A Plants Update: Mr Death

Gosh, there are some heavy-going subjects in the News at the moment: the cabinet reshuffle, the DRIP fast-tracked legislation (DRIP means ‘Data Retention and Investigatory Powers’), the paedophile investigation. I suspect that it is no accident that this collection of tricky subjects has been introduced in a heap. It surprises me that Cameron did not also introduce plain packaging, no smoking in cars, alcohol-free pubs and lights out at 10 pm, at the same time. Out of the list, only one thing astonishes me – the promotion of Soubry to a Defence MINISTER. Why did Cameron do that when she is clearly incompetent? Maybe the fact that she is female, as well as incompetent, was the deciding factor.

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But tonight I have a couple of pics of the baccy plants to show for a little light relief. Here is plot 1:

2014-07-15 19.47.58

The pic does not do justice to the size of the plants. The leaves of the bigger plants (mostly in the middle and on the right) are about a foot long. So, fingers crossed, they are doing OK. But there are a lot of plants which are unsatisfactory. You can see that some of them are tiny.

Here is a pic of plot 2:

2014-07-15 19.48.14

The plants are much smaller, but seem to be healthy enough. In that corner, there is not much sun, but last year they did well enough to be worthwhile. The problem in my garden is, where else to put them? I’m thinking of having a re-organise this winter and enlarging plot 1 significantly by taking off the corner of the lawn. I like that idea because, even if I abandoned baccy plant growing, that area could be used for growing vegetables and such. Plot 2 could be planted with shade tolerant shrubs.

Yes, I think that is the way forward.

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Some of the tiniest of the plants are useless. They will do nothing because their roots are ‘corrupt’, so they will be replaced. It does not matter if the replacements do not reach their full potential, provided that the biggest, bottom leaves do well. So I have plants in reserve:

2014-07-15 19.48.58

The pots are 3″ pots, so you can see that the leaves are quite large. In addition to those, I have about 30 upstairs, but those are the best. You can see that those plants have done very well. I have a bit of a problem. I am off on my travels again in a week’s time. Should I plant them out now or wait until I return? That is two weeks. How big will they grow in their pots? I think that I shall wait, and surrender them, as far as watering is concerned, to daughter 2. UPDATE: I changed my mind and have planted them out today. I’ve decided to re-pot eight of the other reserve plant into the 3″ pots.

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This year has been another year of learning by adversity. For example. we had no frost this winter to ‘condition’ the soil. It is hard to know whether or not that matters. How the plants in plot 1 develop might help to ‘learn’ us. But is this deficit in knowledge typical of the ‘bully’ state? In effect, the way we are going, only ‘experts’ will be allowed to grow anything at all because of the ‘dangers’ of people deciding for themselves. What then will happen to TV programmes devoted to gardening? The ‘Experts’ will demand legislation banning home-grown vegetables. because they might contain nicotine.

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Not to worry. As time passes, the Zealots are getting themselves into seriously contradictory situations. Somewhere in the USA, a State wants to increase tobacco taxes for the direct purpose of funding education because that State has a budgetary shortfall in its funding of education. It wants smokers, and only smokers, to make up the shortfall. Why should a 20% smoker population pay for the education of non-smokers?

That is the sort of nonsense that Tobacco Control has germinated.

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Herself and I have watched a strange film on ‘Film 4’ tonight. It was about the guy who set himself the task of making the electric chair more efficient. I suppose that he was a person similar to Dr Guillotine – if you intend to execute a person, then do it economically, efficiently and, as far as possible, painlessly. His name was Fred A Leuchter Jr. He was described as ‘Mr Death’. Because he did a good job of raising the standards of electrocution, the Governor of a different USA State decided that he could also do a good job of improving that State’s ‘lethal injection’ method of execution, regardless of the fact that Leuchter knew nothing about poisons. I suppose that Leuchter. as an ‘Expert’ in executions, was happy to ‘help the Governor out’ (at a price) by relieving pressure on the Governor regarding ‘cruelty issues’.

But the culmination of the film (which had a documentary style) revolved around nazi gas chambers in places like Auschwitz. I have little doubt that Leuchter was honest, but the fact is that he made a simple error. In order to ‘prove’ (or ‘disprove’) that certain rooms were used as gas chambers, Leuchter chipped  bits of stone and plaster off the walls of the chambers. He then had the chips analysed to look for the remnants of hydrogen cyanide. But he made a grave error – if that gas affected the walls at all, it would only affect a few microns of the surface of the walls. Therefore, analysis of ‘chips’ from the walls of the chambers is useless. Such chips reveal only the chemicals which are characteristic  of the plaster or brick. What might have been useful might have been scrapings of the surfaces of the plaster and the bricks.

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The film was a good film and very unusual. What intrigued me was the logical comparisons which could be drawn between ‘practical efficiency’ (the electric chair) and the equivalent ‘practical efficiency’ of tobacco control, being prohibition eventually.

enough for now.

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10 Responses to “A Plants Update: Mr Death”

  1. kin_free Says:

    Crop rotation Junican!! You should not be planting the same plant in the same place year after year, but growing different crops in a 3 or 4 year cycle. Without rotation, crops will become weaker, yielding less and less.

    Different plants take advantage of different ‘foods’ in the soil and don’t deplete the soil of those specific nutrients. Plant-specific diseases and parasites can build up without crop rotation. It used to be that one year in three, the land had to be left fallow but some plants can replace nutrients in the soil eg turnips or clover. (Google ‘Turnip Townsend’).

    • junican Says:

      Odd! Your comment went into spam. I see no reason for that. Something similar happened with a few MJM comments.
      Nor did your comment appear in my email notification box. Weird.

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      Crop rotation is not an option – I do not have the space. Replacement of the nutrients is an option. Potash is important, which is why I save tobacco ash and spread it over the plots. Also, I have been pouring urine into the plots. Urine is a SUPERB fertiliser. Also, I have re-instated my compost heap. Into it go grass clippings from the lawn, some urine and tea bag contents. Around December, I intend to obtain a sufficiency of ‘well-rotted’ manure, and to dig that in. Only if none of those steps work will I consider rotation.
      But it is true that tobacco plants need special nutrients. I have a book which describes ‘scientifically’ what special fertilisers are required, what form they should take, and how much of each should be spread over the land. I’ve ‘recognised’ the advice, but not yet thought it through properly. We’ll see…….

  2. J Brown Says:

    Ah, good, a tobacco growing update….And my dilemma: I have about 100+ tobacco plants growing – certainly more than my tiny greenhouse can accommodate. I put about 30 or more into small pots – they are growing well, but at some point will become rootbound. The plants in my greenhouse are pretty crowded as well. So, what is the solution?? Hmmm….I bought a polytunnel and hopefully will be erecting it this weekend. I understand that our growing season is about half over, if not more. I also understand that the plants I left in my greenhouse last year actually overwintered – no growth at all during the winter but still alive – and began to grow once the weather and soil warmed up again. But, this is now my dilemma: with the possibility of so many plants actually making it to harvest, I cannot see that the toweling/heated propagator technique will be able to service them all. I have been (once again) scouring the internet for a solution, and (once again) confused at the myriad of ‘methods’ and ‘definitions’ used with regard to processing the plants. Certainly there are larger growers in our areas (I have read about growing in Scotland, for example) that use methods other than the toweling/propagator for their processing. I am wondering if you or any of the posters here have any suggestions about how to process a serious number of plants!!

    • junican Says:

      Coffinails suggested building a ‘curing chamber’ using 2″ thick sheets of polystyrene. His chamber measure around 5′ x 3′ x 3′. It would have required a heater and some form of humidifier. I didn’t fancy it for various reasons – where to put it (possibly garage), time to cure (months?), cost of heating, not enough space inside.
      I have thought about this problem before, but the need has not yet arisen. My own solution would be to buy a second propagator! I have enough towels, but it would be cost effective to buy a few cheap ones if necessary.

      Here is a pic someone sent me:

      The person is English, but I don’t know where he lives. I have seen others – one guy does the same thing but in a wooden shed. I would worry about the leaves drying too quickly. Notice that he has plenty of plants growing (behind the low green fence-stuff and in the foreground).

      Our (outside) growing season extends from May to about November. I’m still having trouble deciding when to germinate! Next year, I have in mind to start in February. I want to get the plants bigger before planting out in May.

  3. moss Says:

    JB, I can quite understand your dilemma. last year As you can see in the photo provided by Junican, I actually over planted believing that some plants would suffer from Wilt. There are various kinds of Wilt, and the tobacco variety which I chose is reckoned to be prone to such attacks. The variety I chose was, Canadian Burly. With this variety outside air curing is recommended.
    What I couldn’t dry out, outside had to be accommodated in my green house with as many apertures open as was possible. The leaf was sliced down the centre vein and straddled over a cord line with a space between to dry. No matter how hard you try the line always sags, therefore the leaves tend to stick together. It’s essential to keep air flowing between the leaves.
    Now, here’s probably where we part company, JB. I am working toward a reasonable pipe tobacco because I don’t smoke cigarettes – unless they’re free!
    In my opinion, a similar process to what I’m working on must work for cigarette leaf as well. I admire what Junican is doing with his toweling method, but here again, as Junican hints – it’s about space time and amount. We’re all new at this game, but experimentation is the name of the game. I’ve done some absolutely silly things – just to see how it turned out, and I’ve lost a fair amount of dried leaf as a result, but I grew the excess with this in mind. The biggest problem I experienced was getting rid of the thick stems that were left behind – some of them were as thick as my wrist and up to 7ft tall, it was a heck of a job clearing off.
    If it’s so that you find yourself with excess leaf, then read up on preserving it and safeguarding it from mould. At least you’ll still have your dried leaf, and it’ll give you time to get something sorted out. No one knows all the answers, JB, and there are varying opinions and many preferences. Hopefully through these pages and discussions we’ll land on a suitable basic method.that we can all work from.

  4. J Brown Says:

    Ah, thank you both for your comments – just a fast question, which leads to my current confusion – it appears that on some sites, the leaf is hung, color cured and then put into the kiln. On other sites, however, it appears the leaf is immediately put into the kiln, prior to drying, and color cures in the kiln. I currently have an old freezer in the shed that is no longer being used, and have read about the ‘crock pot’ method, where a crock pot is put into the bottom of the freezer, which, when filled with water, heats and humidifies the leaves that are hung in the freezer. Because the growing season was so off kilter this year, I would imagine that my leaves will not be ready for harvest until the end of October. I do have a shed where they can be hung, where there is good ventilation, but no heat. The more I read about this process and the varying opinions, the more confused I get!!

  5. junican Says:

    You could have a read of this site:

    http://www.instructables.com/id/Tobacco-fermentation-curing-chamber-for-cigars/?ALLSTEPS

    The reason that I mention it in particular is because he mentions the use of old fridges towards the end.

    He uses a cooler box for fermentation because they are insulated. It is there that he says that some people use an old fridge, again because of the built in insulation.
    He sees the process as in three parts:
    1. Allow the leaves to dry and yellow by hanging (about 4 weeks), making sure that they have plenty of ventilation..
    2. Ferment by applying heat while at the same time having high humidity (again, about 4 weeks).
    3. Ageing.

    I have certain problems with that process:
    1. How can we expect to have the climate conditions in the Autumn to dry out the leaves in the suggested manner? I tried a little experiment some time ago. I took a few pieces of leaf which I had yellowed in a towel and just left them on a table in a small pile. After a few days, mould appeared on the surface of the leaves.That put me off the idea of leaving leaves just lying around damp! I tried another experiment. I hung some yellowed leave on coat hangers and suspended them over the fireplace so that warm air rose and passed over the leaves. That worked – the leaves dried slowly and satisfactorily without any sign of mould. (I suppose that is the equivalent of Rose’s method of hanging leaves in a position in a sunny window)
    I also tried:
    a) Pinning a leaf in the garden shed – it gradually dried out, but stayed green.
    b) Pegging on the washing line in the sun – dried green.
    c) One leaf in a towel – dried green.
    d) Microwaving – dried green.
    e) Built the ‘yellowing box – not much use.

    It was only then that I realised that the towelling method needs several leaves – 10 to 15 or so, so that you can rotate the leaves within the pile, the idea being that no leaf stays in contact with the towel for any great length of time, so that the leaves have time to dry slowly. Also, compared with the time-scales elsewhere, it is fast.

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    I have often wondered whether the leaves cure during the colour change induced by towelling. I don’t know for sure, but I doubt it. In factory processes, the leaves are dried at a warm temperature for a couple of days and then heated up significantly for another couple of days to force the fermentation. I found the wadding method by accident (which video has been removed). I think that fermentation does actually take place in that process. By placing the wads in a sealed container, the moisture is retained within the container. I have come to the conclusion that a couple of days of wadding is enough. At first, I was wadding far too long so that the leaves turned almost black! But I’m still not sure about it.

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    Finally, the ageing. I believe that chemical reactions in the tobacco continues, judging from the smell which is released when the box containing the shredded and chopped tobacco is opened. Certainly, after a few months, harshness becomes less and less.

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    So we are still figuring things out.

    • J Brown Says:

      Thanks, Junican!! Your experiments seem to mirror mine – I have never been able to get the leaves to yellow just by hanging them – they have always dried green and/or become moldy in the process. Sadly, I don’t think that we have the environmental conditions to color cure just by hanging – although the thought of toweling the leaves from perhaps 100 plants is a bit overwhelming!! I suppose part of my confusion lay with the usage of ‘cure’ and ‘fermentation’ which, appears to be synonymous on some sites. I think the process is color cure (green to yellow to brown, possibly by towelling) and then fermenting (wadding or perhaps the use of a chamber) and then aging (storing). Here is the video that I found where the guy hangs the green leaves in his kiln and seems to do the whole thing in that chamber, with some pretty serious air/heat/moisure control (flue curing, apparently):

      He’s got quite a few you tube videos, regarding this process, as well as a regular kiln set up. Sadly, I don’t think I have the wherewithal to be quite as scientific.
      Frankly, I didn’t wad my tobacco last year – and I think that this (or equivalent fermentation) does need to be done!!

    • J Brown Says:

      This is also a really informative video, as well:

      • junican Says:

        A couple of very interesting videos, JB. The sound on the second one was not very good, though, but I got the idea.
        The first one seems to follow reasonably closely commercial systems in that the leaves are first made to go yellow/brown and then given further time to allow the fermentation to happen. In the second one, the guy used a press to force fermentation. That interests me because it seems to me that pressing is equivalent to wadding, as is packing leaves in a bottle. There is another interesting point, which is that, after I have wadded, I shred and chop once the leaves have dried sufficiently. I then ‘pack’ the stuff in sealed containers. Does that also aid further fermentation in the containers, and is that the reason for the smell when the containers are opened?
        I think that we are getting to understand more clearly all the time.

        My plants are growing steadily now, so I expect to be picking the lower leaves towards the end of August or early September. I’m looking forward to it!

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