Review of 2015 Hudson-Berkshire Wine and Food Festival

Vacation trip to Chatham, Columbia County, New York

Saturday, May 23 to Monday, May 25, 2015

During the week of May 17, 2015, I learned of the Hudson-Berkshire Wine and Food Festival, to be held upstate in the town of Chatham, Columbia County, New York during Memorial Day weekend. I love going up into the country, as I’ve always felt much more at home there than amidst the noisy, crowded, and polluted surroundings of the city. I really needed to get out of the city for a bit, and I hadn’t been on vacation in nine years. My mother also desperately needed a break from the drudgery of her daily routine. Her birthday was coming up soon, too, so I decided to take my family on vacation up there for the weekend as a present.

Much of what you will read from here onwards comes from the hastily-scribbled notes that I took during the drive and while I was there.

Day 1. Saturday, May 23.

We were supposed to leave at 6:00 AM, but we actually left at 6:52, nearly an hour behind schedule. It’s rather chilly today. The temperature when we left was only 51 degrees F. Clear cloudless blue sky. Slight breeze. If it’s a bit nippy down here, I image it will be even cooler up north, and especially in the hill country.

Crossed the Whitestone Bridge at 7:02 AM.

At 7:29 AM, we entered Sleepy Hollow, Westchester County. I saw a wild turkey on the side of the highway, but the car went by too fast for me to open the window, get my camera out, and take a picture of it. I’m glad to see that a little bit of the wilderness is present so close to New York City.

The first photo that I took was inside the car, travelling northwards across the bridge spanning the Croton Reservoir.

Picture 035

Entered Columbia County at 8:44 AM. Road is very bumpy around this area.

Arrived in Chatham at 9:20 AM – we made really good time in getting here! The tall tower seen in the background is the steeple of St. James’ Catholic church.

Picture 044

We went to the Columbia County fairgrounds straight away, as there were hardly any rest stops along the Taconic Highway. The route coming here was very scenic. After we briefly looked the place over, we went to our motel and checked in – the Berkshire Travel Lodge. I love that peculiar motel smell – it reminds me of more pleasant times when my family went on vacations somewhat regularly and had a lot of fun.

After we unloaded all of our food and clothing, we decided to check out what was on offer in the town of Chatham itself. The festival was not due to start until 11:00, so we had one and a half hours to kill. The town of Chatham dates back to the very early 19th Century. As such, there are very few colonial-style buildings here. By contrast, there are lots of Federal-style and Victorian-style buildings in the town. A railroad cuts right through the middle of the town, and we arrived just in time to see a CSX freight train pull in. That was a REALLY long train! We were waiting on the corner for what seemed like five complete minutes for the thing to pass by.

Picture 047Picture 048Picture 058Picture 056Picture 046

The oldest building in the town is the old tavern, which has since been converted into an antiques shop.

Picture 053Picture 052Picture 054

This is the town’s municipal building, the Tracy Memorial Village Hall, which serves as the town hall, the town court house, the police headquarters, and the center of local administration.

Picture 050Picture 051

This is the Morris Memorial Community Center, kind of like the local YMCA.

Picture 059Picture 060

This is the war memorial located in the center of the town.

Picture 057

I’m always keen on ecclesiastic architecture, so I took several photographs of the various churches in the area. I was surprised that there were so many, considering how small the town was. This is the Presbyterian church.

Picture 061

This is the First Reformed Church (Calvinist).

Picture 062Picture 063Picture 064Picture 065Picture 066

This is the Methodist church.

Picture 067Picture 068Picture 069Picture 070Picture 071

Dad was especially eager on checking out a Welsh pub in the town. We decided that we’d have dinner there that night.

Picture 080Picture 079

I’m happy to say that there were hardly any franchise chains within Chatham, or indeed any of the places that we saw. The sole exception was a single Rite Aid pharmacy located at the very edge of the town. Every other business was privately-owned. My myself and my father found this exceedingly refreshing.

At 11:00 AM on the dot, we arrived at the wine festival right when it opened. We were one of the first customers there, but it soon became very crowded. I loved a lot of the products that I tasted there – not just wine, but food too. i also had some very interesting and pleasant conversations with people. I promised several of the vendors that I’d write up reviews for the products that I really liked, so here we go.

Winding Drive – Jellies, jams, and sauces

I’m always into fresh jellies and jams. This was the first vendor that we tried, and I was definitely not disappointed. I personally recommend their “apple pie jam” – I guarantee you, you’ll gobble the whole thing down sooner than you think.

There are two other things that I’d like to recommend – their applesauce and their peach mango barbecue sauce.

Picture 177Picture 176

The applesauce is liquid gold in a glass jar. There’s a fresh good-for-you liveliness in this stuff that you just can’t get from commercially-available applesauce brands.

The peach mango barbecue sauce is absolutely excellent – I can really see this being used on grilled salmon! It’s also probably great on pork roasts and ham. This is a really good summertime sauce.

Contact info:

Middle Quarter Mall
744 Main Street South
Woodbury, Connecticut 06798
Phone: (203) 263-6961

Worldling’s Pleasure – cheese spreads

This was the first stand that I went to once I got inside the hall where much of the festival was taking place. The kindly man who was attending to the stall had six varieties of cheese spreads, and I tasted (and bought) three of them.

Country Store Cheddar. This is a plain basic cheese spread that can go with just about anything. It has a wonderful mellow mild smoothness and creaminess, in contrast to the hard salty sharpness that you normally associate with cheddar. This stuff is amazing to smell and taste, and melts in your mouth. As an experiment, I put a hearty tablespoon-full of this stuff into my macaroni and cheese when I came home, and the flavor difference was practically night and day!

Picture 195

Rose’s Red Hot. Cheddar mixed with pepper. For those of you who prefer a little bit more zip, this is the thing for you. Ingredients include habanero and jalapeno peppers, two of the spiciest peppers known. However, the cool creaminess of the cheddar cheese counter-acts the powerful pepper spiciness, forming a wonderful and pleasing balance of taste. Personally, I like spicy food, so I absolutely loved this.

Picture 196

Garlicke and the 7 herbs. A white garlic pesto spread. This stuff has “Italian” written all over it! Of the three flavors that I tasted, I thought that this one was unquestionably the best. Not only can you put this on crackers, but you could also break it up into pieces and mix it into your salad. I spread some on a meatball sandwich the other day. The only word that I can think of to describe this stuff is “amazing”.

Picture 197

Contact info:

Worldling’s Pleasure
Watervliet, New York 12189
Phone: 518) 879-2306

The Olive Table – honey and olive oil imported from Greece

The family who owns this company owns a farm in Greece, but their company headquarters is in Vermont. Most people know what honey is – the product of when bees process flower nectar and make it into food for the hive. Most people associate honey with garden flowers, but did you know that you can also get honey from trees? Many trees are technically flowering plants, too, and therefore it makes sense that bees would take the nectar from inside tree flowers and turn that into honey as well. Ah, but here’s the twist! Tree-based honey has a lot less sugar in it than regular flower-based honey. It’s also usually darker in color, has a heartier flavor, and does not have the goopy thick caramelized texture of regular honey.

There were four kinds of honey on offer that day: fir, pine, chestnut, and reiki.

Fir honey. Light in color, and light and joyful in taste.

Pine honey. Medium in color. A slightly more intense flavor than the fir honey.

Chestnut honey. Dark brown in color. A rich deep woodsy forest flavor. The full power of the taste hits you about five seconds after you put it in your mouth.

Reiki honey. Light golden color. This honey was much thinner than the other honeys. It produced an awakening warmness on the pallet, which soon spread through my whole body. If sunshine came in a jar, this would be it.

I bought the chestnut honey and one bottle of organic olive oil.

Picture 179Picture 183

Contact info:

The Olive Table
Woodstock, Vermont 05091

James Gourmet Ketchup

I have tasted real homemade ketchup in the past, and I loved it then, so I fully expected to love it now, and I did. This stuff is low in salt, so it’s not saturated with preservatives. That means you have to eat it before it spoils. Don’t worry – this stuff tastes so good that you won’t have it hanging around in your fridge for long!

When I tasted it, I went “It’s real! It tastes real!”

One person asked about the ketchup, saying that he never liked ketchup – in fact, he absolutely hated the taste of ketchup. I turned around and I said to him “No, what you have been eating so far is NOT ketchup. What you have been eating is an artificial fake over-processed red-colored sludge that’s CALLED ‘ketchup’!”

If this stuff was made commercially available, Heinz would go crushingly bankrupt within two weeks!!!

PS: I’d suggest marketing their own homemade mustard and relish, too!

Picture 174

Contact info:

James Gourmet Ketchup
Phone: (518) 557-8006

Hawthorne Valley Farm – makers of homemade varieties of sauerkraut, among other things.

They had three varieties on offer that day: carrot-ginger, regular, and red cabbage.

Carrot Ginger Sauerkraut. A wonderful and complex mixture of spiciness, saltiness, fiber, and earthiness. A perfectly blended combination of flavors and textures with just the right proportions. I felt myself getting healthier while I was eating it.

Picture 184

Plain Sauerkraut. VERY salty, so be prepared for a bit of a “wow” shock to the taste buds. However, unlike the commercial types of sauerkraut that you often see in stores, this stuff did not have the lip-puckering sour taste so often associated with sauerkraut. Actually, it had a refreshing vigor to it. To offset the saltiness, the sauerkraut itself is very light, airy, and delicate. You could eat an entire jar of the stuff and you’d never feel it!

Red Cabbage Sauerkraut. A much fuller and heavier body. Unlike the plain sauerkraut, this stuff’s got some weight to it. I’ve had red cabbage sauerkraut several times in the past, so I was anticipating a very pungent taste. I must say that it didn’t taste as all like I thought it would. It was a very pleasant taste without the powerful overpowering hit-you-in-the-face sourness that commercial red cabbage sauerkraut has. It had a uniqueness, an enlivening brightness that I had a difficult time describing. All I could say was “It tastes like color!” The salespeople enjoyed that comment.

Contact info:

Hawthorne Valley Farm
327 County Route 21C
Ghent, New York 12075
Phone: (518) 672-7500
Grandpa Pete’s Sunday Sauce
I love eating Italian food, and so I jumped on the chance to taste some varieties of pasta sauce.

Picture 182Picture 181Picture 180

All of the sauces that I tried were excellent. I was especially fond of the garlic sauce. A word of warning, though – don’t spill the meat sauce on your clothes, because the stains are practically impossible to get out.

Contact info:

36 Koeppel Avenue
Catskill, New York 12414
Phone: (877) 447-2823
 Savor Fine Foods – gourmet cookies and other foods
On this day, we tasted samples of various cookies that they had on offer. Every single variety was excellent. I even loved their cranberry cookies, and that’s saying something because I hate cranberries! There were about twelve or so different kinds of cookies to eat, and I purchased bags of five of them.
Picture 185Picture 186Picture 187Picture 188Picture 189Picture 190Picture 191Picture 192Picture 193Picture 194
Contact info:
Savor Fine Foods
30 Echo Lake Road
Watertown, Connecticut 06795-2609
Phone: (860) 274-9000
Helderberg Meadworks
Mead is alcohol made with honey and herbs. Being the barbarian-lover that I am, I have been trying to find somebody who sells mead for years, and this day was my lucky day. They had four varieties: heritage, apple, maple, and feral. Alcohol level: 15-16%
Heritage. Basic, light, delicate flavor. This would go well with anything.
Apple. A bit of a bitter taste, which my dad liked.
Maple. The best one in my opinion. I said “It tastes like the forest”. I could definitely taste the maple flavor and it had a very earthy overtone.
Feral. Slightly more powerful and gritty in flavor. This drink puts hair on your chest!
Picture 172Picture 173
Contact info:
Helderberg Meadworks
PO Box 93
Duanesburg, New York 12056
Awestruck Premium Hard Ciders

My dad suggested that I try their lavender hops hard cider. In fact, I had heard a lot of people talking about, and there was a massive tightly-packed crowd in front of the table tasting samples of it. I thought to myself, If everyone’s raving about it, it would be foolish of me not to at least try it, so I asked for a taste.

Very unique flavor. I’ve never tasted anything like it. All I could say to describe it was “Awesomely awesome!

Lavender Hops Hard Cider. Alcohol level: 6.8%
Contact info:
Awestruck Ciders
44 West Street, Suite 8
Walton, New York 13856
Well, I had a lot of fun that day. On the way back to our hotel, I took some photos of the countryside. The Berkshire Mountains, which are located in eastern New York, are very picturesque.
Picture 085Picture 084Picture 083Picture 082Picture 081
In the evening, we went to the Welsh pub, where I had one of the best burgers that I’ve ever had in my life – half-pound hamburger topped with pulled pork, onion rings, and cheddar cheese. Damn, it was fantastic!!!

Day 2. Sunday, May 24.

Now that the fair was over, at least for us (it was a two-day event), we decided that we’d take a much more in depth look at the town of Chatham than we had a chance to the day before. Afterwards, we planned on going up north to a glass-blowing shop, to the New Lebanon Shaker Village, and then swing a sharp turn to the west to visit President Martin Van Buren’s house in Kinderhook. It was going to be a rather busy day.

Had breakfast at Our Daily Bread. Nice atmosphere. Distinct Middle Eastern influence on the menu. They make their own ketchup called “House Ketchup”. No pre-fab tea bags – they make their own tea blends from scratch. Fresh honey – a bit thin, with a prominent cinnamon flavor. The ketchup has a distinct cinnamon flavor to it, too. I ordered two eggs over easy with corned beef hash, which I hadn’t had in a long time, so I was really craving some. On the side, I had two pieces of challah bread. My breakfast looked so good and so perfect that I just had to take a picture of it.

Picture 077

This is a photo comparing the diner’s own brand of homemade natural ketchup with the commercial Heinz ketchup. I want you to notice two things. First, note that the natural ketchup is much darker in color than the Heinz ketchup. I never noticed it before, but I was struck by just how red the Heinz stuff is – no processed food product can be that vividly red naturally. Secondly, I want you to notice that the natural ketchup bottle is one-third empty, while the Heinz ketchup bottle was still full. This visible fact shows that people, if given a choice, will much rather use the natural ketchup rather than Heinz.

Picture 075

Drove through Spencertown. Despite its name, it’s actually a small village.

This is the Spencertown Public Library – I’m serious. It was located on the corner of a road intersection.

Picture 086Picture 087

St. Peter’s Presbyterian Church, Spencertown

Picture 089

The Spencertown Academy and Center for the Arts
Picture 169Picture 170
Very beautiful colonial-style home across the road from the academy
Picture 171
From there, we drove up north to the town of Canaan to see the glass-blower – “Hoogs and Crawford modern studio glass”. I’d wanted to see, and if possible to do, glass-blowing for a while.
Picture 106Picture 107Picture 092Picture 093Picture 094Picture 095Picture 105Picture 096Picture 097Picture 098Picture 099Picture 100Picture 101Picture 102Picture 103Picture 104Picture 108Picture 109
Not far away was the New Lebanon Shaker Village. I was hoping to see reenactors walking around in period garb, but I was sorry to see that the place looked abandoned. In fact, two buildings were practically falling down. Some of these buildings were private homes, so I was not allowed inside. While I was here, I saw the biggest crow that I had ever seen. The damn thing was the size of a hawk. And when it cawed, it sounded much deeper and louder than any other crow that I had seen. Dad saw it too, so I have a witness. In truth, I think it was a raven – ravens are bigger than crows.
Picture 110Picture 111Picture 126Picture 127Picture 128Picture 112Picture 113Picture 114Picture 115Picture 116Picture 121Picture 117Picture 118Picture 119Picture 124Picture 125Picture 120Picture 122Picture 123
Afterwards, we drove west and came to the Martin Van Buren house. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to take any photographs inside.
Picture 129Picture 130Picture 131Picture 132Picture 133Picture 134Picture 135Picture 136Picture 137Picture 138Picture 139Picture 140

Had dinner at the Backwater Grill, a lakeside restaurant located not far from the motel.

I had a Jack Daniels steak with bacon mashed potatoes. Appetizer was clam chowder. This steak holds the absolute definitive record for the best steak that I have ever eaten in my entire life – period! Mom had a slice of carrot cake for her birthday.

Day 3. Monday, May 25. Memorial Day.

Gloomy, gray, and overcast this morning. Light misting rain, but it cleared up soon.

Had breakfast at Dan’s Diner – a railroad car that had been converted into a small roadside diner. Don’t be fooled by its humble appearance – this place had EXCELLENT food!!! I had two pancakes and a side of corned beef hash, with a glass of orange juice. Everything tasted amazing.

Picture 073

Time to leave. I’ll miss this quiet place, but I was actually looking foward to going back home – I usually don’t look foward to going back to the city. The main reason was that I wanted to sleep in my own bed and be around more familiar surroundings.

Prince Frederick Augustus

Prince Frederick Augustus 1815

Here is a portrait of Prince Frederick Augustus (1763-1827), the younger brother of Britain’s King George IV. This is how he would have looked at or around the year 1815, I think. It’s thanks to him that the British Army, which had previously been in a state of neglect, was reformed and able to beat back Napoleon. The portrait is somewhat based on an existing portrait by John Jackson dated to 1822 (see here). He is garbed in clothes typical of the early 19th Century. On his chest is a medal from the Order of the Garter.

I found out after making this picture that I made one big mistake – Prince Frederick had blonde hair, not dark hair. Oops.,_Duke_of_York_and_Albany

Keep your pencils sharp, everybody.

Dinosaur Day 2015 at the Garvies Point Museum

GP Museum 1

Well, it was that time of year again! Every April or so, at around the time of Easter, the Garvies Point Museum and Preserve, located in Glen Cove, Nassau County, New York, holds it annual “Dinosaur Day”. This is one of the days that I really look foward to for a few reasons. First, I get to work at a place that I absolutely love and meet with some good friends. Secondly, I get to be out of NYC for a little while, which is something that I ALWAYS look foward to. Third, I get to talk about a subject that has fascinated me since my earliest days – paleontology.

Veronica, the museum’s de facto head of administration, did a wonderful job along with other members of the museum staff of setting up the classroom where the day’s major activities would be taking place. Recently, the museum’s library was substantially increased. The Sands Point Museum and Preserve had closed down its library a short while ago, and all of the books and papers were sent to the GPM. I should state, though, that almost all of these documents were originally part of the GPM collections anyway, and they just got them back, that’s all. However, Louis (one of the workers at the Garvies Point Museum, but works primarily at the Old Bethpage Village – another place that I really love) has been working hard to re-catalogue all of these books and papers back into the museum’s database.

The name of the event was somewhat misleading, as it concerned all prehistoric life, not just dinosaurs. We had exhibits on primitive mammal-like-reptiles, dinosaurs, and prehistoric mammals.

Here are some pictures of what the room looked like both during and after the hoards of kids showed up.

Picture 083Picture 085Picture 086Picture 087Picture 088Picture 089Picture 090Picture 091Picture 092Picture 093Picture 094Picture 095Picture 096Picture 097Picture 100Picture 101Picture 102Picture 103Picture 104

Most of the really young children gravitated immediately towards the dino toy area and the fossil digsite. The older children and a lot of the adults were interested in the information that I and others were giving. They were especially interested in Dimetrodon, the famous sail-backed pelycosaur from the early Permian Period. I don’t think that I have ever had to say the name”Dimetrodon” so many times within the course of a single day! It seemed to be the only thing that many of them wanted to talk about!

Some of the major topics of interest on this day were: the Permian Mass Extinction, which occured about 251 million years ago, when an estimate 95% of all life was wiped out; of course, T. rex was a favorite; as too was Allosaurus, who competed with its larger relative for attention from the crowds. This was helped in no small part to the fact that we had a lot of Allosaurus “stuff” arrayed for them: a picture of the skull, a hand model, bone casts, a model, and my drawing which you might recognize from an earlier post on this blog.

Finally, here’s a picture of me, “the Dinosaur Man” as several members of the museum staff call me, dressed up as an amateur paleontologist. In addition to my olive drab Garvies Point Museum shirt, I also wore a khaki utility vest, because apparently ALL paleontologists wear khaki utility vests! I thought that wearing it would help to enhance my ethos with the audience, and by my reckoning, it worked.

Picture 099





Here’s a drawing that I did a while ago, but for some reason, my computer screwed it up. It’s only recently that I’ve rescanned it and fixed it up.

Camarasaurus was the most common sauropod dinosaur within the Morrison Formation of western North America during the late Jurassic Period. Other species like Apatosaurus and Diplodocus might be more familiar to the ear, but in terms of the sheer numbers of specimens that have been found, this big guy tops the list. As far as size goes, it was a tad on the small side for a sauropod, measuring only 60 feet long. Its relatively small size (that is, compared with the other larger sauropods that it shared its habitat with) and meaty build likely made it one of the preferred targets for a mob of Allosaurus to take down. The reason why Camarasaurus was the most common species of its kind might be due partly to its smaller-than-average size (smaller stomachs mean more food to go around for everyone, and by extent leads to having larger populations) and partly to its apparently generalistic diet. Creatures which have a specialized diet are often hit hard when catastrophies arise, whereas dinosaurs that are more adaptable and flexible in terms of what they eat come out more favorably.

Many times, you’ll see these dinosaurs illustrated Gregory Paul-style, with thin spindly legs. I decided that the biomechanics of this simply weren’t feasible, and so I gave my animal suitably thicker more elephant-like legs, able to hold up the tens of tons of weight. Also notice that, contrary to other artistic renderings of this species, the neck is NOT held straight vertically upright, but is thrust more fowards in a 45 degree S-shaped curve. This is also one of the few dinosaur drawings that I’ve done in color. In terms of the color pattern, I’ve always imagined Camarasaurus colored in the scheme that you see above, even as a little kid – tan body with broad brown stripes and a somewhat yellowish-tan underbelly. I simply cannot imagine this species colored in any other way.

Keep your pencils sharp, people.

News: Stephen Czerkas, famous paleo-artist, dies at 63

Today, I learned some very heart-breaking news. Stephen Czerkas, one of the true greats of paleo-art, recently died. He was 63 years old. The cause of death was liver cancer.

Czerkas was famous for his life-sized dinosaur sculptures, and he developed a very distinctive style – you could immediately recognize a Czerkas sculpture. His horned Allosaurus graced many children’s dinosaur books and TV shows, and his life-sized Carnotaurus was truly epic. However, his most famous work was his pack of Deinonychus raptors. Czerkas was one of the first paleo-artists to have his theropods adorned with feathers, and he also discovered that at least some species of sauropods had spines on their backs, which was incorporated into the BBC series Walking with Dinosaurs.

To all of those dino-lovers of my generation – those who came of age during the 1990s – Stephen Czerkas’ work would have been an integral part of your life. Czerkas was one of THE paleo-artists of the late 1980s and early 1990s, the time when I was becoming exposed to dinosaurs and other prehistoric life. The sheer awesomeness of his work influenced me profoundly both as an artist and as a person who dedicated his life to studying the past.

The paleontological and artistic spheres have lost one of the true greats of their domain, but his work will last and I dare say will continue to influence artists, scientists, and children generations from now.

RIP Stephen Andrew Czerkas (1951-2015) 😦

Review of the 2014 Warwick, New York “Applefest”

On Sunday, October 5, I attended the annual Applefest for the first time. This is a massive fair that is held in the town of Warwick (established in the late 1700s), Orange County, New York. I was informed that it was one of the biggest autumn festivals in the entire Northeast, with a projected attendance of somewhere around 35,000 people. My parents and I had a lovely ride through the rural hilly forest-covered countryside of lowerstate New York (I hate using the phrase “downstate” because it sounds depressing). As I stated in a previous post, I’m a country boy at heart, and I love to get out of the damned city at every opportunity, especially to experience “old time” things like quaint fall and country festivals.

Despite my very limited finances, I had a feeling that I would be spending an inordinately high amount of money there. At country fairs, things tend to be slightly on the expensive side. Local craftsmen and farmers need to sell their wares, and with many of them feeling the pinch from economically bad times, they need to adjust their prices higher to make up for things.

When we got there, which was at around 10:30 AM (only a half-hour after the fair opened), the place was already jammed. I was surprised how popular the fair was in both senses of the word. I was told to expect a large crowd, but I wasn’t prepared for this. There were at least 7,000 or 8,000 people when we got there, and the crowds kept increasing every minute. Almost immediately, I spotted various stands for things. They were giving pony rides to small children, the local town fire department had set up a barbecue, and there was a stand for adopting ex-racing greyhounds – they seemed to enjoy a more relaxed laid back lifestyle than the hectic energetic one that they had previously pursued. Next to this was a stand selling spices and varieties of olive oils. In the energetic spirit of the moment, and with a fervent desire to help local communities and craftsmen, I bought three different bottles: Italian herb, sun-dried tomato, and spicy pepper.

The Applefest was not just about apples, despite its name. Certainly, all things apple-related played a big part in it, but the stands were for far more: food stands, craft vendors, and environmental/community awareness booths talking out things like solar energy, banning plastic bags, and animal adoption. On top of all this, seemingly everybody in the town decided to have a yard sale!

I had many good experiences here, but at the top of the list was when I got to make apple cider myself, which was something that I had never done before. I have an immense unquenchable thirst for knowledge, especially pertaining to things that I regard as from the past, and I tried to get as much information as I could. I first began by carefully studying the construction of the portable press, which was about the size of a bicycle, and took a few pictures just to have a reference – I am determiend to get one of these things for myself, if I should ever be so lucky as to have my own farm somewhere. I also carefully watched the press in operation. I had a wonderful conversation with a teenager (at least I assume he was a teenager) named Rafael about the process of making apple cider. He told me that it takes about 40 pounds of apples to make one gallon of apple cider, and that you can make your cider of a specific flavor depending on the apple variety (some are sugary sweet while others are tart). Then came the best part – I got to help him. I started by tossing the apples into the hopper. The hopper is connected to a turbine, which is connected to a wheel-crank. The operator turns the crank, which turns the turbine, which crushes the apples. The crushed bits then fall out of a hole in the underside and down into an awaiting bucket. The buckets are not whole – they have large slats cut into the side so that the juice can escape when being pressed. Make sure that the bucket is lined with a mesh cloth! Not only does it prevent the apple bits from being squeezed out through the bucket slats, it also makes cleaning the bucket a lot easier, and you can carry the shredded apple chunks away like they’re in a bag. After I acted as  the shoveler, so to speak, I acted as the presser. The bucket was placed underneath a large cast-iron screw with four spike-shaped handles on the top, and there was a circular wooden board underneath the screw, unattached. After the bucket of apple pulp was placed under the screw press, the mesh bag that the pulp was in was folded over, completely covering the apple pulp – this is to prevent the apple chunks from sticking to the underside of the board. Then, the board was placed over the pulp, lined up directly underneath the screw. Then, start turning! You have to make sure that you don’t turn too much, otherwise you’ll break open the bucket. As I turned the screw, which was easy at first but got to be rather hard work, I observed the tan-orange cider juice coming out of the slats, traveling a short distance down a decline and out of a drainage hole. Underneath the hole was a steel pot, collecting the juice. I helped Rafael out a coule of times with the process as the people watched us. I shook his sticky hand with my sticky hand and thanked him for all of the information that he gave me and for allowing me to participate. He smiled and gave me a free cup of cider for my work.

I love it when youth become involved in these sort of things. I’m noticing a greater interest among young people in “getting back to the land” and focusing more on simple things. First, I had a great talk with a student from VVS High School about the process of making maple syrup, and now this. I really want more young people to get involved in agrarian pursuits and having a greater appreciation for home-grown local produce.

We made our way through even further. The fair wasn’t limited to just one street – it seemed that half of the town had been converted for the Applefest. Along every street were food venders, craft vendors, and social awareness booths. I had talks with a person who made bows and arrows, a person who made fudge, and another person who represented a group that wanted plastic bags to be banned in the town of Warwick. I was rather moved by that, and I am contemplating starting a similar organization in my home town of Flushing.

After having some hamburgers made for us by the Warwick Fire Department, we looked around for a little bit more, and then decided to head back home. We left at 1:00 PM, and the traffic leading up to Warwick was backed up bumper-to-bumper for miles. By the time that we left, there had to have been at least 30,000 people there, and they were still coming in! Along the road, I passed by the barn of a nearby farm, and painted on the side were the words “LOCAL = GOOD”. I absolutely agree.

I had a great time. I heartily recommend visiting the Warwick Applefest at least once in your life. Certainly, it’s a must if you live in lowerstate New York. I’m already thinking about going back next year.



Ophthalmosaurus was a 20-foot ichthyosaur which lived during the late Jurassic Period in the oceans around Europe and North America. It is named after its distinct large eyes. The coloration in the illustration is based upon the Spotted Dolphin.

Review of the 2014 Queens County Fair

I have a great love of the peaceful pastoral countryside. I love quaint farms and orchards, forests, rocky tree-covered hills and crags, glistening rivers, and small crumbling waterfalls. I take every chance that I can get to visit places like this. I especially love it if the scenery in question contains old colonial-style buildings with that musty smokey smell which is my personal high – I absolutely love the smell of a wood-burning fireplace. I get excited whenever I go out to the eastern end of Long Island or up north past the Five Boroughs, because I feel a greater sense of freedom, relaxation, and a feeling of internal peace. Although I am a denizen of New York City, I am much more of a country boy at heart than a city slicker.

Because of this, I love it when there are what I could call “folk-ish” places, where there are a lot of the old-time practices. I like visiting colonial farms and regional celebrations, like apple festivals and seasonal fairs. One of these which I like to visit is the annual Queens County Fair, held at the Queens County Farm Museum. This is the oldest continuously-operating farm in all of New York State, dated to 1697. Located next door is the Green Meadows Farm Petting Zoo, which (at least according to my generation) was an obligatory field trip for all children between the ages of 3 to 10. You can find out more about the Queens County Farm Museum by clicking on the link here.

I’ve had this fair marked on my calendar for a long time, and I was very eager when I went to it yesterday on Saturday, September 20.

The Queens County Fair is a typical county fair, the sort of event that I imagine taking place amidst more rural surroundings. You have food vendors, rides, contests, bands playing, performances, and advertisers. The highlight of my day was having a wonderful conversation with a high school student from upstate about the process of making maple syrup. Some may read this and go “Huh? How could you be excited about that?”. Believe me, it absolutely made my day.

The fair is held every September. If you live in Queens or the general New York City area, I highly encourage you to come to this fair the next chance you get – the pig race this year drew a very large crowd (yes, they have pig races – awesome). The fair is usually held in late September around the autumnal equinox. Bring lots of money with you – I guarantee you’ll be spending it.

The Queens County Farm Museum has and hosts events throughout the year. The next one coming up is the Kickoff to Fall, formerly called the Apple Festival, held in early October. Check the museum website for more details and a full calendar.

I had an absolutely great time there, a welcome and relieving change of pace from where I live and how I live. Some people like living in the bustling big city, but I don’t. I’m a country boy, and I need to live in the country. I don’t want to live in NYC anymore. I’ll go to the Queens County Fair every year as long as I am able to do so.

Lonchidion, a prehistoric shark


This is a drawing of Lonchidion, a hybodont shark from the Mesozoic Era. There were at least eleven different species, one of which was found in the Hell Creek Formation. I won’t get into all of the particulars regarding this genus or the Hell Creek species in particular (L. selachos). Their size depended upon the species, some being very small. Lonchidion selachos may have been three feet long, judging by the size of its dorsal spines. The drawing is based upon the preserved remains of other hybodont sharks, because specimens from the Hell Creek Formation consist mostly of teeth, well-preserved specimens of any Lonchidion species are very rare, and as far as I am aware, they looked more or less like other well-known hybodonts.

Hybodont sharks are identified by their large dorsal fin spines as well as the four large spines atop their heads, which are really overly-enlarged denticle scales found all over the rest of the body. Hybodonts first appeared during the Carboniferous Period, but it was during the Jurassic that they came into their own. However, by the Cretaceous Period, they were being replaced by so-called “modern” sharks very similar to the ones we see today. Lonchidion was one of the last surviving members of its kind before the whole hybodont group (the few species that remained, anyway) was completely wiped out at the end of the Mesozoic Era 65 million years ago.

Acheroraptor, revised

In December 2013, scientists announced the discovery of a new raptor dinosaur from the Hell Creek Formation, which they named Acheroraptor. When news first came out about it, I wrote a post, which you can read here. Ever since I put it up, it has remained one of my most-viewed posts on this website. Accompanying the article, I included a drawing, which you can see below:


I very quickly hashed this drawing out, and to tell you the truth, I wasn’t at all pleased with it, despite the fact that the post got a heck of a lot of hits. It was an improvement (though not by much) of an earlier feathered raptor drawing that I had done: Troodon. Due to the rushed need to get a drawing out as quickly as possible, I didn’t spend a whole lot of time coming up with a unique color scheme. So, the color pattern on the above drawing and the Troodon drawing are almost identical. One feature that I included right away was a fluffy feathery ridge running down its back. The head is rather scary and menacing looking, and somewhat boxy – very Jurassic Park-ish. In retrospect, since Acheroraptor was a close relative of Velociraptor, its head probably didn’t look like this.

Today, I finished a revised and probably more accurate drawing of what Acheroraptor would have looked like. I kept the overall shape, but I changed the shape of the head and I put some more detail in the arm feathers. The most obvious change is the striking black-white color scheme, which I based upon the coloration of the Northern Goshawk. If this drawing was in color, I would have given my creature transparent glassy red eyes.

Acheroraptor revised

Making this drawing was a real pleasure, and I’m surprised that doing it didn’t take as long as I had expected – only five days. Please comment on my work and on the “before-after” transition. Keep your pencils sharp!