I’m in the Lafayette, Louisiana area for the week.
Today I took a field trip to Avery Island, which is actually a giant salt dome and the former estate of conservationist and Tabasco sauce magnate Edward Avery McIlhenny. The plant still operates there and though you can tour it, I opted to walk the three-plus mile trails of the 170-acre Jungle Gardens.
McIlhenny loved plants and birds, and propagated both Louisiana-native and imported plant varieties, including azaleas, irises, camellias, papyrus and bamboo.
He introduced nutria to the area, which turned out not to be a great idea as nutria eat a quarter of their body weight each day and decimated the sugar cane crop, both locally and eventually farther afield, for years.
On the other hand, when snowy egrets where in danger of extinction after being ruthlessly hunted down so their feathers could adorn ladies’ hats (!), “Mr. Ned” got a hold of eight baby egrets, made them a gigantic cage, nursed and reared them, and let them go. They wintered over in wherever egrets go, then came back the next spring, mated, and within sixteen years there were over 100,000 of them. Or something like that. You can look it up.
I couldn’t help but think of the thousands of anonymous workmen and women who had to have done the planting, pruning, hauling, weeding, net-making, dredging, cooking, cleaning and Tabasco sauce making to make all that beauty and gentility possible.