“WHEN ONE TUGS AT A SINGLE THING IN NATURE, HE FINDS IT ATTACHED TO THE REST OF THE WORLD”
John Muir had it right. Everything is connected – despite corporate powers that would have you think differently. Everything we do and every step we take impacts some other fragment of our world. We are tied together in a string that is never ending.
I get up early – 5:00 a.m. – even on weekends. On Saturday morning, two of my favorite programs are the U.S Farm Report at 6:00 a.m. and This Week in Agribusiness at 7:00. Why? Here is a little background before I get to the importance of cotton and crops and connections.
My great-grandfather was a farmer. But that was back in the days of hand-gathering of eggs, hand-milking of cows, the storing of milk in spring houses, wood burning stoves, rising at 3:00 a.m., breakfasts that were feasts, and the good old out house.
Grandpa Brewer – I am German on both sides of my family – would take me out to the old hen house to gather eggs. I was so little, and I remember walking into the old rickety hen house with him – all confident that I would be able to do this. It smelled acrid – ammonia – and there were all these clucking, ugly looking hens. He would tell me to just slide my hand under the hen and pull the egg out. I would try, but the hen would peck me, and I would jerk my hand out and wimper, from both fear and disappointment.
I will never forget, Grandpa always said to me, “Girlie – he always called me “girlie” – you just have to do it this way – they won’t hurt you.” And then, he would slide his weathered, brown hand under the chicken and pull out an egg. The chicken didn’t even make a sound or try to peck him. I never could figure it out.
And, man, I hated that out house. I would almost subject myself to a burst bladder before I would get up in the dead of night and troop out there to that old-fashioned “port-a-potty.” I was scared to death – it was a dark woods – at night – with noises.
But I loved my sleeping quarters – no air conditioning in those days. I would climb up the old wood stairs to the second floor, and I would climb into a bed covered with a down-filled comforter. And, I would sink and sink. The down-filled comforters would swallow me up. To this day, I have never felt such a comforting feeling of security and lightness and softness.
And I loved the spring house. It was a dark, cool place with a small rippling, bubbling slice of cold crick running through it. I barely remember its contents but the wooden shelves were lined with jars of canned goods and the milk was sunk deep into the little path of water that ran through it. My great-grandfather didn’t believe in becoming “modern” although he finally caved and got indoor plumbing and refrigeration. But he never gave up on his old wood cook stove. To the day he died at 93, he cooked with that huge, black, cast-iron giant that lived in his kitchen.
He milked his one cow, he slopped his hogs, he gathered his eggs, he raised his vegetables, he hooked up his one horse to his sleigh to gather wood. We would go out in the winter and gather wood and load it onto the sleigh, and his faithful horse would haul us all back to the house. We were cold; we were tired; but we were elated that we had come home with wood for the cook stove and the old fireplace.
And the breakfasts, unbelieveable. We had a table that groaned with food – sausage and gravy and biscuits, eggs, pancakes, sausage, potatoes, sorghum molasses, home churned butter, and so many other things. That is where I began my love affair with sorghum molasses. It isn’t molasses; it is molasses cut with sugar syrup.
There is nothing better than home made biscuits – hot from the wood burning stove – and sorghum molasses mixed with butter spread on the hot biscuits – melting into the flaky biscuit.
During the depression, my Grandfather and Grandmother lived with him. My Grandpa on my mother’s side was a Baptist minister but times were hard, and they needed the farm to survive. Farming kept many alive through the Depression. Good, simple, and hardworking people.
Now, to the connection between cotton and farming and the attachment to the rest of the world. The south has been known for cotton production. But cotton is no longer king of the Mississippi delta. The southern states are starting to look like the Midwest.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia
The Agriculture Department estimates that 8.8 million acres of cotton will be planted in the United States this year, down 7 percent from 2008 and 42 percent from 2006. It will be the lowest cotton acreage since 1983, an anomalous year when farmers cut acreage after a string of bountiful harvests that created a surplus. Nowhere has the slump been greater than in Mississippi, where farmers decreased their cotton planting to 365,000 acres in 2008, from 1.2 million acres in 2006.
The decrease in cotton production is due to the increasing demand for corn needed for ethanol production. So the southern states are converting cotton producing acreage to corn producing acreage. And, fewer acres of cotton means an ever-increasing reliance on foreign producers of textile products and continued loss of American jobs to outsourcing.
Cotton, once king in the south,is now fast becoming a secondary citizen. And, just like John Muir said,”WHEN ONE TUGS AT A SINGLE THING IN NATURE, HE FINDS IT ATTACHED TO THE REST OF THE WORLD.”
We tug at alternative fuel production and we impact the value of crops related to ethanol production, which, in turn, makes it more valuable to plant corn instead of cotton, which, in turn, simply decreases cotton production for clothing, which, in turn, increases reliance on foreign textile products – more goods from foreign countries – more outsourcing of American jobs.
We are connected, and everything we do is connected to something else.