Sunday, September 11, 2011

tobacco as art, part 1

post #52
Welcome to the coming of fall -- which means our black walnuts have begun to fall onto the deck!  There is random clunking heard day or night; all will have fallen by the first frost.

        Fall, however, is just one of many seasons for TOBACCO, the crop I have photographed over the years because it is so much of this place and so interesting. I am lucky to be allergic to smoke, so I have never smoked. In fact, I disparage smoking.  But for many years we had a tobacco base.  That means we were allotted and allowed to grow so many pounds of tobacco per year.  We didn't grow it ourselves -- we leased it to our neighbor --and we never earned very much, but for a long time having a base that was used yearly made a farm such as ours more valuable if we ever wanted to sell.  Turns out we've stayed here so long that by now the way tobacco is grown, if at all, has completely changed.  
planting tobacco plants that have been grown in a covered bed (the seeds are minuscule.)  Notice a plant being  placed into a kind of chute while the tractor moves slowly down each row.  Several parts of the process are going on at one time.  In earlier times, they were all done by hand!
    Changing economic times, however, are another story, for some other time.  For now, I mostly want to share some of the many photos of tobacco that I have taken over the years, in different fields, with different neighbors, and during different seasons.  Today images are mostly from the months of May, June and early July.

first plowing, in 1997, ammonium nitrate on the field, rare view of 
how things were done "in the olden days"

way back in the woods, an unexpected field of early tobacco

Two years ago I was invited to take photos of this team of mules since it would be their last time doing this annual job.  The spring had been so wet that the tobacco was farther along than usual for this first plowing.  The mules are 21 years old.
side view
back view
"teen-aged"  tobacco plants
reality moment in the tobacco field --  what it is all about...

        Speaking of reality, a mention here of the national upheaval this weekend while the world observes the tenth anniversary of 9/11.  I am clearly sorry for so much loss of lives.  I am also sorry for the way this tragedy seems to make it even harder for too many people to think with nuance.  Instead there is a rush to an either/or, good/bad, right/wrong way of thinking.  That's when sound bites have way more power than they deserve, as we give up our right to figure things out for ourselves.  Democracy's challenge and strength is to be inclusive, which requires we use our brains and facts to be informed and therefore to keep it strong.   
     Next week I will share some more tobacco photos --for now, two more, taken last week, with my new little waterproof camera which I am trying to learn to use correctly.  The first shows a field (and a bit of a barn) waiting for the rain to stop before getting cut, and the other a recently cut field with some of the cut tobacco visible hanging in the barn.  
     Tobacco is still happening here, but each year there is less and less grown.

Elliott County
Morgan County (still learning about my new camera settings...)  Here the plants have been cut, and stacked in the barn.  The section of the side of the barn is open, as well as the barn doors, to give more air for the drying of the plants.  Too much rain can produce mold on the plants.  Tobacco requires day by day tending.

     I feel this is a good example of holding two truths at once....I hate smoking and all that it does to people I love, but it has provided an on-going honest and honored living to many families I know.  For small farmers, it requires hard work every month of the year.    However, I can't resist a final clarification: I took many of these photos BECAUSE they show something unusual or interesting or disappearing, but NOT because I believe in the big profits corporations have been making off of the addictions caused by the cigarettes they produce.  Stay well everyone, and thanks again for reading to the end!

1 comment:

  1. Ann, very much like your statement about holding two truths at once, as related to tobacco and 9/11 and everything else for that matter.