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.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Smoking Tobacco Barn

Firing begins.



Our neighbor's barn is full of tobacco, and now he's firing (fire-curing) the tobacco.

Inside the barn, sawdust is smoldering in trenches or a pit on the barn floor. A pile of sawdust stands ready between the barn and the highway. Hardwood slabs are usually burned along with the sawdust. If you are curious about the process, the University of Kentucky document, Harvesting, Curing, and Preparing Dark-Fired Tobacco for Market (pdf), is a good summary of the science of fire-curing.

Tonight the wind is carrying the smoke our way. We have some windows open this evening, and we can smell the smoke in the house. I don't enjoy the odor, so I closed the windows on the side that the breeze was coming through, and that helped.

Tobacco firing doesn't last too long. In a few weeks, this will be over. Before then, the wind will switch again and the smoke will blow somewhere else.

Related post: New Tobacco Barn
On the web: Image of the smoke-filled interior of a tobacco barn:1

6 comments:

RunAwayImagination said...

We've taken more than one country drive this time of year and been alarmed by a smoking barn, which looks as if it's ready to catch fire. Only later did we learn that this is a normal part of curing tobacco. Live & learn!

ptg said...

Lots of work and close attention evidently goes into making good tobacco. The U of K paper was most interesting. I didn't know the preparation was such a fussy business. It seems there are plenty of worries for the farmer.

I never got to know any tobacco farmers, but I knew a few tobacco buyers when I was living in Turkey. They would bid on what I thought were small amounts. The quality varied quite a bit from batch to batch.

Genevieve said...

Runaway, a native of Kentucky (who grew up in a Louisville suburb) confessed to me that she and her mother once stopped at a farmhouse and begged the farmers to call the fire department because their barn was smoking.

On the other hand, a few tobacco barns do burn down every year, despite the care the farmers take to keep the fire at a smolder. A steel barn like this is far less likely to burn, but it does still have some wood in it.

Genevieve said...

PTG, growing good tobacco is definitely an art, as well as a science. I'm sure the best way to learn it is to grow up on a tobacco farm.

ptg said...

Darn. I already ordered some pamphlets and seeds.

Genevieve said...

Well, good luck with that. :D

I've seen tobacco seed by the packet in garden catalogs before. I guess it must be a type that is just air-cured.

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