Saturday, October 2, 2010

short stories 5


before the defoliant

We drove by the desiccated cotton field today and noticed a wide swath had been cut through the length of the field. I've been wondering when he was going to harvest but there was no sign of the harvesters. Made us wonder if this was a test to see what the crop looked like. It looks like the bottom half of his crop is on the ground and the bolls at the top are only half the size of the first ones. There are many that haven't popped yet. The farmer that works these fields planted late this year, at least it seemed so to us. It also seems that he is harvesting late since I have seen cotton fields that have already been cleared.

after the defoliant

Cotton is harvested now by huge house sized machines. They suck it up and then spit it out into a freight sized container and then it is compressed. At one time, of course, cotton was picked by hand. I took my grandkids out to the field year before last, when it was a cotton year. We had been talking about slavery because they had been learning about it at school. It was a hot cloudless day and we stood on the edge of a field that seemed to go forever. I told them that as slaves they would be expected to pick every bit by hand working from sun up to sun down, that they would be hungry and not clothed very well and that if they worked too slow or misbehaved they would be whipped. When we had been talking about it, they could say that slavery was bad, but standing there at the edge of that field, I think they understood it from a totally different perspective.

immature cotton bolls


I was delightedly surprised to see, at the city house, that the surprise lilies were blooming. My friend Phyllis calls them spider lilies but I know spider lilies as something very different.

They are called surprise lilies because they shoot up an 18” or longer bloom stalk in two days with no foliage. Can you imagine, that much growth in two days? One day you see nothing, the next is this beautiful flower hovering above the ground. With no foliage, it's easy to forget where they are planted or even that they are there. They do actually have foliage and it emerges after they bloom but then it also dies down long before they bloom again. 

When we first moved into the city house those many years ago, they were one of the delights that came with the house and they bloomed every year. Eventually though, the bulbs got old and they stopped blooming. About eight years or so ago, I dug a lot of them up, spread them out hoping that it would rejuvenate them a bit and get them blooming again but it didn't work. Once every several years we might get one but this year there are three small clumps. I'm wondering if that very cold weather last winter is responsible.

Strange growth

Last Saturday was finally cool enough for some working in the yard. Late afternoon I worked in an area where I have some things planted, an informal area not yet an actual flower bed, pulling up grass and other things, disturbing the soil. The next day when I went out to water before we left for the city I saw these very weird mushroom type fungi there where I had worked.

They grew up overnight and I don't believe I have ever seen their like before. They were very wet and gooey looking. Strangely exotically beautiful.

Egg shells

I am happy to say that the second time firing the egg shells was a success. We broke them out one at a time and they all cast well. Now I have to use the ring saw and cut the remainder of the glass off and then reshape the end. I'm very pleased that they cast the second time and I do not have to remake the waxes.


  1. OMG! Those egg shells are so tiny!! Had no idea...very cool!!
    The mushrooms are very exotic looking. Gooey, huh? Ha!!
    Love the lily...amazing bloom!
    And to see the cotton fields brings back all the stories I have heard of the harvest. How their hands would be cut and bloody. Yikes!!
    Wonderful post!

  2. I'll be honest Ellen - I have never seen cotton fields and now I am thinking slavery from a different perspective.
    Your lillies and mushrooms are amazing.
    Love your eggs shells.
    Thank you for your comments on my posts - its good to get feedback from an entirely different stand point.

  3. A post packed with beauty! Cotton and surprise lilies and fungi and eggshells...all beautiful in their own way.

    We picked cotton in our youth but we got paid. You dragged a long sack behind you down the rows and picked the boles. Your fingers bled and your back hurt and it took forever to fill a sack...not a career I wanted to pursue.

  4. Wow. The egg shells are beautiful - thank you putting a coin in the pic so I could tell how tiny they are.

    The cotton pics are haunting and beautiful. I have a friend who picked cotton one summer when she had nothing else to do. It was grueling work, she told me, just awful.

    The growths - weird! And the surprise lillies are like something from outer space.

    I love your relationship with the earth.

  5. Slavery was a horrible, inhumane thing. My great uncles were share croppers and their living conditions were wretched.I remember going to these places as a child. My grandmother was considered rich because she and her husband actually owned the land they farmed. It is all about perception. Slavery still exists today.

    On a lighter note, I love the lily and those egg shells are downright magical!

  6. Ellen, what a feast! The space lilies, the shrooms or whatever alien things they are, all black and melty...the teeny tiny egg shell casts- you must have fairy fingers! Beautiful post.

  7. Your talent and artistic eye....and hands are a phenom. Wow, wow and wow. I am always blown away by what you see and do. The Olde Bagg

  8. Oh my goodness, those eggshells are like dinnerware for the faery folk! They're very cool.

    One of the things I love about the internet, and blogs is how often I end up saying, "I've never seen that before!" Those lilies? Oh they're gorgeous! So vibrant. They almost look as if they have an actual personality, that's how vivid they are and I'd never seen them before.

    What's really fun is each time I say that, it's one less thing about which I can say that. Thank you so much for taking away yet another "never" and replacing it with an "Awww!"

    By the way, cotton picking: Have you ever seen the movie Places in the Heart? I don't really like it all that much, it's the move Sally Field won an Oscar for and then mortified herself for all eternity by saying, "You like me! You really like me!" while accepting the award.

    However, all that aside there are some very good, interesting parts in that movie and it has the MOST exhausting cotton-picking scene ever committed to film. Even watching the process was draining, I can't begin to imagine the back-breaking reality of having to do that. Slavery is something far enough in the past that we can almost forget what an outrage against humanity it was, what a deplorable thing in our history. But boy, cotton fields make you stop and consider just that, don't they?

  9. Wow, it's amazing to see the difference in the cotton fields, pre and post defoliant. Kind of scary to think of the chemicals accomplishing all that, and running into the earth.

  10. The egg shells look great. The fungi less so. Make me feel all itchy. Lovely photos. Hope all well.

  11. The defoliated cotton plants make me sad.

    I had never heard of surprise lilies. How extraordinary!

    Ick, I don't like fungi or toadstools or any of that. *shiver*

  12. I swear I saw some of those fungi in our yard somewhere - I was going to take a picture, but then I couldn't remember where they were & after looking everywhere I decided that I had dreamed them LOL.

    Gorgeous flower!

    Cotton is so deceptively fluffy to have such a bloody past. I think this is one case where I'm glad they have machines to harvest it.

  13. answering you- re: my header- it is a vertical stone sculpture in an outdoor gallery here, turned horizontal and cropped a bit.
    Thanks for liking it!

  14. We always called those flowers spider lilies.


I opened my big mouth, now it's your turn.