Musings

Gymnastics experiment

The term is spatchcocking. I think of it as turkey gymnastics.

I’ve never spatchcocked a bird before. Today was the day. Indeed, the dark and white meat areas roasted at about the same rate. Huge victory.

However…however, next time I’ll probably roast a turkey in parts. It’s an easier prep, I think.

Hue and cry?

I always forget how saturated and red-red cranberry sauce is, until I get it finished. If I were to pick a color I’d call “cranberry red,” I don’t think it would be quite this. Maybe a bit less yellow?

This is the old-fashioned basic recipe—just berries, white sugar, and water; however, it’s far less sugar and less water, so that it’s tart and dense. Mmmmm.

And dark chocolate, too

Blew me away. Organic? Certainly an oxymoron. And a great distraction immediately after getting our New & Improved™ Covid shot/booster (not sure which; it’s the most recent release).

Also, nope, we didn’t buy and try New & Improved™ Reeeseees.

I’m no farmer

This was the height of my gardening success this year…this blooming basil (in front of the taxus or whatever that evergreen is).

I guess we were on the move at the wrong times, and the weather wasn’t wet/dry at the right times.

Potluck

I looked out the window just after I arose this morning and saw we had browsing visitors…I usually don’t spot them this close to the house. [I admit; I got up later than normal. But….]

Later, at a potluck dinner with attendees representing five households, I heard unanimous agreement that all were spotting deer grazing closer to the house the last several days. Not sure if the raininess is a factor in this; mostly I think it’s the looming arrival of winter snow. [Meat and veggie enchiladas made with whole wheat tortillas, plus kale salad. All yum yum yum. We contributed appetizer, not shown.]

Italian prune plums

The weather predictions had me worried that precip might drift in as we attended a potluck at the next lake south of us. It was windy, yes, enough to blow the smoke of the fire here and there, but no rain. I’m guessing these came from a tree at the contributor’s place, but I neglected to ask. Took my back to my childhood. We put up quarts of these and also froze halves by the pound from our tree. These had that golden almost crystalline tender sweetness. Best plums, consistently, and yet rarely in the store.

Unpurchased

Kinda felt like today would be too…muggy for much outdoor work, or really much activity at all. So, we opted for an air-conditioned ride to Serious Grocery Shopping, or a UP approximation thereof. Eventually the overcast burned off and the sky became stunningly clear, with very white poufy clouds.

Because we rarely shop at this emporium, we did some aisle-wandering to find all items on our list. Somehow (as in: Someone Else wanted Oreos), we wandered past the Pepperidge Farm cookie section, and I discovered my recollection of the varieties offered is way, way out of date. [That’s a good thing?] I note the geographic distance between the locations referred to by these two names. Not being a particular fan of either coconut or milk chocolate, I easily gravitate to the Mackinac version. Also, at 8.6 oz vs 7.2 oz, whatta bargain.

North and west

We traveled overnight, and boarded pangas starting at 6am to walk on North Seymour Island. The park regulations say that no one can be on land between 8pm and 8am. They require overnight ship passengers are only on land until 10am and after 3pm. The day-trippers get the hot, bright hours in between when many of the animals are far less active. I checked and this photo was at 6:07am, just after we started walking. Pretty sure these are frigate birds.

Sofia is discussing rat problems. The trap has low-level sulfur in it, enough to kill the rat after a time, and not enough that a hawk will sicken from eating it. Rats are of course introduced, and a problem along with goats, dogs, cats, and at least one insect, all causing significant problems.

Call this a frigate bird condo. Frigate birds don’t need much personal space, as you can tell, so the gents try to build their nests in the best trees, to catch a lady frigate bird. The red sacs take perhaps twenty minutes to inflate or deflate. They attract lady frigates to check out nest quality. If the latter meets spec, they will stay and mate.

Frigates pairing up.

Beautiful morning rainbow omen.

If I have it right, the Galápagos islands were stripped of this lichen at one time, to sell for making a purple dye. Lichens are of course slow-growing, so it has taken many decades for them to return.

Land iguana.

Posing bird. I’m anthropomorphizing.

See the two islands? Those are the Daphnes, with Daphne Major to the left, and Daphne Minor to the right. The famous forty-year study of finches by the Grants was on Daphne Major. Others have continued studies. Check out “The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time” by Jonathan Weiner if you’re interested.

On land you can see pairs of white stakes. We only walk between them.

When the booby parent comes back from fishing, the booby baby (technical naturalist term), bangs beaks with the parent. This eventually stimulates the parental bird to regurgitate. The chick sticks its head down the parental throat to get the food.

Aren’t you glad this isn’t the human style.

Back aboard, the Grace got underway and we had breakfast, then most of us watched two very well-made videos, one on Darwin and Wallace, and one on von Humboldt. The latter was a contemporary of Thomas Jefferson, and probably the first person you could consider a modern naturalist, at least in the Western world. I’m going to hunt up a copy of Wulf’s “The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World” to read up on this fascinating man and how he laid the groundwork for his successors.

Next, we had a lovely snorkel followed by a late lunch, if I have it right. Or perhaps the snorkel was after lunch? I forgot to record some details.

Our late-day panga trip located, tada!, penguins. The only tropical penguins. Soooo wonderful.

This is a dry landing on Bartolomé. Many other ships in this area.

Bartolomé has a boardwalk, only it’s mostly steps. It goes to the top. We made many photos in the late-day sun.

Note the many cinder cones. Sooooo different from every other island we’ve visited.

When we return after our afternoon excursions, we are greeted by a critter. I think this is a towel owl, a short-eared owl, yet, oddly wearing (my) spectacles. Teehee. John says its a baby Yoda.

Española

We began our days adventures on and around Española by landing on a small cement jetty and walking past dozens of marine iguanas just waking up…

…as well as these bright sally lightfoot crabs who were already very active.

Our first obstacle was a crowd of marine iguanas and a mother sea lion and her wee pup (black triangle behind mom). The iguanas weren’t warm yet, and so still congregated as they had been through the night to share warmth. In truth, they are not social creatures.

Our walk took us to a cliff-side overlook with wheeling birds of several species, and crashing waves.

Blue-footed boobies on the ground and a tropicbird showing off its long tail in the air.

Our guide, Sofia, stopped us frequently to point out something or to discuss evolution, vegetation, geology, inter-island variation, and the like.

I particularly enjoyed the plumes of water of the breaking waves.

Blue-footed booby parent with two chicks.

Here, a pair of Galapagos albatrosses (Phoebastria irrorata) are desultorily attempting courting. They split up soon after.

Some places the vegetation was very dense. This is not dead, merely leafless in the dry season.

The marine iguanas festooned the rocks and sand above the water line…only a few were warm enough to be down in the water or by it feeding. The red patches remain on the females, but are fading as the mating season has ended.

Returning to the jetty, we watched this sea lion mom, the one we saw by the path earlier, moving the pup up from the water line, as the tide was coming in. It was squeaking some from being grabbed and dropped, although the mom was careful enough.

For lunch we were honored to have ceviche of pez brujo, or scorpionfish. It was the appetizer of an Ecuadorian meal that was spectacularly yummy. We had timbalitos for breakfast, a sweetened maize dough wrapped in banana leaves and steamed as you would tamales. The main protein dish was a choice of a roasted pork or a cazuela (bowl) of mixed seafood in a mashed green plantain soup to make a stew.

Here’s the ceviche. Phenomenal depth of flavor in the broth. Oh, and dessert was a scoop of blackberry ice cream, and a scoop of subtle mint ice cream, with a little hard sweet biscuit. Yummy, that Ecuadoran food!

After lunch, we had a bit of unstructured time, then met at three ready to load the pangas for another snorkeling expedition along a rocky cliff, so we could look down and at the wall, or cliff face below water. I saw many kinds of fish, one turtle on the bottom, and several sea lions came and played with us and around us: incredible. No photos. The we rebounded and changed into dry clothing to stroll this beach on our own. It’s supposed to be one of the most beautiful in the Galápagos. It certainly was beautiful.

That’s the Grace offshore. This sea lion was playing in the water when we spotted it, then we followed it as it carefully moved along the beach, on and on until I lost sight of it. I think it had been sleeping and its group had moved on, leaving him/her alone. It stayed among the breaking waves, scooting along in the surf over the sand and sometimes going far enough out to swim a short distance, then returning to the surf-breaking area. My theory is that out farther was too dangerous, a lone sea lion would be quite the mean for a roaming shark. I silently wished her/him luck in finding safety.

One more food shot. The extremely talented chef, Alejandro, and I have had several chats about my low-glycemic index diet, and he has been kind enough to make small alterations in the servings/dishes for me. He’s a young guy and oh so creative. This is a salmon taco appetizer, which he put on a lettuce leaf for me, rather than a traditional tortilla. He also put the red bean paste on the side as an option. It had the creamiest guacamole I’ve ever had.

No2 or No4

Depending on how you count we received shot number 4 (of all covid shots) or shot number 2 (of booster shots) today.

I understand the labs are reformulating the shots that will be available this autumn to take into account recent variants. That means I’ll have a shot number 5, probably before the end of the year.

Also, today was chili day! Actually chili day number 2, as we had the first round yesterday. But with guac not avocado chunks. Variation is the spice of chili, you know.