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From: ????????????????????????
Subject: Pipes Digest #25 - September 11, 1989

		Pipes Digest #25 - September 11, 1989

In the pipeline:

- Bill Thacker and the Story of Terbacker;
- Norm Carpenter with questions from the flea market ... and the
  bottom of the bowl;
- and yr. obd't. servant pipes up, as usual.

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From: Bill Thacker <cbema!wbt>
Subject:   Tobacco Roots III - The Growing Menace
 
After the first few critical weeks, the tobacco plants become
very hardy.  They are, by nature, large and bushy, so they tend to
shade out any weeds which would compete; and there are not many
predators that care to eat any but the youngest plants.

One of those that do exist, though, is the tobacco worm
(eatimus cavendish); a large (1/2"x2") green caterpillar.  These are not a
major threat, as they don't eat much, but they are worth controlling for
Seed Leaf growers because they cut holes in the leaves, rendering them
unusable for cigar wrapping.  Spray insecticides are sufficient, and only
one application, after the initial planting, is needed.

Another threat, particularly later in the season, is hail;  a heavy
hailstorm can ruin the leaves, greatly reducing the crop's worth.

The next thing that needs attention comes near the end of the growing
season (about 4 months), as the plants mature.  To reproduce, the plants
(which by now are large bushes; about 4 feet tall and 3 feet across) send
up tall spikes, which will produce pink flowers.

The reproductive cycle, though, saps the plant's energy away from the
leaves, much as intact genitals will sap a bull's strength away from
meat development.  Therefore,  just as the rancher "steers" his bull
calves,  the grower will walk the fields, snapping off (sorry for the
imagery 8-) the spikes from all but a half-dozen (in my grandpa's case) 
plants, which will be allowed to produce the next year's seed.  

The plant, though, doesn't give up so easily.  Deprived of its family
jewels, it will produce small, stickly (high tar content, I suppose) 
buds near the severed stalk.  These "suckers" serve no useful purpose, but
divert energy, so they, too must be snapped off.  Typically, the flowering
and suckering operations will take place at three to five day intervals over
about 2-3 weeks; some plants will flower later than others.

We're now into August, and the plants are mature.   When the weather is
right (that is, dry and hot), and early in the morning, the plants are cut.
This is usually done by hand at Grandpa's; you walk along the row, bending
the plants over with the left hand to expose the base of the stalk (by now,
about an inch in diameter and very woody; about like ginger root, for those
Chinese cooks out there), while the right hand swings a cutting tool,
either a machete or an axe-like cutter.   The plants are left to lie on
their sides for several hours, until early afternoon; and only a few acres
are cut each day (that is, you only cut what you can take in).

The hot, dry weather is important; as it lies, the tobacco wilts from the
heat.  This greatly facilitates later handling, as "crisp" plants are far
more fragile.

Now comes the *really* labor-intensive part 8-)  A large field crew, fueled
by a typically-large farm dinner, goes out to the field.  A wagon is driven
alongside of the newly-cut tobacco, bearing a supply of "laths", strips of
wood (hickory is preferred, but oak is common) about 1/4"x1"x48" long on
the front, plus a couple of water jugs and a bucket of hard candy for the
workers.  About 4 spudders will walk, each covering two rows of tobacco;
they carry a hollow-backed steel spearpoint, or spud, which is placed on one end
of the lath, while the other is stuck against the ground.   The spudder
picks up a tobacco plant with one hand, and sits it on the spud point
(a task requiring a bit of deftness; the plants are a bit heavy to handly
one-handed, so you have to *swing* the stalk upward in an arc so that it
lands on the spud) about 4-6" below the cut end of the stalk.  Then, the
other hand is brought up to drive the plant onto the spud, and thus, 
the lath.  Plants are spudded 6-10 inches apart, depending on size.  When
the lath is full, the spudder hands it back to his/her "carrier", who
hands the spudder an empty lath, and takes the full one to the wagon, 
handing it up to the "stacker", who stacks it flat.  A stack of tobacco
one lath deep is called a "rick", and 3 ricks fill a wagon.

The laden wagon is then swapped for an empty one, and taken to to
tobacco shed, a tall barn with beam rafters spaced about 40" apart, just
right for suspending the laths.  In the shed, one worker unloads the wagon,
handing the full laths to another man standing in the rafters.  Depending
on the height of the barn, and horizontal distance from the wagon, the
lath may be passed several times before it is "hung".   The barn is hot and
dusty, which, along with the extra hazard or working in the rafters, earns
the shed crew bonus pay.  (I've never seen anyone fall from the beams,
though).  They then load fresh laths onto the wagon and return it to the
field crew.

A full crew for a typical day's work at Grandpa's would then be a field
tractor driver, a stacker, 4 spudders, 4 carriers, and a half-dozen
hangers, one of whom also drives a tractor; about 16 people all told.
It took about 6-8 such days over a two-week period to bring in all of
Grandpa's tobacco, weather permitting.

As has been mentioned, the tobacco shed has slats in the sideboards which
can be opened to vary air flow.  It will hang for several months until
it has cured.  What started as a succulent, green plant ends as a dried,
shriveled corpse; the leaves have the leather-brown look and paper-thin,
tough texture familiar to cigar smokers.

We're almost done now, but I'll taunt you with the exciting conclusion.
Stay tuned to this digest next week, same tobac-time, same tobac-channel.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Bill Thacker			att!cbema!wbt	     ??????????????????


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From: ???????????????????????????? (Norm Carpenter)
Subject: A couple of questions.

I am very happy to see the amount of interesting traffic  in  our
small  mail  circle.  I  really  enjoy  the article about growing
tobacco (keep 'em comming).  I am  afraid  that  I,  like  Steve,
wouldn't know a tobacco plant from beans.  But I do love to smoke
the stuff in my pipes.  Which leads me to my first question.

When I first light my pipe is the best time to  enjoy  the  aroma
and  taste  of the tobacco.  When I get down to the bottom of the
bowl, a lot of the flavor is gone and I seem to be sucking ashes.
Is  there  a  good  way  to  smoke the tobacco all the way to the
bottom (got to get that heel cake established)  and  still  enjoy
the tobacco as if it were first lit?

My second question I hesitate to bring up because my  foolishness
might  have  cost me a  valuable possesion.  We have a local flea
market here which is on the parking lot of a  college  campus. It
is  held only once a month so there is still a pretty good mix of
household treasures along with the commercial junk.  While I  was
there  I kept my eye out for pipes.  I happened along a pipe that
was a cross between a freehand and a more standard pipe.  By this
I  mean that the bowlwas a freehand cube and the shank was square
flaring out towards the fitting end.  The stem  was  one  of  the
freehand  variety,  turned  and  not motised into the shank.  The
pipe was a Ben Wade and he was asking $25.

In the standard tradition of the flea market society,  I  offered
him  $15  for his pipe.  This guy was a non-conformist.  He stuck
to his original $25 price.  I left  and  went  around  the  whole
place.  A couple hours later, as I was leaving, I returned to his
booth and found that all his other pipes had been sold,  but  the
Ben  Wade  was still there.  I gave it one more pitch and offered
$20.  He still held on to his price, and  my  wife,  who  doesn't
smoke, was indifferent to the transaction.  I left in disgrace of
not having accomplished barganing skills (with the right person I
might  normally have gotten them to give me the pipe 8->).  Did I
miss a golden opportunity?

Smokin' the same old pipes in CA.

Norm


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From: Steve Masticola (??????????????????????????)
Subject: Norm's questions

I'm also glad we've been having some more activity here! I'll
contribute my share by answering Norm's questions (tho I might be
totally off base, in which case I'm sure someone will set me aright
(alight? :-)

Well, I almost never have the problem of the flavor being gone at the
bottom of a pipe - in fact, usually the reverse is true for me! (The
tobacco sometimes gets juicy and kind of rank.) 

But the fact that you're getting a lot of ash at the end implies that
you might be leaving the tobacco loose at the bottom of the bowl. Try
packing the bowl a little more firmly at the bottom and see if that
doesn't help.

Another possibility is that the tobacco has dried out and crumbled
into dust, as it often will when being bounced around in a pouch. The
only cure for that is to get some new!

Regarding the used Ben Wade, offhand it doesn't sound like you passed
up an outstandingly valuable pipe. Ben Wades retail in the range of
about $50 (or used to when I was buying a lot of pipes) - actually, I
think they're the brand name Stanwell uses to market their seconds.

Regardless of who made it or how much it originally cost, you can
approach used pipes as a collector or as a casual smoker. If I were
being casual about it, I'd look for a good deal the same way I would
if I were buying a new pipe (check fills, sand pits, grain appearance)
and look for damage (broken stem, cracks in the wood, burns around the
tobacco hole, scuffs, stains, spots, etc). A stem can be replaced (and
this would be a good bargaining point), but damage to the bowl is
harder to undo invisibly. Basically, don't buy a used pipe unless
you'd feel good doing so!

This reminds me of a rack of pipes I saw at a flea market a month or
two ago. These disabled veterans qualified as some of the most pitiful
specimens of pipedom - complete with house paint stains, burns
_through_ the bowls, cracks in shanks and stems, and every kind of
defect imaginable except living fleas. The price was marked at $35 for
an ugly rack full of unsmokable pipes. I looked at them, hoping for an
errant Dunhill, but they remained totally nondescript under close
scrutiny.  The owner, seeing what he took to be my interest, offered
to come down to $30. He may well remain their owner to this day. :-)

Of course, someone who's a serious collector will have to do a lot
more research about brand history - this gets into stuff like pre-
versus post- transition Barlings, Sasieni one-, four-, and eight-dots,
and like arcana about which I claim no expertise. Ben Rappaport wrote
a "Guide to Collecting Antique Pipes", which is still in print; this,
plus Hacker's book, are a start. But for noncollectors, I still
believe the rule is to buy what you'd like to smoke. That way, when
you buy, you'll...

					Smoke in peace,
					~\U Steve.


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 )				       *   *				  )
( Pipe smokers will rule the world!      *   ??????????????????????	 (
 ) (if they don't run out of matches...) *   Steve Masticola, moderator	  )
(				       *   *				 (
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Article Index

  1. Subject: Pipes Digest #25 - September 11, 1989
  2. Subject: Tobacco Roots III - The Growing Menace
  3. Subject: A couple of questions.
  4. Subject: Norm's questions
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