Once we got off the main roads, we began seeing other mysteries to be unraveled! One of the first things we noticed was the farm fields. There were miles upon miles of fields, some were flooded with several inches of water, others looked like they were flooded and drained. A few of the fields had flat bottom boats on them and rows of what looked like metal cages on them.
Puzzled, Barb got on Google to find out that all these fields were all Crawfish farms! There is some really interesting information on Crawfish farming on cajuncrawfish.com but in a nutshell here is how they describe the short version on their website:
|Grow a rice crop in water from March to July.
|Seed crawfish in the rice field in June.
|Drain water and harvest the rice in late July/August.
|Re-flood the old rice field and it becomes a crawfish pond in September/October.
|Harvest the crawfish from November to July.
|Drain, plow, and level the field to repeat the process in July to March.
Very interesting and another mystery solved!
|Crawfish field with traps
|Sunset over a Crawfish field
Next up was all those little mud mounds we saw in peoples yards. Some yards only had a few while others seemed to have hundreds. Moles, voles, shrews? Or are they termite chimneys? We were wrong in all accounts.
|Yard full of mysterious mounds
Click here to see what really causes these mounds........................... Yep, it's those darn crawfish again! The entire area seems to revolve around these little buggers from the farms to the restaurants, the local economy is dependent on crawfish, shrimp and oysters. One of the things we wanted to do while down here was to experience the local cuisine and it looks like we found just the place to do it!
Other things were not mysteries but interesting nonetheless......... Raised houses to preventing water damage during flooding were common and the moss hanging in the trees were other sights we were not used to seeing.
Palmetto Island State Park just outside of Abbeville is the newest park in Louisiana's system. At $20 a night they have beautiful sites with 50amp power and water, two comfort stations with free laundry/showers and a centrally located dump station. Numerous wildlife sightings, armadillos are everywhere within the campground. At times there was at least one every couple hundred yards, some of them even invaded our campsite driving Daisy nuts!
|Daisy ready to attack!
In addition to the armadillos we saw deer and alligators. Word has it that there are feral hogs and black bear as well but we did not see any. The park's almost 100 sites were empty with probably only 10 campers total but 1 of the 10 campers were virtual friends of ours who we had been communicating with on line for almost a year! Steve and Deb McCormack are fellow full-timers and bloggers (Down the Road) who have been on the road since June of last year.
On day two of our stay we broke out the kayak and paddled one of the creeks within the park. Deb and her dog Hurley joined us on the paddle which took us through narrow channels into small lakes before it eventually dumps into the Vermillion River and the intercostal waterway. It was on this trip where we saw the alligators in a couple of the smaller ponds. It is eerie seeing them drift across the top of the water with just their eyes and nose above the water then they slowly submerge as you approach. We were questioning ourselves as we paddled our inflatable kayak over the spot where they submerged.
|Barbie cruising down the creek
|Deb and Hurley
|#2 did not let us get quite as close
Now it was time to get to tasting some of that local cuisine! We went to dinner that night with the McCormack's. The first thing Steve insisted we have was raw oysters. Neither Barb or I have had them before so we were a bit hesitant. When the oysters arrived, we applied some cocktail sauce and down the hatch they went.... they were actually pretty good but I don't know we could have them without the sauce. Trying to decide what to have for our main course was a challenge. The area is known for their crab, shrimp, crayfish and oysters. We opted for a couple of dishes that let us taste everything. Both were absolutely delicious! As we were eating the waitress came by with a free pitcher of beer for Steve and I, a little while later she came by and said she was off duty and would be leaving. We continued chatting and swapping stories and before long the pitcher of beer was empty and it was time to head back to the campground. As we got up and looked around to see we were the only ones left in the restaurant! We had been there over 3 hours!
The next day we wanted to try a "Po` Boy" while we were down here so we stopped by a local place called Suire's. It is basically a small corner grocery store that also serves food, we arrived right at lunchtime the and parking lot was packed. As soon as we walked in it was apparent that we were the only outsiders so we must have come to the right place. A Po` Boy is a traditional submarine sandwich in a baguette bun, Barb had an alligator Po` Boy while I opted for shrimp. The alligator was a firm meat and a little chewy but still very good.
|Interesting but not a typical place we would stop!
Our next adventure was the Parish Brewing Company just outside of Lafayette where Steve and I each had a flight of beers sampling some of the local brews. Not being a fan dark or "hoppy" beer there were a couple that we a little strong and a couple that were perfect for my taste. Steve, who belongs to a brew club seemed to enjoy each of the different brews.
|Barb and I along with Steve and Deb
From there we headed back to Abbeville for dinner at another local icon, Dupuy's Oyster Shop where we again had an awesome dinner. Keeping up with the theme from the night before, we again were the last ones to leave before they closed!
The next day we stopped by Richard's Meat Market to buy some of the Boudin balls that we have seen advertised. They are made with a combination of pork sausage, pork liver and rice rolled into a ball and fried. We also bought some Cracklin, a fried piece of pork fat with a small amount of attached skin and is generally considered to be part of soul food or Cajun cuisine. We have never had either of these.
Then last night before we left we mooched along with Steve and Deb who were going to meet some local friends for dinner. We went to Richard's Seafood Patio. As you can see from the outside it certainly does not look like anything special but this is one of the favorites of the locals and had a waiting line to get in. The couple Steve and Deb were meeting were born and raised in the area, Randy and June. Randy owns a machine shop in the area and June is a school teacher/librarian. Both were very down to earth and as friendly and we hit it off right away. The fact that both of them were avid hunters certainly helped. Following Randy's lead we ordered boiled crawfish, shrimp and frog legs. He certainly did not steer us wrong!
|Steve, June, Randy, me, Barb and Deb
|All the chairs put up, we closed down another restaurant!
The four days here went really quick and felt like a whirlwind of meeting and eating. This is an area we will definitely come back to and would recommend the park and restaurants to anyone coming through the area. In addition, we met some great new friends! Next up.......New Orleans!