November 30, 2010


People's experiences on Thanksgiving are different and its always interesting to hear about the differences, or see them.
For instance...

Thanksgiving in Wyoming -

Thanksgiving in Tennessee -
(picture compliments of my cousin-in-law Tiffany. Sorry for the blur. It was a facebook post that I enlarged, but that's Queen Anne's Lace, my favorite wild flower, blooming on Thanksgiving day!)

We actually did have a fine Thanksgiving, despite the blowing snow on Elk Mountain. We loaded Thanksgiving morning and stopped in Laramie for a decent, if not home cooked wonderful, Thanksgiving dinner, before heading on east.

Malcolm was feeling under the weather and with some kind of bug he'd picked up the previous weekend, but he seems much better today. And despite the weather, the illness, and the being at work instead of at home, I still felt we had much to be thankful for. God has blessed our life in tremendous ways. We are blessed with unique experiences, material goods, and wonderful relationships with others, including you, my blogging world friends.

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and found just as many reasons to be Thankful!

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!

November 22, 2010

Time Well Spent in Tennessee

We drove all the way from Portland, OR to the eastern side of Nebraska with all that winter weather nipping at our heals the whole way. We escaped all the interesting driving conditions except in Nebraska where we were in freezing fog and rain. By the time we exited the state we had about a half inch of ice covering the truck.

But from there it was clear sailing to Georgia where our trip was ending, and by the time we got to Chattanooga, TN and stopped to visit my parents for a few hours, it was sunny and 74 degrees, and I was wishing I had packed a short sleeve shirt instead of leaving all my warm weather clothes at home.

We just stopped for a few hours to visit and have lunch together and wash a blanket because Ella had an accident in bed on Saturday night. Convenient timing though, if she had to have an accident!

After lunch, when we got back to Mom and Dad's the first thing I wanted to do was go to the chicken house. Remember Mom's bantam's that I showed you in July?

Well recently the two hens got together and hatched up a plan. Deciding that if two heads were better than one, probably two butts were as well, they sat together on about two dozen eggs. And Friday Mom and Dad discovered that they had 11 new bantams.

Sadly, 3 of the new babies didn't make it, but there are still 8 of the little fuzz balls running around with two very happy and protective mothers to watch over them.
While I went to see the chickens I left the girls on the back porch so they wouldn't disturb the guys who were watching TV inside. I thought the girls would appreciate the outside time, but I discovered that instead they were very disgusted with me for leaving them.

And so to make it up to them, Mom and I moved to the front porch to relax and visit...

...while the girls discovered the joy of running in a yard full of autumn leaves.

The picture speaks for itself. They LOVED it! Even Paris did some running in the leaves, sticking to the paved sidewalk or course. You know how she has a thing for concrete and asphalt. The princess doesn't like prickly grass.
Ella and Carlie Jean were in heaven. They never get enough of running, and when its in soft dirt, mud, or (their new discovery) piles of leaves, its even more delightful!

 They also discovered that its great fun to zoom as fast as you can up and down the front porch steps.

And so it went for quite a while. Down the steps, a fast circle of the yard, and then back up the steps to see who could reach "base" first.
Usually Ella was in the lead, but only because Carlie Jean likes to be the chaser. She always has preferred that.
(Oh how I wish that picture had come out clearer!)

Mom's dog, Toby, had to watch from inside. I felt really sorry for him. But Toby likes to get free and not come back till he's decided its time...which can take hours from what I've heard.

By this time, Paris had decided that even at 74 degrees, it was a bit too chilly for a princess to go running around, so she happily retired to her favorite perch to enjoy being outside from her lofty throne where its a bit warmer and she has a blanket made of her ladies hair.

Ella got distracted by the leaves on the porch. Apparently they were edible and quite tasty. And Carlie Jean kept trying to distract her from her new snack and tempt her into the chase.
It usually worked with a little persuasion.

"Mom, can me move here?!?"

Paris tried to hint that she was thinking of possibly going back inside. And in the mean time, Toby was doing a little more than hinting that he'd like to come out!
I knew that as soon as I let Paris in, she'd realize that she really would have preferred to stay out. So I just held her and let her watch the fun from my lap. And Mom gave in to Toby and went and got his leash so he could join us.

And enjoy the great out doors....at least what he could from within the confines of his leash.
After a while it got cooler and started getting dark, so we went inside and visited from the comfort of the living room sofas while we waited for the blanket to finish drying. Malcolm and Dad joined us after finishing a little project they had gotten started, and Malcolm and Toby re-kindled their budding friendship that began last Christmas. They like to "smile" at each other.