Hard to believe how fast the year is going …

Here in Southeast Louisiana, I’ve already mowed my lawn three times and had to wear sunscreen, long sleeves and a hat – drinking water all the while.

My two kumquat bushes were so loaded this winter that I picked gallons, sharing with other folks and feasting on the small round sweet fruit day after day. Even pureed some and made Kumquat Nut Bread with Louisiana pecans. Froze enough puree to make more.

Years ago our local schools dismissed in late March for summer vacation because that’s the time our first strawberries of the season made their appearances and many of us children worked either picking or packing.

In fact, during Thanksgiving’s four-day weekends farmers would be planting. Now with so many new varieties, our first berries ripen in November and the season stretches until the end of May. We’re credited in our parish with having some of the sweetest strawberries in the nation.

In a few weeks Strawberry Festival will be here and also some 300,000 visitors over the three-day weekend. Be sure to go on-line and visit Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival and Ponchatoula Chamber of Commerce. We may have only 7,000 or so in the city limits but we service some 30,000 and there’s always something going on.

Our St. Patrick’s Day parade is a walking parade with participants pushing groceries baskets filled with vegetables for Irish stew not to mention our traditional Mardi Gras beads and other goodies. I caught two heads of cabbage, potatoes, one onion, enough carrots to juice a quart, a green stuffed animal, green roses, and had the weight of so many beads around my neck I didn’t dare bend over as it was a chore to straighten back up! Also the walk two blocks home was difficult as my “throws” were so heavy in two doubled grocery bags.

Waiting downtown was Gumbo Ya-Ya along the tracks. Pay $5 and given a foam bowl, plastic spoon and napkin. Then walk from booth to booth where folks from miles around have been cooking gumbo, each different. Band placed on wrist shows we’re “official” and we sample as many kinds of gumbo as we can and vote on the best.

Some had shrimp, crab, duck, alligator, and some had boudin, chicken, other types of sausages. And, of course, the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival Board even had huge strawberries almost as big as the palm of a hand as a freebie. Incidentally, they won first place on the seafood gumbo! Sure enjoyed my whole year of service as 2012 Grand Marshal.

Week before was our Antique and Trade Days when along the tracks booths set up with all sorts of collectables and crafts, plants, artwork, etc. Our town is known as Antique City so our stores join in by having special sales and booths out front. Also in our town is a well-stocked model train store where people come from numerous states to shop. During the Antique and Trade Days, always the first weekend in March and November, model train aficionados come from long distances to participate in a whole gym of train set-ups.

I’ll jump ahead to the first weekend in June when we have the annual City-Wide Yard Sale.

Be sure and visit Tangipahoa Parish Tourism website to see what all is available if you plan a visit to New Orleans or Baton Rouge and happen to be coming through here on your way.

Our Strawberry Festival is the largest free festival of its kind and second only to Mardi Gras in size. BUT, our parish also has an Oyster Festival, a Sicilian Festival, and an Italian Festival.

Right now, while we’re going from high seventies with occasional night drops to 30’s, it is beautiful here. Azaleas (and our bushes grow wide and high) are in full bloom in their varying colors and sizes. Our Wisterias are almost in full blossom and you can imagine the beauty of their lavenders, purples, and whites hanging from high trees like many clusters of grapes. Wild flowers along the highways are bright yellows.

White clover is in abundance and honey bees are very happy. Pink Shamrock grows wild here and mixed nearby with the clover – well, you get my drift – this is my favorite time of year!

And flowers aren’t the only things coming out! I finished the Christian Fiction novel that’s been in the works a lot of years so be watching this web site in the next few weeks as it’ll be out soon in hard cover, soft cover and e-book. I’ll keep you posted when and where you can find it.

For now I’ll sign off, always remembering our times together across the United States and Canada.