A North Carolina Tar Heel in the Heart of Acadiana

I’m not accustomed to having windows open and to be wondering whether I ought to just go ahead and turn on the a/c on New Year’s Eve. Welcome to Southern Louisiana! Evidently this isn’t at all unheard of, around here. We’re also under a tornado watch, as a cold front is coming through overnight, dropping our temps from (low) 60 to 47 and (high) 76 to 59 for New Year’s Day. That’s still on the mild side, isn’t it? Uh, yes, it is.

I haven’t done as much exploring of my region as I’d like. I live in a lovely town, one which date from about the same period as my home area in the Sandhills of North Carolina. That makes it one of the newer towns down here; there are towns like St. Martinville and New Iberia that date from the mid-1700s (and had European settlers in the area at what were simple trading outposts, much earlier, late 1600s-early 1700s). This area is also pretty “English,” in contrast to “Cajun,” although there’s a large Cajun population here. We are very much in the heart of Acadiana.

I grew up in town in NC but I have farming roots on both sides of my family. so the agricultural makeup of this area fascinates me. Now, I know what a tobacco field looks like, and peach orchards, and soybeans, and a variety of other crops grown in quantity up in The Old North State. But I’m not so sure what I’m looking at, yet, down here. I assume the recently-flooded fields that were so cleanly plowed and disked, just a couple weeks ago, are rice fields, as I live near the nation’s Rice Capitol, but that assumption is based entirely on my reading of the novels of Pearl S. Buck. They could be crawfish fields, too, but I’m more inclined to think the fields that had some water and a lot of plant growth even after being drained last year are the crawfish farms. I don’t know who can clear that up for me, yet, but I keep looking. Sugar cane, on the other hand, is pretty easy to recognize, and there’s a lot of that here and south toward the “coast –”

— if you can call it the coast. The Louisiana coastline is primarily swamp that becomes the Gulf oF Mexico, unlike the Carolinas’ flat and distinct sandy coastline.

Another big difference is that, although the Coastal Plain of NC is flat as flat can be, there are miles upon miles of woodlands. Here almost all land is under cultivation. The only place I’ve seen real forests are actually down along the Atchafalaya Swamp. Everywhere else, there are hedge rows and trees in people’s yards, but not acres and miles of woodland. That is peculiar, but it also gives one a vista that is out of this world — miles and miles of open land to the horizon, allowing you to see the moon coming up over the horizon and the water tower of the town maybe 12 miles away.

This is also a big beef area. I get a kick out of seeing pastures with cows and small lots with cows all around here. There are some breeds I know, like the Hereford, Brahma, Angus, and Charolais, and a couple of breeds I’m not sure of at all. They all help me feel at home, as cows are also a staple of the NC agricultural scene. More and more, this area, which has felt like home since my first visit nearly two years ago, is getting into my bones, and i absolutely love it.

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