were the smartest animals in the barnyard. Arnold could get the mail and understand English. Babe could herd sheep as well as any sheepdog. But in the real world, the North Country once had something to rival them all. I give you Fred Kerslake’s pigs. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Cabin Life: A Good Year for Jam

The JamWell, the fall-like weather continues, reminding me every day that winter is coming.  But there are still signs of summer besides the humidity to remind me that it’s only August.

For instance, we just finished up our second batch of jam.  The first batch was straight blueberry, and we got ten small jelly jars full.  This second batch was blueberry-raspberry, with a few random blackberries thrown in just for the heck of it.  This batch made twelve full jars, and it looks good. » Continue Reading.


Monday, August 5, 2013

Local Farms, Local Food:
The Price of Homegrown Eggs

EggsEggs vary in price and nutrition, but are a delicious locally grown food across Northern New York. I’m fairly passionate about eggs. On our small family farm, we raise our own. Our hens feed on plenty of grass, seeds, and other herbaceous material around the farm, plus insects and kitchen scraps.  We supplement with some commercial feed.  The coop is enclosed in a spacious fenced-in yard that’s half grassy, half forested, but our clever birds regularly escape and truly free-range around the farm.

We are addicted to our fresh eggs, rich with flavor and yolks so deeply orange the hue is startling to the uninitiated.  I am a firm believer in the benefits of consuming eggs from true free-range laying hens.  Take note: commercial claims of “free-range” do not guarantee access to the natural smorgasbord listed above (although the hens likely have more space and your conscience can relax about the “humane” treatment). » Continue Reading.


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Cabin Life: The New Chicken Coop

The GirlsIt’s another beautiful summer night with fall weather.

We had a bit of a milestone out here at the cabin this week.  The chickens are no longer residing in a large box on the porch, but instead are enjoying their new digs and much larger coop.

While it’s not quite done, it is habitable and since there are no building codes or inspections for small wooden boxes, I figured the girls could use the room to stretch their wings. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Wild Center FlavorFest Focuses On Local Food

7798671182_0f435c4cbfTo taste the salty bite of prosciutto in Italy, the smoky crunch of a German wurst or the hoppy flavor in a beer brewed by Trappist monks you need to pack your bags, fly across the Atlantic and remember your passport. On Thursday, August 15th you can skip the flight and come to The Wild Center for an all-day food festival and pick up a passport that will let you travel freely from one great Adirondack taste to the next.

Your passport will allow you to taste Adirondack delicacies like local cheeses and meat, seasonal vegetables, maple rhubarb crisp and homemade ice cream, and locally brewed beers. The tasting stations, catered by Adirondack Artisan Catering and located throughout the Center’s campus, will focus on the best food and flavors found in the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Adirondack Farmers’ Markets and Low Income Consumers

Chestertown farmers Market 2012Each year, millions of dollars are wasted in uncashed food assistance program checks  representing dollars that could be benefiting low-income consumers, local farmers and the physical and economic health of our communities. These lost opportunities make it very important to effectively communicate information about these programs to consumers and farmers.

Four government programs offer payment options beyond the usual cash, check or credit card to eligible low-income consumers at farmers’ markets. Those options are: » Continue Reading.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Valley Kitchen: Connecting Producers to Consumers

Members of the Valley Kitchen Board of Directors  gather at the old Upper Jay Schoolhouse in June. From left are Rob Farkus, Heather Morgan, and Natalie Woods.Volunteers in Upper Jay are working to establish a community kitchen in hopes of invigorating the local economy, promoting local food and connecting farmers to consumers.

It’s called the Valley Kitchen, and it’s an idea cooked up by a group of energetic volunteers from the Upper Jay area. I had a chance to meet with three of them – Heather Morgan, Natalie Woods and Rob Farkas – on a hot, sunny day back in June. (Yes, the sun was really out. I have photographic evidence.)

Standing outside the Upper Jay Schoolhouse, located on state Route 9N, Farkas – who is secretary of the Valley Kitchen Board of Directors – recalled that Trudy Rosenblum, who curates the Jay Community News with her husband Seth, urged her neighbors to think about coming together to work on a community project. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Amazing Grace Vineyard Summer Concert Series

concert-1

Summer in the Adirondacks is not only about the beautiful wild outdoors, but can be a mixture of cultural activities while enjoying nature with artists and musical entertainment. For the fourth year, Amazing Grace Winery is pairing its fine Champlain Valley wine with local musical talent for a casual evening under the stars.

Established in 2008 in Chazy, Amazing Grace produces cold hardy varietal wines and fruit wines and has a recently expanded 1,400 square foot winery/tasting room as part of its small farm vineyard. In addition to tours, tasting and  musical events the vineyard hosts a bimonthly Farmers’ and Craft Market the first and third Sunday in July and August.

“We have tried to keep the summer concert series affordable,” says Amazing Grace Vineyard and Winery owner Mary Fortin. “Most of the performances are free though we do raise money for various local charities like The Food Shelf. People don’t have to donate, but we do ask. We also do charge an admission for the annual musical.” » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 1, 2013

Supporting Local Dairy: Look for the Code, Buy Direct

RachelZumbachGoatTedraMcDougal725During the years in which I’ve been paying attention to North Country agricultural news, I’ve noticed that when a headline announces a story about “farming” it’s most likely to be about dairy farming. I suspect this narrow definition of farming stems from the general history of farming in the Northeast which for more than a century was focused primarily on dairy production.  Nowadays, traditional family dairy farms often struggle to make ends meet and the news is not always uplifting.  In terms of “buying local,” how does one support the North Country dairy farms?

We want to make sure our dairy farmers are making a viable living, and buy their products, but how can we know where our regular “store-bought” milk is coming from? » Continue Reading.