Hello and Happy New Year!! We had a longer than anticipated visit back home in Maryland but our dear friend Carolyn Mackintosh put us up in one of her Loch Moy Farm apartments and so we had the comforts of home as we visited family and friends. BTW if you’re a horse trials rider or just love to watch dressage, cross-country runs and/or stadium jumping the Maryland Horse Trails at Loch Moy are wonderful. We have volunteered there for years and this venue and these events are outstanding. You’ll have a great time.
Backing up the calendar a bit to the teaser on our last posting, we headed down to Galveston, TX and spent a couple of days at the Galveston State Park. Outside of town a few miles this lovely campground (Gulf side) was right by the water and mostly empty.
We enjoyed walking on the beach and the beautiful sunrises but have to admit the mosquitoes were thick away from the shore so no campfires.
Galveston has some wonderful old homes and an amazing story about the early days of the National Weather Service and Man’s arrogance which you can read about in Erik Larson’s book Isaac’s Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History. There is also an interesting museum about ocean oil rigs we recommend.
From Texas we headed off across coastal Louisiana on Rt. 27 and Rt. 82. This whole area is bayou country and water, water everywhere EXCEPT where it’s sugarcane. The road is excellent and it’s a very pretty drive with no traffic, something we love. Along 27 is the Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge. There’s a small section not far from the visitors center where a one way road cuts through a bit of the refuge. There were tons of birds & ducks and even this late in the year lots of alligators.
The sugarcane fields are vast and while many were cut (harvested) many were not. There were also many fields clearly burning or burned and many fields showing new growth. So basically by corn standards, every stage of the plants life all at the same time of year!
Then we started seeing billboards asking drivers to “Please drive carefully and be patient, we’re harvesting”, and were they ever! Rather suddenly, from all directions and in ever growing numbers there were tractors of all sizes pulling trailers of sugar cane down the road. They were all headed here to the processing plant!
We spied the offices and ever hopeful I said “Stop! I’m going to see if we can get a tour”. Of course the very nice lady said the lawyers would not allow it but she did happily answer all my questions. A sugarcane plant can take between 12 and 16 months growth to reach its harvestable stage and will produce 3 to 4 cuttings in a life span. The fields can be burned either before or after harvesting. While my “in house expert” told me the fields were burned because the large amount of chaff left in the fields produced a fungus/bacteria that killed the root my research has indicated something more. Economics is the main reason for burning. Sugarcane has a lot of useless leafy material called “trash” which if not burned off before cutting, adds to the cost of transporting and processing the cane.
Burning removes this material while not hurting the cane. If the trash is left behind in the field it is piled in fairly deep rows which makes too heavy a mulch for good re-growth of the plants. Also, cane grows in very wet climates and if the trash is left in the field fungus could grow and harm the root.
It was all very interesting and the air had a delightful sweet slightly molasses aroma. Oh, and the very nice lady gave me a small baggy of raw sugar, yummmm!