“In High Cotton” is one of those wonderful old southern phrases that may not be used much these days. If you are in high cotton, you are doing well, maybe even rolling in wealth, because your cotton crop is so tall you can harvest without stooping, and the price for cotton is high.
Now, high is a relative term, and if you must be precise, the cotton crop at our farmstead is only high if the picker is two feet tall. But, our plants sprouted, and grew, and didn’t die, and they are making little bolls of cotton, which feel a lot like cotton balls but firmer and spelled differently. Our little urban garden is not always successful, so we will count this as a win. The price of cotton is irrelevant. They don’t buy it by the ounce. We only have 13 plants.
Our plants are completely legal, which is not as easy at it sounds. The average citizen can’t just plant cotton willy-nilly, but must first qualify for a permit from the Texas Department of Agriculture. They want to make sure you will be a responsible soldier in the ongoing fight against the dreaded boll weevil. As an unarmed combatant with no training at all, I was nervous when I applied. For some reason, the application seemed to be geared toward an actual farmer, with acreage. I don’t think they expected the location to be downtown Dallas and the size of the proposed field to be 8 feet by 12 feet.
I aced this odd exam with the aid of Gene Helmick-Richardson, our farmstead farmer and storyteller extraordinaire. In his spare time, Gene is a professional exterminator with a Ph.D. in entomology, so he can recognize any weevil, boll or otherwise. We shall not contribute to a local agricultural disaster that would wipe out all the cotton crops in north Texas.
What we shall do is show people what cotton looks like on the plant, and let them imagine how hard it would be to spend all day in the hot sun picking it. There are these little sharp points that hold the boll in, and are just waiting to bloody a careless finger. Cotton production was once an important part of the Dallas economy, and many people earned their living growing and picking it. Others profited from cotton by trading it, shipping it and milling it. We don’t expect much in the way of financial profit, but perhaps that of an educational nature.
If we get more than a handful we can show visitors how hard it is to clean cotton, to get the seeds and other unwanted bits out of the fiber. So few appreciate the problem Eli Whitney solved by inventing that cotton gin. Then we can try carding it and spinning it, though I suspect we will only have enough fiber to make about a yard of thread. Is it cheating if we buy cotton from a real field and process it for the public at our farmstead?
Come on out and visit our cotton soon, and the greens we just planted, and the fall bean crop that is about to go in. We are not ready to feed and clothe anyone from our garden, but we can give a hint on how that process works.