Atchafalaya Houseboat

Updated pub date to keep on top. Keep the people of the Gulf Coast in your prayers as Gustav bears down.

Atchafalaya Houseboat

Set your TiVo/DVR. Next Sunday, Aug. 31 at 10:30 Eastern (check your local listings), PBS will be premiering the documentary, Atchafalaya Houseboat.

The Atchafalaya is a mysterious land, as much underwater as above. Its lush environment is home to alligators, egrets, black bears – and for a time two people who yearned for a simple, natural life. Atchafalaya Houseboat, shares the experiences of Gwen Roland and her companion Calvin Voisin, who left civilization in the turmoil of the early 1970s for the unspoiled beauty of the nation’s largest river swamp, Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Basin.

Gwen is the communications director for the Southern Region of the USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, and we collaborated on a few projects back in my Rodale days. She’s also started writing online for Mother Earth News on Modern Homesteading & Sustainable Farming.

Gwen and Calvin were featured in a photo essay by C.C. Lockwood in National Geographic circa 1971. (That’s one of his pictures above, the one that woke me up when I saw it in a PBS ad while reading the political blogs early this morning.)

In 2006, Gwen wrote a book by the same name about her time on the houseboat and further travels during those times, which I highly recommend.

I got a little of the backstory from Gwen this morning:

Yes indeedy. An Emmy award winning producer picked up a copy of Houseboat in a Barnes and Noble while waiting for her kids to finish with soccer. It gave her an idea for a documentary with no narrator, just my voice, which she had never heard, and old photos mixed with new video. Took me out to reunite with Calvin and CC Lockwood, came to Georgia and filmed me with my critters and the farmers market, etc. I questioned her judgment but figured as long as no one asked me to hold my stomach in or wear girly shoes, it wouldn’t do any harm and I’d have a nice memory to look at in the nursing home someday.

And you will love Gwen’s voice, and her story. Tune in.

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3 thoughts on “Atchafalaya Houseboat”

  1. That sounds wonderful. I watch pbs almost all the time. There is a documentary about the Queen Family here in NC. They play mountain music. I just love the dialect and back to the old ways kind of programming. Thanks for the post. It’s great that you have such a connection. Can’t wait to hear it.

  2. What a great story that should be. I will have to pick up the book and even try to catch the documentary. It has been several years since last the Mr and I were in that area.
    Years ago friends of ours moved into an area called French Settlement. We visited often almost buying a camphouse on a bayou not far from their property. The house was suspended on tall legs holding it above water during the annual floods and had to be inspected by the Army corp of engineers . A screened porch around the small house had incredible views.
    Cajun music is fun and the local accent contagious, I can still hear a joyful aaiiieeee!!!

  3. Yes, my husband and I also grew up in the basin, the Bayou Teche. You could, indeed live off the land in the 70’s. We live in Galveston County, TX now and long for bayous. But, life as we knew it then, has vanished.

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