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damper than thin, or papery, leaf. Early in the season, it should not be taken down as damp as is required later on. A good rule to determine when it is in proper condition to take down, is to clasp the leaves near the tip of the plant and squeeze tightly; when the pressure is removed and they expand in a few seconds and are stained but very little, the crop is just right to take down. It should be watched while dampening, to guard against rain driving in at the doors. If the outside plants get wet, or too damp, hang them up until dried sufficiently.
Make a floor of sawed poles, planks, or boards, laid on the ground, edge to edge, and pile the plants, a small armful at a time, about two feet high. The pile should be made with the butts out and the tips in and overlapping about one-third the length. This should be done evenly, in layers, so that no leaves may hang out and get dry, and thus be wasted. If the stalks are frozen, do not take down until the dripping stops, as the juice will stain the leaf. The sooner it is stripped after taking down, the better, as the leaves are liable to stick to the stalk and get stained and be torn when stripped. If warm weather prevails, the plants will soon heat after taking down, and they should be examined frequently. On the first indication of heating, carefully lay the pile over, making it about half as high as before and let it lie as loose as possible. Removing the plants from the lath is quite a task.
A common way to take plants from the laths is for one man to slip the plants to near one end of the lath and hold them, butts up, while another pulls out the lath. One man can strip lath alone by slipping the plants to one end and placing one foot on them to pull against. Some strip the upper tier of lath by placing two poles two inches apart on the first tier, shoving the lath through from above, while a man below pulls it out. The method of pulling tobacco from lath between two short, upright sticks has been long in occasional use. In case of large, green stalks that slip hard, it saves labor.
To strip a plant, hold it in the left hand by the butt, and with the other pull off all the bottom leaves and drop them in a pile for "fillers;" next take off three or four more, or until the best leaves are reached, and put these in another heap for "seconds;" then strip off the remainder for wrappers, except such as are badly worm-eaten, or otherwise injured, which are, of course, of a poorer quality. Throw the stalk away and proceed with another. When a sufficient number of leaves of one grade are obtained to make a bundle, they are arranged with all the butts even at one end, and then bound firmly together by winding a leaf around them at the butt, commencing within a half or threequarters of an inch from the end and winding down smoothly about two inches, and secure the end of the binder by slipping it through the leaves and pulling it tightly against the twist. Much of the value of tobacco depends upon the manner in which it is assorted and done up, as a few poor leaves in a parcel would make a difference of several cents per pound in the price. None but good, sound leaves, free from rust, pole sweat, frost, or large holes, should go into the best quality. The bundles should be made of leaves of an even length, uniform in color and quality, weighing about half a pound. Many careful growers make a practice of wrapping the bundles in manilla paper, 36x40 inches square. The bundles are usually 36 inches long and the 40 inches goes around the bundle. There should be three strong strings around each bundle. This paper keeps the tobacco clean and from getting dry. In this, as in everything else, neat packages pay well. The same method is pursued for seconds and fillers. Sometimes
leaves are found with green, or "fat," stems; these should not be included in the bundle, but laid one side to dry out, for the excessive moisture would cause the stem to rot and thereby injure the whole bundle. Leaves having very light veins should also be excluded, for these veins will turn white when the leaf passes through the sweat, which greatly detracts from the value of the leaf.
After being bundled, the "hands," as the bundles are called, are laid together in a pile, not on the floor, but raised from the ground a few inches by making a rough platform of poles and boards. Commence by laying a row on one side of the platform with the butts out, then on the other side in the same way, letting the tips lap over slightly, just enough to keep the pile level. Proceed in this way, laying on each side alternately, until all is packed. Lay some boards on top of the pile, and put on just weight enough to keep them snug. Some covering should be put at the end of the pile to keep it from drying out. The seconds and fillers are each packed in a pile separate from the others. If it remains long in the pile, it should be inspected occasionally to see that it does not heat. If it has been packed when too damp, it is quite apt to heat, especially if the pile is large. When this is apparent, the pile should be made over and the clamp bundles shaken out to dry.
Assorting.—Most dealers prefer to have tobacco delivered in the bundle, for they have their individual methods of assorting and prefer to do it themselves so their goods may all run alike; when asserted by many different farmers, there is much liability of variation. Farmers who have a good reputation for asserting, however, not only assert their own crops, but are often employed by packers to assert other crops in the section. Assorting can be done during the stripping process, but it is almost always done later and special work made of it. The tobacco is packed in bundles, or small bales, and carried to the local assorting place, where it is unpacked and assorted into grades, according to the color, texture, length and condition of the leaf. When tobacco is packed, it is very important that it should be at the proper degree of pliability. If too dry, great damage is done to the leaf by breakage, and the best wrappers may be ruined when handled dry. On the other hand, if there is too much moisture in the leaf, a fermentation will be produced, so excessive as to destroy the vitality of the tobacco and produce a mold that imparts a disagreeable odor. Good judgment is required at this stage. If bulked in cold weather, the amount of water is often greatly underestimated and if warm weather comes on, danger ensues. There is no danger, whatever, if the stems are thoroughly dried out when the tobacco is taken down from the poles.
Casing or Boxing.—When cased, the boxes for wrappers are 36 inches long and 28 inches square at the head, and 36 or 38 inches long by 28 inches for seconds and fillers. The tobacco must be packed in these boxes, so that the ends of the hands stand from one to two inches from the side of the box. The quantity in each box runs about 300 to 350 pounds for wrappers, 325 pounds for seconds and 300 pounds for fillers. It usually requires quite a good deal of pressure, Fig. 122, to get the box full. It is best to leave the casing to the middlemen, unless the business is well understood.
Sweating.—The later fermentation, or "sweating," process is generally done by the dealers. It usually comes after assorting and casing. The tobacco is packed, or cased, and allowed to remain; as the weather grows warmer, the sweating begins and continues for many weeks. In this time the tobacco becomes warm, reaching 100° F., and sometimes more. During the sweat, the boxes are piled one on another on their sides,