November 24, 2010

South Georgia and Oklahoma Cotton

This is Ella's way of saying, "Mom, will you PLEASE hold me?"
And of course it works every time. I've ruined her!

Monday morning, after delivering south of Macon, GA, we headed towards the southwest corner of Georgia and a little town called Blakely. Central Georgia is SO populated, really just one gigantic metropolis and suburb of Atlanta. I think just the very outer edges of Georgia can even be considered agricultural, but this is just my opinion. I'm not a fan of big city life and scenery, as you may have guessed from reading this blog. And because of this, and the fact that we drove through in the dark hours of morning, I did not photograph Atlanta and its surrounding area.

Rural Georgia, though, is quite picturesque and I enjoyed  that part of our trip very much.
South Georgia is much flatter than the northern part of the state where I have had most of my Georgia experiences. Its mostly agricultural with the majority of the land seeming to be cultivated in pecan groves (which are beautiful but hard to capture in the picture),

peanuts (this field had been harvested already),


and cotton.
Most of the cotton had been harvested already. I always marvel at the huge bales of cotton waiting to be transported to the warehouses and the gins.

On the way to Blakely we stopped at a little pull off so Malcolm could clean the trailer out, and me and the girls got out and walked around a bit. I wanted to see what this field was planted in.

I'm still not sure what it was. I was hoping peanuts, but I don't think it was. And then because there was shreds of cotton all over the ground, I thought maybe cotton, except cotton plants turn dry and dead when the cotton is ready to harvest, and all the other fields were at that point or beyond.
So it wasn't a cotton field, but the tufts of cotton on the ground had to be investigated.

I'm fascinated at how much waste is involved in harvesting cotton. Half the fields that have been harvested, look like they were never touched, so much fiber is left on the plant. And there is tons of fiber lost on the ground, like the wad of cotton in the picture above.

And inside every bole of cotton, there are several cotton seeds, like this one.
They are about the size of large raisins. And let me just say, trying to extract the seed from the fiber without wasting the fiber...that's a challenge! Makes a person really appreciate the importance of the invention of the cotton gin! I used that in a student teaching lesson once, when we were studying the Industrial Revolution. The students were really impressed because its HARD to clean the seeds from the cotton fiber!

In addition to cultivated fields, Georgia also has lots of old architecture to enjoy. I love old houses and towns!

Where as most western tows were built with businesses facing each other along a main street, many southern towns grew up around a courthouse square. I think they are very charming.
That is the Blakely courthouse above, and in that town we loaded something I'd never heard of before. I enjoy peanuts, but I've never even considered what happens to the shells. Once again I was shown that our civilization is not as wasteful as I imagined it to be! It turns out peanut shells do have a use!
We loaded peanut hull pellets. They grind the shells up and compress them into pellets, then sell them as livestock feed. We took them to a feed company in Oklahoma.

On Tuesday we delivered and then went 30 miles west to reload. I was grateful for my interest in the cotton fields from the day before, because we loaded cotton seed. So I had picture from the field on Monday, and Tuesday I got pictures at the cotton gin in Hollis, OK.

I was in the truck the whole time pulling forward and back so it was hard to get good pictures. Cotton seed is light stuff and its fluffy because even the gin doesn't get all the fiber off. Therefor its a long process loading, dumping buckets in, and then it has to be stomped and shoveled down so that we could get enough weight on to make it worth while. We did manage to get our usual 50,000 pounds, but the trailer was so full Malcolm had a hard time getting the tarp to close over it.

I wanted SO badly to go inside the gin. But they weren't overly friendly, and besides, I was busy helping load. SO...here's what I can show you. First trucks bring in the big bales that had been out in the field. These bales were just delivered and are on some kind of conveyor waiting to go into the gin.
Inside the gin, through some mysterious process that I really want to see some day, the seeds are extracted from the fiber. Then the seeds are blown through a pipe and are deposited in this pile outside.

A closer look...
The man in the bobcat in the first picture was scooping it up and dropping it in the auger...

...and then it was carried up the auger and dropped into the trailer.
The air was absolutely full of cotton fibers floating around and stuck to everything ( one reason to be thankful I was stuck in the truck b/c I'm sure it wouldn't have been good for me to breath) . It was a very fluffy place!
As fascinating as I found it, the girls were apparently bored.
Once the seed is extracted, I assume the cotton is cleaned somehow and then packed into bales, wrapped in plastic and loaded onto trucks to be transported to mills.
The seed, as it turns out, is used for animal feed. Apparently its not only very nutritious, but critters reportedly devour it like candy. I can vouch for dogs not finding it appetizing though. There is a handful of seed on the floor of the truck that got tracked in and no one has shown any interest, and believe me, they are quick to lick up anything tasty that comes in on our shoes. They always check when we get in!

Unloading this morning in Wiggins, CO. Its even more work to unload the seed than to get it loaded.
Once its in the trailer, it doesn't like to come out. Its all stuck together by the fibers and it takes a lot of man power to get it to fall out of the hopper doors under the trailer.
Fortunately we got there last night, were the first in line this morning, and are now well on our way to Green River, WY while the 2-3 trucks that pulled in after us may very well still be trying to unload.

Its COLD and WINDY but at least the sun is shining and there is no fresh white stuff falling...for now!
Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Despite a hard year and less than favorable economic conditions and all the other things that could be different in our world, we all have a lot to be thankful for!


scot7 said...


Sharon Tachenko said...

Loved reading your expose on cotton, Sarah! Always fascinating, behind-the-scenes info in your blog! Thx for taking time to synthesize and share!

Wishing you were somewhere sharing Thanksgiving delights & homecooked yummies . . . Passed a Cracker Barrel and it appears to be a big draw! Maybe there is some good eating out there ! Be safe & stay warm!
Hugs to you both!

small farm girl said...

Thanks for the post about cotton. I really didn't realize there was that much to it. I guess there is. lol. No matter what, those dogs of yours can sure still the show though. hehehehe

Judy said...

Wow, Sarah!! I never knew anything about cotton really until I read your post tonight! It is very interesting and your photos were great! Drive safe!

Horses Are Our Lives said...

I love the story pictures! Love those pecan groves! That was my favorite. I have never seen a cotton field, and the extra cotton laying around does seem like a waste! The courthouse building and old home are gorgeous. I'm sure I wouldn't want to be breathing all that cotton fibery dust either. It looked like snow! safe travels!

Anonymous said...

Welcome to the wonderful world of cotton! LOL My family are cotton farmers, as well as soybeans, wheat, and corn in NE Louisiana. You were talking about the waste in the fields. The farmer will usually go back and "strip" the fields, exactly what it sounds like. The huge bales you see on the ground are called modules, looks like a dumpster where the cotton is put then compressed into the modules. We owned a cotton gin for many years, recently sold it. It's messy and VERY loud! It does take a lot of sweat & tears to get the fields prepped, seeds planted, plow the fields, pray for rain or no rain, irrigate if it doesn't. They will run 24 hours a day picking cotton if it's ready and the weather looks iffy. We used to take meals out to them at dinner (or lunch if you're from the city..:o)) so they didn't have to leave the fields. It's tough and Mother Nature has a way of messing you up from time to time.


Janice said...

Great post Sarah. Your dog is way to cute how could you not be swayed by that little face.Those plants make me think of Hazelnut but I could be wrong and probably am.I loved the stuff on Georgia and Cotton. What a pretty place I love the character of the old buildings.

Frugal Canadian Hermit said...

Thats pretty interesting. Cotton don't sound like something I would want to haul on a regular basis though. I did'nt think they had a use for peanut shells either, but I guess I learn something new every day.

jill said...

I live in Georgia and never thought of it as one big bedroom community. It looks like that on the I-75 corridor, though. Once you get away from the interstates, there's alot of country. We are 2 miles from a Sam's club (civilization!)but surrounded by horse farms, pecan groves and small farms. Population density really drops off when you get away from the highways.

I just found your blog - you guys sure lead an interesting life on the road! And Montana looks beautiful. I'm envious! I look forward to reading more.