Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The old ways

I have recently watched Frontier House and Colonial House on DVD, courtesy of NetFlix and PBS. They were fun shows and very interesting to watch all around. There are some things that still bug me though.

The Women's Hair I keep thinking about the women's hair on these series. The women all complained about how dirty their hair was, but did not cover their hair at all, which is not only modest, but protects hair from dirt, dust, and sun, allowing for less frequent washing. Finally, there was a reason that women wore their hair up....it meant less brushing snarling etc. I understand the whole time consideration, but longer hair can be rebraided in five minutes. The big issue was that these women really had 21st century short hairstyles, that are much more difficult to maintain.

Unprepared These folks were totally unprepared for the rigor, but I think that the show selected for this. In real life, I do think that the folks of the time were more self-sufficient in terms of basic handskills, and more interlaced in terms of societal support. Both of those were not reflected at all.

The Food and Cooking I could not get over the women complaining about having to cook 3 meals a day. Actually, I could not get over their cooking 3 meals. Why not put a stew on that could be meals for the whole day? The stew can be left on the fire to cook for the day, and provide the meals for the whole day. New additions to it through the day keep it interesting and allow the women to do other things. Of course, I was not there, but it just seems logical to me to do....

In the same thread of the old ways, the Rock and I have been looking at ways to increase our cash flow, and one of those is to put in a bigger garden next year. The idea is that by spending less on produce at the market, that we will have more for the things we can't provide ourselves. And an extension of that is to plant some fiber plants and some dye plants.

I have talked about the dye plants a bit already, and I also gave the Rock a list of seeds that I would like to get for the garden that he can put under the Christmas tree. Among them are woad and weld and I think Lady's bedstraw. So I think that I will be okay that way.

The fiber plants though, I have some linen seeds from last year, that may germinate, only one way to find out. I also have some unginned cotton that a guildmember gave us as part of a demo to spin cotton from the seed. So I am ginning cotton by hand, which is a long tedious and painful process.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

In the photo, which is pretty bad, coming as it did from my phone, and probably to be replaced by a better photo in the near future, from top left clockwise is the unginned cotton, the cleaned cotton and that gray mass on the bottom is the cotton seeds. They are about the size of my pinky fingernail and covered with cotton (Imagine that!).

To gin the cotton, you pull out a seed and the surrounding cotton from the pile. Using your fingernails, you gently but firmly pull the cotton off from the seed as closely as possible until the seed is clean. Lather, rinse and repeat. Update: I have added a small video clip that DH did of me ginning the last few bolls. I now have a good size bag of acala, which hopefully will germinate.

The thing that I was totally not prepared for is that after awhile, my fingers got sore and tender, like you've either folded the fingernail back or slammed it in a car door, but just the tip.

So this got me to thinking about how in American History, they always talk about the importance of the cotton gin. So I did a little research and found that the cotton gin is in fact thought to have increased the need and brutality of slavery to feed the gins. I just could not imagine sitting and pulling cotton off of seeds for weeks and weeks as part of preparing to spin. I would love to see how much cotton was produced in the US prior to the invention of the cotton gin, to get an idea of how many people needed to handgin cotton.

Another way to gin cotton that I have heard of is to run the cotton bolls through a pasta machine like one might use to gin small amounts of cotton. Depending on how my cotton crop goes next year, I may have to get one.

Finally, I have about 2 dozen Pima cotton seeds, and way more Acala cotton seeds, not counting the pile in the photo of unginned cotton. Now I want to get some Natural colored cotton, but check this out. This is the power of the [racist] cotton grower's associations in protecting their WHITE [read pure] cotton from the [implied insidious and evil] COLORED cotton. They have managed somehow to prevent me from planting or even acquiring colored cotton in the State of California.

But I am not to be deterred. I will probably ask someone to host my seeds and then send them on to me here in California, after being repackaged in their state. It's a good thing that I am not a vengeful, vindictive type, or I would buy like 3 metric tons and spread it through the big cotton fields in Southern California. That would show them.

Of course, it might also raise the price of cotton, which would be bad on so many levels, especially for someone like me in need of clothes, but not having lots of money to spend on them.
Update: I was able to get some natural brown cotton from ebay with seeds, now for the green!


Bezzie said...

I love you for your cotton complex. I don't run into many fiberists that enjoy working with cotton.

Although I've never seen any of those PBS shows, I've seen clips. What a dream! My Canadian potato commune will be very similar.

Ceallach said...

Yeah for complexes.

I would so be a part of your Canadian potato commune, if I can grow cotton!