Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Only Bear in the Woods

Hi Kids,
Does anyone know the name of this bridge and where it is?  I'll give you a hint: the name doesn't describe the bridge's color -- that's orange.  Even before the bridge was built; even before gold was discovered in California; an American explorer described the bay it crosses -- which flows into the Pacific Ocean -- as a "golden gate" for trading routes to Asian countries across the ocean. 

Yes, it's the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco -- one of the most famous bridges in America.  And Miss Elaine and I crossed the bridge on the way to Healdsburg, which is a bit more than an hour's drive north of the city.
This probably looks familiar from the post card I sent you.  It is the Haydon Street Bed and Breakfast -- a very cozy place to stay -- and the breakfasts were really good, too.  One morning we had oranges picked right off the tree.  Here are lemons growing on a tree in the front yard.  We didn't have any lemonade -- but we could have!
We visited the Healdsburg Museum and met Miss Holly, the curator.  We were particularly interested in the Indians who lived in this area before white people came.  They were Pomo Indians, some of their descendents still live here, and they are famous for their skill in making baskets.  You can seem a couple of Pomo baskets at Philbrook Downtown in Tulsa.  Miss Holly let us go into her office.  She showed us a very old photo of a Pomo woman, Emma Manual, carrying her child in a cradle basket.

Then Miss Holly brought out a cradle basket and let me sit in it.  The basket was made of willow a hundred years ago -- but it was still strong.
Healdsburg is in Sonoma County.  It is very beautiful -- even in winter.  They grow a lot of grapes here -- and olives.
My favorite spot in the county was the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve.  Redwoods are more properly called Sequoias.  There are several related trees -- coastal redwoods, giant redwoods and dawn redwoods.  The coastal redwoods are taller, but not as heavy, as giant redwoods and the dawn redwoods are more delicate.  The trees at Armstrong are coastal redwoods.  This is me, lying down, looking up at a tall tree -- but I soon saw trees much taller
Special trees have been give special names.  This is Parson Jones -- the tallest tree in the forest.  It is 310 feet tall. Parson Jones was the man who was married to Kate Armstrong who saved the trees in this park.  I think they should have named the tree after her!  Look how big the trunk is!
This is Colonel Armstrong -- it is the oldest tree, 1400 years old!  It is named after Kate's father who gave her the land.  He was a lumberman but she didn't want these trees to be cut down.  I'm really glad.
It was very shady in the woods.  The trees block the sunlight so few plants grow on the ground.  There are no bears here because there is no food for them.  So I was the biggest bear in the woods!

This was Miss Elaine's favorite spot.  The trees here grow in a natural circle.  People named it Burbank Circle after a famous botanist who lived in Sonoma County.  In the middle of the circle were wide benches where people could lie down and look up at the trees.  Miss Elaine did -- and she took this picture.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Lily Learns about Cajuns

Hi Kids,
Since Miss Elaine and I are home for a couple of weeks, I'm going to try to catch you up on some of my travels.  In October, we toured Louisiana.  The church above, St. Martin de Tours, is very old -- about 178 years.  It's in the town of St. Martinville.  This place is very important to Americans of Acadian heritage.  In the mid-1700s, these French-speaking people were forced from their homes in Nova Scotia -- an area of Canada.  Since there were French settlements in the part of America we now call Louisiana, many of the Canadians made their way here.  We call them Cajuns -- sort of a sloppy way of saying Acadians. 

This is me with a statue of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow -- an important American poet.  Nearly 100 years after the Acadians first came to Louisiana, he wrote a poem called "Evangeline."  It tells the story of two Acadian sweethearts -- Evangeline and Gabriel -- who were separated when they left Nova Scotia for Louisiana.  It's a very sad poem -- and might be based on a true story.  

The story was so popular it was later made into a movie.  The beautiful actress who played Evangeline -- Dolores del Rio -- had this statue made and donated it to St. Martinville.

 This ancient oak tree is called the Evangeline Oak and stands on the banks of the Bayou Teche where many of the Acadians landed.
This is Miss Audrey Allen.  She owns a restaurant -- Chambeaugh's -- in St. Martinsville and she introduced me to a classic Cajun dish -- shrimp etouffee (pronounced ay-too-fay.  It has shrimp cooked with onions, peppers and celery and is served over rice.  I had some potato salad and green beans, too, but I'd eaten those before.  It was fun to try a new food and I liked etouffee a lot!

 While we were in St. Martinville we went to the Longfellow Evangeline State Historic Site.  This is a replica of a cabin which would have been built by Cajuns when they arrived here.  You'll notice the really steep roof.  They built their houses like that in Canada so the snow would slide off.  They soon learned that they didn't need to do that in Louisiana!
Sugar cane is an important crop in this area and the man who took us around the park cut a stem to show me.  It looks a little like bamboo and can grow very tall.
He cut off a chunk and peeled it so I could taste it.  It wasn't very sweet -- just a little -- and tasted a bit grassy.  It was stringy to chew so I just sucked the juice out and spit the rest out!  Lots of things have to be done to the cut cane before it turns into the sugar we have on our tables. 
 We passed lots of sugar cane fields on our trip.  This is one of them.  I just love to travel.  I learn so much -- and I meet so many nice people!
I'll write again soon.