Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bienveue a Lafayette

We recently visited Lafayette (pronounced ‘Laugh’ Fayette), LA where our son and his lovely wife toured us around. What a cool place to live. It’s like going to a foreign country without leaving the states. I never thought I would be telling folks I’m from the North when I live in Tennessee. Everything is new and different…flora, fauna, food and French weaved throughout, turning every outing into an adventure. The people are easy going and fun – loving as evidenced in the culture of southern Louisiana.
First stop was the welcome center where they had of course tons of information about the area but also, a small garden area, and a lake that boils with fish and turtles when you toss a slice of bread over the walkway railing.
Black-eyed Susan vines, knockout roses, trumpet flowers and agapanthus were blooming in the garden. We saw agapanthus in bloom throughout the area…it must be hardy this far south.

A music festival was going on in Opelousas, the heart of zydeco (in fact they’re claim to fame is “Zydeco capital of the world”. We danced a few steps when we realized we can’t dance like the natives…they’ve got some moves!

A trip to Lafayette would not be complete without a bowl of gumbo with roux the color of chocolate – yum. We went to a Sunday brunch at “The Blue Dog CafĂ©” where the mimosas flowed while the zydeco band (Hadley Catille and the Sharecropper) played on. Crawfish enchiladas and oyster stuffing were new to us and the creamed spinach was spicy. In fact most everything is spicy!
Drove a short distance to the country and toured an organic farm that grows and sells tilapia, veggies, fruit and a myriad of other natural products. The Grotreaux have a delightful family – 10 children between the ages of 5 and 12 who work, study, and play hard.
I had never seen a tilapia operation before. The fish are raised in ponds housed in greenhouses, fed four times a day and harvested once a week (2,000 lbs.) for market. Organic vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers are harvested and sold at the local farmers market. Folks can also come to the farm and buy fresh fish and produce.
A short drive to St. Martin Lake proved successful in the hunt for gators to photograph. They are unique critters that I enjoyed watching from the window of a truck. Oh yeah, the cypress trees with their knees exposed and hanging with Spanish moss where also a sight for Deep South newbies. One final drive to see what I believe is a type of agave that my son had noticed and couldn’t wait to show me. You can see from the picture that it is ginormus – taller than the house! If anyone knows what this monster is, please tell…

Friday, June 5, 2009

Growing Right Along

May was a busy month in the garden. We (okay, I) had projects galore. After a huge arbor, expansion of my "hobbit" house garden shed, including a living roof and a new kitchen garden, I have promised my husband no more "Cindy projects" for the rest of the year (pray I can keep my promise).
The kitchen garden consists of nine raised beds in the front side yard. Three made out of concrete blocks and six are untreated pine which I stained a cedar color on the outside to match the fence and blend a bit.

With the help of some great friends and my son Trevor we hauled composted horse poop (manure for you technical gardeners) and filled the beds 3/4 full then topped them off with leaf mulch. I worked in some wood pot ash since we had such an abundance from our newly installed wood stove.
Planting took place around the middle of May. I grew many of the plants in my greenhouse and purchased some from my neighbor, Joe Toni of Green Valley Greenhouses. As you can see everything is growing right along.

I am harvesting sweet banana peppers and some of the tomatoes are the size of golf balls. I'm trying to recycle materials for trellising beans, cucumbers, gourds and mini-pumpkins without looking too tacky...after all this garden is in our front yard.

I found a metal arbor at a yard sale and have installed it as the entrance and have lots more to do. I'm planting sunflowers, herbs and cut flowers to add color and encourage beneficial insects to stop and munch on any plant destroying suspects and pollinate.

Plus I want it to look as nice for neighbors and passer-bys. I have met a couple of neighbors who stopped to looked and compliment. A biker passed by yesterday and yelled "beautiful garden" which was very encouraging...especially when a neighbor told another neighbor my garden looked like a cemetery with cute little plots. What do they expect from a 'cracked pot gardener'?

Kitchen garden as of June 2nd...