Mystery of the Primroses

We first noticed the little yellow flowers along the stream banks only a few years ago. I mistakenly called them trout lilies, but soon learned that these little flowers were primroses.  Primroses I am familiar with  are not really a wildflower but are cultivated in home gardens and bloom in midsummer.  So, what were they doing blooming in late April on the banks of the brook that runs alongside Campsite Road?   (I am not sure what this brook is called. Tim Foote once referred to it as the Schoolhouse Brook. )  

Mermer Blakeslee cleared up the mystery of their origin here.  She  told me that they were originally planted by Hazel Kelly in her garden up in Laraway Hollow. The house in Laroway Hollow was where Rudi Mayer lived for years. It  is located about a mile up from the Beaverkill Road and has no electricity, central heat or running water in the house. It is still completely ‘off the grid’, with cell or radio service.

  John Kelly wrote about buying this “Hardscrabble Farm” in our (FOBC)  book, Stories of the Beaverkill.…..

           “About all that was left of the farm when we took ownership were a rotting shed, sheep fencing around the perimeter, now welded into the maples and a peril to chain saws, and an inordinate number of horseshoes in the area around the barn site.”

 John described the kitchen: “There was a large kitchen stove. . .that leaked smoke to such a degree that it could  well have flavored a bird, . . There was also a large oblong heating stove, a “schoolhouse”, in the living room that could accept very large logs and branches and provide glorious, if brief, heating but which leaked even more than the cookstove.

”Hazel and John and their two daughters, Clare and Krista, enjoyed summers up there. There was a beautiful meadow, pond (with pet trout) fed by a spring of pure water, woods, and multiple fruit trees

Hazel was a great flower gardener and they also had a vegetable garden. John  built beautiful structures and maintained the pond, creating a lovely small waterfall cascading down toward the Creek. Here in the small meadow, Hazel planted the primrose.  However, John says they called it Cowslip.

  High water and spring floods carried the primrose/cowslip down the brook all the way to the banks of the Beaverkill river where It continues its march for miles downstream.

  It’s fun to think of these flowers as cowslips and be reminded of  the song, in Act 5 of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. It is sung by Ariel, a spirit, who is told that soon he will be freed from the service of his master Prospero,

Ariel sings

Where the bee sucks, there suck I.

In a cowslip’s bell I lie;

There I couch when owls do cry.

On the bat’s back I do fly

After summer merrily.  

Merrily, merrily shall I live now

Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.

               John and Hazel still own the property with their daughters. It is wonderful to think of Hazel and John who took such loving care of their place in Laraway Hollow and brought the cowslips we all enjoy.

Submitted by Patricia Adams – 8 May 2020

Birthdays Not On Pause

Judith Katz wrote to us this weekend – from her living room overlooking the Beaverkill….

The pandemic has rewritten the rules and understanding of every aspect of our social experience. It has incisively gutted the institution of the Birthday Party Celebration. A gathering that formerly would have been held in a restaurant or home with multiple friends and family swept up in the fun and angst of that particular year. In my adult life I have cycled through it all: the mega gathering (minimum 50 plus participants) the select 8 friends scooped up at a favorite restaurant, the quiet dinner with me and my husband Mike. 
So when my birthday rolled around this year on April 16th I had no plan or secret hope or wish that the day would be any different than the day before. We are currently hunkering down up in the Catskills in our weekend house that we have owned for the last twenty years. The area is beautiful in a stark unmanicured way. We live in a place of narrow valleys and wild rivers and very few inhabitants. 
Our closest neighbors are Toby Poser and John Adams. A dynamic couple in their early fifties. I have known John since he was a maniac eight year old terrorizing me with frogs and snakes that he kept hidden in his shirt pocket. Toby is beautiful inside and out. And we share the same birthday.
John sent a text the night before. Mike and I were invited to come to the edge of our driveway at 2PM on Thursday the 16th. We accepted. John and Toby and their 15 year old daughter Zelda were standing at the bottom of their driveway. We were about twenty feet apart on different sides of the road. On our driveway was a large candle in a towering candle holder and the matching candle-candle holder at the base of their driveway. Placed in the middle of the road was a plate covered with a red and white checked cloth. At John’s instruction we all belted out an Ethel Merman worthy version of Happy Birthday. Toby and I bent towards one another with our fingers aching to connect just like on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. After the song and dance movements were completed we took turns going to the plate equidistant from our respective driveways to inhale the delicious home baked chocolate chip cookies made by Toby. By 2:07 the party was over.It was a heart expanding celebration worthy of a velvet rope – that is how precious and exclusive it was. 
For years I have been neurotic about managing and celebrating my birthday. I have over thought it, tried to ignore it, planned huge celebrations which always went in an unimagined and fraught direction, and made efforts to go with the flow when truly speaking that was never in the cards for me. So this past Thursday was the balm the corrective I had always been unknowingly seeking. The joy and love that manifest on our driveways was undeniable. The experience of those electric seven minutes has not short circuited or receded. The spontaneity of the gathering in tandem with the lack of artifice wrapped in the horror of this time in history freed me to be in the moment. A moment that is enduring in it’s ability to sustain and buoy.

Life in the Valley – Coronavirus Day 26

As our Governor advises – we are now entering what will hopefully be the top end of a flattened Covid-19 curve. Every home in the area, permanent and vacation, seems to have a least a couple of cars or trucks parked outside. So many full and part-time residents must have made the wise move to shelter-in-place up here in the Catskills. Local businesses remain open, if possible, but the streets in Roscoe and Livingston Manor remain quiet. Curbside pick-ups are still available at various local restaurants – but almost all orders must be placed in advance on the phone. Down in the Manor Pecks is reasonably well stocked now, but you won’t see anyone in there without a mask. The Catskill Food Hub continues delivering boxes for pick-up on Thursday afternoon (ordering and paying is easy on-line). They have reported a 600% increase in sales – so one piece of good news for the local farms. And, of course, breweries and wine merchants have been designated “essential services” in Albany – so no shortage there.

We’re very pleased to see that the Roscoe Community Nursing Home is still fully operational and applaud the local staff there. Heroes indeed.

Trout Season 2020 – Coronavirus Day 15

The Trout Fishing season launched today under a markedly subdued atmosphere. Despite a bit warmer than usual opening day temperatures (mid 40s) only a few intrepid anglers were to be seen on the Willowemoc and Upper Beaverkill. FOBC Members John and Sandra Conolly stayed safe but took full advantage of fly-fishing’s natural proclivity toward social distancing.

Trout Town looked more like Ghost Town – even the Orvis Shop was closed.

Compliance is the word – and we’ll all get through this soon.

Life in the Valley – Coronavirus Day 12

Some of the FOBC Members who are staying safe in locations other than the Beaverkill Valley have asked about life up here, as we all accept the realities of the pandemic and the social distancing protocols our Governor has advised.

So a few notes …. being that its still not springtime yet, Roscoe, Livingston Manor and Lew Beach remain in their usual off-season melancholy. And it doesn’t feel like that is going to change anytime soon. Restaurants are closed to eat-in customers, with some of them staying open on shorter hours to offer “curbside” pick-ups. Northern Farmhouse, Raimondos, Brandenberg Bakery, Katskeller, Main Street Farm, the Cabin, the DeBruce and the Roscoe Diner, among them. Pecks and the Liberty Shop Rite have depleted shelves, but still enough inventory to provide home cooking supplies for everyone in the area. The Catskill Food Hub and Fare Haven are still providing local farm products to anyone who is willing to drive to the Manor for pick-up on their porch Essential services remain open, but quiet – the Post Offices, Manor Motors, and the highway exit service stations.

Some photos below, we’ll come back in a week with further updates. So til then – stay home and stay safe!

Same great food – just you don’t get to chat with Bob.
Business as usual.
You have to stay flexible at the local supermarkets.
Some adjustments have been made.

DEC Meeting in Livingston Manor – CANCELED

DEC ACCEPTING PUBLIC COMMENT ON DRAFT BEAVERKILL CAMPGROUND MANAGEMENT PLAN UNTIL APRIL 15
Previously Scheduled Public Meeting on Draft Management Plan for Beaverkill Campground Canceled

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today encouraged the public to review and comment on a Draft Unit Management Plan (UMP) for the Beaverkill Campground, Sullivan County. Out of an abundance of caution and to limit the community spread of COVID-19, DEC has canceled the previously scheduled public meeting about the draft plan. The public is encouraged to submit input on the draft plan, which will guide future management of the campground over the next 10 years, through April 15.  

The draft plan for the Beaverkill Campground can be viewed and downloaded at DEC’s website. Copies are also available in electronic format on compact disc and may be requested by calling (518) 457-2500.

The Draft UMP update proposes the following management activities:

  • Reconstruct comfort station #6;
  • Construct an entrance booth at the day use area;
  • Rehabilitate comfort station #1;
  • Expand day use and construct a new pavilion;
  • Pave sections of roads in the camping loop;
  • Relocate campsites;
  • Demolish unused buildings and infrastructure;
  • Bury overhead lines in the day use area;
  • Plant trees and shrubs;
  • Perform restoration work to historic sites; and
  • Improve existing trails and create a trail connection to the Wild Forest.

In addition, the public can visit the Beaverkill Campground Survey to share comments on recreational opportunities. Survey Responses will be accepted until April 15, 2020.

All comments on the Draft Beaverkill Campground UMP must be received by April 15, 2020. DEC will review these comments as it finalizes the UMP for the Beaverkill Campground. Comments can be submitted by mail or email to: NYS DEC Bureau of Recreation, 625 Broadway Albany NY 12233- 5253, or campinfo@dec.ny.gov.

Liquid Gold

Carl Obecny, wife Joan, and an assortment of valley residents and their dogs have been back up in the woods above the Beaverkill Covered Bridge again this winter – gathering sap and boiling it down into Carl’s much sought after local maple syrup.

For the uninitiated, the process starts with small metal spouts, sometimes called spiles, drilled into the trees. Late winter temperatures – below freezing at night, above freezing in the daytime – allow the raw sap to drain into collection bags and buckets hung on the spiles. Accumulated sap is collected daily for a couple of weeks, then put through a lengthy filtration and distillation process – reducing every hundred gallons of sap down to less than ten gallons of finished syrup. Carl’s custom built wood-fired evaporater works long into each evenings of the short gathering season. Result – pure Beaverkill maple syrup. No additives and of course 100% organic.

Beaverkill Community Church – Annual Christmas Eve Candlelight Caroling (and a party)

An early reminder to mark your calendars, the Beaverkill Community Church will once again be hosting its long-running Christmas Eve “Caroling by Candlelight” gathering. Singing begins at 8:00pm – afterwards all are invited to take the short walk up Craigie Clair Road to the Adams’ home, where festivities will continue. All are welcome, and its a great chance to bring visiting friends and family to meet the local residents.

For any additional details please email us at contact@beaverkillfriends.org.

DEC preps for new Covered Bridge Campsite Management Plan

Bill Rudge, Natural Resources Supervisor (Region 3) from the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, visited the Beaverkill Covered Bridge Campsite this past Friday – to meet with FOBC representatives and discuss the DEC’s forthcoming Unit Management Plan for the campsite area. FOBC members Eric Hamerstrom, John Adams, Ramsay Adams, Patricia Adams and Josh Grier met with Bill to review intended areas of improvement and maintenance of the campsite area, and to offer additional ideas for the Plan to address.

This initial meeting was to give the DEC an sense the current concern and interest that local residents have about the campsite and bridge recreation area, in advance of a formal proposal from the DEC being presented to the general public for review and comment.

Ideas presented to Bill included (a) relocating the shower house from the west side of the river (therefor more accessible to overnight campsite patrons), (b) renovating both comfort stations to include showers for both campsite and day use visitors, (c) burying all power and telephone cabling visible on the site, (d) building a “interpretative trail” starting at the base of the bridge and heading downstream on the west side of the river, complete with informational plaques highlighting the history of the Beaverkill River and its importance to both NY State recreation and commerce since the 1800s, (e) renovating the “Ranger House” at the foot of the bridge and possibly building a pavilion structure, and (f) establishing a more organized and reliable system for day users to park cars and gain access to the day use area – particularly on the weekends each summer when we have noticed a significant increase in day use traffic.

Mention was also made of accommodating the fly fishing community by clearing and improving the two miles of public fishing access that is appurtenant to the bridge and campsite locations – the only significant stretch of public fishing access on the Upper Beaverkill River.

When the DEC makes it formal Plan available for public access, review and comment we will email the FOBC membership to make sure everyone interested has a chance to get involved in the process. This is a great opportunity for the Valley to see a new round of improvements from the State conservation resources.

Country Living

contributed by Peter Malik

We all know that nature is not always cute and benign. While direct clashes are not that common in our parts they do happen. So it was earlier this week when I arrived at the house. Upon opening the door I encountered knocked-over lamps, torn clothes, even a chair on its back. All over the floor and furniture were whiteish spots and splashes — some small, some quite big — which were clearly bird poop. Then I saw the door to the fire place open: and since we always close it before leaving it didn’t take a genius to conclude that the avian intruder entered the house via the chimney.

The startling thing was that the carnage was literally in every room, on both floors. As I cleaned, stripped beds and generally started putting things back together I kept thinking: is the bird still somewhere here and alive? Or dead? Unlikely it found a way out via the chimney again … It all felt anxiously exciting and somewhat spooky. Fast forward a couple of hours, no bird found and the house more or less back to normal; and then it occurred to me to look into the basement, the only place I haven’t been yet. Sure enough, there it was: a beautiful, large hawk, lying next to the boiler, interestingly with no signs of any injury.

The coda is disappointing. I took it to the compost, planning to return a bit later to take a picture that I can send to someone better than me at birds. But when I came back I found not a trace. A coyote or some such chanced upon a meal and took it home (the chance the hawk woke up and flew away is remote I think). So I will never know who the visitor was … maybe it’s enough to know that it was one of the faces of nature.