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NOLA Reflection – Hayden

This trip will never be duplicated. There will be trips very similar to ours but no two trips are the same. I enjoyed learning more about how levees work and the different types. I was grateful to learn more about how the citizens of New Orleans had to deal with the hurricane and I was deeply saddened by how things are still not looking great for them on our current path. It was humbling to visit a town that has essentially been abandoned by the State because there was little hope of keeping the town for much longer. It was also great to see how areas around the center of the city has been doing better and to help people grow fruit and vegetables that they can eat and give to the people all around them. Most importantly it was rewarding to be able to go into Woodland Conservancy and do our vegetation surveys. I like doing things and feeling like that I am contributing to something larger than myself. Plus this helps the environment more as a whole since now people will have more data that is accurate. I thought it was cool to also learn more about the culture of the area. I remember hearing about stuff starting in New Orleans but actually going there and seeing it really helped me see how and why things started there. One of the most impactful moments for me was when we went to the Whitney Plantation. This really hot me hard because it was a plantation museum that was dedicated to the history of slavery that was going on there. This was the fist plantation to have this. It was humbling to hear the stories that happened to the slaves and the owners. One of things that I learned was to be grateful of what I have and that it hasn’t been taken away by a storm or by an earthquake. I am also grateful to be living in California where people are a little bit more environmentally aware but the people of Louisiana are learning more and more everyday and that is always good. A few things I will not miss is getting up early and not going to bed till late, and being busy all day and the humidity. With that said I wouldn’t change anything about the trip. It was a lot of fun and a great learning experience. Now I know a few more plants 🙂

Whitney Plantation

Posted from Austin, Texas, United States.

This is a plantation that is now being protected by a private citizen. This in itself is controversial because they can do whatever they want to without needing to go though a dozen hoops to get things done but now they just pick and choice what to do without worrying about the hoops that they would have needed to do other wise. This is the first plantation museum that focuses on the slavery that was happening on the plantation and not the owners of the land. They do talk about the owners but it is mostly done through the eyes of the slaves that worked for them. The land we call the Whitney Plantation was bought by a man Ambroise Heidel who was a German immigrant that moved to the United States with his family. He bought the land in 1752, and grew a plant called indigo and he did fairly well for himself. He had called the plantation Habitation Haydel. Then his youngest son Jean Jacques Haydel got the land and he changed the crop from indigo to sugar cane. He had found out about a whole new method of take care of the sugar cane that it would be one day a lot more economical then indigo and so he made the conversion. His brother however was not the best at keeping out of debt and so he was starting a plan so that he could buy his brothers shares and be done with it. So his wife had taken over and Marie Azelie Haydel had taken over. She was a very smart and brilliant business women and this was due to the fact that she was very good to keep her books straight and tight. Her brother was the face of the plantation but she was the true brains behind it all.Now the truly horrific events that happened because of slavery where made more clear at our second stop. At the first stop we went to a church that talked about how a society was born because of the slavery past that wanted to free everyone but to still remember it all. This was at the Antich Baptist Church. The society that was born called themselves the anti-yoke.

the outside of the church

Inside the church with sculptures of kids

The second stop was at a place called the wall of honor which had names of all the documented slaves on the plantation, there were only 354 names there had to be many many more that they couldn’t find. The wall would have there name that they were born with if it was found as well as there christian name which was given to them when they got to America, there age and the skill sets that they had. There was one place that didn’t have any names and this was because they wanted to leave space in honor of all of the names that have and may never be found. On one side they had a list of names of slaves that were sold with what they were good at with a price to it. This was because the brother of Marie’s husband was often in debt and would sell slaves to alleviate some of it. For 43 slaves he got $56,000 in those days in todays market that would be around $60 million. There was one name that was taken note and this was Victor Haydel he went on to become a rather important figure and he was the son of Marie’s brother and a slave by the name Anna. This name was noted because he was related to people that would become great business people and would eventually become the first black mayor of New Orleans.

Wall of honor

List of name, skill and price for slaves that were sold

The next stop was made possible by a women named Allées Gwendolyn who had done thousands of research to find names and stories of slaves that were in Louisiana from 1719 to 1820. There are 107,000 names in the this area with stories written next to the names. Most of them were really sad, there were some really sad moments  in the mall.

Story of Henriette Butler

Story of Manda Cooper

A photo of the hall

After seeing all of those names of slaves we moved into an area called the field of angels. Which had a nice statue of an angel and we found out that it on all of the stone slates were names of kids that had died due to being salves. There were 2,200 names. The most common cause of death was malnourishment. There were some that died of other means but that was the most common. On the slates it had the child’s name, age when died and if possible the name of the mother.

We then moved on to where the slaves would sleep when they weren’t working. They had very little room and in total there were 20 cabinet for them but they were very tiny and had to fit many more people then there should have been. We did talk about how resilient the community was for the workers. They would welcome new people and would adopt kids that didn’t have parents when they would be there and they would look after one another. At night they would sneak into he fields to do songs and dances to relieve stress. The people were also very hard and resilient they would often walk 25 miles in one day to go from the upper south to the lower south in one day with a big chain around there neck. The workers would also resist there masters in small ways like work slowly, fain sickness and the likes. If they were caught though they would get severally punished and get whipped 30 times very quickly. Or they would do a more direct method of resistance which was running away. However if they were caught the workers would get branded with the state symbol, if they got caught again they would get branded again or sometimes get there hamstring cut, so that the slave couldn’t run any more but still work they would be in extreme pain the whole time though of the rest of there lives. If the salve was caught a third time then the slave was killed. However some families would give the slaves Sundays off and the Haydel family did.

were the slaves would sleep

While we were their our guide told us about the common ways that the workers had died. One of the most common was malnourishment the others were cuts that got infected that were easily treatable and burns. These injures were infected during the time of them working in the sugar can fields. There were two shifts a day and a night. During the day slaves would be out in the field cutting the sugar cane with a machete like knife. They would first burn the leaves off since that was a faster then doing it by hand. Then the slaves would go out in the field and cut the cane up for further processing. The problem was that the cane was often so thick that the workers couldn’t see what was directing in front of them and would often accidentally slice into the person that would be right in front of them. This would often lead to death, but not always. Then during the night shift it is when the slaves would process the sugar but crushing the cane to get the sugar out, then the sugar would go through a few periods of heating up and adding things to the sugar before it was ready to leave the plantation. The slaves would need to be really close to the fire and would get burns. This was more deadly then the cuts and happened often. To fully process the pots there are 4 giant pots that are required. 2 of them are large and then 2 small ones and it would take 50-70 slaves to take care of the sugar. The Haydel family had 2 sets. The reason why there was a day and night shift was because the sugar cane doesn’t hold very well it, it goes bad/drys up very quickly.

We then meandered over to a jail that was there. The one that we were looking at came from Pennsylvania. What it was used for was to keep slaves that hadn’t been sold yet. The jail had 3 cells and each cell would hold 4 slaves so it could hold 12 slaves all together. When it was summer time in the south, were the temperature is commonly in the 90s or even 100 with humidity also around 100% it would make the air fell significantly hotter. Anyway during the summer time the salves would be out of the cells during the day doing work for the auctioneer and then go back into the cell at night. During the day the cell would be collecting the heat and it would also be collecting heat during the evening since it would still be around 80 in the evening. These jails were used when the salves were “free”. However the catch was that when a slave was convicted of a crime then they would go back into slavery. During that time in the south the crime rate flew up and the common group was freed salves.

outside looking into a cell

the inside of a cell

one of the doors to keep them in

Some of the salves would be a lot more valuable then others. One of the most expensive/useful salves was a blacksmith. They would be able work in the plantation that they are in salved in but can do small little projects on their day off if they are able to and get a little cash. They wouldn’t be able to enough to get there freedom ever but they could at least make life a little nicer for them and their family. The inside of the blacksmith shop was actually used in Django Unchained when Jamie Fox was hung upside down. However we were unable to see inside because it was closed off. The other incredibly useful salve was the cook. She had to extremely trustworthy because she was the one that cooked for everyone and needed to not poison everyone in the house or do other such things. The owners would not only be buying the women as a slave but they are also buying her knowledge as a chef, she needs to be able to read the recipes as well as remember other recipes. They would cook in a creole fashion, which was a combination of white and African food. The kitchen that we went into was a fully functional kitchen to the day that it was built it is all original. The kitchen was detached from the main house just in case there was a fire in the kitchen and not burns the house to the ground and because there was a need to continually need fire and during the summer time it could get very hot so they could cook.

The outside of the blacksmith shop

To get into the house the slaves would need to enter through the back doors NOT through the front that was punishable. There are two floors; this was not always the case it use to just be on stilts like many of the houses that we have been seeing around the town. The bottom floor was added around 1850. When floods would come through, the salves would break down the furniture and take it up stairs so that it wouldn’t get damaged during the flood. Then they would also open up the doors to let the water through. There was also a prepare for last minute details for food and a wine cellar that the masters would drink. The spices that were used had to be kept under lock and key because they are exceptionally expensive and they didn’t want people to take it. Out front of the house there were these live oaks that were very old and abundant. There were two that are closer to the house that are the oldest not sure on how much older but they are definitely older. There was a store off to the right of the house that the “freed” slaves would use to buy things but it would just keep them on the plantation. We made our way up stairs where there was Marie Azelie Haydel bedroom and living room area. Marie Azelie Haydel had a slave who’s name was Anna that was bought by the Haydel family to keep Marie company. Anna had it a little better then most of the slaves but she was still a slave and Marie’s brother actually rapped her and Anna had Victor who went on to do things as well as his kids. The truly tragic thing was that the fait of Anna is unknown. The only thing we know was that once Victor was born and was about 7 years old she seemed to have disappeared. They think that she got put into a mass grave but it is unknown.


The preproom

Marie Azelie Haydel’s bed

The oaks infant of the house

The front of the house

more dinning room table

dinning table ground floor

All of this was made possible because in 1930 FDR made a group called FWP (Federal Writer Project), where writers all over the country were hired to tell the story of Americans all through out the lands. A few of the writers talked with freed slaves about there stories. The owner of the Plantation now is also preserving the history by making this museum. All of the stories are told from a child’s perspective because all the slaves that were talked to were all kids at the time of their enslavement.

The Debate for a Delta

Posted from Austin, Texas, United States.

The state of Louisiana has not always looked the way that it does today. Over time the Mississippi River has caused the land to change and evolve. Today the river has been channelized to flow straight for the ease of industrial and trade boats to access the city. But it has not aways been this way, naturally the Mississippi River is a delta. A delta is a river that divides into smaller rivers and empties into a larger body of water. During this natural process, it picks up nutrients and sediments from the upper regions of the river resulting in a build up of sediment and organic material deposits at the mouth of the delta. This deposited sediment is highly rich in organic material which is important for the native wetlands and beneficial to the development of new land and crops. However with the channelization and prevention of the delta to flow naturally it has caused many environmental effects.

Currently along the Mississippi River levees have been installed to prevent the river from changing course over time. With the channelization the river has been forced to flow “straight”. This is beneficial to the city economically. New Orleans is known as one of the largest port cities in the United States. If the river was allowed to naturally divide it would result in the development of sand bars. Sand bars would inhibit the ability of cargo ships to access the city to deliver and pick up items such as food, oil, coal, and clothing. This is the reason why the levees were built to channelize the river. If the river was allowed to naturally flow into a delta it would affect the state of Louisiana economically, however the channelization is also impacting the state environmentally.

The citizens of Louisiana have been depleting the land of its rich resources over the last 120 years. As a result, major environmental consequences have occurred such as the degradation and loss of wetlands, decrease in water quality, and land loss. Loss of wetlands have occurred because the channelization of the river has caused it to flow faster and thus not allowing it to divide and disperse its rich sediments. This sediment is an important contributor to wetlands because it accommodates increase land mass and organic materials increasing the ability of wetlands to act as a storm buffer. In addition, man has removed a great amount of the wetland Cypress trees for the use of lumber. Without the presence of cypress trees, the land of Louisiana is more vulnerable to the effects of wind and flooding. Cypress trees are known for their ability to absorb copious amounts of water and act as a wind buffer. Furthermore, the channelization of the river has affected levels of salinity within the estuaries. This means that the oysters have migrated closer towards the shores. As a result, industries have taken advantage of this change and are now harvesting oysters at alarming rates. Oysters are important for their ability to filter water, their loss within the ocean has therefore decreased the overall water quality within the surrounding gulf. Not only does this affect water quality but the ability of the wetlands to survive. The most important environmental effect caused by man is land loss. Land loss is a consequence of the channelization of the river. Channelization due to the installation of levees has caused a choking effect down river causing water levels to rise and speed to increase. The increased water speed has prevented the river to naturally slow and disperse sediments evenly over the land. Furthermore inhibiting the build up of sediments to support the growth of wetland ecosystems and the surface area  of the land. All of these factors put together have contributed to the devestating  effects of Hurricane Katrina.

To prevent a repeat of what happened during the storm of Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana has installed a system that is called siphons. Siphons are large pipes that when turned on will pull nutrient and organic rich sediment out of the Mississippi River and push it into nearby wetlands. The goal of this project is to replicate mother natures ability to disperse sediment naturally, just as a delta would. The problem is that these pipes are rarely ever turned on. Some think that the restoration of of these wetlands will be detrimental the city economically. While others think that it is necessary to keep the city above water. However the larger problem in this situation seems to be the debate over whether it is more important to save the city economically or the ecosystem. But what most people do not realize is that without a well balanced and functioning ecosystem, there will be no city.

  • Katie and Hayden

Day 6 – a night out

The morning was a little crazy but good. We had to pack up a different set of clothes because we are staying out at a place called Woodland Plantation, which is a bed and breakfast. Before we headed out for our h new place we did some veg work. We had 5 hours to do 3 transects and we all rose to the occasion!! Which made Sean happy and everyone very happy. The group was supposed to get a boat tour of the restoration project going on in the marshes that are close by but the boat wasn’t working so we got a mini tour of the pump system that takes the silt out of the Mississippi River and into the marsh. We spent the rest of the day walking around the plantation looking at it all and learning about the system. We also got see some alligators get some food ( they got steak and fish!). It was really cool, these reptiles are amazing. For our dinner we had a salad, garlic bread, jambalaya. The main course was Craw fish boil. It was really good, not a lot of meat on a craw fish but it was really good. Now we are enjoying a quiet night inputting our data.

Me next to a giant cypress tree

Me next to an alligator

Everyone enjoying an afternoon in front of the main house of the old plantation

Me about to eat a craw fish

Me eating craw fish

A great sunset in Louisiana

Day 5

So today was jammed pack. We started our morning doing our vegitation surveys, we only had about 4 hours of stuff to do. After that we rushed over to a privately funded museum that has information about the history of New Orleans. It was very interesting because it had about 20 different maps that showed the area and the Mississippi River was all over the place. We also saw a video that was about 30 minutes that talked about the history. Right after that we talked with Harry Shear who talks very openly about a lot of stuff that people normally do, so that made it all very interesting. About an hour after that we meet with Mark who works with a newspaper that does a bit of work about the environment. It was a lot of fun hearing everyone’s different perspectives. 

Front of the museum

The sugar bowl trophy

List of names with there capability of work

Powder horn

The house of the original land owners

Oh blackberries how we hate thee

Posted from Austin, Texas, United States.

We had our first full day of surveying. My team got a good amount done so that was good (3 full 100m transects and a half). Before we went on the trip Sean told us that blackberries will be the bane of our existence. I personally thought that it was a little bit of an exaggeration, no no it wasn’t. We had to hack our way through a few walls of this evil plant. It has a lot of tinny tiny little thorns that just snag everything that it touches. We all got a few little pricks here and there, for me on my arms and my back. These are the worst because then you can’t really see it and you can’t tell where it is/where it is from. But Jayla totally crushed it at whacking the blackberry bushes out of our way. If there was no blackberries today would have been perfect. We say a lot of spiders (yes we consider this cool), some crickets, A LOT of caterpillars, a small brown snake (we think it was  a gardener snake), there were a few armadillos that we could hear it waddling around. So it was over all a good day of animal sighting and Katie, Jayla and I were all able to keep smiling and laughing the whole time. Can’t wait for the next few days. 🙂

Jayla and Katie at work

a caterpillar

an ordinary spider

me holding a machete!

a REALLY big spider

another spider

yet another spiders

The team left to right Jayla, Katie and me (Hayden)

A little grasshopper

Creole Vinaigrette Salad – Brought to you by John and Hayden (… and Sean)

Posted from Austin, Texas, United States.

Today started out really great, because we went to The New Orleans School of Cooking. The day before (3/18/17) we went grocery shopping for today (3/19/17) and we split up into 4 teams of three. There was a soup team, salad team, entree team and a dessert team. I was part of the salad team, the day before I bought cabbage, spinach, tomatoes, carrots, strawberries, cucumber, and Arugula plants. The first thing that John did was that he cut up the cabbage, while I cut up the carrots and cucumbers. After that we finished up the carrots and we cut the tomatoes in half I also cut up the Strawberries. We were waiting for a little Sean, John and I took the flowers off the stems and then we also took the leaves off and put them into the salad. The spinach that I had gotten had come pre cut so we just put the spinach into the salad. Then our teacher who’s name was Michael helped (as in just made it). He put Creole muster in, Pecan oil, vinegar, salt and pepper into a bowl and just whisked all up. After the salad was tossed and the dressing was put in, John, Sean and I planted the salad and put the Arugula flowers on the salads to make them look good.

When we were just starting

Dan is helping us cut up everything

Look at all of the work that Dan did

The finished salad

Day 3 of NOLA

We had another great day here in NOLA, we started the day out by getting some food for tomorrow’s cooking lesson. While we were doing that our teacher gave us a little history lesson about the French corner which was rather fun and killed about 2 hours. After that we went to help a group out called Capstone which helps family grow there own food, enjoyed giving back to the community, then after that we went to the area where we will be doing the bulk of our research and learned about the plants and the procedure. That was about our day. 🙂

This is here we will cook tomorrow (3/19)

Aquaculture area

This is where we will do most of the research

Open-Air Levee Exhibition and Garden

There are several levees that failed when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans most of these caused severe damage to homes and all around the area. In this case it was London avenue levee failed which moved a house completely off its foundation by several yards. The women that owned the house didn’t want to rebuild it, she then sold her house to the state of Louisiana. With this new property LA decided to lease it out to a private company that decided to make it into an open air museum. Before all of this happened though there was A LOT of sand that covered the area. Steve Nelson who is a professor at Tulane talked to us for most of the day about levees talked about how and why the sand got there. About 4 thousand years ago the land that New Orleans sits on currently was new land that was mostly made up of sand and over time it became the bottom of the river. Once the levee failed it covered the surrounding area with 100 million cubic feet of sand! The private company has done a tremendous job with telling the story and they recently got a house right next to it which they will turn it back to what it looked like shortly after Katherine hit.

The one odd looking brick was from the original house

Over looking the posters