Friday, October 31, 2014

My first EarthCache

It's pretty cool at my age to say "my first..."
Earlier this month, while we were in the mountains, I had the opportunity to log my first EarthCache.   An EarthCache is a specific type of geocache.  The idea is to go to a specific location and observe a particular geographic feature.  For us, it was a totally serendipitous event.  We went to visit Jump Off Rock outside of Hendersonville, and we had almost decided against going since it was drizzly and foggy.  We had been there before, and there is a wonderful view on a clear day.  Despite the fog and intermittent sprinkles we went and walked one of the short trails near the rock.  We chanced upon a lady who was looking for a geocache.  She enlisted our help since she was running out of time.  Luckily for us, she told us about the EarthCache, and, since she had a background in geology, she told us a little about the type of rock.  The day we were there just happened to be International EarthCache Day, so anyone logging an EarthCache that day would earn a virtual "souvenir" icon for his or her geocaching profile.
Logging an EarthCache was all new to us, so many thanks are due Caleb who helped me slog through the process on his smart phone once we got back to the motel.
Here I am "high on" a mountain.  Thanks also to Caleb for taking my picture.  (Posting a picture of oneself at the site was a requirement of that EarthCache.)  I like the artistic fence with the interpretation of the mountaintops along the upper portion of the fence.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Season's last lily

My 'Final Touch' daylily did have a chance to open its last two buds before frost.  I snapped a picture of the next-to-the-last bloom on October 10.  The other bud opened while we were away (or perhaps the morning of the day we left--I didn't look to see).  There was an extra petal on this bloom, an enthusiastic final hurrah.

Breaking it right on down at the Magnolia Glen!

Darling son recently had a gig at the Magnolia Glen retirement community.  The gig also gave him a chance to rub elbows with a couple of musicians he had not played with before.  One was Steve Dilling, who played banjo many years for IIIrd Tyme Out.  The other was apparently a resident of Magnolia Glen, and a man who plays a pretty mean harmonica.  I love to see how much Caleb was enjoying himself.
Here is the link to a video someone posted on the Magnolia Glen facebook page.

Dig sweet potatoes in sandy land

In elementary school, we used to sing a lively little song called "Sandy Land."  One of the verses repeated the phrase "dig sweet potatoes in sandy land."  I liked the song then, and I like it now.  And I have to say, I know just a wee bit more about what it means.
October has been mild, so that gave the sweet potato vines that my brother-in-law gave me in the latter part of June time to mature.  I dug them recently.  They weren't terribly impressive if you compare them to some of the gargantuan ones that are grown in these parts, but I was very proud of them anyway.
I dug them on two separate days.  This was from the first day (two of the plants).

I reclaimed the Samuel Parkes border fork which I had once given to Mom.  It is just a bit too small (and the handle is a bit too short as well) for this task, but since I only had a few hills, it managed well enough.
The two vines made a nice addition to my compost pile which has also been endowed recently with 4 loads of sugar maple and sycamore leaves that I raked in the front yard.
The second digging yielded these potatoes.

A great side benefit of digging the potatoes is the bed is tilled and all ready for whatever crop I want to put there in the spring.  (You can see the turnips to the right of the fork.)
All together now, "I make my living in sandy land, make my living in sandy land, make my living in sandy land.  Ladies, fare you well." 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Cotton Ginning Days (miscellaneous sights)

In this final post on Cotton Ginning Days, I'll post a few pictures of the various sights we saw (besides the band and the cotton gin).
There were tractors of various shapes, colors, and sizes.  (Tractor pictures are Caleb's.)


There were engines. (pictures are Caleb's)
There were classic vehicles, model size...
 ...and full size.  (pictures Caleb's)
There was the one-wheel conveyance (look above the aqua colored tent),


and the three-wheel conveyance.
Part of the time during the second concert, I slipped off to the Heritage Village.  There was a school building, chapel, forge, barn, smoke house, house, garden, and mini cotton patch.  Some of the buildings were donated and moved from other locations.  The chapel was the brainchild of some lovely Presbyterian ladies who salvaged the stained glass windows from another location.  I was quite taken with the village and would love to have been able to explore it more thoroughly.

All in all, the day was one well spent...
...and since we were already that far west, it made sense to head on to the mountains (more to come on that).


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Cotton Ginning Days (the gin itself)

The namesake attraction for the Cotton Ginning Days was a wooden building which housed a 1920 model diesel engine downstairs and a cotton gin upstairs.
For the types of people who enjoy mechanical things, the diesel engine was quite an exciting piece of equipment.  At first, Roger, Caleb, and I all toured the building while the engine was shut off.  The operator said he would restart the engine in a half an hour or so. While Caleb was setting up with his band, Roger and I headed back to the cotton gin once more.  As we started up the hill, the engine began belching smoke heavenward in neat little rings.  If one could read smoke signals, he would have probably understood the message that we've become industrialized.
(Caleb's picture)

The steep steps on the side of the building led to the small room upstairs with the gin.
You can see a diagram of the gin on the wall.  The man in overalls has his right hand on the edge of the hopper where the cotton is fed into the gin.
The basket is full of cotton that is ready to be ginned.  It is in the state that it comes from the field--with the seeds still in the boll.
(Caleb's picture)
Here is the hopper full of cotton.

(Caleb's picture)

The seed spilled out onto the floor at the right end of the gin.  I was surprised there wasn't a bin or chute for the seed.  I guess they scooped it up by a shovel to fill the bags.  Cottonseed is used in all sorts of things from cattle feed to food to cosmetics.  One of our road snacks, potato chips, had cottonseed oil as the second ingredient.
After the seed has been separated from the cotton lint, the cotton loops back through the machine, and the cotton batt comes out the left end and enters the wooden chute. 
(Caleb's picture)

(Caleb's picture)

A volunteer is sweeping the batt down the chute and into the press.
Another person has a wooden tool to stuff the cotton down into the press.  The press will compact the cotton into a bale.

(Caleb's picture)
(Caleb's picture)
A bale weighs 500 lbs.  That little song we sang in school, "Jump down, turn around, pick a bale o' cotton; jump down, turn around pick a bale a day!" had to be an exaggeration.  In order to end up with a bale (500 lbs. of lint), a person would have to pick about 1250 lbs. of cotton.  There would be about 750 lbs. of seed and 500 lbs. of lint.  (The ratios might vary some depending on the cotton.)

(Caleb's picture)
In one corner of the room were the sheets filled with cotton.  It was a vivid reminder that slaves, sharecroppers, and farm families have spent countless hours of back-breaking toil in the cotton fields.  Roger's family sharecropped.  His father was known to pick close to 200 lbs. of cotton in one day, so I'm told.  Roger would pick for a few weeks each season and get paid 10 cents per lb.  My mother's family farmed cotton, too.  It was their money crop.  In summer, the cotton was chopped.  Then there was the laborious chore of picking up the "squares," the immature bolls that had been spoiled by weevils and dropped to the ground.  They were destroyed to interrupt the boll weevil life cycle.  Then when the cotton ripened, Mom and her siblings would come home from school and pick cotton until dark.  They usually were done around Thanksgiving.  Just last week, I went by the farm where my mother grew up.  Cotton was still being grown in the bottoms along the creek.  It will be harvested these days with a mechanical harvester, and should my mother see it, she will be compelled to say, "Those machines leave a lot of cotton in the field."
I left with a handful of seeds which I might plant in the garden next year. 
For some "cotton ginning days" were a way of life, not just an excursion to a fairground on a sunny autumn day.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Cotton Ginning Days (the band)

We had the privilege of attending the Cotton Ginning Days festival at the Gaston County Fairgrounds in Dallas, NC earlier this month.  Caleb was playing with Victoria Lee and New Ground.  They did a good job with a set near the picnic area and another set on the main stage.


 There was a guy from the local sheriff department emceeing.  I liked his style.
Unfortunately (especially for the person responsible for all the sound equipment), a thundershower drove the band offstage and under a little tent next to the stage.  The spectators grabbed a bale of hay to sit on under the tent and the show went on.  The cozy informal setting and the acoustic sound made for a great intimate concert.  I did a little people watching under the tent, and that probably entertained me as much as the band.
Stay tuned for another post on Cotton Ginning Days.