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People In Your Neighborhood
The flames of wood-fired pizza ovens fuel regional food gatherings
by Rebecca Horwitz
For those of us who still eat gluten (a dying breed), there are few culinary experiences more delightful than biting into a hot pizza fresh out of the oven. Yes, even in the summer when it’s steaming outside, not many will turn down the prospect of a pizza with all their favorite toppings. When it comes to eating pizza locally, we are fortunate to have numerous options in the Hudson Valley.
An increasingly popular way to enjoy pizza is through community wood-fired ovens, both stationary and mobile. Fire has long been a focal point for community gatherings, bringing neighbors together for meals and warmth—to slow down, reconnect, and break bread. The modernday pizza oven is an evolution of this symbolic community hub, and serves the same unifying function.
In our area, there are two stationary ovens in use: one behind the Accord Youth Center, and one at the community center in the town of Olive. Both were spearheaded by Charlie Blumstein, who got folks together during the building process to teach how the ovens were built and how to build an old school pavilion over them. Currently, the wood-fired oven in Accord is being used for a monthly community pizza night in which participants contribute ingredients for toppings, and everyone enjoys free pizza.
There are also two mobile pizza ovens: one is owned by Stone Ridge Orchard, which is now part of Breezy Hill Orchard in Staatsburg. The other mobile oven is owned by Country Wisdom News and is brought around to community events to help encourage the idea of local pizza for local people.
Of course, there is another way to get excellent local pizza—make it yourself at home! And to make it as local as possible, you’ll need locally made flours.
You may not have known that it is possible to find locally grown and milled wheat right here in the Hudson Valley. Fear not! Wild Hive Community Grain Project, based in Clinton Corners in Dutchess County, carries all your flour needs. Wild Hive is owned and managed by Don Lewis who started the business twenty years ago, with the goal of providing people of this area access to high quality, freshly milled flour, which had been the norm up until eighty years before. When Lewis started his business, he produced 5,000 pounds of wheat a year; now he’s upped that to 100 tons. He contracts with local farmers to grow the grains he uses, which provides fair prices for farmers and high quality grains for his bakery. In this way, the relationship between growers and millers is reestablished. He has also reintroduced heritage grains to the market, which he says produce a superior quality wheat.
“This valley started growing grains in the 1600s,” says Lewis in an Etsy blog film called Breaking Local Bread: Wild Hive Farm. “It was the breadbasket of the United States. This area was producing the best quality wheat for bread in any of the colonies.”
Wild Hive produces an impressive variety of organic flours, including corn, hard red whole wheat bread flour, wheat berries, soft whole wheat all purpose flour, soft wheat pastry flour, whole spelt, rye and oat flours, and a 10-grain stone ground chops mix. Right now Wild Hive sells mainly wholesale to bakeries, but the discerning home baker can order smaller amounts of flour through their mail order service. Adams Fairacre Farms in Kingston sells the flour as well. And Lewis plans to open the facility at Clinton Corners to the public after renovations are complete.
To entice you to give homemade pizza a try, I offer this simple and delicious recipe for pizza dough. Don’t forget to go to your farmer’s market to buy local ingredients for your sauce and toppings!
Yummy Pizza Crust
• 1 package active dry yeast
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• 1 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
• 2 1/2 cups bread flour (from Wild Hive, if you can)
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 teaspoon salt
What to Do:
Preheat oven to 450 F.
In a medium-sized bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in warm water. Let stand about 10 minutes until bubbly and creamy looking.
Stir in flour, salt and oil. Mix until smooth. Let it rest for five minutes or so.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat into a ball. Flatten into a crust and transfer to a lightly oiled pizza pan, dusted with cornmeal. Spread with sauce and desired toppings—whatever’s fresh at the farmer’s market! Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a nice golden brown. Don’t burn your tongue! Let pizza cool 10 minutes or so before serving.
by Rebecca Shea
If you’ve ever driven through the rolling hills of Neversink and Grahamsville in Sullivan County, you have probably spotted squares of bright geometric patterns punctuating the landscape—on the sides of barns, houses, and even businesses in town.
At the turn of the millenium, southern Ohio native Donna Sue Groves, an adviser for artists and art organizations, came up with an idea to honor her mother, a talented quilter. She would paint a quilt square on the family barn to honor her mother's passion, quilting. This concept lead to the Ohio Quilt Barn Project and eventually the establishment of a trail of 20-plus painted barn quilts through southern Ohio's Adams County. Word spread of the route sightings and soon both locals and tourists began driving the route.
For nearly 15 years now, the barn quilt movement has been knitting together rural communities across the USA. Neighbors across the way, ‘round the corner, and over the hill are coming together through this artistic project that unites two popular symbols of bucolic American heritage—barns and quilts.
The historic quilt squares are painted on plywood and mounted on barns, so that people driving by can enjoy the sight. 'Eye-poppingly gorgeous' [sic], these largegeometric murals celebrate the art and culture of pastoral America. Driving trails have been established to link barns in neighboring communities that display the quilts. There are at least 43 quilt trails in the USA as well as two in Canada. And those numbers are growing fast.
“When this started, I knew it was going to be something,” says Groves. The idea continued to spread throughout Ohio and then onto the rest of the United States. Thanks to the grassroots efforts of artists, community groups, scholars, as well as local and regional government and agencies, barn quilts and the quilt trails have become a new and exciting experience that successfully places art within the landscape.
Belenda Holland owns a farm in rural Kentucky. Her family's tobacco barn is adorned with a gigantic, yellow quilt block painted with two rows of pink, red, blue and purple triangles, forming the Flying Geese square. She explains the personal significance of the barn quilts in the fabulous book, Barn Quilts and the American Quilt Trail Movement by Suzi Parron with Donna Sue Groves. Holland says, “Everyone thinks of agriculture and the men hard at work; we wanted to recognize the women's role and remind folks that we have always produced art as well.” Every barn and every quilt square has a story to be shared.
The age-old craft of quiltmaking is continually transforming, as materials and aesthetic change. It is the same bold American spirit of ingenuity present in barn quilts that is also expanding the rich textile quilting tradition.
In New York State there are at least ten counties with established barn quilt trails. Counties include Albany, Orleans, Oneida, Genesee, Fulton, Montgomery, Schoharie, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and the Catskill's own Sullivan County.
The Sullivan County trail is located in the southern foothills of the Catskill Mountains near the Rondout and Neversink reservoirs. Named the “Barn Quilts of Neversink", this trail traverses approximately 65 miles and rolls through the towns and hamlets of Grahamsville, Neversink, Curry, Willowemoc, and Claryville—all of which have country shops and restaurants to complement a scenic day trip.
"Barn Quilts of Neversink" is a project of Neversink Renaissance—a beautification and community development program principally funded by Sullivan Renaissance and the Gerry Foundation. Since its inception in the fall of 2006, the “Barn Quilts” concept has yielded a total of 75 barn quilt panels which have been placed on historic barns, outbuildings, freestanding displays and area businesses in the large Town of Neversink. The colorful 8x8- and 4x4-foot quilt panels were designed and painted by local volunteers and barn owners.
David Moore of the township of Neversink says, “The Barn Quilts of Neversink Project has encouraged visitors to explore our rural countryside and property owners to repair and upgrade their barns, and has helped to create a new identity for our township.” Indeed, barn quilts trails promote community pride, create agricultural tourism opportunities bringing visitors to rural areas, and boost local economies.
As our national culture has shifted over the decades, we have come to rely less and less on our immediate community for sustenance and, accordingly, the boundaries of community have become vague. Projects like the barn quilt movement sew a very visible thread throughout towns and neighborhoods, which proudly boast that here in this area, there is still kinship and camaraderie.
Please remember on any quilt trail, use caution when slowing down or stopping near a site. Stopping on busy roads can be dangerous and illegal. (Locals rarely do this.) All Quilt Barn sites are located on private property. They should be viewed only from the road unless otherwise indicated at the site location or if that site is a business open to the public. If it is get out and stay awhile.
To learn more about “Barn Quilts of Neversink,” view quilt photos and to print out maps of the trail, visit www.townofneversink.org.
by Maria Reidelbach
Oh, dear, it’s summer already! Ive been preoccupied all spring with a new project (more on this below) and my little backyard garden has been sorely neglected. In May, I bought a variety of salad green starts and tender herbs, planted a few beans, found some winter squash volunteers in the compost and transplanted them, and put up my little fence. The groundhog family that has moved into the pile of branches I’ve been accumulating laughed at that, strolled in and have been munching down a steady spa diet. I even ran into a baby groundhog in the backyard the other day—so young he was not yet afraid of humans. I was chatting him up and then spotted his sister (?) sitting quietly in the grass. She didn't move when I reached out to her—her fur was soft and warm. I was petting and talking to her for a few minutes when I noticed that she was completely still—even her eyes weren’t blinking! I said “boo!” and she didn't budge. Uh oh, had I just been petting a dead baby groundhog? Gross! I went inside to pull myself together and get some gloves to dispose of the body, and when I went back out—she was gone! I guess groundhogs can play possum, too. Phew.
Anyhow, now that summer is icumen in I was particularly bummed that my garden was so bereft, but I have a new roommate, Kate, and I was giving her the tour. I thought I'd show her the handful of perennial herbs that faithfully come up every year and that groundhogs don't like. As we stood in the yard I started with lovage and moved on to thyme, oregano, savory, marjoram, chives and garlic chives. I was just beginning pointing out the variety of wild greens and self-seeding volunteers: chickweed, lambs quarters, amaranth, anise hyssop, purple shisho, fennel....when she stopped me. “I’ll never remember all those!” she laughed. It was then that I realized that even though I had failed my garden this year, my garden had not failed me! Or, in the words of Hawthorn Valley Farm master gardener Greg Ocean, “Plants are very forgiving, not like people.”
Since then I’ve shaken down a quart of juicy, sweet mulberries from the tree across the street and snipped enough wild elderberry flowers from a roadside bush to make the fragrant syrup they're famous for. Plenty of spicy day lily buds beckon from every weedy spot. I guess the moral of the story is: plant some good, hearty herbs that regrow every year and learn a bit about the abundance of wild food that surrounds us and Mother Nature let's you skate for a bit, as we all need to do every now and then.
Stick to Local Farms!
Even when we don’t have our own gardens, we can still eat “from our own backyard” when we buy produce from the many great local farms in the Mid-Hudson Valley. I love how I can hop over to the local u-pick and harvest the most beautiful, fresh fruit and vegetables possible—the fruits of a farmer’s labors.
Important as farming is, in this economy it is an extremely challenging, and challenged, occupation: as hard as farmers work (and dawn to dusk is just the beginning of it) it’s said that over 80% of small farmers have to have second jobs! Pair this with news from the USDA that Americans eat more servings of iceberg lettuce than all other vegetables combined, and that surveys have shown that most Americans eat fewer than 10 varieties of fresh vegetables in their lives, and it’s not looking good for the health or well-being of our agricultural community members.
I believe that we can begin to tackle the twin challenges of increasing business and appreciation of local farms and encouraging people to eat more fresh, whole food by enticing more folks to visit and learn about our fantastic local farms. Inspired by cute, vintage fruit stickers, I created Stick to Local Farms. Two dozen Rondout Valley farms, farm stands and farmers markets have special, theme-shaped stickers we’ve designed just for them. Part two of the project is a folding farm map with a spot for each sticker. Get the free Stick to Local Farms map and then take a tour of the farms to add to your sticker collection! You can find map give-away racks in the usual places.
Take all summer and fall, or you can visit a bunch in one day. It would also make a fun bike tour (many farms are along Route 209 between Kingston and Ellenville). As you add stickers the map becomes a colorful, magical souvenir of the amazing farming we are lucky to have here in our region.
Visit stick2local.com for more information about the Stick to Local Farms project, and share your farm adventures on our Facebook page and on Instagram (#stick2local).
Maria Reidelbach is an applied artist and author living in Accord and having fun being a tourist right in the Hudson Valley. (email@example.com)
The way technology has advanced the field of communication is pretty wild. I was recently talking with my son about how when my grandparents were born, they didn’t have radio and phones in most homes, and when my parents were kids they didn’t have television, and when I was his age we didn’t even have the Internet!
You can imagine this was pretty shocking to him, bringing a flurry of questions. What did people do before they had these technologies? How did they communicate with friends who weren’t close? I explained that it certainly wouldn’t be as easy to keep in touch with someone who lived, say, an hour’s drive from you, not to mention how hard it would be to reach someone on another continent. It could have taken months for a letter to get overseas…even for something critical, like ending a war. But, the horses and ships of yesteryear have been replaced by something that was then unimaginable. Now, even the jets, trucks and trains are slow—we’ve got “information technology.”
Marie Doyon, editor of Country Wisdom News, was traveling through Europe when this issue was going to press. It’s amazing to consider the variety of means she had at her fingertips (literally) to correspond with me. In today’s world we communicate almost as quickly as we think, through texts, calls, video chats, and emails. Words and images continually light the little screens we hold in our hand almost as fast as ideas enter our heads.
My son said that he thinks when he is an adult, kids will be part robot. Maybe a chip will be right in their bodies to give full access to the information that we can only Google today. I was about to tell him that I thought his idea was kind of crazy, if not freaky, but then I thought about how crazy today would seem to people just a few generations back. They wouldn’t even believe it.
by Anne Pyburn Craig
Last month, stakeholders in the creation of the Farm Hub Initiative of the Local Economies Project (LEP) came together with thought leaders in agriculture and related fields at Mohonk Mountain House for a two-day retreat as part of the continuing process of refining the project’s direction and role in the larger community.
So what does a 78-year-old grain farmer from Kansas think about the idea of a farm hub in upstate New York? “For one thing,” says Wes Jackson of Salina, “that whole landscape needs somebody to take a rolling pin to it.”
Jackson, who attended the retreat, quickly adds that he’s kidding—he adores our mountainscapes—and he says, “that long valley they have looks like a great place to do a bunch of experiments. And the fact that Cornell University sent two people to spend the full weekend there, to me that … indicates some kind of a commitment. I’m not sure we could get that out of Kansas State.”
Jackson should know. He’s a Ph.D, a lifelong farmer, and founder of the Land Institute, a 38-year old endeavor that is researching how to sculpt grain agriculture into forms that more closely resemble the hardy and sustainable ecosystem of a prairie, “solving a 10 thousand-year-old problem,” as he puts it, partly through the development of perennial edible grains. He’s a member of the World Future Council and a close friend and collaborator of Wendell Berry’s.
Jackson’s presence at the forum is indicative of the seriousness of purpose and the reach of the LEP, backed by the Novo Foundation, in creating the Farm Hub in the first place. It is (as Jackson also notes) early days in the on-the-ground implementation of the Farm Hub, but the green shoots sprouting are strong ones, from carefully chosen strains.
“This project has been in the works for years,” says Michael Rozyne, co-founder and executive director of Red Tomato, a nonprofit established in 1996 and devoted to “connecting farmers and consumers through marketing, trade, and education, and through a passionate belief that a family-farm, locally-based, ecological, fair trade food system is the way to a better tomato.” Rozyne has been involved in marketing small farms’ products for three decades, and he gives the LEP high marks so far.
“A tremendous amount of forethought and careful planning and a lot of resources have gone into getting it to the starting line,” Rozyne says. “It’s hard to imagine a similar effort being done with any more planning and inclusion of a more diverse group of people. You can’t judge by how it looks at the start, but they’ve done a tremendous job getting to the starting line on a variety of fronts—location, community relations, how to balance long- and short-term goals, how to get stakeholders on board. It’s an impressive venture.”
Meanwhile on the ground in the Rondout Valley, there is plenty more happening than just talk. In mid-July, locals will be welcomed to the re-opening of what was previously called Gill’s Farm Stand on Route 209, offering the same excellent sweet corn that has won loyal fans in years past— as well as something more.
“We’ll be selling produce grown at the Farm Hub, as well as some local food products,” says LEP spokesperson Brooke Pickering-Cole. “Most of all, in this transitional year, we’re looking forward to inviting the community to visit and find out about our plans for the Farm Hub. We’ll have information there about the Farm Hub, and also a map of the farm showing our 2014 cover cropping and research projects. We also plan to have information about our partner organizations available—kind of a mini-hub.”
The cover cropping research Pickering-Cole is talking about is part of the Cornell Small Grains Project, a nearly century-old undertaking focused on utilizing “appropriate technologies encompassing molecular genetics, physiology, pathology, and breeding to develop strategies that contribute to the development of superior crop varieties.” The research is being directed by Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Dr. Mark Sorrels, and carried out on the ground by Cornell Cooperative Extension Vegetable and Field Crop educator Justin O’Dea. O’Dea and his colleagues hosted a Small Grains Field Day last month that drew some 60 participants—a wonderful turnout, he says, for a CCE event—to the Migliorelli Farm in the morning and the Farm Hub in the afternoon to discuss the furtherance of Hudson Valley grain production.
O’Dea and everyone else involved recognizes that the humid, hilly Northeast will never reclaim the title of America’s primary breadbasket from Jackson’s midwestern territory. But there are powerful reasons for re-establishing a smaller scale presence for small grains. “Once you begin to have all the ducks in a row—equipment, markets, infrastructure management—small grain should be more economical to produce than fruits and veggies,” O’Dea says. “People that are at the beginning of the learning curve probably won’t find it economical right away; there is an art and a wisdom and a knowledge base that you have to learn to produce for human consumption. But grains are also a nice cool season annual, good for crop rotation for vegetable growers, and that can break pest and disease cycles.
“Also, it’s a dry commodity that can be stored and the grower can sell it at different times of the year, which diversifies their marketing scheme, and, if it’s done right, can add resiliency. You can move grain when your other income is low or when the price is right. There is a lot of learning curve in this climate; we’re trying to give people as much information as we can to minimize risk.”
To develop that information, O’Dea will be growing 30 different small grain varieties a year on the Farm Hub property—wheat, barley, rye, and some ancient grain varieties such as emmert, spelt, and einkorn—over the next four years.
“Each space is three acres, split in half, one half managed conventionally and the other half using organic practices, although we are not going to be certified organic,” says O’Dea. “We’re working on selecting out varieties that will work well for Hudson Valley growers and be suitable for a given end use. The grain harvested will be provided to select end users. We are working with three bakers, a brewer, a malter and a distiller who’ll run trials on the varieties that they get from us, run tastings for professionals in their fields, and give us feedback.”
In mentioning that half the grain will be grown using organic techniques and half using conventional ones, O’Dea is touching on one of the Big Questions that has been asked by many locals about the Farm Hub Initiative’s direction. But it’s a question that many of the wise minds gathered at Mohonk—whose numbers also included Rondout Valley growers Bruce Davenport, Chris Kelder, and Amy Hepworth—consider something of a moot point. The idea, as Hepworth opined in an earlier Farm Hub article in this space, is to grow as well and productively as possible while maintaining the health of the land. At the cutting edge of research, as on many a smaller farm all over the planet, the distinction between “organic” and “conventional” gets fuzzy when you’re using a mix of ancient and ultramodern good ideas.
“As far as I know, no local organic growers have been short-minded enough to take a visible ‘organic or bust’ stance about the Farm Hub,” reports a source close to the project who spoke on condition of anonymity.” And most anyone who actually grows for a living understands that there are multiple overlaps in practices, and black-and-white thinking about this just doesn’t work.”
Dina Falconi, author of Foraging and Feasting and a strong advocate of sustainability, went to the Mohonk event and liked what she heard. “A lot of local growers are not organic and there is a lot of fear around what may happen, but I think the money is going to be used to support what is already in place. I don’t see any danger except that it may take a long time to do what they are wanting to do. If we can eventually find a way to successfully grow strawberries without fungicide, that’s great for everyone.
“Maybe I’ve been naively taken in, but I do feel trust. There’s a dreamlike quality: Money descends and liberates a piece of land with no self interest except making a better world. There is a fear factor about trusting big money that comes in, but the goal is to create an agricultural think tank that can teach the region and the rest of the world about growing food. We’re in a state of evolution and need to use what we’ve got.
“I strongly support organic vision as much as I can, but I still buy from conventional growers. It’s not about organic versus non-organic, it’s about ideas beyond that. The triple bottom line mandates feeding the people, the soil and the ecosystem—as you grow food, are you also taking care of ecological and human health? But if we can’t grow food, that [question is] no use. I think [the Farm Hub] has the potential to advance our understanding on these issues into the future. Put the right directors into right places…We have vision, now we need implementation.”
Collaboration, education and investment are clearly well under way. The Rondout Valley Growers Association reports in its newsletter that the Local Economies Foundation has awarded $726,000 to the Rondout schools to pioneer an Agriculture and Food Science Initiative, to include “the creation of interpretive outdoor trails for educational use, building an educational/research greenhouse and development of a Food Science facility. The project will span a three-year timeline, beginning with the trail construction.”
Educators are thrilled to have the resources to seed the next crop of future farmers, and Pickering-Cole says the school initiative fits hand-in-glove with the Farm Hub’s mission. “We anticipate that over time the Farm Hub will be a resource for and a complement to the Roundout Valley Central School District curriculum and to that of other schools,” she says, noting that the presence of five-star farmers and ardent educators was a factor in the Novo Foundation’s selection of the Gill Farm location in the first place.” As we develop programming we’ll be looking at how we can interface with students both on and off the Farm Hub. Hopefully, the fact that the Farm Hub will have a professional farmer training program will inspire younger people to think about agriculture as a career path.”
Wes Jackson—whose efforts at the Land Institute to develop perennial grain species have been making considerable progress over the years—is a firm believer that the kind of inclusive and collaborative approach being taken by the LEP and its partners is the way to make significant progress. “People say to me ‘You’ve got to get to the big agribusiness concerns, you’ve got to take out Monsanto,’ and so on, but we don’t need to get to anybody, we just need to do our work,” he says. “We draw a line and create a ‘them’ and an ‘us,’ but we’re all in this together, beneficiaries of the good and suffering through the bad...Wherever our side can get help I am willing to take it. I’m optimistic enough to know that if there’s money going into this effort and people are interested and well meaning, a lot of good things can happen. This may be just what that area’s been waiting for.”
Oh, and we’re all invited to Salina in late September for the Prairie Festival, the Land Institute’s annual “intellectual hootenanny” of agricultural thought leaders, and to check out some landscape that doesn’t need a rolling pin.
by David McCarthy
In May, I visited the Blue Cliff Monastery in Pine Bush, along with Chris Hewitt, the Country Wisdom News Publisher and Marie Doyon, the editor.
The day we went to Blue Cliff was one of those special, late-spring days in the Shawangunks. The air was heavy with moisture from recent rain, and the greenery was bursting as it only does that time of year. It was a cloudy day, but only thinly so, leaving a luminous backlight of sun.
As we entered the large, spacious meditation hall, a video showed Thich Nhat Hahn, the world-famous Vietnamese Zen Buddhist master. He spoke quietly about how we use our time. He asked questions: “Do we have time to be with children? To serve others? To heal society?”
In the video, he was asked about the importance of spiritual community, or sangha. He replied that Buddha spent his time building community. Thich Nhat Hahn spoke about the importance of practicing together and making decisions by consensus, with a synthesis of views. He said, “The dream can’t come true if you don’t have community.”
The video ended, and people slowly got up from their seats. It was a “day of mindfulness,” which happens regularly here. There were quite a few monastics in robes (about 25 live on-site), along with people from the community who had come to spend the day in this environment.
After tea with staff member Stephanie Davies, who had kindly arranged our visit, we moved onto the walking meditation. The monk who instructed us encouraged us to “flow like a river” and “let [our] feet kiss the Earth.” We walked outdoors in silence, very slowly. It was probably a half-hour or less, but it felt longer, and completely peaceful. It was so soothing that I was a little disappointed when it ended, back where we started. But then again we were at the dining hall, and it was lunch time. Everyone got their food and sat at long tables while a prayer was read. We observed silence for the first 20 minutes of the meal, practicing mindful eating. The sun came out as we ate, and I noticed some tiny birds playing in the trees outside.
After lunch, Marie and I spoke with Sister True Vow. She is a radiant, soft-spoken woman who has been a nun in Thich Nhat Hahn’s Order of Interbeing since 1999. Sister True Vow is the Abbess of nuns at Blue Cliff, which is a position of spiritual leadership more than an administrative one.
What follows are a few excerpts from that conversation:
Q: Could you speak about the importance of mindfulness in the tradition you practice?
Sister True Vow: Mindfulness is an energy that allows us to be aware of what is going on inside and around us, and it helps us to touch both our suffering and our happiness in a deeper way. Basically it is a way of living that allows us to live more meaningfully, a way that’s connected to our environment. … Being more aware and in harmony with our environment, we know better what to do, what not to do; to help, or not to hurt. We can see very clearly with environmental issues today that it is very important to be aware of a larger sphere than just our own personal interest—or to be pushed or pulled by our habit energies.
Q: For people who aren’t in a contemplative environment like this one, what are some ways they can cultivate mindfulness such that it becomes part of their everyday lives?
Sister True Vow: The trick in bringing mindfulness into one’s daily life is to set goals that are feasible. Out in the world, we might not have an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening to sit, but we certainly have five minutes here, five minutes there. We certainly have a walking path that we travel every day which we can commit to making into an oasis of peace, an oasis of concentration. So, just because you’re not in a monastery doesn’t mean that you can’t practice. What it means, though, is that you have to be more creative. You have to find an intelligent way to practice that fits your schedule. And the beautiful thing about tailoring your personal practice to your daily life, is that doing so begins to change your daily life. As you continue to practice, mindfulness informs your lifestyle.
Q: How does this connect with the commitment to compassion?
Sister True Vow: In our tradition, there is a very clear equation between understanding and love. The practice of mindfulness is there to help us to see more clearly, and to gain a deeper insight into ourselves and our environment. When we have a deeper understanding, naturally our heart is unfettered. It is unclouded and allows us to open up our heart of compassion to help, but to help in a wise way. Often we have the desire and intention to help others, but we don’t have the tools to do so, because we don’t have a deep enough understanding, in a holistic way, of what needs to be done. This applies to the environment, to our families, to our work life—whatever sphere we’re talking about. With the foundation of mindfulness practice, we can act compassionately, which means wisely, to relieve suffering in a long-lasting way.
Blue Cliff was established in 2007 by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh to share the practice of mindful living.
An Inexpensive and Enriching Way to Enjoy the Summer
by Terence P. Ward
For anyone who enjoys fishing, there’s probably a spot or two in this area that have got your number. Dutchess and Ulster counties boast both warm- and cold-water fisheries, which include a bass, walleye, sunfish, perch, and trout. While anglers jealously guard their favorite spots, many locales are public and some are even fully accessible to the disabled. Only true saltwater fishing is completely off the table for this area. That said, the Hudson is a tidal estuary, so even this far upriver you can never be sure what may nibble at a hook.
Ryan Coulter is a fisheries biologist with the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), a dream job for anyone who has a passion for perch or a craving for crappies. Not only does he know where most of the good spots are, but he’s also involved in stocking the ones under DEC purview. “I fish throughout the region,” Coulter admitted, which gives him the hands-on experience to measure the health of local fisheries, both environmentally and perhaps even economically.
One of the people who benefits from the stocking done by Coulter and his co-workers is Ed Ostapczuk, avid trout fisherman and author of Ramblings of a Charmed Circle Flyfisher. “Freshwater bass is the most intelligent fish around here, but they’re not nearly as spooky as trout,” he said, using the fishing parlance for scaring easily. He advises that soon after fish are stocked in a stream, “they're fairly easy to catch, but over time they become a little more wily, and more resistant to anything an angler will throw in the water.”
Trout are one of the more challenging fish to catch, and there are far easier ones to fry. In fact, Ostapzcuk recommends starting out on panfish—those are fish that typically grow bigger than a frying pan, like sunfish, perch, crappie, and bass in this area. Coulter said that these fish can be found in places like Chodikee Lake in New Paltz and Sylvan Lake in Beekman. Onteora Lake also stands out thanks to its ease of access for the disabled. Ostapczuk, who lives in Ulster County, was quick to recommend the Ashokan and other reservoirs in New York City’s water system. The city’s Department of Environmental Protection requires a permit to fish there, but there’s no fee. The application can be found online.
“This area is so diverse,” Coulter said. “You can find striped bass in the Hudson, stream trout in the Catskills, warm and cold-water fish in the reservoirs and lakes."
The DEC is responsible for issuing state fishing licenses, which are required by the New York for anyone over 16. Sale of these licenses are the department’s best way to track fishing, but that’s not the whole picture. In recent years, that figure dropped a bit; Coulter speculated, “The license fee increased, and that may have encouraged some people to buy the lifetime license instead.” The cost of a lifetime license is $460, or $65 for those 70 years old or more—it’s designed for someone who is serious about the sport. The annual license is just $25 for state residents ($5 for ages 70+), $50 for nonresidents, who aren’t eligible for the lifetime license at all. The DEC also offers seven-day and one-day options, and discounts for certain members of the military, students, Native Americans, and individuals who are legally blind.
Those details are specifically for the freshwater fishing license, since there’s no marine or saltwater fishing in this area. The freshwater license is needed in order to catch fish by “angling, spearing, hooking, longbow, and tip-ups,” according to the DEC web site. Licenses may be purchased from any town clerk’s office, a variety of outdoor shops, and online directly from the DEC’s website.
Prices for licenses are modest in part to encourage more people to fish, Coulter said. There’s a push to encourage more tourism in and to New York State, and fishing is part of that. “Fishing remains inexpensive,” he said, and he’s seeing the benefits—more and more kids who have been introduced to it by their parents. Coulters anecdotal evidence seems to be corroborated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, which found there to be 33.1 million anglers nationwide, collectively spending $41.8 billion. It’s an inexpensive hobby with a robust economic return.
The DEC has other means to encourage fishing, such as the free fishing weekend which just passed at the end of June and fishing clinics held around the state, but with budgets tight, the department partners with fishing groups to share knowledge and lore. Trout Unlimited is one of those organizations, and it has chapters in both Ulster and Dutchess counties which hold fishing events that are both social and educational. Ostapczuk said that help is gladly offered and advice freely given.
“The information is free-flowing at their events,” he said. Many experienced local anglers also run or haunt message boards where questions are asked and answered. “I might not tell you about my favorite spot, but I will share information with you.”
To be fair, those spots—particularly the ones along streams and creeks (like Wappingers and the Esopus) aren’t what they used to be. Starting with Tropical Storm Irene's gentle kiss, water flow has been altered, and it changed the fishing. Knowing where they’re biting today isn’t nearly as useful as knowing why they’re biting in a particular place, or aren’t anymore. Networking at events and participating in fishing clinics is a great way to watch and listen to the experience of seasoned local anglers, and maybe even make friends with someone who will take you along.