Volume 20 - April 5, 2004
The Wetland Wanderer

Houseboat Habitat

Sue enjoying her exercise bike on the roof of the Wetland Wanderer!

Humans have pretty complicated habitats these days! Alligators just need water to live in. A raccoon needs trees, food sources, and water. Humans in 2004 need stoves, refrigerators, changes of clothes, breakfast, lunch and dinner food varieties, forks, blankets, pillows, combs, toothbrushes, telephones, chairs, lights, and on and on. Boy, have we changed our natural habitats since the cave man days!


Our houseboat is no exception, we have lots of comforts. The WANDERER is 48 feet long and 18 feet tall. We move by the power of two inboard/outboard Mercruiser engines. They are located under the floor in our bedroom. To check or fix our engines we must stand our bed up and move it out of the way! We cruise at 12 miles an hour. We need at least 4 feet of water so we do not get stuck. The WANDERER has 2 steering wheels; you can drive from the den or the top deck. We really like to drive from the high, top deck for the picture taking is great from up there. Our gas tanks hold 200 gallons of gasoline. This runs our engines and our generator.


Electricity to run our “comforts” usually comes from our gas powered generator and some batteries. The few times we are parked at a marina for large boats, (so far only in New Orleans, Grand Isle, and Houma) we use “shore power.” That means we have a big plug that we connect to an electrical outlet on shore and it runs our refrigerator, stove, and other appliances. But we are in the middle of the marsh and there are no marinas with plugs! Think of your house when the electricity goes out….


Each time we run our generator, the batteries on the boat are charged up. These batteries keep our refrigerator running when everything else is off so our food does not spoil. House batteries, as they are called, power safety equipment like the navigation lights and engine room blower. This is really helpful because we usually only run the generator for about one hour each night. We cook supper, heat up a bit of water and charge up the batteries in this hour. We do not use the generator for long periods because it uses our gas, and out here there are not any gas stations! We usually have to find a city to get gas and many cities do not have gas docks on the waterways. This is hard since we surely cannot pull the WANDERER out of the water to go and find gas!


We also carry 200 gallons of water. I thought that this was a lot, but boy it goes fast! We try really hard to conserve water and power out here! We have not used our air-conditioner yet and on really cold nights we turn on our heater for a short time, and then jump in the bed under thick blankets! We have lots of windows with screens for fresh air and no mosquitoes. We do not have a T.V. or a washer or dryer. We have a great stove to cook on, but you cannot cook on the top burners and bake in the oven at the same time! You also cannot have the stove and the heater on at the same time or it will pop the generator off. I am getting really good at “juggling!” First, I cook supper. Next, I turn on the hot water heater to heat the water to wash dishes and maybe take a fast shower. Then, I may run the heater for the final few minutes. It sounds complicated but it really runs smoothly! Now if we go home for a day or two to develop film, I feel strange cooking and using water freely!


 On the boat we have a shower but the water barely trickles out so we will not use too much. The toilet is nice! It has a holding tank like a mobile home that you can clean out at marinas. Under the floor of the boat are storage areas, the water tanks and pipes, the air and heat ducts, and the metal toilet box. I hope that never breaks!


We have adapted well to our comfortable home on the water. Anchoring, tying ropes securely, and watching for weather and water changes are all becoming second nature. We usually cook breakfast and lunch on a camping stove. This saves us from turning on the generator until evening. The other day, CC laughed when he saw my new way to vacuum our carpets without a vacuum! I was crawling around the boat on all fours with one of those clothing lint rollers, rolling our carpets clean! Works great I just need a few “re-fill” tape rolls! Necessity is the mother of invention, they say!


Marshmission is first and foremost a public awareness project. CC and I wanted to live on a houseboat traveling around and living in the different habitats of coastal Louisiana. Our houseboat, website, CC’s photographs, and Rhea’s paintings are the tools we are using to bring attention to Louisiana’s vanishing coast. We hope that the unique way that we are living and presenting the wetlands will get the attention of people who do not know about the problems that Louisiana and America face with the loss of this special place.

Click on this link to get a mini-tour of the Wetland Wanderer!

Rascal Raccoons

A little raccoon eating acorns soaked in water on a floating log in the Atchafalaya Basin.

The day I saw a raccoon in the Atchafalaya Basin I was surprised. And I did say “IN” the basin! Swimming is a strong suit of raccoons. Raccoons have had to adapt to many habitats as humans have taken up so many of the wild spaces in our world. CC did a story on “Urban Raccoons” and met a lady who fed 38 raccoons each night in her Baton Rouge backyard! Another couple in Florida that CC met fed an average of 80 raccoons a night in their yard! Guess what both families fed these hungry critters……DOGFOOD! The Florida couple was feeding these city raccoons a 50 pound bag of dog chow per day. Now that is some serious “chowing down.”


Feeding wild animals is not a good idea, raccoons can find their own food.  Feeding birds in a backyard feeder is an exception to this rule.


Raccoons, Procyon lotor, are mammals like you and me. They breathe with lungs, have backbones, are warm-blooded, and give birth to live young. Raccoons are more active at night, nocturnal, and they spend much of their time foraging, or searching for food. Raccoons are omnivores; they eat both plants and animals. They use their good senses of smell, hearing, sight, and touch to find food.


Raccoons live in North and South America. Their preferred habitat is near trees and water. The trees provide a shelter and they are off the ground and away from predators. Raccoons are excellent swimmers and they hunt in the water for small animals. The water is also used for drinking and “dipping” their food in to soften it. Forests and wetlands are the best habitats for this furry, masked bandit, yet many raccoons also live in cities and towns.


 Every raccoon has a safe home range or an area where it lives and forages for food. Wherever their home range is the raccoon will have several dens. The den may be a hole in a tree, a cave, or a hole dug by another animal. In cities, a raccoon’s den may be a sewer pipe, a chimney, an attic, or an old abandoned car. In any habitat the smart raccoon knows where the closest food, water and safe shelter can be found.


I think that raccoons are cool critters. Their camouflaged fur and masked faces blend in well when they are sitting in a tree. The five fingered paws are sensitive and good at grabbing food. Raccoons are smart and curious. City raccoons quickly figure out how to open garbage cans, doors, and boxes when there is food to be found. A raccoon in the wild usually lives 5 to 8 years. In captivity, like a zoo, they can live to be 13 years old.


Females usually have one litter of babies each year. A raccoon baby is called a kit. The mother nurses and cares for her kits. After nursing her kits for 2 months, mother raccoon teaches them to forage for plants and hunt for snails, frogs, fish, and insects. Stealing reptile and bird eggs is another trick this bandit teaches her kits. The eggs are an important source of food for the raccoon. A kit grows quickly and usually leaves mother after about one year.


 We have seen e few raccoons on our recent travels. One was holding on to a dead cypress tree and watching CC, Sue, and I as we paddled by in our canoe. As we approached him to take a picture, he skedaddled into a little crack in the tall, skinny trunk and lodged himself inside the tight space. He was safely hidden from CC’s lens.


CC did get a sad picture of an injured raccoon. He noticed the raccoon lying in a tree that was hanging over a bayou. CC motored up quietly in the dinghy and the critter made no attempt to run or hide. CC snapped some pictures and noticed one of his front paws was bitten off! CC stuck an apple in a crack in the tree to try to help this wounded creature. We passed by the next day and the raccoon was gone and the apple was still there. We figured a snapping turtle or an alligator could have done the damage.


Your Marsh M.U.T.T. thinks we show respect to raccoons by leaving them nice forests and wetlands for habitats. Pollution, car collisions, and loss of natural habitats are dangers raccoons face. Remember that raccoons look cuddly, but they are wild animals. I wish that there was room for all raccoons in the wetland habitats that we are exploring during our marsh mission!

- Habitats are the place or environment where a plant or animal naturally occurs. There are millions of habitats on our Earth. Many species’ natural habitats have been altered or changed by human actions.
- The main purpose of the Marshmission Project is to inform people who do not know the value of the Louisiana coastal habitats.
Find the meanings of cool words like tributary, sediment, or amphibian and many more...
Click Here!

These are words in the song “HABITAT” by our friend Bill Oliver. Bill is an environmental musician with some GREAT songs on his many C.D.s. Check out his website at

In your journal this week I want you to think of some bad habits that people have that affect the creatures of the world. Write a paragraph or two about some bad habits and solutions to change these bad habits so that critters can be where they are suppose to be!

Raccoon Fun Pages!
Click here to find sources of more great information!
la·gniappe    (ln-yp, lnyp)
2. An extra or unexpected gift or benefit

Get painting & photo tips and much more, click here!
St. Mary's Nativity School asks:
Have you been bitten or injured by any animals in the wetlands?
CC answers:  Mosquitos, they tear us up sometimes.  We saw two Cottonmouth snakes yesterday, but we keep our distance.  We are careful around all wildlife.
Teacher Tips