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When Kyran Pittman gardens in her property in the Marlyville-Fontainebleau community of Uptown New Orleans, she simply cannot dig for far more than a number of inches right before hitting “old, gnarly, large” oyster shells and clam shells, she explained.

Why? Her dwelling on Walmsley Avenue is nowhere in the vicinity of a human body of drinking water, and it doesn’t occupy a spot where a nearby cafe or oyster bar may have tossed leftovers.

Kyran Pittman digs up previous discarded oyster shells in the backyard in the front yard of her New Orleans property on Tuesday, April 18, 2023. (Photograph by Chris Granger | The Occasions-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)

However, “every time I stick a spade in the soil, I have to go through the oyster layer,” Pittman said. “How did they get in my dust, and why are they there at all?”

The solution, it turns out, lies in the ground beneath Pittman’s feet — or, fairly, the elevated floor beneath her feet.

A former dairy farm

Pittman and her spouse, Patrick Houston, stay in a neighborhood bounded by South Carrollton and South Claiborne avenues, Audubon Avenue and the Illinois Central railroad line that was made about a century in the past. Their dwelling sits on land that experienced been portion of a dairy farm that was operate all-around the turn of the 20th century by the Frederic sisters — Angelique, Marie Hortense and Josephine — who sold their products at the Dryades Industry.


Some of the old oyster shells that Kyran Pittman has dug up in the backyard in the front lawn of her New Orleans home on Tuesday, April 18, 2023. (Photograph by Chris Granger | The Moments-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)

When the property was cleared and subdivided in the transformation from farm land to urban land, drainage — an ever-present component of New Orleans life — arrived into engage in.

As section of the advancement, sediment regarded in the trade as fill was introduced in to shore up the residential blocks to make them a foot or two bigger than the streets, thereby facilitating drainage, reported Richard Campanella, the Tulane University geographer, whose most up-to-date guide transpires to be “Draining New Orleans: The 300-Yr Quest to Dewater the Crescent City.”

“The fill could have appear from anywhere,” he said.

The oyster krewe

Consequently the presence of all those shells. “They’re tremendous. They’re liberally combined into that topsoil,” claimed Pittman, who not only loves to consume oysters but also marches with the Bearded Oysters Carnival krewe.


Kyran Pittman digs up old discarded oyster shells in the yard in the front yard of her New Orleans home on Tuesday, April 18, 2023. (Picture by Chris Granger | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)

Despite the fact that Pittman crafts throws from some of the oysters she finds in her property, the undisturbed shells can be very good for her vegetation, explained Dan Gill, a retired associate professor of horticulture at LSU AgCenter and The Instances-Picayune’s longtime lawn and yard columnist.

Shells are manufactured of calcium carbonate. In excess of time, calcium from those people shells — an vital element for balanced plants — can go into the soil, Gill claimed, and the shells can support aerate the soil and retain it from compacting.

“Sometimes soils are much too acidic,” he reported. “Lime or calcium carbonate mixes with soil to make crops develop improved.”


Kyran Pittman digs up aged discarded oyster shells in the garden in the entrance lawn of her New Orleans residence on Tuesday, April 18, 2023. (Photograph by Chris Granger | The Instances-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)

Shells are not the only items that Pittman — a self-confessed background geek and French Quarter strolling-tour information — is discovering when she digs in her property.

Among the the detritus her spade has turned up are an intact seltzer bottle far more than a century aged, horseshoes, large rusty nails and bits of hardware and crockery.

“Our neighborhood has been in the throes of road improvements for what appears like forever, and the workers leave loads of trash and design materials guiding them,” Pittman claimed. “I hope their litter ages 50 percent as picturesquely.”

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