It’s just thrills and chills galore in my continuing ag series, with the latest from the cotton fields by my house. These pictures are from, oh, maybe two weeks ago. As you can see, it’s getting close to scoopin’ time. Again, Eric and I were laughing (amid the crisp autumn chill) at how the movies show slaves picking cotton under a broiling sun, skin drenched, sweat dripping down. We can only figure that movie sets require the actors slicked with oil, heads soaked with water while they shiver in sweaters and coats waiting for their cue. Not to make light of slavery or even to suggest real slaves didn’t sweat plenty.
I’m still wondering where this cotton goes from here, thought about tracing its path but I never find Mr. Farmer tending the plot. Last Sunday, I’d planned to go visit Dosi Alvarez; he’s the only organic cotton farmer in the state of New Mexico. His place is in La Union, a few miles south of Las Cruces, just north of El Paso proper. It’s a waste of time to track his crop; anything he’s got is sold before it’s planted. I spoke with Dosi’s wife Norma by phone this morning. She says they have 750 acres in organic cotton this year and will start harvesting this week. She invited me down for a visit. I’m looking forward to it. She says the scooping thing makes for poor quality cotton. They won’t be using rakes and shovels to harvest theirs like my neighbor.
Speaking of agriculture, I’ve been having an off-blog conversation with /anne about her wattles comment and about seed embedded paper (you can plant the paper to grow things). I didn’t know what wattles were. She said they’re a flowering bush, practically a weed in Australia. She explains:
They’re quite beautiful. Australia’s national floral emblem. There’s even a Monty Python skit about it. When they flower, it’s incredibly bright.
The seeds need to be boiled to germinate – which is probably why they’re good embedded in paper; as long as the mushy paper is cold when you add the seeds, they won’t germinate! You could possibly also use a water-based glue and sprinkle the seeds on some nice paper for a similar effect. Some more technical information, they’re also nitrogen fixers. If you’re interested in organic agriculture, they’re used in Permaculture.
Living in the southwest, I said I was interested in drought tolerant plants and could I get some seeds? These plants like the heat; wattles germinate by the thousands after fires. She responded
Australia is the driest continent you know -we specialise in drought tolerant :-). If you find out if there’s any import restrictions into the US for seeds (and it’s OK), I’ll send you some :-) It might take a while, because I don’t usually go near anywhere that sells seeds, but you’re heading into winter now, so it’s not really planting season.
Wattle seeds are actually edible – they get used in some bush tucker stuff. Sadly, you can’t grow quandongs (which are really yummy), because they’re a parasitic tree (sort-of like mistletoe, only an actual tree). They’re parasitic on, usually, grass or something equally bizarre – it’s almost impossible to propagate them. I’ve eaten them because I’ve lived in the Mallee where they grow.
There you have it. Wattles and quandongs. You’ve learned your new thing of the day.
I’m just wondering if wattles are invasive. If so, it wouldn’t do if they misplaced domestic varieties. We’ve yet to rid ourselves of Russian thistle (the common tumbleweed) which was imported, mixed in with Russian winter wheat by German immigrants settling in the Great Plains around the turn of the last century. Which is why I always giggle when I see tumbleweeds rolling around in the old westerns. I wouldn’t want to be responsible for seeing dried up wattles blowing around on the movie sets in the next generation of western films. I’m wondering if wattles were those beautiful blooming yellow trees I saw in LA the last time I was there. There were also some pretty blue, purplish flowered trees. Nobody I asked knew what those were.