From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Final Event of the Tobacco Year

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...



Last year's tobacco stalks

The last step of the tobacco harvest is to discard the stalks of the plants. By now, the leaves have been removed, baled and shipped, and next year's plants are already being started in greenhouses.

Shredded tobacco stalks and leaf stems are said to be a good bedding for birds (chickens, pigeons, etc.) that repels mites. Research has been done about using the stalks to make paper products. But around here, I think most of the stalks end up like those in the photo above.

Farmers usually spread the stalks in a field that won't have tobacco grown in it soon. This is a good practice because the stalks can provide an overwintering place for hornworms, flea beetles, or other insect pests. There's also the chance that the stalks may harbor a mildew or mold that's harmful to tobacco plants.

Tobacco stalks benefit the soil where they are spread. They contain nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and other nutrients that can be picked up and used by living plants. Some farmers keep the stalks inside until spring, because the nutrients in the stalk can leach away during the rainy cold months of winter.

I have mixed feelings about tobacco. I don't wish for anyone to smoke or use tobacco in any form! It's a terribly addictive and harmful substance.

But still, I have learned to respect the farmers who grow tobacco in Christian County. They work terribly hard at various stages of the crop. It takes real skill to grow a good crop of tobacco. There's a long, proud history of tobacco growing in this county.

I've photographed the tobacco crop at various stages -- click the "tobacco" label at the bottom of this post if you'd like to see and read more about tobacco farming in Christian County, KY. Also, the University of Kentucky has a great photo essay of the year of the tobacco grower.


Bar
A year ago today, I posted photos of blue sky breaking through the storm clouds.

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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)

Thanks for reading.