Preparing for This Year’s Harvest

A change from chasing the charlatans and zealots of tobacco control tonight.

Today, I started preparation of my plots in readiness for this years plantation. Normally, I would have done this work in December, but we have been fraught will all sorts of problems, and so digging was low priority. The reason for digging in December is to take advantage of frost. As reader will not doubt know, a nice hard frost causes water in the soil to freeze. When the water freezes, it expands. When it thaws again, it leaves billions of tiny holes in the ground which can fill with air, which contains nitrogen, which is an important plant food. The activity of ploughing the fields in or around December is for this purpose. It is called ‘conditioning’. As it happens, we have not had any frost so far, so the delay is not important. I suppose that there is still time for a couple of nights of hard frost, which would be wonderful.

This year, I have had a change of plan. Instead of digging over the whole plot, I have just dug holes in the places where I intend to put this year’s plantlets once they are big enough. I’ve tried to dig the holes to one side of where this years plants were so as to use soil which has been ‘fallow’ for a couple of years. The root balls of baccy plants are not very big even though the plants can grow very big. They grow down rather than out. My method was to push the spade as deep as possible and then lever the chunk of soil out and place it at the side of the hole. Of course, the chunk rarely comes out in one big piece, and so one needs to take out loose bits, but it does not matter much since the idea is primarily to make a hole so that you can dig deeper and just break the soil up without removing any more soil.

I was not looking forward to this job, but it turned out to be much easier than I thought that it would be. All I wanted to do was make a start – say 5 or 10 holes, but I managed to dig 23 holes in about an hour. Since I only need about 50 to 60 holes,that is pretty good going. Ideally, what would be great, would be a couple of days/nights of hard frost between now and the end of March to freeze the soil at the bottom of the holes and to freeze the lumps of soil which are on the surface around the holes. Will we have any frost this year at all? It is not too late.

I re-established my compost heap last spring. Since then, I’ve been chucking lawn clippings, tea bags, other vegetation, dog poo, whatever, onto the compost heap. (Dog poo, you might shreik!! As far as I am concerned, dog poo is just the same as any other poo. It comes from daughter’s little shih tzu mutt. She craps on the lawn and I pick it up with a poo bag and throw it on the heap. What’s wrong with that?) When I scrape recent additions off the top of the heap, I expect to find lovely, crumbly, worm-conditioned, vitamin-rich plant food underneath. A small spade-full in each hole will work wonders this year – I hope. But I need not do that until later. And then there is the urine, which is wonderful fertiliser. Without going into detail, my wife has a disability and has to use a ‘urine collection bag’ overnight……

It is also time to germinate. I bought a new propagator. It is a very simple thing and cost peanuts. Baccy plant seeds are tiny, so you do not need a big propagator to start them off. The propagator contains 60 cells, approximately 1 cubic inch each. That is quite sufficient for germination. In my kitchen, there is a shelf which is situated over a radiator. The shelf gets warm. I put the propagator on the shelf, and the heat from the radiator, via the shelf, warms up the compost in the propagator. It is important to give the compost-filled propagator time to warm up before sprinkling the seeds onto the surface. The seeds germinate wonderfully well. Well, they have in the past, and I see no reason that they should not do so this year. Last year, I made a total cock up, but let’s not go into that. (Briefly, I put the seeds onto the surface of cold compost and they did not germinate) If all goes well, then the seedlings should be ready to pot on into 2″ pots in about 6 weeks time.

Growing the plants, harvesting and curing is time-intensive. That is why I describe it as ‘A HOBBY’. It is interesting, sometimes amusing, requires a certain amount of devotion, and produces a worthwhile result in due course. The ‘worthwhile result’ is by no means a viable commercial enterprise. There is no way whatsoever that one could viably ‘sell’ one’s produce at a profit, in the sense of ‘making a living’.

It is a hobby, and nothing else. Just as a person might aspire to be a good golfer or cricketer, without expecting to make money from that activity, so do I entertain myself and challenge myself by growing baccy plants and going through the process of curing the leaves, etc. The whole thing is just A CHALLENGE, an amusement in my old age.

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Ten years ago, before the smoking ban, not in a million years would I have considered growing baccy plants, even as a hobby. In relative terms, in the 1960s and 70s, cigs were reasonably priced, even though they consumed relatively large parts of one’s meagre income. But there was not the proliferation of affordable things to spend one’s surplus funds on as compared with the present. Even in the fairly recent past, before the ban, one would not buy more than a couple of 200 cig cartons to bring back from a holiday in Mallorca. The idea of huge purchases never occurred. There was no need because the difference in cost did not matter that much. I mean, if the price of cigs at home was reasonable, then paying almost nothing for them was relatively unimportant. Like, if you have to pay a lot of money for a flight to the Canaries, and even though accommodation charges might be relatively less than Blackpool, you finish up with COSTS which dwarf the relative savings from buying cheap cigs.

I remember it well. The costs of our first ventures abroad far exceeded any difference between the cost of cigs at home and the cost of those cigs abroad.

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But human beings are very peculiar. It has been said that, since the introduction of the 5p per bag charge for plastic bags in large shops and supermarkets was introduced, the call for such bags has fallen by 80%. I BELIEVE IT! That is how people behave. Contrarians, like people who read this blog, might deliberately demand plastic bags and pay the 5p because that charge is irrelevant compared with the cost of the goods. But it is a matter of fact that we humans cannot help ourselves and are beyond stupid. For example, I now carry a plastic bag in my coat pocket at all times.

How irrational is that? I am an intelligent person. Erm… No. I am a sucker. I have fallen into the irrational pit. The irrational pit is that shops can now throw your purchases onto a shelf and leave you to deal with them at your INCONVENIENCE. Shops are now hating you.You are no longer a valued customer. You are a BORG automaton. Frankly, they just want your money. Quality is irrelevant, regardless of what EU dictats may say. For example, the EU dictates that electrical goods must have a guarantee of two years, and that the seller must bear the costs of failure and pass them back to the manufacturer. But the system is hopelessly complicated. Further, why should such a machine be expected to last for only two years? Does that idea not encourage ‘built in obsolescence’? If the EU was any good, it would have demanded that all such goods should be described with an expected lifetime, and that such goods might have some sort of insurance for failure.

But would it not make far more sense for Companies to required to LEGALLY responsible for the claims that they make regarding the life-time of the machines that they sell?

Erm, No. The caveat imposed upon manufacturers ought to be a reasonable expectation of usage. For example, if a TV is on from morning to night, then a reasonable expectation of how long that TV will function faultlessly ought to be known.

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But all that is a load of shit, and is typical Empire building. There is a simple answer, which is ‘negotiation’.

That concept would require an ‘educated’ public. Would it not be wonderful if our education system taught young people how to negotiate? It seems that the education system is designed to brainwash children about lifestyle ‘errors’ rather than the simple knowledge about writing, reading and mathematics.

There is not time for both. Either they are brainwashed of taught. The more that they are brainwashed, the less that they are taught.

So, they imperative for politicians is TO STOP any form of brainwashing in schools, regardless of Health Zealots. Such persons and groups must be dismissed and their funding be withdrawn. Further, one way or another, they must be questioned in Parliamentary Committees. In particular, the effects of Second Hand Tobacco Smoke has always been comically exaggerated.

I cannot understand why Tobacco Companies have never supported their customers. It really is weird. For example, why did they not fight like hell about SHS?

 

 

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7 Responses to “Preparing for This Year’s Harvest”

  1. Ritathomas Says:

    How do you cure it

    • garyk30 Says:

      There is no ‘cure’ for an inquiring mind such as possessed by our host.

  2. The Blocked Dwarf Says:

    @Ritathomas there is a wealth of information here: https://growingandcuringtobacco.wordpress.com/

    • Ritathomas Says:

      Thank you

      • junican Says:

        Rita,

        Sometimes you read stuff which suggests that curing is dead easy. In a way, it is, but there are some caveats.
        Ideally, the leaves that you are trying to cure need to be mature. Generally, the colour of the leaves will tell you when they are mature. If they are dark green to start with, after a couple of months of growth to full size, they should begin to turn light green. But there are lots of variations. Some parts of leaves might stay predominantly dark green, but have lighter patches or even yellow or brown patches. Those are the most difficult leaves to deal with. With them, you can expect the dark green parts to rot and go very wet and damp. All you can do with the black parts is throw them away.
        The essay that I wrote is helpful, but I am still learning myself. For example, I have come to realise that, in our climate, the bigger and more developed that you can get the plantlets before you plant them outside, the better. That is why I am about to germinate the plants now.
        But read the essay which BD has linked to. There are easy ways which need little cost (towelling), and there are more complex ways which require some cost and effort (building a curing chamber).
        Despite lot of flops, I am still enthusiastic.

      • Rose Says:

        “One of the skills of a Virginia cropmaster was the ability to judge just when the tobacco should be harvested. An experienced planter would look at color (a yellowish green), texture (thick, rough and downy) and pliancy (a leaf that broke when it was folded between one’s fingers).”

        Tobacco: Colonial Cultivation Methods
        http://www.nps.gov/jame/learn/historyculture/tobacco-colonial-cultivation-methods.htm

        I’m not sure about the “thick, rough and downy” bit but the rest is right.

      • junican Says:

        An interesting read, Rose.

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