Cotton Fields

I was on the road yesterday in the North Carolina piedmont which is cotton country.  As I passed by one of the large fields it occurred to me that it was likely that many of you have never seen a cotton field.  So I decided to stop and take a few photos.

Cotton is the second most valuable crop in  North Carolina, behind tobacco.  It is too cold to grow it here in the mountains, but the southern piedmont and the coastal plain are ideal for growing the crop.  It isn’t an easy crop to grow, as weeds and insects can be major problems.  It requires a lot of water and so must often be irrigated.

When the cotton is ripe, the fields are often described as snowy.  Actually, snow in this region does look like a cotton field, as the snow often falls on ground that is not entirely frozen and so patches of the ground show through.

Cotton forms in a pod (boll) which pops open when it is ripe.  What you can’t see are the seeds, which are stuck to the fibers and are hard to remove by hand.

And speaking of snowy, this is what we woke up to this morning.  The snow had been forecast, but somehow I don’t think we really believed it until confronted with three inches of the fluffy white stuff.


Filed under North Carolina, Textiles

11 responses to “Cotton Fields

  1. Liz, thanks for the cotton photographs. When we were growing up in NC our father planted cotton and my sister and I were responsible for “chopping” the cotton–hoeing out the weeds and grass. It was not all that pleasant work in the hot sun and hard, red dirt, but the cotton was very pretty when ripe and spilling out of the bolls. We did some of the picking, but our burlap sacks held tiny amounts compared to the huge piles of cotton amassed by the hired pickers at the end of the day.

    Note to the under 30 readers: Burlap was a utility fabric long before it was discovered in décor. 😉


  2. The pictures remind me of how exciting it was when I first moved south and saw an actual cotton field in bloom. I stopped to pick some to keep.

    Enjoyed seeing the snow, also.

    Snow is especially beautiful when it is two hours away……I am in Charlotte, NC and the snow was in Asheville NC.


  3. In the 1960’s we would visit my grandparents in Rotan, a TINY town in West Texas. Those were the times we would see the cotton everywhere. To this day I can remember Picking the cotton and thinking HOW WEIRD and even at 10 to 13 Years old thinking…How do they make cloth out of this? We were from Southern California and had never seen anything like it…I have since learned how they make cotton, being a vintage clothing fan for 50 or so years… Very nice close up photo…


  4. D’oh! It snowed here today as well. Not mentally or wardrobe-ally prepared for it!


  5. Lovely post, Lizzie. Thank you!


  6. Unfortunately, we also grow a lot of cotton here in California! Your photos reminded me just how unsuited it is for our climate. It’s all done by irrigation…but maybe the drought will end that practice.


  7. It is so fascinating. Growing those little bolls! I teach my students about cotton production, its pollution and water guzzling, its popularity in modern dress, its practicality… but to think Ive never seen it! And it’s so magical to look at a field of it. Thanks for that!


  8. Thanks, Lizzie. Interesting to see.


  9. the cotton plant just has to be one of nature’s biggest miracles. Lovely to see your photos. The only thing is , I’m now singing that song that goes Oh, Lawdy, pick a bale a cotton and I have a feeling that it is going to be on a loop in my head all day. Enjoy the snow!


  10. Liz

    These days I travel often through Orangeburg County, SC, and can watch the cycle of cotton in the fields. Only recently have I realized that cotton is ready to pick in November, and I’m wondering if schools were closed at that time of the year, in days when children picked cotton. So much we don’t know. Thanks for the wonderful pictures.


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