Saturday, June 6

Wet and windy

We live near the gap in the mountains where the clouds, heavy with rain, squeeze through. So while all of Albuquerque is dry, we have had terrible wet weather. It has rained every day for 15 days and has been unseasonably cold. This is a bad beginning for our cotton plants. We have had more bugs and more windy leaf damage. However, you can see a good leaf forming in our stunted little plants right in the center. We have a lot of hope for a nice crop. We did lose a lot with the last hail - more than half this year.
So if you have poor looking plants, do not despair. Wait for the warm weather and have a happy surprise.
My tree cotton tale was so sad, I hated to bring it up. The seeds were from Ruth Schooley and I got them just before she died so suddenly. I babied the plant and took it in for the winter since I got the seeds kind of late. When it came back out, it looked fine for a couple of days but we had wind gusts over 60 mpg for several days running. I lost almost every leaf. The plant meant so much to me that I was distraught. But I should have been confident since it is coming back. We had to tie it a lot until leaves came.
Even on branches where the leaf fell off completely, a new one begins.
On the next two photos, you can see the damaged leaves, but good ones are coming out from the crown.

And the other garden plants? They are going ape. Look at the size of these two lavender bushes grown from seed. They are about 1/2 way up the mailbox which is a bit higher than most on the street. The bluish plant on the side is another variety of lavender which is larger than normal for scale.
How is your cotton doing this year?

Sunday, May 3

Bottle garden

We are still covered up here. Cold last night but plants are surviving.

The volunteer poppies are just about done for the year. They will fade out quickly with lovely seed heads.

Started inside but hardened off here, this plant has some true leaves and is ready for a growth spurt.

Pima babies are coming on strong.
We put our last seeds in the garden this weekend. Some Peruvian Brown and some of Judy's nice long brown. We had planted those early but had snow and I think it stopped the seeds. The new ones should come out fine. Oddly, at this point, some seedlings are far along and some just planted but you won't be able to tell who's who later in the season.

Wednesday, April 22

Seeds in the ground

Finally it warmed up enough to plant seeds in the soil.
Fiberguy made crisp edges for the bed with a tamper and rake. These will hold a pool of water in, forcing it down deep into the soil. We do this also because we live on a steep slope.

Next the seeds are planted with soda bottles put on every site. Lovely rocks keep the bottles in place from strong blowing winds. The bottles will also protect the plants from bugs and especially hail. It is about 2 weeks to hail season here. Each bottle covers two seeds and gives us some to weed out if everything sprouts.

The green plants on the edge are volunteer poppies just about to bloom. They keep the other weeds down and hold the sides up nicely. Besides, I love how they look with the red blooms swaying in the wind. The poppies started up the street and around the corner and have worked their way down to us. Now we collect the seeds and sprinkle here and there in the backyard, but near the cotton it is all volunteer poppy plants.

Today we put in Pima and green but we still will be planting our three types of brown and a tree cotton. The tree is in fiberguy's office and will need to be hardened off. We are debating whether to leave it in the current pot or transplant it. Cotton is not fond of transplanting.

Tuesday, April 14

And so it begins

Planted some of the crop in pots this year. We are still having very cold weather, especially nights so this will be our latest planting yet, I fear. But the little seedlings are popping up nicely. Pima gets planted first due to the very long growing season. Then brown followed by green.

Thursday, April 24

Proud Cotton Mama

Emergence. Look at this mighty seedling rip the ground above it's head.

And leaves are coming out all over.

Even in the big pots we are getting 100% germination. We will have to thin like mad I think.

And if you look very closely next to the rock you will see several little green shoots coming out.
So even after the snow last week, we are having luck. We still have some to get into the ground, but now seems like a good time. Oh and don't you like my volunteer poppy at the edge of the bed?

Monday, April 7

Cotton Crop 2008

Our season starts a bit late this year. Down in the valley everything is blooming. Up on the hill, our perennial plants are just waking up.

This year we added a bit of organic matter and sand to beef up our output.

What's this? A volunteer poppy wanders into our cotton bed.

The proud gardener prepares to tamp the bed's edges for stage one of water control.

One pot gets some early seeds. We cover with the cutoff milk carton bottoms and heavy rocks to save them from the wind until they germinate.

When those seeds come up the rest of the seeds go in. We put 3 seeds in each hole and weed them out as they come up. This can be good later if we get holes in the main beds. Seeds are planted to a depth of about 2-3 times their size using a pencil eraser, covered well and hand tamped. The sacrificial seeds we put in were green cotton. It is the fastest to germinate for us.

Each year we put in a few plants of each type of seed that we have just to keep the seed stock alive. I wish I knew more about how to store it to keep it good for years, but I just keep it planted up each year. We usually have a main plant bed and an auxiliary area. The main bed gets Pima this year and the smaller bed gets green. The green was prolific last year and I still have a lot to spin. While the Pima plants were nice, they just don't make as much cotton fiber as the green or brown. I was really hopeful for the Peruvian brown seeds from last year - they came up so nice and red. But they just turned the dark chocolate brown after boiling, so I think I will stick with my much longer brown. It looks tan in the boll but dark brown in the skein.

Cleaning Cotton Yarn

After spinning up bits of the fiber from the leftover dehydrated cotton, I boil it with a tad of baking soda and Dawn dish liquid. I use a tiny squirt and about a teaspoon, but this is a small batch. See the color develop? I boil for an hour if the color is strong. The water is totally brown when I am done.

The rest of the skeins are just whatever was left on my bobbins throughout the house. Mostly spun from the seed or ginned but not carded. I prefer spinning mixed colors and plying them together. I used to gin, card and make punis, spin very even and 3 ply the yarn. But now I rough spin, or just spin from the seed or ginned cotton with no carding. It works on my homegrown since the cotton is very clean and fluffy. It wouldn't work on field picked cotton as there is more leaf trash. I spin by holding 2-3 seed's worth very lightly and spin a spiral or woolen draw. You know, you pull your hand back, get slubs, let more twist in while still drawing back and the slubs pull out to the same thickness as the rest of the yarn. My seed spun yarn is a bit lumpier as you are always joining on new seeds.

I ply with 3 strands to bring up the grist in the yarn and to cover for any thin or fragile spots. Only on one of the following did I use 4 ply to make it extra thick for washcloths.

The general goal is a fingering to sport weight yarn that will pass through a knitting machine. I get so much cotton every year that I just sort by grist at the end of the year and save up for the big projects. I do hand knit most of it, but if I want to machine knit in the future, I will have a good supply. There is a great machine knit tuck pattern that gives a waffle stitch and is superb for washcloths.

Tuesday, October 23

More cotton eye candy

Harvesting the big fat bolls before the rains come.

Green is drying and fluffing

My Pima bolls are small and not too impressive so far this year. I try to catch them before they get rained on in the field and let them dry and pop open inside. The browns and greens are popping like popcorn outside. I harvest twice a day and can't pick 'em all. But the frost is coming and there is still so much cotton out there.