Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mystery Item Answer

Here is the answer to yesterday's mystery item:

A tobacco basket! 

(I need to apologize to everyone.  I was just informed tonight that the basket size is approximately 40" x 40", not 3' x 3' as I said in yesterday's post.)


When you harvest burley tobacco you cut the plant down close to the ground. Then you spear the tobacco stalk about a foot from the cut end with a wooden stick. (A removable metal tip is placed on the end of the stick to puncture the tobacco stalk.) You can spear 5-6 stalks of tobacco per stick.

The tobacco is then propped up in the fields for about a week so that the sun will wilt it and turn it yellow.  The sticks of tobacco are taking to a barn and hung up to dry for 3-4 months. At this point the tobacco turns brown and is brittle.

Then you wait for a really damp day to grade the tobacco. The dampness makes the leaves become moist and pliable so they do not crumble. Grading means the tobacco is separated into different categories depending on the quality of the leaves.

Once the tobacco is graded, it is put into "hands". (Hands just means how much tobacco can be held in an individual's hand and then it is tied at the stem end with another tobacco leaf.) Then the "hands" are packed into the tobacco baskets to be transported to market to be sold. The manner in which the baskets are packed allows several hundred pounds to be packed in a basket. Sometimes another basket would be placed on the top to secure the stack of tobacco.
(The above information is from an interview with Steve Dean. He grew up working in tobacco with his family.)

My dear friend, Paula Rakes from the Galax,Virginia area, shared the following photo with me of her Uncle Reese grading tobacco.

Here is a video of burley tobacco being harvested:

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, five golden rings, four colly birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.

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