Team Turning: Carol Arceneaux: Buras Garden Planting

On Wednesday we had the pleasure of planting a garden for our friend Carol Arceneaux at his property in Buras.

Buras is on a thin strip of land between the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. Since Katrina only about 10% of the population has come back.

Carol’s property has several concrete slabs where homes once stood, he tells us that he used to have several neighbors on all sides of him.

Other than Katrina, the residents of Buras have lost their homes to several other hurricanes, Buras has a levees one each side so that when water flows over them it essentials becomes a bowl and the water has no where to go.

We first dug the perimeters of the planting bed, and turned all the soil manually with shovels. We then spaced our vegetables apart, planted them and watered them.

The soil here is rich and is one of the many reasons why these wetlands were converted for agricultural.

Capstone 2018

We are back for our third (fourth?) year lending hands to Capstone’s efforts to bolster healthy, secure food systems across the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans.

Every year things continue to expand and deepen. From the aquaculture tanks and hydro-grow beds we helped install in years past to the expanding menagerie of fertilizer-producing domestic mammals and bird, everything here is quite literally growing.

Work Crews

When we get to Capstone, our mantra is always the same: tell us what you, we are here to work hard. This year students went to work cleaning out animals pens, mowing grass, and planting crops at several of Capstone’s lots across the Lower 9th Ward.


In addition to our regular work, we offered to help David create an array of maps documenting the 15 parcels Capstone currently owns and/or farms. David has a DJI Spark which has proved useful in pre-storm roof monitoring, etc. but is not quite enough to get up in the air in some of the gusty winds we have here. Additionally, he lacks any structure from motion or other photostitching software to stitch together a collage of images. Turns out we are (of course) the perfect fit for such coastal mapping needs. We spent the afternoon flying their various garden plots. Once we get home we will toss these images into our Pix4D mapping computer and out will pop some high resolution maps of Capstone’s existing facilities as of March 23, 2018.

Cause of Large Oil Refinery Flare-up

Upon crossing the Mississippi en-route to Mustard Seed Ministries, a large flare burned through the Louisiana sky.

While burning excess gases from oil production is a common theme in Southern California, I had never witnessed a flare of this magnitude and quite so close to ground level. Yet, this flare was relatively minute in comparison to the large off-gasing that occurred on March 10th.

To get the full story we visited Mark Schleifstein, Environmental Reporter at, formerly known as The Times Picayune. Mark explained that the source of the flare was the firm Chalmette Refining, LLC. According to Mark, the company claimed to have been performing routine maintenance when the large flare up occurred. In the midst of repairs, one of the compressors malfunctioned shutting down and shunting all gases to one of two emission stacks causing a large eruption of flames into the sky. While by law Chalmette is required to issue a report explaining what the cause of the flare was and what gases where release, the company has yet to do so. In the words of Mark Shchleifstein this behavior by the oil industry constitutes, “just another day in paradise” in Louisiana.

Link to article and footage of flare up.

Transect life

On a beautiful day, we headed out to do more transects in the Woodlands Trail Conservancy. After hacking our way through endless black berry we counted the various plant life

Fuel, food, and fun

As we get ready to go into the field each day, we make sure to prepare a nutritious lunch. While we take our food and what we’re eating seriously, we also know to have a little fun with it.

Woodlands Plantation

We visited the Woodlands Plantation this afternoon where we learned about the restoration and the historical purposes the buildings served. The original plantation was created in 1834 about ten miles away from its current resting place. The buildings that were reconstructed and preserved included Spirit Hall, the original plantation house, and the original slave quarters:

On the plantation we observed alligators that live on the land year round. The biggest one came out and seemed a bit curious about us too, with a little  coaxing  from Foster, the owner and preservationist of the land and area:

Foster also discussed his observations of the now plentiful black-bellied-tree ducks, which were not present in the area until about ten years previously. This invasive species is indicative of climate change, and can be found crowding the levees across the pond pictured above.

We also enjoyed a a crawfish boil, as seen below:

It was many of our first times enjoying this cultural activity, and the setting couldn’t have been more beautiful.

Survey plant species with Rainey

Deep in the woods our team headed by Rainey Barton we surveyed the various plants that make up the forested area of Southern Louisiana. We counted native and non native evasive plants to figure out what the composition of the forest is.

Day 3 of transect surveys.

The weather today was perfect and we ran into far less blackberry then we have on previous days. By this time we are all experts at identifying Elderberry and we most definitely all know what a blackberry looks like.