Saturday, December 16, 2023

Wouldn’t be Christmas without Karen’s fruitcakes

Short- Eared Owl

So far, the storm coming up the east coast hasn’t done much in this area other than rain. They are predicting that it is going to change to snow overnight, but who could tell with this up and down weather we have been having. Some people to the south of us in Tennessee got hammered with tornadoes just outside of Nashville with six people killed, hundreds of homes damaged or destroyed, and thousands without power. The warm weather to the east clashed with the cold air coming from the west, causing these tornadoes. It was a thin line looking on the weather map, but if you were in it, that’s where the tornadoes happened.

Here at Eight Acre Wood, the little intermittent stream was gushing this morning [Dec. 10] as I heard rain beating on the tin roof during the night. The pond outlet was also rushing out the overflow pipe, but the pond remained frozen, covered with about three inches of ice. Rain had stopped this morning only to start up again [at] about 10 a.m. I walked the ski trail out back to check the culverts that sometimes get clogged with leaves, but they were clear. There was a lot of little debris blown down by the wind that came with rain overnight which I pick-sticked out of the trail.


Yesterday was Karen’s fruitcake making day here at the house. We had collected ingredients for the secret recipe on our many trips to Utica and Boonville. We even found some [items] locally that last day. She gets out the bottom of the turkey roast pan to put it all together. [However,] the day before she makes up a big cooking pot of the fruit part of the recipe, which is done on the stovetop. This sits overnight, so it’s ready the next day. She adds this to the turkey roaster filled with sugar, flour, and some of the secret recipe. The roaster is filled just about to the top, as she mixes all the ingredients together with a big stirring spoon. The fumes coming up during the stirring are quite intoxicating and you don’t want to get a match too close to this operation. These are all Christmas gifts except for the two we keep for ourselves; you must try it. You wouldn’t want it to be a bad batch, which has never happened.

Fruitcakes on cooling rack

Fruitcakes on cooling racks. Photo by Gary Lee.

She puts this in six larger baking tins and twelve smaller ones. Into the oven they go, and she keeps checking them, as there is no time given on the recipe she has. The odor in the whole house is of fruitcake and I know Christmas is not far away. Many people don’t like fruitcake. I remember when Mr. Kalil used to make the big fruitcakes and sell them in the store. We would get one and they were as big as a regular cake. Some of our children liked them and some did not…that meant more for us. Some locals who enjoy them will be getting theirs this week to enjoy this Christmas season. I am so glad Karen was able to make them, as it would not be Christmas around this house without a fruitcake.


Birds are still on the move south. Every time there is a break in the weather and a clear night, a few more of my feeder birds move on. When we got a couple inches of snow at the beginning of the week, [a] few new ones showed up. I had four American Tree Sparrows and three Slate-Colored Juncos come for a snack and they all left here wearing bands that day. I did catch a couple new Black-Capped Chickadees and a couple that I banded earlier this fall. A couple that I did not catch were a Brown Creeper, a Tufted Titmouse, and a pair of Red-Breasted Nuthatches. The Blue Jay population goes up and down daily depending on the weather, but I did band five of them one day and got a repeat from last spring.


Over by Point Au Roche [State] Park on Lake Champlain (north of Plattsburgh,) there are still thousands of Snow Geese, some Canada Geese, Horned Larks, Snow Bunting, and at least one Short-Eared Owl which Joe Poliquin got a nice shot of while looking for the geese. There are still lots of standing corn in the area, and as they cut it the geese move in to pick up what corn is left. They go from the lake to the corn fields many times during the day. If you get the Snow Geese in flight, it is quite a sight against a blue sky.


There was a big crowd for Snodeo in Old Forge, but very little snow for riding. I did see some tracks on trail five along the road, but it was all dirt by Sunday morning after the rain came. I was over in Indian Lake [on] Tuesday, [Dec. 5] and they had enough snow to ride on. I saw machines going up the Cedar River Road on trailers. so they may have been able to use that end of the Moose River Plains Road.


We got a nice Christmas present last week, but that’s another story. See ya.


Photo at top: Short-Eared Owl. Photo by Joe Poliquin.

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Gary lives with his wife, Karen, at Eight Acre Wood in Inlet where he was the Forest Ranger for 35 years, working in the Moose River Wild Forest Recreation Area and West Canada Lakes Wilderness Area. Now retired, Gary works summers for the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation, observing, catching and banding loons. The author of a column Daybreak to Twilight in local papers from 1986 to 2019, he now writes his Outdoor Adventures a weekly blog. In 2008, Gary coauthored a book with John M.C. “Mike” Peterson, "Adirondack Birding- 60 Great Places to Find Birds."

4 Responses

  1. Pete says:

    My father always loved a good fruit cake, especially one with Rum soaked fruit!

  2. Lillian Antoci says:

    I love your story and your fruitcake looks amazing. Not too many people like fruitcake but I do. I would love your recipe and try my hands at making some. Looks so yummy.

  3. kim Pope says:


    I love your posts !

  4. Andrea Grout says:

    HI Gary, Long time no see. Would love to catch up with you soon about Short Eared Owls in Lake Placid and other birding stuff. Happy New Year!

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