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Small Stuff #70: Tax Man Cometh April 5, 2010

Posted by dianehuhn in Bayou Life, Coastal Restoration.
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Small stuff that I’m grateful for today: When my trusty tax-preparer hit the magic button on her computer to assess the damage, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. It wasn’t great…but, it wasn’t as bad as it was in my nightmare last night which involved Kenneth from 30 Rock, a pirate, a life-sized crawfish, kumquats, and my Kindergarten teacher Miss Smith. Don’t ask. Seriously, you don’t want to know.

So, I definitely didn’t run to get my taxes done this year as soon as my w-2s and 1099s hit the mailbox. I knew I was going to owe Uncle Sam and I figured if I could earn an extra 2 cents of interest by holding off, I’d hold off. But alas, deadline time is closing in and I decided it was time to face the music.

So unfortunately, what I owe the Feds is almost exactly the rate for a nice extended weekend retreat at that little beach house I’ve had my eye on. Oh well. But, ya know, it’s not all bad. As I wrote out that check to the IRS, all I could think about was the fact that for the first time ever, the Federal budget is dedicating funds for the Louisiana Coastal Area Ecosystem Restoration program. So if my little chunk of change can help protect and restore  this…

…so people can keep doing this…

…and this…

well, that’s pretty darn cool.

Small Stuff #67: More Raptors and Reptiles March 28, 2010

Posted by dianehuhn in Bayou Life, Louisiana Wildlife.
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Small stuff that I am grateful for today: more encounters with juvenile bald eagles. Seriously, these birds are soooo cool. I could watch them all day.

And a little up close and personal time with a juvenile gator. So cute! Wish I could get this close to the eagles.

Small Stuff #66: Back to Reality March 26, 2010

Posted by dianehuhn in Bayou Life, Louisiana Wildlife.
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Geez…looks like I’ve been gone a while. All good stuff–Spring break volunteer season has kept me on the run and filled my heart with much joy, but it’s time to get back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Small stuff that I am grateful for today…one adult bald eagle…

…one juvenile bald eagle…

…two juvenile bald eagles…

…and two angry alligators.

I love the bayou!

Small Stuff #54: Sharing My Bayous February 27, 2010

Posted by dianehuhn in Bayou Life, Big Fun on the Bayou, Friends.
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Small stuff that I am grateful for today: Sharing the wonders and mysteries of my bayous with good friends.

BIG STUFF: 31-17!!! February 7, 2010

Posted by dianehuhn in Bayou Life, Big Fun on the Bayou.
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Nuff said!

Small Stuff #34: King Cake February 4, 2010

Posted by dianehuhn in Bayou Life.
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Small stuff that I am grateful for today: King Cake. I mean, really, is there anything more to say ’bout dat?

Bonus: Dude, check out all that extra icing in the center!!! Do I know how to pick ’em or what? (High-pitched squeal!)

Small Stuff #4: To Catch a Rougarou? January 6, 2010

Posted by dianehuhn in Bayou Life, Ramblings.
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Small stuff #4 that I am grateful for today: Overhearing a group of bayou guys during lunch talking about digging a hole during a full moon.

Ok, I posted something about this a little while ago on Facebook so it may sound familiar to some of you, but I can’t stop thinking about it and chuckling to myself so I think it is deserving of being on the small stuff list. So here’s the scene…picture it. I pull in to Schmoopy’s down the bayou for a bit of lunch. Climb the stairs cause the place is about twelve or so feet in the air, hopefully out of harms way for the next big flood cause the food here is outta sight. It’s a pretty small lunch crowd. Couple a guys in the back corner. Look like oil company middle management types. Married couple in the other corner…probably late 60s, early 70s…locals. Three Bubba Cajuns clad in flannel. Two with the requisite LSU caps, the other with the only other acceptable sports team cap down the bayou…a Saints cap. The owner is chatting them up. And as I see the waitress headed my way, one of the Bubbas, just as serious as he can be, says “Well, what ya gotta do for dat is dig a big hole durin’ da full moon.” And with that, the waitress arrived, we chatted for a couple of minutes, I gave my order and have no idea what the Bubbas were talking about cause when I could get my attention focused back on the conversation, they were talking about levees. Surprise! Only like the number one topic of conversation down the bayou. And yep, we need bigger, taller, stronger ones.

So my friends, got any thoughts? I suspect it had something to do with hunting or trapping or some other such sportsman’s paradise activity. And maybe, just maybe, they were talking about how to trap a rougarou which is kind of the French Louisiana version of the werewolf. The rougarou is generally described as having a human body with the head of a wolf or dog. It’s supposed to lurk the swamps and apparently one variant of the story is that the rougarou hunts down and kills Catholics who do not adhere to the rules of Lent. So I’m wondering…if the rougarou hunts down a Catholic on a Friday during Lent, does another rougarou then have to hunt down the first rougarou?

Anyway, I’d love to hear your ideas about what these guys were talking about.

Oh, and total awesome bonus: Dueling Banjos from the Deliverance soundtrack serenaded me during my lunch. And if you’re interested in learning more about the rougarou, here’s a bonus for you: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rougarou

Head West Old Woman, Head West November 23, 2009

Posted by dianehuhn in Bayou Life, Coastal Restoration, Ramblings, Travels.
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So yesterday morning I decided to put a few chores on the back burner and head west for a few adventures. I’ve not explored much of the beauties of south-western Loozy, although if you want to get all technical, my intended destination would probably be more appropriately deemed to reside in south-central Louisiana. And while every day really is an adventure when living life in the Louisiana wetlands, I was yearning for some new vistas.

At 6:00 AM, I grabbed my coat and grabbed my hat (it was a tad chilly and drizzily), left my worries at my doorstep, and hoped the sunny side of the street would be at my back. Unfortunately, the sun never did make much of an appearance except for about 30 seconds on my way back east. Guess it just wanted to show those meteorologists who’s boss.

Anyway, I made a quick stop at a local convenience store to get a little more Community Coffee pulsing through my veins. When you get down the bayou, a lot of the convenience stores tend to exhibit a flavor all their own which is decidedly different from the typical, I-could-be-in-anytown-USA, northern Express Mart flavor.

When you patronize one of these spots, you’re almost guaranteed the opportunity to satisfy that grease fix that accompanies fried chicken whether it’s on a stick or served up in the standard red and white checkered cardboard tray. And if chicken doesn’t fit the bill, no worries. Shrimp, oysters, crawfish, catfish, jalapenos and a multitude of other such fare should grace the menu as long as you don’t ask for it lightly sautéed in a nice lemon-pepper butter sauce. Should you desire a little beef or pork, sausage biscuits and boudin should do the trick and the jerky products typically have an entire aisle to themselves. And if you’d like to wash down all that fried goodness with a spot of Jack, no problem, just ask the clerk to grab you a bottle from behind the counter. And if you got a few dollars left in your pocket, you can slip behind the red or green swinging doors and play a few hands of video poker to see if lady luck is on your side.

So as I prepared the perfect cup of joe, the usual gang was there decked out in their LSU caps, well-worn work garb and white shrimp boots. I had arrived too late for the play-by-play recap of yesterday’s Tiger’s game and too early for the predictions for the afternoon’s Saints game, but had arrived just in time for the another favorite subject…

“I heard they’re going to close that canal and put some kind of thing that lets the water flow through.” “You know, what they don’t think about is a back-up plan.” “Yeah, well I heard they was going to put a bunch of rocks out there.” And it basically goes on and on with a whole host of “I’ve heard’s” for quite some time until someone says “You know there’s only one thing that’s going to save us. And that’s if we all just get the #@$! out of here.” Laughter erupts for about seventeen seconds and then the realization hits that such a scenario could be all too true and to dismiss that painful thought as swiftly as it arrives, the conversation quickly moves to the “What they outta do’s”. And it’s too bad more of the folks in charge don’t sit in on some of these conversations, cause these guys know a whole lot about this landscape and how it works and some of those “outta do’s” are pretty dog-gone smart.

But, time was a-wasting. So, armed with twenty ounces of goodness, $4 of jerky and a full tank of gas, it was time to head up the bayou…but, unfortunately it’s now time to hit the pavement. To be continued…

What’s in a Number? November 17, 2009

Posted by dianehuhn in Bayou Life, Louisiana Wildlife, Photography, Ramblings.
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So in my last post, I basically let the entire world know (well, maybe not the entire world, maybe more like 5 people) that I just turned 40. And the other night the Momster called to wish me a happy birthday and was like, “I read on that Blue Dog thing (ok, Mom, it’s called a blog) that you are lamenting your age.” And well, that’s not really it at all. It’s really more like, “What? Are we sure about this math? Hold on a sec. 2009 minus 1969 equals…wait, let me try this with a calculator. Ok, then. 2-0-0-9 minus 1-9-6-9. Hmmm…that’s weird. I guess it does equal 40. Or maybe this is just some kind of new fangled math. Yes, yes, that must be it.”

And again, don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m upset about this or something. I mean, I’m not having a mid-life crisis or anything. It’s just kind of weird, you know? Like…ok, hmmm…strange how that time thing works isn’t it? I mean, when I was a youngster, I pretty much figured I’d never make it past 30 so I think I kind of had my mid-life crisis at 15. And I’m sure the Momster will attest to that. Why I thought I wouldn’t make it past thirty is a tad fuzzy now, but I remember hanging out with my high school friends (who are now 40 or quickly approaching it which totally does not seem right either) trying to get someone to buy us alcohol (ok, Mom, just pretend you didn’t read that) and talking about Y-2-K although no one called it that at the time. It was just like, “oh my gosh, how weird is it going to be on December 31, 1999? Hey, we should all make a pact to get together for that New Year’s in New York City or something. That would be rad! We’ll party like it’s 1999!”

But honestly, I don’t remember exactly where I was or what I did on that New Year’s Eve, but I do remember getting up on January 1, 2000 and being glad that my alarm clock still worked and the TV stations were still on the air and my computer booted up just fine and there wasn’t some kind of “The Day After” landscape out my window. Not that I thought that was going to happen, but hey, no one knew for sure right?

Anyway, I guess I don’t have any new wisdom to share or insights in to the meaning of it all. I’m just thinking it’s time to enjoy another beautiful south Louisiana day and share a few pics of mullet flying through the air in all their majesty. What do you think? Isn’t that what it’s really about? Just enjoying where you are and who you’re with (but don’t take for granted that they’re going to be there tomorrow) and giving yourself a little challenge to be a better person than the day before? Not sure, but it works for me.

So…I’ve challenged myself to learn a little bit about the behavior of the mullet (from the family mugilidae). And let’s just say that they are a strange kind of bird in the world of south Louisiana fish. They seem to be best known for their jumping behavior although, honestly, nobody seems to have any definitive answers as to why they jump so much. Some say they jump to avoid predators. Others to say it’s to get rid of parasites. Who knows? But what I do know is that they jump a lot and they jump quickly and it’s not so easy to catch them in mid-jump with a camera. Most of the time, try as you might, you end up with something like this…

or this…

But with a little practice, you start to learn that mullet are kind of predictable. They typically jump about 3-4 times in a row. But if they flutter a little on that first jump, they probably won’t jump again right away. But if they fly out of the water on that first jump, you can sort of figure out where to aim the camera for the second, third, and if you’re lucky, fourth jumps. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to grab a good shot. Most of time you (well, me) get something like this…

Oh geez, I think that’s a fish. What is that? So, you just sit and wait and tune in your ears and eyes and try your luck again. Jump, click. Damn. Jump, click. Damn. Ok, well at least you can tell it’s a fish that time. Ooh, cool, he’s upside down.

Alright, let’s try again. And again. And again. Yes, definitely got him that time. Well, maybe not. But better.

Ok, come on guys. I’m getting tired and now the mosquitos are descending. Give me a break will ya? Alright, a little better. But could you jump a little straighter next time?

Ok, one more time and I’m outta here. Where is that bug spray?

Alright, my little flying fish friends, that’s gonna have to do it for today. We’ll try this again some other time. If I don’t get out of here soon, I’m going to be one giant mosquito bite. Oh, that’s a beautiful south Louisiana sunset. Click. Ahhh…thank’s buddy.

Shooting Mullet November 14, 2009

Posted by dianehuhn in Bayou Life, Coastal Restoration, Friends, Ramblings.
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So yesterday held the last few hours of my 30s and I decided to kick off work a little early and try my luck at shooting photographs of mullet. And no, not the bad hairstyle variety, but the flying fish variety. It seemed like a challenge and I love a good challenge. I found a nice spot out in the marsh and a relaxing pile of dirt from which to sit upon. And I typically try not to get all philosophical as my birthday approaches, but my mind started to wander a tad.

I’ve been “down de bayou” for a little over a year now. I originally planned on being here for only a year to hopefully help a few people and figure out what it is that I want to be when I grow up. And now I’m forty. How the hell did that happen? And am I supposed to be grown up by now? Cause I don’t feel anymore grown up today than I did yesterday, or a year ago, or five years ago, or let’s just be honest, twenty years ago.

So anyway, let’s just say that I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about that “what the heck do I want to be when I grow up” stuff lately. I’ve certainly had a great ride thus far and generally speaking I really enjoy where I am. I’ve got a pretty cool job that certainly beats the heck out of sitting in a gray cubicle every day. If I want to get all officialized…my designated job title is Environmental Outreach Volunteer Coordinator. Geez…doesn’t that sound important? And well, it is pretty darn important when I think about it.

Has it been easy getting to this point? Yes and no. Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love my job and I one hundred percent absolutely, positively, unequivocally LOVE where I live. But has the last year, two months and change been easy? Well, in a nutshell, no.

You see, I’ve moved to a place that I absolutely adore, but it’s also a place that doesn’t necessarily adore me. I’m an outsider. Always have been and probably always will be. I’m pretty sure I could live here 30 years and still be called a Yankee. Again, don’t get me wrong. I have found some truly amazing people here that I can most certainly call friends, but when it comes to finding some real, “hey I need to sit in a boat, drop a line, have a beer and chat about life” buddies, well that’s been a different story. And yes, I do know myself well enough to admit that I’m not necessarily the easiest person to get to know.

But while bayou folks are extremely friendly, let’s just say that they’re a wee bit quirky. Actually, if I get my psychology hat on, they tend to exhibit a fair amount of paranoia. And probably for good reason. They’ve been promised a whole lot of stuff by a whole lot of people and been let down a whole lot of times. But that doesn’t mean I’m saying that they’re not good people and willing to help a girl out when she needs it. I mean I know if I’m in a jam, there are a bunch of folks that I can call to get me out of it, but just finding someone I can really let it all hang out with has been a challenge. So maybe in one sense the last year and change has been easy, but has it been lonely? Yes, at the end of the day, it has been lonely.

I was talking to a man the other day that I feel I can call friend. He’s a pretty important guy in my book and is a man that I have the utmost respect for. He’s got a whole lot riding on his shoulders. His job entails a great deal of travel and meetings and securing funding and basically all the stuff that I don’t miss about my previous life. I said “Geez, it must be hard to travel all over and sit in all those meetings when you’d probably rather be on a ridge planting marsh grass or paddling around a bayou looking for some fish.” He said “Yes, but I do it so my staff can do what they do best.”

And I thought about the last year and change and started to wonder if that’s kind of what my role is. I may never be truly accepted here, but can I work hard to make a difference in people’s lives and the lives of their children and grandchildren and great grandchildren? Well, I certainly hope so. Do I need them to understand that and give me a pat on the back? Well, it’d be nice, but at the end of the day, no.

From the depths of my soul, what I really want is to just see this place still exist in forty years. I probably won’t be here since I’ve not been all that kind to my body during the previous forty years, but I want someone who loves this place the way I do to be able to sit with a camera on the same bank I sat on last night and try to take pictures of mullet flying through the air and watch ospreys and egrets and herons fly overhead and hear owls hooting in the distance and time how long the diving ducks stay under water looking for something eat.

Do I think that can happen? Well, I sure hope so, but honestly, if things continue the way they are right now, in forty years the bank I sat on last night will probably be under 14 feet of water and the herons and the ospreys and the egrets and the owls and diving ducks won’t have any place to land and maybe saltwater sport fisherman will venture this far down to try their luck, but who the heck knows if there will actually be any fish to catch because maybe this spot will just be part of a big giant dead zone.

Does this make me beyond sad? You bet it does. Do I feel like packing my bags and heading someplace else at times? You bet I do. Do I really want to do that? Hell no!

So what is it that I really want to do? I want to stay where I am and fight to restore and protect the place that I have grown to love for the people I have come to care deeply for.  And if you really want to know the truth, what I really want is to get the President, the head honcho of the Army Corps of Engineers, the head of the EPA, and the few handful of other people that really and truly have the power at their finger tips to change things to go fishing with me in Cocodrie. I want them to hook a big ole bull red or two or three or twelve. I want my good buddy Kevin to cook them a delicious Jambalaya. I want my good buddy Wendy to take them up to the Mauvais Bois to teach them about bayou culture and see the wonders of a cypress swamp. I want them to sit on the deck of a camp, kick back with a few cold ones and watch the ospreys and the egrets and the herons and the owls and the diving ducks and all manner of spectacular wildlife and watch a sunset of orange and red and yellow and purple and blue. I want them to see for their own eyes what I love so dearly. Because, in my heart, I believe that if they could experience for a day what I experience every day, there wouldn’t be any question about the national importance of saving the community I call home (even if the people around here don’t think it’s my home). In fact, if we could make that happen, I feel like I could almost guarantee that we could get our priorities straight and saving this place would become job #1 for the United States instead of sending brave men and women off to their deaths half way around the world in the name of democracy.

I mean, how is it that my community is allowed to slip acre by acre in to the Gulf of Mexico every single day and almost no one in Washington, DC seems to give a damn? I mean, really, how is that possible? Do they just not know? How could they not know? Do they just not care? How could they not care? Do they just think we’re not that important? HOW COULD THEY POSSIBLY BELIEVE THIS? How is it possible that they sit idly by while an entire way of life is being sent to its death in their own backyard?

I mean, come on people. I can spout the figures. My communities, my beloved bayou people, supply 30 percent of the domestic oil and natural gas for the rest of this nation. My communities, my beloved bayou people, supply 30 percent of the domestic seafood on your plates. My communities, my beloved bayou people, operate 10 of the 14 major seaports that serve this nation and the world beyond. My communities, my beloved bayou people, work hard every single day to make this nation what it is. They are dedicated to this country. Why is it that their country is NOT dedicated to them?

I just don’t understand. Could someone out there please explain it to me? Am I just wasting my time? Am I sacrificing that well paying corporate job waiting out in middle America for me to try to save a place that the US government has simply written off? Am I just a fool to think that my friends’ children and grandchildren and great grandchildren can live in and toil in and care for this place that I so love? Yes, I do understand that it’s a “complicated” issue. But is it really? Is it really so complicated that we can’t get those handful of people who said they wanted to be in charge of our well being to sit down and figure it out if we just put our minds to it?

I mean really, Mr. President, sit in the marsh with me, cast a line with me, meet the people I call friends, and tell me to my face that this place and this way of life is not worth saving. Because every day that we as Americans sit by and do not make saving this American treasure a national priority is a day that we pound another nail in the coffin on a place and a people and a culture that is of vital importance to the health and prosperity of the place that I used to be proud to call the United States of America. Please make me proud once again. Please renew my faith. Please give me the audacity to hope for change and a better tomorrow. Please tell me that yes we can save my home so that future generations can call it home.

So I just realized my intention when I started this post was really just to share a few photographs of mullet flying through the air in all their majesty…but maybe we’ll just have to save that for another day my friends cause it’s my birthday and I’m grabbing my new fishing pole to see if I can rustle up some fish for dinner and hope that I don’t accidentally get shot by the folks trying to rustle up some duck for dinner. Thank you to all of my friends and buddies who make restoration and protection a priority in their lives and work tirelessly to make it a priority in the lives of others.