Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Cotton Harvest

Cotton is a favorite crop of mine.
It's southern snow!

The fields are all white after a defoliant is sprayed. This makes the plants drop their leaves, so the cotton can be picked more cleanly. They are also sprayed with a boll opener to open late-maturing bolls.
Here is an open boll. Note the five locks. Imagine positioning your fingers in order to pick it with one grab.
This is a closed boll. This poor little guy won't get picked. He was too stubborn to open, and now he'll be missed.

The locks fluff out into puffy strands when picked.
This is a hard-locked boll. The fibers inside will not fluff out and will not be picked. You can imagine how the boll looks at a younger stage. It develops in sections, sort of the same shape as a wedge of citrus.
These are the seeds that are contained within the cotton. Picking them out is time consuming. You can see the cotton fibers, which are actually hollow. Cotton is graded by staple length, how long the fibers are, and by micronaire, the diameter of the fibers.

Here are some little cotton pickers:
Here is what the empty cotton stalk looks like. It has a beauty all its own.For the farmer in you:
This is a real cotton picker. It is 4-row picker that Jason and his dad adjusted to pick their skip-row planting. They plant two rows and then skip one. They have a better yield that way, and also a lower cost of seed, fertilizer and chemicals.

The cotton is dumped from the cotton picker into this module builder. (Some farms have "boll buggies" that haul the cotton from the picker to the module builder.) The fluffy cotton gets stomped down with a hydraulic press that is powered by a tractor. It is packed into a giant block called a module. When a module is completed, it gets covered with a tarp to protect it from rain. The back of the module builder is opened, then the whole thing is raised off the ground and driven away, leaving the module behind. The module is tagged and marked with a specialized spray "paint," identifying it with the correct farm. The cotton gin takes it from there. A driver picks up the module and takes it to the gin, where it waits to be processed into bales (500-pound blocks of ginned cotton.) Farmers are paid by the bale, according to the quality of the cotton.
This is inside the module builder, before the module is totally finished. It was mostly packed, or you wouldn't see Jason and the kids at all! They would be in over their heads.
Jumping into cotton is a lot of fun. Years ago, Jason would climb on top of one of those posts, then get someone to raise it all the way up before he jumped. Here we were falling backwards into the cotton. It's such a funny experience. I always feel like I have to plug my nose before I jump!
Jack was oblivious to the action. In this picture, you can see how dirty the cotton actually is. The dirt is mostly dead, crunchy leaves, called pepper trash.

This year's cotton crop was a beautiful one. There was no rain to destroy the open bolls. It picked very cleanly, and you can clearly see the difference between the picked and the unpicked. If a field doesn't pick very well, sometimes farmers will do a second picking after a few more bolls open. This is called scrapping.
Owen is in the command seat of the module builder.

Here is Maggie. She doesn't like to miss out on anything.

Here is my cotton bowl. Heh heh. Clouds for supper!

And here is my attempt at a still life:


Carrie said...

Cool. The cotton fields really do have that starkness of snow. I wish I lived next to one. Then I wouldn't have to buy cotton balls, or wipes, or Q-tips, or toilet paper... You guys are so lucky.

Heh heh heh.

I like the still-life, by the way.

heather said...

Oh Joyce what an education you just gave me. How totally interesting. Did you know all those facts with no help from Jason??

I love the pictures of the cotton pickers playing in the cotton. :)

The cotton is very beautiful picked and displayed in a vase. You guys are so lucky.

You don't really make TP out of the cotton do you? :)

Cottonista said...

I don't use the cotton for anything other than decorating. It is too dirty and too full of seeds to do anything else.

Unless Carrie comes to visit. We would then replace the Quilted Northern with some cotton bolls full of pepper trash.

Heather, I would be totally ignorant of the whole cotton growing process if it weren't for my fine and knowledgeable husband. I had him proof my post before I published it, just to make sure I had gotten everything straight!

ShaunJoy said...

Yes, I feel quite educated now...me the northern girl who hasn't seen a cotton field in her life! (Well, probably have -- I've traveled a lot -- but I'm pretty sure I would have remembered a 'ripe' cotton field.)

The still-life looks nice. The closed cotton boll (the purple-ish one) is pretty too.

Wynette said...

Ok, so now I know why you are the Cottonista! JJ loved the combine!

Anonymous said...

Wow. . way to go farm wife :). That was quite educational! Blake liked all the pictures. Jan

Anonymous said...

Love the 'bowl' of cotton. What fun to play with. Rosanna

Bro Kev said...

What a cotton pickin' good time. I will have to show my John Deere dealer client your site up here in Indiana.

Grandma Ruby said...

Looks as though I'm way behind in checking your blog. I really loved the cotton-y news! It's neat to see the star in the center of the open cotton boll. Many fruits also have a star in the center or the top. Do they point to their Creator, the star of Bethlehem?

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for your notes on cotton and harvesting it. As a northern gal I've not been lucky enough to see a cotton field in full bloom like that. As a quilter, I'm thankful for it!
Donna in IL