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Subject: Pipes Digest #26 - Sept. 19, 1989

		Pipes Digest #26 - Sept. 19, 1989


From: Bill Thacker <cbema!wbt>
Subject:   Tobacco Roots IV - From Root to Cheroot

My memory of dates starts to fade on me... but in about November,
the hanging tobacco is cured.  Most of the water is dessicated away,
though the leaves should not be brittle.  At this point is is ready to
be "stripped" of its leaves.

Adjoining one of Grandpa's  tobacco sheds was the strip house; a
cement-block lean-to, with a wood-burning stove and ringed with benches.
Being cold weather, the stove was a necessity, of course.  Stripping
was "woman's work", which here, as on most farms, meant that everyone
helped, but the women kept at it when the men had other things to do 8-)

The laths of tobacco are brought down from the shed a few at a time; about
a day's worth.  The stalks are removed from the laths (the latter being
stored in a rack until the next season) and taken into the strip house.
There, the leaves are stripped off by hand into "hands", hand-sized
bunches.  Care is taken to keep the leaves flat, so they don't crease.
The leaves are sorted as they're stripped; damaged, worm-eaten, or overly-
dry leaves are segregated into the "trash" pile, the rest are carefully
packed into the baler.

The baler is a simple wooden box, about 4 feet long, a foot and a half
wide, and 2 feet or so deep.  The short ends are removable.  Three lengths
of twine string are laid in the baler, equally spaced along the length
of the box, with the ends handing over the long sides, then heavy brown paper
is laid over the strings to line the box.   The hands of tobacco are then 
laid in the box, their long direction parallel to the box's.  When the
baler is full, a top is placed on it; this has clamps attaching to
the bottom and levers to tighten it down, compressing the tobacco leaves.
The bale is "pressed" for about half an hour, then the top is removed, the
paper folded over, and the strings tied tight.  The sideboards are then
removed, and out comes a bale of tobacco, wrapped in paper and belted with
three strings.   This is stored in the shed.

When enough trash has been accumulated, it, too, is baled, and stored
separately.

The empty stalks are thrown in a manure spreaader and used as fertilizer.
They don't make great fertilizer, but you've got to do *something* with
them....

After that, the tobacco bales are trucked to a distributor.  As I
understand it (no personal experience here), some of them are then
opened for grading, and they are then auctioned to manufacturers.  The
quality leaves are used for wrapping cigars, while the poorer ones, 
including the trash, are ground for filler or pulped for juice for
the worst grade cigars.

That, then, is the story of Ohio-grown seed leaf.   There are, of course,
a number of other methods.  For example, in parts of New England it is
common to erect cheesecloth tents over the tobacco in the field, to
produce "shade-grown" tobacco.   Burley is a completely different beast;
for starts, it's much taller, six feet or so, and it requires a longer
growing season than Ohio provides.  I'm told Burley is stripped in the
field, with the leaves themselves being spudded onto laths for hanging.

As you've seen, tobacco is a very labor-intensive crop, not readily
suitable for automation.  Each leaf is valuable;  I can't say how much
is paid per pound of leaf, but I do know that Grandpa's two dozen or
so acres was his biggest cash crop.  Still, I would hazard that the
increase in minimum wages since my childhood has probably taken a big
bite out of that profit margin, which perhaps explains why I don't see much
tobacco being grown in tht area today.  Grandpa gave it up about 7 years
or so ago.

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


[ Thanks for the series, Bill! It's a light week; I hope some of our
  other readers will pipe up, too! -S. ]


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  1. Subject: Pipes Digest #26 - Sept. 19, 1989
  2. Subject: Tobacco Roots IV - From Root to Cheroot
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