Nov 23 2016

Achieving Closure in the Backcountry:
The Duct Tape Rx for a Sticky Situation
by Tamia Nelson

Originally published at Paddling.net on 27 September 2016

A Stitch in Time

A Note to the Reader: I am not a physician, and though I find the approach described in this article useful, there are unavoidable risks whenever a layman* chooses to “play doctor,” whether the patient is himself or a companion. So be sure to consult a trusted physician before employing the techniques outlined here — and then follow her recommendations to the letter.

One more thing by way of reassurance: No writers were injured in the making of this column.

 

A well-stocked first-aid kit is one of the Ten Essentials, and on trips to remote areas, the scope of “first aid” necessarily broadens. When professional medical help is many hours (or even many days) away, canoeists and kayakers may be called upon to become medics, treating problems that would warrant a trip to the ER if they occurred at home. This is why getting formal instruction in wilderness medicine should rank high on every venturesome paddler’s to-do list.

Deep lacerations are a case in point. The paddlers’ world is full of sharp objects: knives, axes, mussel shells, coral, half-submerged barbed-wire fences, broken beer bottles… Any of these can slash open your tender flesh in less than a second, and no matter how careful you are, accidents do happen. Standard first-aid is limited to stopping the bleeding (by direct pressure) and then protecting the wound with a gauze compress or similar dressing. That’s fine if you’re only a 15-minute drive from the hospital. But what if you’re kayaking in Arctic waters, the wind is blowing half a gale (and rising), and visibility is down to 100 yards, with no prospect of improvement in the next 36 hours? Or suppose you’re camping next to a beaver pond, with your car two strenuous days of paddling and portaging away, in an area with no cellphone coverage. What then? You’ve got a deep open wound. And you need to close it. So… What do you do after you’ve stopped the bleeding?

Once upon a time, paddlers in remote areas were encouraged to suture gaping wounds as soon as they’d been thoroughly scrubbed and debrided, and some wilderness medicine handbooks devoted several pages to the technique of stitching human flesh. But that advice has long been consigned to the museum of medico-historical curiosities. A good thing, too. It’s difficult enough to clean a contaminated wound properly in a hospital setting. Doing so in a riverbank camp borders on the impossible. And stitching a contaminated wound closed is asking for trouble — serious trouble.

Which is why the textbooks now suggest using wound closure strips (“butterfly bandages” or Steri-Strips). These allow you to approximate the edges of the wound, thereby facilitating healing, while still leaving gaps for any purulent discharge to escape. But in my (limited) experience, neither butterfly bandages nor Steri-Strips can be relied upon to keep a wound closed if the injured limb can’t be rested — as may well be the case if a paddler’s arm or leg is sliced open when he still has miles to go. In such cases, something more is needed. But what?

Well, how about …

Duct Tape?

It’s handy stuff, and most paddlers have a roll of this sturdy, reinforced tape in their repair kits. But duct tape is good for more than patching brutalized boats and torn tarps. It can also be used to mend a lacerated human frame. I didn’t dream this up by myself. I first learned of it from nurse practitioner and former British Army medic Chris Anderson:

Although living in the UK, whilst serving in the British Army as a medic I was canoeing in the Rockies around the Wainwright area in Canada some time ago. There was a Fire Ranger who took us for our survival training who was fantastic and thankfully put us in excellent stead in order to enjoy the wilderness for 10 days.

I remembered the lessons he taught regarding using what you have at hand in order to survive [the trek] back into civilisation, and to this end I have been using and teaching the techniques he taught us regarding the closure of wounds using duct tape.

Surprised? I was. But I shouldn’t have been. Duct tape has a lot going for it. It’s mighty tough tape, with a tenacious, waterproof adhesive. And it conforms well to uneven surfaces, while still retaining a measure of elasticity. In short, it’s ideally suited to closing gaping wounds on active limbs.

Of course, you wouldn’t want to apply it directly over a gash. The adhesive would likely irritate the raw flesh, and removing the sticky tape later would almost certainly reopen the wound. But Chris let me in on the secret. And now I’m passing the word along. So here goes:

How to Use Duct Tape to Close a Wound

I’m assuming that you’ve stopped the bleeding and cleaned the wound — and that you have a dressing ready to put in place once you’ve brought the edges together. I’m also assuming you have the following items in your repair kit:

  • Duct tape
  • Stout, clean thread or a suitable substitute
  • Needle and strong thread Possibilities include thin strands teased from paracord, dental floss, or monofilament.

Now let’s get stuck in. After stanching the bleeding and flushing the wound (use disinfected water and mild soap or detergent), proceed as follows:

1.  Tear off two strips of duct tape. Three- to four-inch lengths are usually enough. (If the wound is longer than the duct tape is wide, overlap strips as needed. But three- to four-inch lengths should still be adequate.)

2.  Cut two lengths of stout thread, each one long enough to extend one-half inch or so beyond the tape’s width. These will be used to reinforce the repair tape and prevent the tension stitches (see below) from cutting through.

3.  Place the thread on the adhesive surface of each strip of duct tape, roughly one-half inch from one end, as shown at Figure A below. (The adhesive is colored pale gray in the illustrations; the tape’s outer surface, dark gray. The thread is orange.)

Preparing

4.  Fold the tape over the thread as shown in Figure B, then press the tacky adhesive surfaces together, trapping the thread in the crease (C). Repeat with a second piece of tape.

5.  Now stick the prepared tape strips to the intact skin on either side of the gaping wound. (Make sure the skin is dry, and since duct tape often employs latex-based adhesives, think twice before applying it to the skin of anyone with a latex allergy.) The thread-reinforced crease should lie close to the edges of the wound without overlapping them (Figure D below).

6.  Using more thread, place a running stitch between the tape strips, as shown in Figures E and F. You’ll need to double ordinary sewing thread, but button thread or any similarly sturdy stuff can be used just as it comes. Stop the end of the thread with a figure-eight knot to prevent it pulling through, and keep the stitches in the doubled portion of the tape (its outboard edge is shown by the dotted white line). Take great care not to stick the needle point in your patient’s flesh. He’s suffered enough already.

Closing

7.  Continue the running stitch as shown in Figure G, maintaining just enough tension to bring the lips of the wound together.

8.  Finish by tying off the working end of the thread. Now cover the closed wound with a light, sterile dressing.

Tying Off

OK. It’s time to get real. Well, realish, anyway. In the photo that follows, I used waxed nylon sailmaker’s twine for thread. It performed admirably. I drew the line at self-harm, however. Verisimilitude has its limits. I’ve indicated the “gaping wound” with red ink and cherry jam:

Show a Leg

You’ll be happy to know that the patient survived.

 

What did I tell you? Have you ever seen a neater stitch-up? It should prove far more tenacious than a line of butterflies, too. Better yet, I already have everything I need in my boat repair kit. And so do you, in all likelihood. But if you really want to be prepared, you’ll, …

Make a Brace of Duct Tape Wound Closure Strips in Advance

I made a couple of sets in a trice, and it was much easier to do on a table at home than on a muddy riverbank in a downpour. Each strip was fashioned as shown above, but the finished strips were subsequently stuck to squares cut from the plastic lid of a (now-empty) can of ground coffee. I then placed the running stitch as already described, leaving a generous free end at the finish:

Make Ahead...

That being done, each completed closure was tucked into a ziplock bag and slipped into my “doc box.” Piece of cake.

To Take Along

The upshot? I’m now ready to close a gaping wound at a moment’s notice. I’ll just remove a prestitched pair of closures from their ziplock bag, put the strips in place, snug up the thread, and tie the end off. It couldn’t be easier. (Good-quality duct tape will retain its adhesive properties through several stick-unstick cycles, so there shouldn’t be any problem making the prepped closures adhere to dry skin after removing the plastic backing from the tape.)

 

A heartfelt thank-you to Chris, whose letter describing this ingenious wilderness expedient was the genesis of my article. Of course, I hope I’ll never have to use the knowledge I’ve gained in assembling my duct-tape wound closure kit, but it’s good to know it’s there. Just in case.

~ ~ ~

Duct tape probably isn’t the first thing you think of when you go shopping for first-aid supplies. It may not even be on your list, though thanks to nurse practitioner and former British Army medic Chris Anderson, I’m betting it will be in future. Then you’ll have what you need should you ever have to close a wound in the backcountry. A sticky situation? Certainly. But sticky situations are all in day’s work for duct tape. You could say that it’s just what the doctor ordered.

 

Pace, any campaigners for gender-neutral language. I’m using “layman” in its conventional, inclusive sense. Neither of the two obvious alternatives appeals to my inward ear: “laywoman” is risible, only one step removed from “laylady” — and I was never much of a Dylan fan. As for “layperson,” it belongs to the same lumpish clan as “chairperson” and “congressperson.” Just typing it makes my back teeth itch. Should you feel strongly in the matter, however, simply substitute either alternative as you read. I won’t mind.

 


 


Further Reading From In the Same Boat

 

Questions? Comments? Just click here!

Nov 22 2016

Hidden in Plain Sight: Raising a Ghost on the Way to Clinton’s Folly
by Tamia Nelson

Originally published at Paddling.net on November 8, 2016

No, this isn’t what you’re thinking. I haven’t lapsed into partisan political commentary. This column has nothing to do with the news of the day. My subject is a canal, and though there is a political subtext, it concerns events that were a century old before the current contenders for high office were born. My story begins, not in a boat, but on the highway. I was skirting the western margin of the Adirondacks, on my way to the Mohawk River Valley and an old port city on the Erie Canal, when I spied a ghost. More about the ghost in a minute. First, though, let’s set the scene. The highway I was following threads between the Tug Hill Plateau to the west and the Adirondack Mountains to the east, never straying far from the north‑flowing Black River. You don’t often see the river from the road, but every now and then you can catch a glimpse of it across a farm field, and there are a lot of farm fields. We’re in dairy country. That hasn’t always been the case, however. Two centuries ago, the seemingly endless fields of corn were unbroken woodland.

This is where the ghost comes in. I had just negotiated a gentle bend when the roadway divided to go round what I first thought was a grassy median. As I got closer, however, I realized that the “median” was an old canal cut. I soon passed it by — traveling at 55 mph, it didn’t take long — but then, a short distance to the south, I saw what appeared to be a lock. Now my curiosity was piqued, and since there was a parking area next to the lock, I pulled off the road to take a closer look.

After all, how often do you get to see a ghost close‑up? And this was no ordinary ghost:

This Ghost Had a Tale to Tell

Today, boats propelled by paddles, oars, and sails are toys — recreational watercraft, if you prefer. A working boat needs a motor. Anything else is unthinkable. But throughout the 19th century, and well into the 20th, a lot of freight moved in mercantile “bottoms” propelled by muscle (human or animal) or wind. And for much of America’s early history, our waterways were our best, most cost‑efficient commercial thoroughfares. Water transport had a lot of advantages back then: Heavy goods could be moved farther, faster, and cheaper on water than on what passed for highways. After all, those “highways” were often little more than rutted tracks or log corduroys, and ox cart transport was both slow and costly. It didn’t lend itself to heavy bulk cargo — think stone, lumber, or grain — either.

Good as water transport was, however, it had one big limitation. You needed water, and well‑behaved water, at that, to make it work. Rivers didn’t always oblige. They often didn’t go where you wanted them to, and even when they did, their gradients were far from uniform — if that wasn’t the case, today’s whitewater boaters would lead very dull lives — while their flow was much too variable. They flooded in spring, dried up in summer, and froze over in winter. If you wanted to move goods to market year‑round, this state of affairs was far from ideal. Which is why canals were big business in the early 19th century.

Canals are simply engineered waterways. You make a canal by taming a wild river with locks and dams, or you build one from scratch by digging a ditch crosscountry. Often you do both. The idea isn’t exactly new. Primitive canals were being dug in what is now Iraq and Syria over 6,000 years ago, and by the mid‑17th century, Europe was well on its way to developing an essentially modern system of “tamed” waterways. The canal idea crossed the Pond to the New World, too. Decades before the American War of Independence, proposals for building canals were being floated by speculators eager to make a quick buck, and by the early 19th century, as settlement pushed out beyond the Appalachian Mountains, there was growing interest in using waterways to move Western grain to Eastern markets.

That’s when Clinton’s Folly entered the picture. Not that the “projectors,” the money men behind the scheme, called it that, of course. To them it was the Erie Canal. But then, as now, big infrastructure projects like canals meant big money, and politicians have always found the allure of big money irresistible. That was as true in the 19th century as it is today. Anyway, the Clinton in “Clinton’s Folly” was DeWitt Clinton. He was governor of New York at the time, and he was a man of vision. If his state was going to live up its rather grandiose nickname (the “Empire State”), Clinton decided, it needed improved transport infrastructure. Like a canal stretching right across the state, say, making it possible to float cargo from the Great Lakes to the Hudson River and down the Hudson to the Port of New York. Western grain could then flow freely and easily to the big cities of the East, and manufactured goods like farm machinery and building stone could travel back the other way, where they would help open new land to the plow and build impressive courthouses in what had, until quite recently, been Indian country.

The only thing standing in the way of realizing Clinton’s vision was money. Or the lack of it. So he saw to it that the money taps were opened wide. His political opponents scoffed — that’s where “Clinton’s folly” entered the lexicon of state politics — but Clinton’s “ditch” (another term of opprobrium coined by his enemies) got built. In 1825, after eight years of digging and seven million dollars of spending, he emptied a couple of firkins he’d filled in Lake Erie into New York Harbor, in a spectacle billed as the “Wedding of the Waters.” (Politicians were glorying in photo ops long before there were photographers to record them.) And in truth, the Erie Canal lived up to Clinton’s imperial vision. See for yourself. It’s the thin blue line in the map below, reproduced from a 19th century Beers Atlas:

The Red and the Blue

But this was just the start. Three years later, the Black River Canal Company came into being. As the name suggests, the Black River company’s backers hankered after a canal of their own. They wanted to connect the northern New York village of Carthage with the Erie Canal at Rome. (That’s Rome, New York. The backers may have been projectors, and New York politicians may have had visions of imperial grandeur, but they didn’t yet envision a transatlantic empire.) And in 1855, they, too, got their ditch: It’s the red line running north to south on the Beers map. Grain wasn’t the prime commodity on the Black River Canal backers’ minds, though. Their eyes were fixed firmly on the millions of acres of trees cloaking the slopes of the western Adirondacks and the Tug Hill Plateau. Before their ditch opened for business, those trees were just scenery. But once the lock gates closed on the first canal boat, they were money in the bank.

Of course, traffic on the canal traveled both ways, and as the mortal remains of the northern forests flowed south to build sailing ships and stately homes in New York City and New England, East Coast tourists flowed north to see (and play in) the endless forests described in lyrical prose by writers like “Adirondack” Murray and Nessmuk. But it turned out that the forests weren’t endless, after all, and the time came when the last tree fell to the last stroke of an ax, or near enough as to make no difference. The tourist tide then dwindled to a trickle. Barren, eroded slopes and slash‑choked rivers simply didn’t appeal to urban romantics looking for a sylvan idyll. The Black River Canal was a busted flush.

It enjoyed a brief revival around the turn of the century, when improvements to the Erie Canal created a market for quarried Black River limestone, but this boom was even more short‑lived than the timber boom, and the Black River Canal was allowed to return to nature after 1924. Nature did a pretty good job of reclaiming it, too. But the ghost of the old ditch remains, and even today, …

The Black River Canal Reveals Itself to Those Look

I knew little of its history until the day the abandoned lock caught my eye. By contrast, the Erie Canal is still a going concern, though much of it was rebuilt and rerouted in the early 20th century, when it was rechristened the New York State Barge Canal. Now this name is also consigned to history. Today, the Erie Canal has its old name back, in recognition, perhaps, that few barges ply its waters. It’s a recreational waterway.

But the Black River Canal plays host to no fun‑seekers. It survives only in name. Nothing remains of it but a few ditches filled with stagnant water and a handful of dewatered locks:

Combine Close-Up

This lock staircase was called a combine, and even though the lock gates are long gone, it’s a mighty impressive piece of engineering. There’s not much else to see, however:

Dry Ditch

Where water once flowed and canal boats traveled to and fro, there is now only a drainage ditch. Even the New York State Education Department’s historic marker has seen better days:

Sign of the Times

But though its locks are dry, the ghost of this abandoned waterway still carries commercial traffic: Much of NY Route 12 was built on the canal right‑of‑way, and with the aid of satellite photos and topographic quadrangles of varying vintages, a patient and practiced eye can put the old canal back on the map. I gave it a go myself recently. But before we pull out the maps, take a look at this:

How the Eye in the Sky Sees Things

Can you spot the relic combine and the trace of the old canal leading away to the north? Easy, wasn’t it? Now let’s see if we can conjure our ghost from the spirit realm. I’ve placed a digitized copy of the 1907 edition of the USGS Port Leyden, New York, 15‑minute quad — the canal was still a going concern back then — side by side with the 2016 edition of the 7.5‑minute quad bearing the same name. I had to enlarge the old 15‑minute map to something like the same scale as the its modern 7.5‑minute counterpart, but the rest was a straightforward exercise in interpolation. A red trace on the 2016 quad now shows where the Black River Canal once flowed:

On and Off the Map

During the winter months, I’m going to extend my preliminary analysis, in order to bring all of the old canal back from the dead, at least on paper. Then, come spring, I’ll take my annotated maps into the field to see how often I can catch sight of the ghost on the ground, so to speak. If we have a wet spring, and if I can get permission from private landowners, I may even be able to paddle short stretches of the canal — a waterway that’s been lost for almost a century. I can’t wait!

The Marriage of the Waters,' a mural by C. Y. Turner (1905)

Canals were America’s commercial highways during the first half of the 19th century, when water transport trumped all other ways to move heavy or bulky goods to market. Canals carried the timber for ships and homes, the stone for public buildings, and the grain for city tables. But these once‑vital arteries of commerce now lie abandoned, or cling to a precarious existence as playgrounds for holiday‑makers. Still, if you know where to look, you can sometimes catch sight of the ghost of a long‑forgotten waterway, hidden in plain sight beside some busy highway. And who knows? The day may yet come when politicians will see the wisdom of returning at least some of these neglected thoroughfares to productive use. All it takes is a man or woman of vision.

 



 

Further Reading

Plus three articles from Wikipedia: “Canal,” “Erie Canal,” and “Black River Canal,” along with two wellsprings of infinite delight for amateur cartographers and inquisitive river rats:

  • USGS Map Locator and Downloader (Free digital quads from the United States Geological Survey.)
  • GeoGratis (Gratis means free, and that’s no lie: Digital maps and topographic data from Natural Resources Canada.)

 

Questions? Comments? Just click here!

Nov 21 2016

A Cornucopia of Seasonal Treats for Shank-of-the-Season Outings
by Tamia Nelson

Originally published at Paddling.net on November 15, 2016

No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds —
November!

    From “No!” by Thomas Hood

November is an indecisive month, teetering on the cusp between autumn and winter. At least that’s how it is in Canoe Country, and while the New Model Climate is now pushing the thermostat up in every month of the year, November is still full of surprises. On one day, we wake to summer-like temperatures and balmy breezes. On the next, drifts of new snow blanket the ground.

And then there’s the sky. Gray is the dominant color note, a theme echoed by the gray hills — only the evergreens provide some welcome visual respite here — and reflected in the ominously gray water. All in all, November doesn’t invite us to linger out of doors. Day trips are fun, but it’s hard to work up enthusiasm for anything longer: A little bit of gray goes a long way. I’d rather camp in the drifts on a mountain col on a sunny (if arctic) February weekend than pitch a tent by the shore of a gunmetal gray pond on a monochrome November day.

Yet the relentlessly gray days of November have their compensations. Thanksgiving comes in November, for one thing. (That’s for paddlers living in the bits of Canoe Country lying south of the Webster-Ashburton Treaty line, of course. Our neighbors to the north celebrated the holiday last month.) And Thanksgiving is a good time to sample …

The Fruits of the Year

As I’ve already said, I don’t often do overnight trips in November. But day outings are something else altogether, and on the rare days when the clouds part to reveal a wan sun (and ice conditions permit), I warm to the idea of a moveable feast on some nearby waterway. Such November picnics can be a real treat. I don’t do much cooking on the shore, however. I’ll use my Trangia burner to make tea or heat soup, perhaps, but that’s about it. The daylight hours in the shank of the year are too precious to spend time over a hot stove. So I complete my meal prep at home, then stow the resulting ready-to-eat treats in a pack. (Hint: Soft “coolers” help keep food warm as well as cold — but be sure the food isn’t hot enough to melt the fabric! — and vacuum flasks make it possible to leave your stove in the pack, if you want.)

Does this sound good? It is, and notwithstanding Thomas Hood’s lament about “no fruits,” farm and field have quite a lot to offer at this time of year. In fact, the cornucopia of seasonal delicacies makes late-fall picnics especially memorable. Want to know what’s on my menu? Well, let’s begin with a holiday staple that will grace quite a few tables in the months ahead:

Cranberries.  It’s no exaggeration to say that I’m crazy about cranberries. They have a delightfully tart flavor that complements many dishes. Dried cranberries — “craisins” in marketing-speak — are usually sweetened. They can be eaten like raisins, and while they’re all right as snacks, fresh, unsweetened cranberries are more versatile. These can be added to cooked dishes or simply ground up with oranges (peel and all) and sweetened with honey or maple syrup to make an intriguingly sweet-tart relish. And my own Hundred-Mile Plus Oatmeal Bars also incorporate dried or fresh cranberries.

But that’s just the start. Fresh or frozen cranberries — there’s no need to thaw the frozen berries first — make a delightful accompaniment to braised or roasted beef, chicken, or pork. Simply cook them with the meat. Not that you’re likely to be preparing a roast at the water’s edge, I imagine, but you can always stir a small handful of cranberries into a tin of lunchtime beef stew as it’s simmering and dish it up as soon the berries are soft. (A dash or two of balsamic vinegar further enhances the stew.) Fresh cranberries can also be added to instant oatmeal, sweet or savory steel-cut oatmeal, or oatmeal groats. (Add cranberries before steaming.) Cranberries make a tasty addition to grain pilafs, too. And bakers long ago discovered that cranberries are a flavorful embellishment to quick breads, yeast breads, and apple crisp, not to mention that seasonal staple, apple pie.

Ah, yes. Apples. If any food says fall, it’s …

The Apple.  The heady perfume of “wild” apples* is one of the season’s signature scents, and the fragrance of cooking apples perfumes countless kitchens at this time of year. Here’s why: Apples are versatile. Stew or sauté chopped apples with nutmeg, cinnamon, and cardamom. Add shaved or chopped apples to both quick and yeast breads, pancakes, and waffles. Stir apples into cooking pilaf and risotto. Bake apples with maple syrup and nuts. And lest you forget (fat chance!), there is apple cider and apple butter — and apple pie.

Of course, you can also eat apples right off the tree, and if your river happens to wind though an old, abandoned orchard, be prepared for a happy surprise. Wild apples taste nothing like their store-bought counterparts. It’s like the difference between Monet’s Magpie and a Hallmark Christmas scene. Or between Corelli’s Concerto grosso in G minor, Op. 6, No. 8 (the “Christmas Concerto”) and Irving Berlin’s “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.” Each member of these pairings of unequals is exemplary in its own right, but only one is sublime. Guess which one.

OK. We’ve explored the possibilities of cranberries and apples. What’s next? Well, how about …

Squash?  I’m talking winter squash, the hard-skinned kind that will last till spring if properly stored. I like them all, but my favorites are acorn, buttercup, and pumpkin squashes. (Yes, pumpkin is a squash. Surprised?) All are delicious no matter how they’re prepared: roasted, steamed, sautéed, pureed — on their own or incorporated into other dishes. Winter squash soup is silky and flavorful. (You haven’t eaten all the cranberries and apples, have you? Then mix some into the soup.) Or you can roast your squash. Cubed, sliced, or halved, it makes no difference. And don’t forget squash pie. Pumpkin pie is a holiday staple, to be sure, but other squashes can also be pressed into service, yielding a whole litany of sweet and savory pies. And this is just a start. Whole books have been written on how to prepare winter squash. But I like to keep things simple. I halve and roast my squash, cut side up, with a pat of butter and a drizzle of maple syrup in the seed cavity — I save the seeds and roast them separately — season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with walnut pieces.

Now, with that mention of walnuts, another seasonal treat takes center stage:

Nuts.  Actually, since nuts keep very well when properly stored, any time of year is a good time for nuts, but tree nuts like pecans, walnuts, and almonds are at their freshest in fall. I eat them out of hand every day, but I also add nuts to oatmeal and other hot cereals, rice and grain pilafs, and pasta, along with quick and yeast breads, pies, cakes, energy bars and cookies. I like nut “butters,” as well. To be sure, peanut butter — peanuts are legumes (“ground nuts”), not tree nuts — is a commonplace, but almond butter is even better. Grind almonds into a paste, then spread on hot toast, grainy breads, and pancakes. Delicious!

Have we exhausted nuts’ repertoire? Not yet. As we’ve already seen with roasted squash, broken or crumbled nuts make a tasty garnish, especially on …

Soups.  There’s a thermos of hot soup in my pack on every shank-of-the-season paddle. My favorites include squash soup (already mentioned), tomato-bean-and-kale soup with leeks, my Irish grandmother’s potato and cabbage soup, and pot-au-feu, the last being as much a boiled dinner as it is a soup.

~ ~ ~

And there you have it, my inventory of fall treats, from soup to nuts, not to mention berries, apples and squash.

But… Perhaps you’re wondering if I’ve left something out. After all, for most people in the States, Thanksgiving dinner is the gustatory high point of the month, and for many, that means only one thing:

It’s Time to Talk Turkey

Not for us, though. I find myself paddling against the current here, I know, but I prefer my holiday turkey alive and strutting. Wild turkeys stop outside my office window to pass the time of day every now and then, and I’ve developed a strong aversion to dining on my neighbors. I admit that I don’t feel quite the same bond of affinity with the plastic-wrapped corpses in the HyperMart freezer, however. But then the frozen turkey I’ve eaten has tasted mostly of the plastic wrapper, and even if this weren’t the case, I’m loath to reward the factory farms in which these unfortunate creatures live out their short and miserable lives. Such industrial enterprises are a far cry from the turkey farms I can remember from my youth, where clear-eyed and muscular birds roamed free during the day, conversing volubly with their neighbors all the while, before returning to individual apartments (no joke) at night to enjoy a well-earned rest.

A field trip to just such a farm was the highlight of the second-grade curriculum in my school, and the tour included a full and frank discussion of every aspect of commercial turkey farming, from rearing the poults to killing and processing the mature birds. We all left the farm with a better understanding of where our holiday meals came from — and with an appreciation of the farmer’s humane approach to animal husbandry. Such considerations have no place in today’s upscaled, bottom-line-driven farm operations, of course. Which is why my holiday table is conspicuous by the absence of turkey in any form. What do we have instead? Lasagna, that’s what. But that’s another story.

~ ~ ~

Is there still open water in your corner of Canoe Country? Then why not plan a moveable feast — a shank-of-the-season picnic? And with that in mind, I’ve made a few suggestions for seasonal treats. Whether eaten on a riverside rock or reserved for dinner at home after returning from a day on the water, this autumnal bounty is sure to please. But maybe I’ve left out your own favorite. If so, why not drop me a line? The cornucopia can never be too full, after all.

 

* Apples aren’t native to North America, so “wild” apples are really feral. But only a pedant (or a hack writer) would ever worry about such things, right?

 



 

Further Reading

 

Questions? Comments? Just click here!

« Newer Articles - Older Articles »