Austin Bridgforth has his own mini farm in his Jefferson Place backyard.
“There used to be a huge oak tree in a prime spot in the yard,” said Bridgforth’s wife, Ernestine. “It was dying, so we had to have it taken out.”
With the tree gone, Austin Bridgforth had enough full sun for a little garden, an herb garden and several varieties of citrus trees.
“My grandfather had a big farm when I was growing up in southern Virginia,” he said. “I spent time there because I loved to hunt. That’s where I learned about gardening.”
Bridgforth’s winter garden is filled with several varieties of lettuce, including salad mix, buttercrunch, bibb, endive, Black Seeded Simpson and romaine. He has a couple of rows of radishes and flowering sweet peas on the fence he installed around the garden years ago to keep out rabbits who regularly visited the backyard.
“The sweet peas are for all of his lady friends,” Ernestine Bridgforth said.
In the summer, Austin Bridgforth plants tomatoes and other summer vegetables in the garden and burpless cucumbers and a variety of climbing spinach along the fence.
“I give cucumbers to everyone,” said Austin Bridgforth, who maintains the garden with a small tiller.
To the right of his main garden is a smaller herb garden, which now is filled with fragrant, blooming Spanish tarragon.
Citrus trees are planted in the back part of the yard.
“Our pink grapefruit tree has 200 to 300 grapefruits,” the gardener said. “We eat them every morning.”
He also has satsumas, limes, Meyer lemons, naval oranges and a kumquat tree. “We lost a big Meyer lemon in the freeze last year,” he said.
The Bridgforths built their home in 1963 and added a large back porch in 1982.
“I grew up in a house with a big back porch,” said Ernestine Bridgforth. “There’s always so much socializing on a back porch.”
And the Bridgforths certainly need a place for socializing. For every LSU football game, they host the Rag Tag Tigers, a group of friends who get together to cheer on the home team. The spirited crowd watches the game on a large television in the den or, weather permitting, on one set up on the back porch.
The Bridgforths have all kinds of LSU decorations they pull out for the weekly football parties. Guests assist the hosts by bringing some of the food. The menu is planned each week for the following game.
The porch is shaded by a giant live oak tree the Bridgforths planted from a $2.50 seedling they bought in 1969. Two wicker chairs and a table on the porch are from the parlor of Austin Bridgforth’s family home in Virginia. They are used with two wicker rockers they found on a visit there. The rockers made the trip home tied to the top of their car. Shutters on the side of the porch are from the old YWCA building in Beauregard Town.
Austin Bridgforth, who is 84, has no interest in traveling these days. He enjoys tending his garden and entertaining friends. “We love home,” he said. “We have been everywhere we want to go.”