Sunday, February 19, 2006

Tobacco barn

Dark barn with door props

This is a "dark barn", with the doors propped shut in the classic Kentucky way. I am not entirely sure why they do that, but I have a theory which I will advance shortly.

In this part of Kentucky, two types of tobacco are grown -- burley and dark. To generalize, burley tobacco has a yellowish-green leaf that is used for cigarettes, and dark tobacco has a dark green leaf that is used for cigars, snuff, and pipe and chewing tobacco.

At harvest, the mature plants are cut, stuck on a stick, and hung in a barn to cure. Burley is air-cured so it can be hung in any barn that keeps out rain. Dark tobacco is fired (smoke-cured), so it must be hung in a barn that is relatively air-tight. Hardwood slabs (at right in the photo) and sawdust are set afire in the barn, and the air flow is restricted so that a great deal of smoke results. This flavors and colors the leaf.

Now about the barn doors being propped. It's terribly important that the smouldering fire in the barn does not get out of control. I think the farmers prop the doors shut with boards to lessen the chance of the barn door somehow coming open accidentally and letting in a lot of air.

Every year, some tobacco barns do burn, usually when there are high winds. About ten years ago, we were driving to town when we saw one going up in flames and we stopped at a house to tell them to call the fire department. It burned to the ground. Last fall, two barns burned to the ground within five miles of here and within the same week.

November and December bring the necessary damp cold days to bring the leaf "in order" and the tobacco is taken down, stripped from its stalks, and hand baled. In the old days, it was taken to market sometime after January 1 at one of Hopkinsville's tobacco auctions. Nowadays, most of the tobacco is sold directly to a tobacco company. I don't think any of the tobacco auctions in Hopkinsville operate anymore.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

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