Sunday, October 23, 2011
Turkey Island, Illinois River to Norfolk Southern Railroad Bridge
The morning was started by spotting bank beaver holes in the river banks. Andy and Hugh had seen one the night before and we spotted as we got underway.
Great blue herons and bald eagles were spotted all morning. We saw lots of both immature and mature eagles. Aside from the difference in color, the adults having the distinctive white heads and tails and the juveniles being all brown and mottled white, the other way to tell the difference is by their skittishness. The juveniles are more apt to take flight the moment they notice you. The adults are content to sit at their perch and watch you go by. It’s nice to see them making a strong come back. I can remember in the 1970s, when I was a child, all the concern about bald eagles becoming extinct due to DDT poisoning and poaching. It’s nice to be able to say to Andy, “There’s another one – spotting them is a dime a dozen.”
We also saw lots of American white pelicans. Yesterday I wasn’t on watch so Andy and Hugh made sure I came up to see the hundreds of American white pelicans that we were passing. It was a definite photo op time. I was appreciative that they had called me. Andy is our jokester and does not change the tone of his voice when he is about to tell you a joke or story. So I never know if he is going to start a serious conversation or try to pull my leg. Earlier in the day Andy had mentioned that he saw hundreds of grebes and a huge flock of white pelicans. I thought he was just telling me a story since I had been down below so much when I was not on watch and he had been up on deck all morning, whether it was his watch or not. When he and Hugh told me about all the pelicans we were passing and that I should come see them, I realized that there really were pelicans in the area. Earlier I had not realized they were in this area. Andy’s comment about seeing the grebes and pelicans earlier was then obviously not a story. I had really missed seeing hundreds of grebes and a huge flock of pelicans. Oh well. At least they were kind enough to call me this time to see the hundreds of pelicans.
There wasn’t a lot of excitement except to see silver carp leap when we had to move closer to the river bank to allow enough space for a large barge to pass by. There was a flock of sea gulls tailing it hoping to find a churned up meal of fish.
“If a fish leaps on deck, don’t throw it over. We’ll have it for dinner.” I told Terry.
“Sounds good to me.”
A few of the sea gulls began to follow us but quickly gave up when they realized that we didn’t churn the water like the big guys.
The weather started crawling out of the 40s and 50s and layers of clothes were starting to be shed. Bill has found a comfortable spot on the bow and has devised a recliner of sorts. With sails as cushions below him he has placed one of the large fenders on top of it to serve as a back rest. With his sunglasses and hoodie sweatshirt and radio (with headphones) he enjoys watching the river go by. He also keeps an eye out for obstacles in the water or on coming boats and signals to the helmsman how large a boat it is.
I’ve been enjoying cooking for the guys and try to have healthy snacks available for them to munch on through out the day. Usually it’s fruit, grapes and apples so far. Hopefully we’ll get some citrus when we get south. Everyone likes pretzels also. Bill donated a half-bushel of apples and a big box of pretzels. Gourmet Pretzels in Essexville, MI gave him four pounds of their onion garlic flavored pretzels for us to enjoy. And enjoy we have! Thank you Bob Jaenicke and Gourmet Pretzels! www.americangourmetpretzel.com
I’ve also made a few times apple bake with oatmeal, raisins, walnuts and a little sugar. Today I was inspired by the bags of shredded coconut in the cabinet to make macaroons. I had never made macaroons before and I didn’t have a recipe. So I went online and searched http://www.food.com for a recipe. There was one for coconut-cranberry macaroons. (See recipe below.) That sounded tasty and we had cranberries, but no parchment paper to line the pan with. I made due by coating the pan with a combination of butter and vegetable oil and it worked fairly well. The trickiest part was the oven temperature.
Saturday I tried to make oatmeal raisin cookie bars using the recipe from the Quaker Oats box top. The recipe specified an oven temperature of 350 degrees for 30 – 35 minutes. The oven in the diesel stove specifies temperature a graduated scale of low, medium and high. Apparently low is hotter than 350 degrees as 15 minutes later I was beckoned.
“Uh, Julie do you have something in the oven?” Hugh asked.
“Well it’s burning.” He could smell the smoke coming out of the oven and up the aft hatch.
Drat! Oh well. I’ll have to figure out what to do with this half-baked but burnt on top cookie dough. I hoped I could just scrape the burnt part off and cover it up and stick it back in the oven, but the dough was dry and the flour was still raw. Instead I separated the burnt from the half-baked and crumbled it up into a container for later inspiration. A day later I mixed it with some cut up apples and milk and covered it and stuck it in the “low” heat oven. After an hour of rotating it every 15 minutes it came out yummy!
With the macaroons, I thought I’d check them every 5 to 8 minutes since they were only supposed to back for 16 to 20. After three rotations and about 15 minutes total some of the coconut edges were dark brown. I pulled them out and tried one. The middle was still gooey. It reminded me of an Almond Joy without the almonds. They would have to do because if I baked them any longer they would be burnt. I didn’t want another baking disaster.
After they cooled I scraped them off the pan and reshaped them a little.
“Snack time guys.”
Even though Mike is not a coconut fan he enjoyed them. It would be easy to eat four or five at a time, but because the recipe only made 24 they’re getting rationed out.
LaGrange Lock was our last lock on the Illinois River. After we passed through it it was time to start searching for anchorage. At mile marker #61.4 just upriver of the Norfolk Southern Railroad bridge on the left descending bank we found a nice spot to drop anchor. The bridge was lowered soon after we arrived and at half-past the hour a train came by. An hour later another one came by. Every sixty minutes for a few more hours, but it was quiet all night, inside the boat and out.
Coconut-Cranberry Macaroons Recipe #201738 by seahorse73 http://www.food.com/recipe/coconut-cranberry-macaroon-201738
Yields 24 cookies
⅔ c. sugar
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten (the yolk went into the veggie-egg scramble I made the next morning)
½ cup dried cranberries, finely chopped
1 finely grated orange, zest of (I had to substitute orange juice. I used 1 tablespoon)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
8 ounces finely shredded unsweetened coconut (all we had was sweetened, which I used anyway)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
2. Whisk the sugar, egg whites, cranberry, orange zest, vanilla and salt in a large bowl. Toss the coconut with the egg mixture until completely coated.
3. Moisten your fingertips with water. Form about 1 heaping tablespoon of the batter into pointed mounds or pyramids on the prepared pans, spacing them about 1-inch apart.
4. Bake until the edges are golden brown and the entire macaroon is nicely toasted and dry, 16 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool. Serve.
5. Store macaroons in a tightly sealed container for up to a week.