Grit Blogs > Rosedale Garden

Alabama harvest

 barn below the mountain 

 The air around my part of the countryside has been dusty and noisy with the hum of combines and cotton pickers.  First it was the remnants of a dust storm blowing in from Colorado with winds that pulled tin off of barns and blew a tree down in my yard.   We haven’t had rain in weeks, so the soil is very dry which makes it very dusty in the fields while combining soybeans and picking cotton.

   combining soybeans 

I rode my John Deere to the fields behind my house and took several pictures of the soybean fields being combined by the Wrights. They were working into the night trying to beat the rain.  The outside of combines haven’t changed much over the years expect the addition of cabs with makes it easier to stand the dust.  Now they don’t have to stop to unload the beans into a transport hopper.  Trying to unload a combine into a moving wagon while still cutting the beans and staying in the row takes a lot of skill. The insides now have computerization, GPS and technology which reduce wastage.   As I rode around the outside edge of the field, I noticed that my fuel gauge on empty.  Checking the tank, I only had a little diesel left in the bottom funnel coming out of the tank.  I was sweating all the way home, as you don’t want to run out of diesel.   The last time I did, I thought I’d never get it started again.

   soybean dust 

On our dairy farm most of the tractors were older models and only the last one Dad bought had a cab on it.  These early models had a lot of trouble with the filters clogging up and the air conditioner breaking down.   My uncle used to ride around with the windows opened until a tree limb broke them out.

   keep combining and unloading 

Friday Neal, Shane and Todd Isbell were picking cotton, followed by a tractor bush hogging and another tractor with a planter sowing winter wheat.  I took a few pictures and started home and got to thinking there was something new with the cotton picker.  It was making these large round rolls that were scattered around the field.  I didn’t see any of the pods that I’d seen in the past.  I had to be nosey so I turned around, parked my truck on the side of the road and walked into the cotton field and was greeted by Neal Isbell who explained the new technology in cotton pickers.   This one can do the same amount of work in a day as two pickers. It picks the cotton, rolls it and when it gets to a set size; the combine will wrap it in a protective plastic and then drop it out of the back like a hay baler.

   IMG4681 cotton roll in background 

   new generation picker IMG4683 

Back a hundred and fifty years ago, all cotton was picked by hand and hauled to the gin by mule and wagon.  It would take one hundred workers picking all day to pick ten bales of cotton. This new picker can pick around 220 to 225 or so bales a day.  If measured in the olden days, it can do the work in one day that it would take 2500 workers to do.  Mr. Isbell offered to let me ride inside the picker.  I had my good work clothes on instead of my farming clothes and at first declined, and then took him up on his offer.  The dirt I got on them is the good kind of dirt and will wash out.  First we watched the unloading of the bale from the back of the picker.  They were getting one with each up and down pass in the field.  The new method eliminates the pods which sit in the fields getting wet and dirty lowering quality until they can be hauled to the gin.  The expense of a packer for pod production is also eliminated. A large fork is needed for the back of a tractor to lift the roll on a tractor trailer. He excused himself to go and pick the bales up off the field as the tractors with the bush hog and planter where close behind.  Mr. Isbell said that they were getting two bales to an acre this year.  A good year.

  Neal Isbell 

   dropping the cotton roll 4701 

Shane Isbell was driving the picker and held my camera while I climbed up the ten foot ladder up to the cab. I got settled in the spare seat, door closed and we were off.  Shane said that they used to farm a lot of acreage in Muscle Shoals, but sold it for progress and bought property in Cherokee, so they have further to travel each day from home to get to the fields and back to the gin.    He said that his Dad, brother, he and three hired hands work about 3000 acres.   As I watched the cotton go into the spindles I noticed the large fire extinguisher mounted outside of the cab and mentioned that the Wrights had a picker to burn up while picking cotton on property they were renting for my Dad.  He said that it’s easy to start a fire in this dry weather, usually a rock feeding into the spindles causes a spark and a quarter million dollars piece of machinery can go up in flames.

  bale loader 4692 

   loaded bales 4688 

   picking up bales 

   cotton pods 

   bush hogging right behind picker 4718 

   IMG4719 

    Todd Isbell planing winter wheat 

   Shane Isbell 

   from the drivers seat 

   side mirror 

After we made the rounds, I got off and took some more pictures of the loading of the bales on the tractor trailer.  As the sun set over the mountain west of the field, the work of picking, bush hogging, and planting continued into the night.

   old barn 4724 

Farmers don’t have the luxury of an eight hour day.

   planting at dusk 

   making dust 4729 

   sunset over cotton field 

On the home front, the hooligans found the Santa hat that I used for making their Christmas card last year and somehow snuck it out of the garage when the doors were opened.  When I got home the next afternoon, the end of the driveway looked like someone had bush hogged a cotton patch. White cotton balls were everywhere.  When I walked into the front yard and saw all of these pieces of red material all over I finally realized what it was.  When I started gathering up the pieces, the fun started again.  Come chow time I finally was able to pick of the pieces.

   Harvest of Memories 

We had a killing frost two weeks ago.  A few of my re-blooming iris had just started blooming and have managed to survive the frost. I picked all of my green tomatoes the afternoon before and wrapped them in newspaper.  It really makes a ham & Swiss sandwich taste better. Coming home in the dark after the time changed back to standard time and not being able to get out in the garden after work is depressing.  Saturday’s temperatures are going to be in the seventies, so I have a long day in the garden planned.

   Blackie5042 

   Patches 5048 

   It just wears you out tearing up a Santa hat 

mary carton
11/16/2012 3:04:19 AM

Cindy and Heather, not sure what happened to my previous reply. Thanks for visiting and commenting. I realized after a comment about cotton being defoliated, that farmers in other areas of the country don't realize what is involved in other crops. We don't grown peanuts, pecan, potatoes. citrus or rice here and it would be kinda neat to see how those are harvested.


cindy murphy
11/15/2012 1:12:03 PM

Very interesting, Mary - especially for someone who lives in an area where cotton is not grown. I've only seen cotton fields at harvest time once. A number of years ago, a group of us friends from different parts of the country had a girls' weekend; our friend who hosted the weekend lived in North Carolina. It was October, and the cotton fields were tufted white....and irresistible to us that had never seen cotton growing. In the cover of darkness, like school kids pilfering apples from an orchard, we sneaked into the cotton field near our friend's house, and we each picked a single tuft of cotton breaking out of its pod. We giggled the entire time....just like school kids. I've still got the pod somewhere, kept as a memento of the trip. Ah, good times - thanks for triggering the trip down memory lane.


heather jackson
11/13/2012 4:46:38 PM

Very interesting! I have started seeing those cotton bales in the fields and was quite intrigued by the innovation!


mary carton
11/11/2012 4:31:56 AM

Thanks Dave, this picker must have been the largest size as it was huge and so were their tractors. A lot of money was on those fields. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.


nebraska dave
11/11/2012 4:11:51 AM

Mary, very interesting about the cotton harvest. A friend of mine actually worked in the John Deere plant in Des Moines, Iowa that manufactured the cotton pickers. I didn't get a tour of the plant but I saw the pickers that were ready for shipping. There were three sizes. The largest was humongous. It was over $300,000. It's really expensive to farm in today's farm culture. I really love your landscape pictures. It's my favorite kind of pictures. Of course it just wouldn't be a Mary post without some shots of the hooligans haven't a good time. Have a great cotton pickin' day.