Friday, January 16, 2015

Schoharie Crossing Announces Writing Contest

2015 Winter Writing Contest
Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site has announced their 2015 Winter Writing Contest.   This year the prizes are increased and there are three writers categories: Child, Young Adult and Adult.  There are also three topics to chose from, each of which demonstrate the historical significance of the Erie Canal, Fort Hunter and the Mohawk village.  

     As avid supporters of the site, we ask that you share the information as well as our enthusiasm for this great opportunity.  The site is seeking creative writers from the community to participate and show their talents.

You may contact the site with any questions or request a copy of the Rules & Guidelines:  (518) 829-7516 


Click on the image to enlarge it.  

Visit their webpage


We'd like to take a moment and thank everyone for visiting our blog.  


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Otis Eddy Soup & More on Oats!

Otis Eddy Oatmeal Soup

Serves about 4
15 min. prep -  20 min. cooking


    3 tbs olive oil

    1 C oats
    5 large tomatoes, halved and sliced
    1/3 C onion, chopped
    1 clove garlic, chopped
    3 C water, divided
    1/2 bunch fresh cilantro
    2 tsp chicken bouillon (low sodium)
    1/2 tsp salt


1.       Heat a large deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium-low, heat olive oil.  Add the oats; cook & stir them until toasted.
2.       In a blender or large food processor, combine the tomatoes, onion, garlic, 1 C of water, & cilantro. Blend until smooth (or leave a little chunk – that’s how we do), then pour that into the pan w/ the toasted oats.
3.       Slowly stir in the remaining 2 C of water, & bring to a boil. Mix in the salt & low sodium chicken bouillon. Cover, & simmer for 20 minutes. Enjoy hot or warm. 

Ottis Eddy Oatmeal Soup - Garnish can be anything you wish; often a sprig of celery leaf and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, or fresh herbs goes extremely well.    We have heard some enjoy adding some form of meat to this meal – particularly sausage
As always, we suggest local products to make these recipes.  Not only will it keep money local, but local produce and shopping local is nutritious community building. 


More on Oats...

While the overall usage of the Oat grain has varied in the last several centuries, it has been a mainstay for feeding of animals as well as humans in general.  Used most often for animal feed, it provides additional carbohydrate energy.  Consumption by humans is often as a cereal* or within baked goods. 

But what is an oat?

The oat (Avena sativa), is a species of cereal grain that is grown for its seed.  Oats are an annual plant, and can be planted either the fall (for late summer harvest) or in the spring (for early autumn harvest). The wild ancestor of the common oat, is the hexaploid wild oat A. sterilis.  Evidence in genetics shows the ancestral forms of A. sterilis grew in the Fertile Crescent of the Near East – present day area of Iraq. Domesticated oats appear relatively late, and far from the Near East; interestingly in Bronze Age Europe. Oats, are typically considered a secondary crop since they are derived from a weed of the primary cereal domesticates wheat and barley. In time as these cereals spread westward into cooler and wetter climates, this may have favored the oat weed, leading to its eventual domestication.

Today, Oats are generally considered to be a "healthy" food, and are touted as nutritious.  Oft cited is their property of a cholesterol-lowering effect and has led to an overall acceptance of them as a health food.  With anything however, moderation is key.  Due to their carbohydrate content, they provide a good source of energy – but be sure to use it!
This property, along with an array of nutrients and protein, give the oat a well-deserved good name.

Historical harvest methods involved cutting with a scythe or sickle, and threshing under the feet of cattle. Late 19th- and early 20th-century harvesting was performed using a binder. Oats were gathered into shocks, and then collected and run through a stationary threshing machine.

Today, harvesting of the grain is varied based on technology as well as technique.    For farmers seeking the highest yield from their crops, timing their harvest is essential.  When the kernels have reached 35% moisture, or when the greenest kernels are just turning to a cream-color they are then harvested by swathing (cutting the plants at about 4” above the ground. The crop is then allowed to dry in the sun for several days. The straw can then be baled.  Also, oats can be left standing until completely as this causes greater field losses (as the grain falls from the heads), and to harvesting losses, as the grain is threshed out.

Through threshing methods and then the milling process there are a number of oat products utilized today for human consumption.  Livestock aside, the rates of oat used to sustain life has increased in recent decades in various forms. 
For us humans, the typical forms are rolled or in a flour.  Rolled oats are a result of flaking the grain through wheels or rolls.  This rolled oat is most typically associated with cereal products such as oatmeal and granola or in baking of cookies, etc.  The size of the flake can vary depending on the process and desired result.
Another form is flour; processing the grain directly through a hammer or stone mill.  Using a system of screens after pulverizing the grain, consistency in the product is determined by how fine the grain is milled into flour.  This flour is often used in breads. 

It is little wonder that there is a specific month of the Oat - Recognition for its healthy support of human life – either as a food product for us or as fodder for livestock and fuel for draft animals.  Life along the canal would not have been as successful if it was not for the oat.  It provided energy to the horses and mules as well as a livelihood for farmers throughout the Mohawk Valley.  Oats were (as they are now) a commodity – canal stores and investors in New York profited from their harvest and most of all their demand.  Crop yields were noteworthy, and a source of pride for local farmers.  The humble oat should be viewed as the grain that tamed the continent.


*Sometimes oats are used in drinks.  They are sometimes used for brewing beer – particularly in Britain. Oatmeal stout is a variety that is brewed using a percentage of oats in the wort.  Also, a cold, sweet drink called avena made of ground oats and milk is popular as a refreshing beverage throughout Latin America. Oatmeal caudle, which is made of ale and oatmeal with spices, was a traditional British drink and reportedly a favorite of the notorious Oliver Cromwell.

**Historic Newspaper accounts of oat harvests:

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Concrete Barges - whoa that boat did float!?

US-107 Concrete Canal Barge
Rotterdam Junction
Image: Times Union

On a recent drive with my eight-year old son through Rotterdam Junction we drove across the Lock 9 bridge and he poised an inquiry about some strange things he saw below.  I gave him a brief explanation but decided that we could turn it into a short evening research project when we got home (kids love it when that happens!).  

Here are some of our findings:

During times of low water on the modern canal when it is closed to navigation, there are remnants of the past visible at Lock 9 in Rotterdam – World War I era concrete barges.  Now, concrete does not sound like the optimal boat building material, but there was a good reason for its use.   These barges were originally built to transport freight along the canalized Mohawk River and were purposely sunk so that they could be used as tie-offs for boats as well as erosion control after their usefulness had ended.

During World War I, metal and wood were needed for the war effort.  So, despite the concerns with brittleness, cracking, weight and myriad other issues, concrete was employed instead.  Molded on a steel mesh into a buoyant hull the crushed rock cement yielded at least adequate results – as barges were easily and quickly made at a far less price than metal or wood.    

The general director of the U.S. Railroad Adminstration, William McAdoo, took control of the New York State canal system during this time, in order to move military freight from the Great Lakes to the New York City ports and off to the theaters of war.  McAdoo appointed G.A. Tomlinson the general manager of this method in April of 1918 and upon this appointment Tomlinson discovered the canal lacked the barges required of such an enterprise.  The effort needed to haul nearly 10 million tons of grain and coal during a navigation season to be successful. 

Image: Times Union
Regarding the decision to build from concrete, the general manager told the New York Times that year that, “We are going to build a lot of barges…[and] if the first ones work out all right we shall build more like them.  If they need improvement, we’ll improve them.”  True to New York style. 

Tomlinson was a shipbuilder by trade, so the endeavor of quickly manufacturing an enlarged barge fleet (adding around 75 new vessels) was overseen by someone familiar with the task at hand.  The new barges would be considerably large given their building material – roughly 150 feet in length and 20 feet wide, each barge weighed around 310 tons.  These behemoth boats could only carry up to 500 tons of cargo and cost nearly $2,000 less than a vessel constructed of wood (approx.. $5,500 at the time - but lets put that in perspective: that value in 2014 was roughly $85,937.50).   

The Erie Canal seemed as logical a place as any to attempt the use of concrete barges; having a shallow channel that lacked wave surges and salinity.  Much to the delight of the majority of citizens around the world, the war came to an end with the Armistice of November 11th, 1918.  The Federal government having had control of the state’s canal system just over six months, so even while the concrete barges worked relatively well, their utility was drawing to a slow end.  There was no longer a need for such massive barges along the Erie, and taken into account that they had an average lifespan of only five years and had twice the draft of their wooden or steel counterparts the clock was ticking for the 4-inch-thick concrete hulls.  The ships were also brittle and they easily cracked if the barges grazed a piling or other obstruction in the channel, causing further frustration.

Image: Daily Gazette
The short lived concrete barges were gradually phased out from duty along the canal. Several damaged boats were broken up and allowed to sink where they were to prevent obstructions, while some still serviceable barges were deliberately scuttled along the approaches to the canal locks in order to serve as both boat moorings and a form of erosion control.  Those concrete barges that were sunk near a number of locks are typically submerged during the regular navigation season; however, they become visible again once the canal is drawn down during the late fall. 

New York State Canal Corporation’s Lock 9 in Rotterdam Junction happens to feature some of the concrete barges, which are fully visible until the Canal Corporation begins lowering the moveable dams in the spring.  When the canal opens back up in May of 2015, no doubt several travelers along that legendary waterway will pass them by without realizing the unique history those bulky concrete hulls represent.  

Perhaps that was the best part of our drive the other day, having the opportunity to witness their remnants, but more likely the single reason it was great for me was that I shared it with my child.   More so, that because of his question we explored that part of history together. 

Image: Times Union



The Friends of Schoharie Crossing are gracious enough to support the events & programming at the site through various activities, sponsorships, fundraising and volunteering.  Their operation of this blog, their twitter account and other outreach methods are greatly appreciated.  Please consider becoming a member and supporting the wonderful heritage of the Erie Canal, Fort Hunter and Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site.
-Thank you 


Monday, January 5, 2015

Cookin' Canawlers! National Oat & National Soup Month

In recognition of January being National Oat Month as well as National Soup Month, the Friends of Schoharie Crossing are sharing some favorite recipes.* 


Cooking can be an adventure, one best shared with family and friends – so gather up a few and try these out!                           Encourage the kids to help!

As any good cook will tell you, it’s best to start with dessert! 

Cranberry Oatmeal Canal Cookies

    1 cup butter
    1 cup white sugar
    1 cup packed brown sugar
    2 eggs
    1 tablespoon vanilla extract

    2 ½ cups quick oats
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    ½  teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 cup dried cranberries
    1 cup chopped almonds (if desired)


1.       Preheat oven to 350°F (180° C). Grease cookie sheets or line w/ parchment paper.
2.       Cream butter, sugars, eggs & vanilla until very smooth and fluffy.
3.       In a separate bowl, blend together flour, salt, baking powder, & baking soda.  Add oats to flour mixture.
4.       Stir butter mixture into flour/oatmeal mixture. Blend well.
5.       Add the dried cranberries & nuts. Stir until blended. Roll into balls about one inch in size & bake for 8-10 minutes.

You do not want to over bake these.

While these aren’t “cutter” cookies, sometimes it’s fun to try molding them with one of these:

Canal Cornbread – Schoharie Mary’s Original

     1 ½ C cornmeal/med. Grind flour**
    2 ½  C milk
    2 C all-purpose flour
    1 tbs baking powder
    1 tsp salt
    2/3 C white sugar
    2 eggs
    ½ C vegetable oil

1.       Preheat oven to 400°F (200 ° C).
2.       In a small bowl, combine cornmeal & milk; let this stand for about 5 minutes.
3.       Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan or med round caste iron skillet.
4.       In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt & sugar. Then stir in the cornmeal mixture, eggs & oil until smooth. Pour the batter into prepared pan or skillet.
5.       Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of the cornbread comes out clean.

Schoharie Larry’s Canal Bean Soup

     3 (15oz) cans low sodium black beans, rinsed & drained
    1 (16oz) can diced tomatoes
    ¼ C butter
    1 ¼ C chopped onion
    4 cloves garlic, chopped
    1 tsp salt
    ½  teaspoon ground black pepper
    4 C low sodium beef broth
    1 (15oz) can pumpkin puree (or butternut squash)
    ½ lbs. cubed cooked ham
    ¼ lbs. bacon (diced)


1.       Pour 2 cans of black beans & the tomatoes into a food processor or blender - Puree until mostly smooth. Set aside.
2.       Melt butter in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the bacon, onion & garlic, and then season with salt & pepper. Cook while stirring until the onion is softened. Slowly stir in the bean puree, remaining can of beans, beef broth, pumpkin puree. Mix until well blended, and then simmer for about 25 minutes or until thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. Stir in the ham, & heat through before serving.

Recipe takes about 15 minutes to prepare – 45minutes to cook. 

*Every effort is made when making these foods to use locally sourced products.  While it may seem like a larger investment of time or money, if you can keep your money local overall it benefits everyone in the community. 
**For some truly wonderful White Corn products, support the relatively local & positively NY  Ganondagan!