Mrs. E's Garden

Odd jobs.  It seems to be my way of life.  Neither the wetland tours nor the fishing charters are providing full-time work, so as a freelancer, I’m always open to new assignments.

Truth is, I’m too much of a free spirit to sit behind a desk working for “the man” until retirement.  I thank God I have had the luxury of staying home with my kids, educating them, getting to know them, and most of all, being an aggravation to them.

Those days are coming to a close with the youngest now in high school.  He neither wants nor needs me for much more than buying his groceries and cooking a meal now and then.  Pretty soon, he won’t even need me to take him to and from baseball practice.

I’ve never been one to watch much daytime TV or read a book during the day without feeling guilty–even though I would like to; but somehow it was ingrained in me that I need to be productive.  I need to be making my way–paying my own way, and odd jobs are just fine for that.

One such opportunity came my way a couple months ago.  During the aftermath of the oil spill and the following compensation fiasco, it was discovered that there was no way to put a dollar amount on the losses incurred by folks who are classified as “recreational” fishermen, shrimpers, and crabbers.  When the waters were closed, they could not go out and catch fish, shrimp, and crab to feed their families and stock their freezers.

As a result, a couple of professors from NSU and LSU looked into what kind of research had been done on subsistence fishing in Louisiana’s coastal communities.  Guess what?  None had been done, which led them to the idea to do a study of subsistence hunting, fishing, and gathering–starting in the bayou communities.

As Fate would have it, one of those professors teaches a course on “Bayou Studies” and brought her students on my tour last year.  She thought I might be interested in helping with the project.  So, here I am working part-time on the first-of-its-kind study of just how much the bayou folks depend on hunting, fishing, and gathering (gardening) to feed their families.

The hardest part, so far, has been making people understand why the study is being done, convincing them this is not another government scheme to regulate them or take away freedoms, and basically getting them to be involved.  At the end of the second full month, I still have only gathered information from three people/families.

One of those people is an amazing little woman named Mrs. E.  All the subjects I study are anonymous, so I won’t use her real name.  Even though it’s not required, if someone has a garden or fruit trees, I have gone and photographed those places as part of the study.

When I went to photograph Mrs. E’s son’s garden, her green thumb was apparent around her house.  You know I love flowers, so before long, my ADD had kicked in, and my camera was drawn to the beauty of her flower beds, and not just the winter garden of greens and broccoli.

Here’s the fall-winter garden . . .

Which sort of pales in comparison to her outstanding Bromeliad blooms.

They make me think of an exotic bird of some sort.  They also remind of me a Bird of Paradise, which she also has but not blooming right now.

I’m sure she told me, but I don’t recall what kind of hot peppers these are.  She makes “pepper sauce” out of them to eat on the field peas she grows in the spring.

This old-fashioned perennial makes me think of my mother, for some reason.  It’s a Lantana.

This is a plant that Mrs. E. calls her “Acacia”.  She told me the story of how her mother or grandmother said it in French like this:  “uh-CAH-see-uh”.  I know this tree as a Partridge Pea.  You might call it something else!!

Every plant in her yard has a story, and I love hearing them all.  The stories, the people, the plants keep us connected and grounded to living things and give living things a history.

Although not the most beautiful subject of the day, this gourd also has a story behind it.  Do you know what this is?

She told me many stories, and in typical me-fashion, I had neither my notepad nor my recorder.  But if memory serves, it seems she said someone gave her one of these all dried out (as in the photo above) and one seed fell out and grew this huge vine.  The flowers were really pretty, so she let it go.  And the gourds grew and grew until she recognized it was the Loofah gourd that scrubbing sponges are made from.  She gave me two to bring home and dry out with the warning to be careful where the seeds go, because they take root easily and grow abundantly anywhere they fall!

How cool is that?  My own Loofah gourds!

Hopefully, as this project goes along, I will have more and more stories to tell and interesting folks to tell you about!

For the wetlands,

BW

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Comments

Mrs. E's Garden — 36 Comments

  1. Going to Mississippi and just read this great post–jealous of Mrs.E ‘s garden. That was a wonderful thing to read about-waiting for more and waiting for seeds to be delivered to cocodrie!!

  2. Dragged out of lurking once again, BW. I LOVE seeing and hearing about your area’s flowers and vegetables and people’s yards. And those loofas are so interesting! What a refreshing change from what we see in Northern Michigan in the late Autumn and Winter. I so envy your multi-faceted way of life, too. Nice not to be tied to one thing all the time. Even jobs you love get tedious on a routine basis. Please keep us updated on your current research. It’s interesting!

    • So happy to drag you out, Carolyn!! I have to confess that the previous post about the Satsuma (did you see it?) was inspired by another one of my research subjects: Mr. and Mrs. T. They have two trees in their backyard, and they are still loaded with fruit–way up high where I can’t reach. No ladder in sight. Guess I’ll have to take my own ladder!

  3. Well…it seems ye sailed into exactly the right port!

    So happy for ye to be taking this on – I know ye will be a key component o’ this project and will bring the message o’ the importance o’ Bayou life & culture to everyone in a way they will understand – so they too can respect the environment & way o’ life that we all ultimately depend on.

    Folk need to know the diversity o’ life and the tenacity o’ people that have lived in S. Louisiana for hundreds o’ years…long before General Jackson took that “little trip”. Rivers, lakes, swamps, bayous, forests and farmland…the food basket we need to fix before it is forever empty…and a way o’ life that – though seemingly simple – is as precious as the water that surrounds it.

    • Eloquent as always, Capt. I think I will copy, paste, and print your words so that I can be inspired to carry on. Thank so much for the reminders and encouragement. I’m ready for a person-to-person visit!

  4. Haha, my garden look anorexic next to hers. 🙁 I’m jealous. I’m betting you’re loving this job, despite the fact you’re having trouble getting people to co-operate.
    I’m sure you see their point, also.

    • Scarlet, pushing the project is sort of like being a traveling salesman, and I’m not a sales person. NOT AT ALL. I DO see their point, because I was VERY skeptical when they came down to visit me to tell me about the project and asked for my involvement. I asked some very hard questions, and their answers determined whether or not I could be involved and submit my neighbors to this kind of scrutiny. We are even doing FREEZER INVENTORIES! Now THAT is where it gets sticky. Some women told me flat out NO WAY!!! I was the first guinea pig for that . . . but since my freezer had recently been left open and had to be cleaned out, mine was mostly empty!!!

      • Actually, yer wrong…anything yer passionate about, ye “sell” without pressure – we all do. The things ye love and believe in – people, families, culture, the Bayou, Louisiana…these are what ye need to talk to folk about and they are the same things they are passionate about!

        Once they realize yer a neighbour and that ye need their help to save what ye all love, it should be no harder task than chatting with yer friends here.

        “We may have come here on different ships, but we’re all in the same boat now!” (Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

        • Correction received, Captain! All the positive energy in these comments has resulted in a new participant just this morning. One I am very excited about and look forward to sharing with all of ye! Thank you, mate!

  5. Those pics a wonderful! The colors are so vivid.
    Mail me a few of those Loofa seeds, will ya? They are great to exfoliate VERY dry skin. Oh, I know I could go buy a Loofa, but it’s more fun to grow them yourself. I actually grew some from seed about 30 yrs. ago, then gave up gardening for a loooong time.
    Been meaning to ask, Did you receive the newspaper article I sent you?

    • Steffi, – I would like to add that these photos are not enhanced. I do not use Photoshop anyway, but these are really the actual colors, and that is why I just had to post about her flowers. They are just so pretty right now. I’m not surprised you pioneered the DIY Loofah, lol!!!!! I posted my thank you for the article in a comment somewhere back there. yes, I did and thanks again!!!!

  6. This is a great and interesting post. Will the loofah grow up here in N LA?

    BTW – You have a very interesting job yourself. I sometimes envy you!

  7. BW- I, as you know, shrimp and crab for my freezer, “put up” fruit and jam, make pickles, and salsa, and also have a garden. I don’t know if Duson is considered “bayou country” but it sure is rural LA. If I can help let me know.
    You sure do get into some neat projects. I am once more finding myself thinking how amazing your life is..

    • Honey, I KNOW you do all that. When they start moving this study to the west, I will keep you in mind, okay? Thank you for reminding me how amazing my life is 🙂 Sometimes, I forget, lol!

  8. We grew Loofa it can and will cover hundreds of square feet.

    I bet you didn’t know they are edible as babies….

    I think I can garden down there.

    Getting tired of back ache I was hoping it would go away with insulin controlling sugar.

    • Blu, I failed to mention that in other places (like Asia) they eat these when they are young. And yes, I will forewarn whomever I grant seeds that it will indeed take over! Always count on you for the finer details. Yes, you could garden down here. When is the sell out and retirement?

  9. You buying?

    Trying to get paid off and that is stressing me out.

    I bet I could grow some amazing yacons down there.
    Another exotic I grew. I still get emails around the world on my yacon growing. It is like a jicama or a water chestnut only yam shaped.

    Trying to remember another loofa fact or oddity we ran across.

  10. That’s some nice, loose soil she has in her veggie garden…..soil envy. And no weeds! That’s all I grew in my garden last summer so I mulched it over with pine straw. I’ll try again this spring. I’d love to grow some loofah in the woods behind my house. It gets a lot of sun so it should be OK and no worry about spreading too far.

    As someone else said, you are a great saleswoman because the subject is so dear to your heart. Go get ’em tiger!

  11. OK – here’s a suggestion. Remember that wonderful video – Faces of Bayou Grace? Of course you do.

    I’m just thinking… when you approach someone, what about sharing that video with them? Explain a little about that. Point out that you’re in the video. Make the point that what you’re doing now is a new way of trying to help people.

    One thing the video would do is show people with their own eyes you were embedded in the community before you showed up as a representative of all them high-falutin’ and not necessarily trustworthy sorts.

    Or you just could just wear a cabbage, satsuma and okra hat like Carmen Miranda!

    • Ha ha ha! As they say, ROFL at the Carmen Miranda hat suggestion! Maybe it’s past time for me to watch the video again? Thanks for reminding me where I’m coming from, Linda!

  12. Hello,

    do you happen to know which Bromeliad that pink flowering one is? I have the same one, but i can’t find it on the net to identify it so far.

    thankyou

    • I can ask Mrs. E if she knows. I guess it would have its own “cultivar”, wouldn’t it? So, I’m sure it would be its Latin name, which she would most likely not know. I will ask her, anyway. Thanks for stopping by and for asking your question. BW

    • I can ask Mrs. E if she knows. I guess it would have its own “cultivar”, wouldn’t it? So, I’m sure it would be its Latin name, which she would most likely not know. I will ask her, anyway. Thanks for stopping by and for asking your question. BW

  13. I have the same bromeliad that shows in your above pics.
    it took me 5 years to get them to bloom but they’re awesome.
    can you please tell me what kind they are?
    I found mine buried beneath the bushes when we bought our house.
    ginger

    • Hi Ginger and welcome to the bayou. The photos are not of my own personal garden, but that of a friend. I could ask her if she knows the type this is, but I doubt she knows either. They are indeed beautiful! I’m hoping they all didn’t freeze to death this winter. Please come back any time! BW

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