“Puttin’ in Tobacco”…

I’m feeling nostalgic today, so bear with me as I take another trip down memory lane.  Today I’d like to talk a bit about something called, “Puttin’ in tobacco.”  If you are from the country, you may already know a little about this, but if you are from the city, you just might learn something new!

Since we both grew up in a farming community, my husband, Ed, and I have spent lots of time in and around fields during our lifetime.  As youngsters, we both worked in tobacco, which used to be a “big money” crop around here.  Of course, this was way back in the dark ages, before scientists figured out that using tobacco can and will kill you!

Ed’s daddy was a farmer, and he grew tobacco early in his farming days.  There was once a tobacco barn here on the family farm, but it burned to the ground a long, long time ago.  This seemed to be the common fate of a lot of tobacco barns, back in the day.  Faulty burners, I suppose.

These days, our oldest son’s home is located near the former sight of the old tobacco barn.  Unless someone told you, you’d never know a barn ever existed there.

 (The photo below is not the old family barn, but I wanted to show how tobacco barns used to look.)

Ed has helped in all aspects of working with tobacco, while I, on the other hand, have only watched the process of picking and stringing tobacco because I was too young to do otherwise, at the time.  I used to tag along and watch my grandfather’s field helpers at work–wishing I was old enough to help.

I watched in awe as the workers walked through the field snapping off those leaves from the bottom of the tall tobacco plants.  (the bottom leaves were always harvested first, and they were referred to as “sand lugs”)  The tobacco was then placed into a sled which was being pulled by a tractor (see top photo).  Once the sled was full, it was taken to the barn where workers would take the tobacco leaves, and wrap them with string, onto long skinny tobacco sticks (see photo below).    The entire operation was done by hand.

Once the tobacco was strung, someone would carefully climb high into the barn to hang up those sticks filled with tobacco!  The sticks of tobacco were hung on tiers, beginning up in the top of the barn, then coming downward.  This whole process, from picking in the field,  to hanging the tobacco in the barn, was referred to as “Puttin’ in tobacco”.

Once the barn was filled to capacity, the barn door was shut and the burners were turned on. Thus began the “curing process”.  After many days, the tobacco would be “cured” and ready for removal from the barn.  The leaves were green when they went into the barn, but were a beautiful golden color when they came out.

I was old enough to take the cured tobacco off the stick (about age 10), and I was pretty darn good at it because my arms were very long!   Taking off tobacco was a fairly simple process consisting of putting the end of the stick (filled with strung tobacco) into a home-made “holder”, then removing the dried tobacco from the stick.

I would begin the process by breaking the string on the end of the stick, then “unlacing” the dried tobacco from each side of the stick–left, right, left, right…  The longer your arms were, the less often you had to stop to break the string!  When I stopped to break the string, I’d have to lay my hands full of tobacco down on a tobacco sheet,  which had been spread out for this purpose.  The tobacco was always laid on the sheet in the form of a circle.  It was stacked up higher and higher until the sheet was so full it wouldn’t hold any more.  Then the sheet was tied up around the tobacco, into a neat bundle.  These bundles would later be loaded on trucks, and taken to the tobacco market and sold.

Working in tobacco is not for the “faint hearted”, because it’s hot, smelly, and dirty work.  The smell of cured tobacco tends to burn your nose while you are working with it!   Tobacco leaves are also sandy(especially those bottom leaves known as sand lugs), and I always wondered why anyone would want to put something that dirty in their mouths!

I got paid a penny for every stick of tobacco I took off.  I’d happily count my empty tobacco sticks at the end of the day to total up my earnings.  If we didn’t finish taking off all of the tobacco in one day, we’d keep a tally of our sticks and add the following day’s total to it.  It took a long time to earn a dollar, but I was very proud of each one I earned!  Oh those were the days…

It’s been nearly 50 years since I worked in tobacco.  There are very few fields of tobacco around here anymore, and of course, nobody does anything by hand!  I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to experience harvesting tobacco in my lifetime–but thank the Lord, I’ve never had any desire to smoke any!

Have a great day!


Published in: on February 21, 2012 at 12:34 am  Comments (10)  
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Thursdays Thoughts…Aprons

Apron–an outer protective garment that covers primarily the front of the body, according to Wikipedia.  It can be worn for hygienic reasons, as well as in order to protect clothing from wear and tear.  It’s also a garment that you don’t see much of anymore–according to me.

I grew up around lots of aprons.  First of all, my grandmother wore one every day.  She just wasn’t dressed if she didn’t have her apron on!  She always wore a dress, covered by a full apron.  These aprons she made herself on her Singer peddle-type sewing machine!  Believe it or not,  I don’t have a single picture of grandma wearing an apron.  I guess she always removed it at picture time!

Grandma used her apron primarily to protect her dress, but I remember watching her use it for a variety of other uses as well.  I’ve seen her use it to hold peas as she picked them in the garden, or to hold eggs as she gathered them from the hen-house.  An apron can be a handy thing to have around–but you don’t see many in use these days!

When I was growing up, I also had an aunt who worked as a waitress.  In those days, waitresses wore very thin, lacy-looking aprons in lots of pretty colors–I remember my aunt had lots of pastels in her collection.  Anyway, sometimes she’d let me try one on, and I thought I was really something!

The image above is similar to the kinds of aprons my aunt used to wear– way back in the early sixties!

I have a drawer full of various aprons that I’ve acquired over the years. Of course, I have several Christmas aprons in my collection! It just doesn’t seem like Christmas if I don’t wear an apron to bake in!

Lately, I’ve become more aware of trying to protect my clothing in the kitchen. It must have something to do with growing older… Call me old or call me wiser, but I’ve been wearing an apron around the kitchen more and more while I cook supper–to protect my clothes.

Two of my favorite aprons in the drawer are very old. I have no idea where one of my favorite aprons came from. It’s possible that it was a gift from my mother, but I don’t know for sure.

I like it because it reminds me of my grandma, and it also covers the entire front of my body. Unfortunately, it also tends to give me a headache from being around my neck, so I usually end up folding the bib part under and just tying it around my waist.

My second favorite apron was a gift from my sister-in-law (my brother’s wife) many years ago.  I remember at that time Kay had just learned to sew, and she made my little daughter, Brandy, and me,  matching aprons for Christmas that year.  Brandy eventually out-grew her apron, and I’m not sure what ever happened to it, but I still wear my apron today!  I always think of Kay whenever I wear it.

Speaking of sewing aprons, I once had to make an apron in Home Economics class, and I was scared to death of that sewing machine!  I finally conquered my fears, and made my first garment for the class–an apron.  I still remember that apron to this day–it was bright green, and had white flowers with bright orange centers sprinkled all over it.  It looked just like an apron from the seventies!   Sure wish I’d kept that apron…

Speaking of school and aprons, brings me to my last memory.  Many of you may know that I used to work as a paraprofessional at school.  Well, the teacher that I worked with was always wearing an apron in class!  She wore very nice clothes, and I suppose she wanted to keep them looking nice.  Whenever we did a cooking project or an art project in class–on went the apron!  I didn’t follow her example, and had some paint marks on some of my clothing to prove it!

Eventually, the teacher stopped teaching in a regular classroom, and moved into a higher position at the school.   As she was packing up her classroom things, she presented me with one of her aprons!  I still have it among my collection in the drawer.  Did I mention that I have a drawer dedicated to aprons?

How about you, do you have a special apron, an apron memory–or do you even wear an apron?  Who knows, after writing this post, I just might get inspired to drag out the sewing machine and stitch myself up another apron!   Have a great day y’all…

Published in: on February 9, 2012 at 10:40 am  Comments (8)  
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Living Frugally…

Whenever I think of “living frugally”, I always think of my grandmother.  In her days, people didn’t waste anything.  There weren’t any yard sales or Goodwill Stores in those days, simply  because people used their things until they were worn out!  I still remember my grandmother cutting the buttons off  worn out clothing and saving the buttons so she could use them again!  (Oh how I loved that jar of buttons)

In grandma’s day, flour came packaged in printed, cotton “sacks”.  The sacks were fairly large, and grandma washed the flour sacks , took them apart, then used the cloth to make aprons, curtains, quilts, or other things.  If you think about it, doesn’t that make good sense?

Back in those days, boxes of “Breeze” laundry detergent came with bath towels packed inside– a little reward for buying their product.  I remember the towels were either blue, pink, or yellow striped–and they were paper-thin! ( Of course, they’d have to be thin to fit inside of a box of laundry detergent!)  I also remember the smaller boxes of detergent had wash cloths in them, to match the towels.   Grandma would let me open the little boxes that came packed inside of the detergent, and it was so exciting to see what color towel was inside!

My granddaddy was a farmer, and I remember my grandmother spending many long, hot, summers canning and freezing vegetables and fruit of all kinds.  Nothing was wasted.  Preserves were even made from watermelon rinds, which I, personally, always thought were gross.  What did grandma use to can her fruits and vegetables in?  Recycled mayonnaise jars, and reusable freezer containers, of course!

The other night my husband happened to mention that he could still remember when his parents got their first roll of paper towels.  I don’t remember that, but I do remember our parents using old paper grocery bags to put under fried foods to soak up the excess grease, especially during a fish fry!  I also remember Ed’s parents saving used aluminum foil…

I proudly recycled my first piece of aluminum foil the other evening!  Ed’s been trying to get me to do this for years ( like his parents did), but I always scoffed at the idea in the past.  With the price of aluminum foil getting so ridiculous, I’ve recently begun to rethink that decision!  I’m not to the point of wiping food off used foil (yet), but if the foil is clean when removed from a bowl, I’ll fold and save it for future use.

Times are changing…  I’m hanging onto things I once would’ve discarded without a thought, in days gone by.  You never know when something just might come in handy!   Prices on merchandise certainly aren’t getting any cheaper!  Recently, I’ve heard commercials on the radio from Goodwill Stores, begging people to donate.  Apparently, I’m not the only person hanging on to my stuff!

I’ve also begun to rethink my decision to stop canning and freezing in recent years.  Canning had gotten to be such a hassle in the past few years, I’d all but stopped canning or freezing anything other than a few peas each year.  I even threw out all of my Mason jars, and got rid of my canning pot!   With food shortages on the rise, as well as higher prices at the grocery stores, putting more food in the freezer or jars is sounding like a wise decision!

How about you, does the economy have you living more frugal yet?


Published in: on February 7, 2012 at 11:20 am  Comments (9)  
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Yesterday Once More…

I’ve been traveling down memory lane for a while now, through old photographs.  I’ve had a lot of laughs, a few tears, and have scratched my head on more than one occasion while thinking…What in the world were we thinking when we wore that!  It’s funny how we think we look so “cool” at the time, only to discover, years later, how hideous the styles really were.

I noticed a pattern in our picture-taking over the years.  We only seemed to take photographs on birthdays, Christmas, and special occasions.  Our collection of pre-children Christmas photos consists  of pictures of everyone’s  Christmas trees, the gifts around the trees, and Christmas dinners.  Why did we waste precious film taking pictures of food and wrapped gifts?  If you’ve seen one baked turkey, you’ve seen them all, right?

Christmas at Ed's parents in the 70's

I know why we only took photos on special occasions.  It was because film was expensive in those days.  We had a Polaroid camera for several years, and we only got eight pictures from a package of film!  Black and white film was cheaper than color, so we have more black and white photos than color ones.  What a disappointment!  To me a black and white photo is not much of a photo.  I can’t stand them, and I don’t know why–in this modern-day–people will choose a black and white photo over a color one!

Ed in Okinawa~1971

I love how looking at photographs can transport me right back to that special time in my mind.  Old photos of Ed while he was stationed in Okinawa conjure up the feelings of  loneliness that I felt all those months while he was away, but also the feelings of great happiness when he finally came home!  As I scanned those photos, I couldn’t help but marvel at  all of the miles those photos had traveled.  I wondered how many times those photos had been handled and looked at through the years.  (Believe me, I handled them a lot during the 21 months that he was gone!)  One old photo even had three tiny cat paw prints embedded in the finish of it!  I couldn’t help but wonder whose paw prints those are…Perhaps, “B.B.” our first “cat child”?

Some of our photos have all but faded away.  Black and white ones have turned light, while the color ones turned dark.   On the computer, I was able to lighten up some of the dark photos enough to see what the images once showed, but not enough to get a decent photograph to reprint.  I couldn’t help but think how these photos are somewhat like my memories…Fading with time and age. 

a faded photo of my family in the early 70's

Thank goodness all of our photos aren’t Polaroids!  Shortly after the birth of our first child, 33 years ago,  we bought a Minolta 35mm camera.  It was the best money that we ever spent!  From that day forward, we always had at least one good camera on hand to capture the moment–even if somebody’s eyes were closed in the picture!  Ahh…Those were the days, weren’t they? 

I can’t leave without posting a nostalgic song to go with this nostalgic post.  I loved The Carpenters.  Nobody else can sing like Karen Carpenter could…and the sound of her voice takes me back every time!

Published in: on September 29, 2011 at 10:52 am  Comments (3)  
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Tales From A Retirement Home…

This month marks the one-year anniversary of my MIL living in an assisted living facility.  Making the choice to move her  there was one of the most difficult decisions our family has ever had to face, but we know in our hearts it was the right decision.  She’s settled in nicely, and although she’s had some health issues over the past year, all is well with her at the moment. 

Recent visits with my MIL have uncovered some interesting developments at the home, as well as brought to mind some past experiences with my own mother that I’d like to share…

First of all, just because these folks are in a retirement home, doesn’t mean they are dead!  Life goes on.  My MIL  recently shared with me that Mr. Russell, the only male resident at the home, now has a girlfriend!  She says the two of them hold hands during the day, and can be seen “smooching” in the hall at night.  My MIL is appalled by this, but I think it’s sort of sweet.  I say, where there’s life, there’s love…  When my MIL told me about this incident, it made me recall an incident concerning my own mom, which happened a few years ago.

My parents were both nursing home residents for a couple of years before daddy died.  Both suffered major illness(at the same time) which resulted in very poor health.  They roomed together up until daddy’s death.  A couple of years after daddy had passed away, another male resident of the nursing “took a liking” to mama.  His name was “Mr. Red”, and he was a little crazy–literally.

Mama was flattered, but not really interested.  One evening “Mr. Red” decided he wanted to give my mama some flowers.  So just what does a male resident of a nursing home do when he desires to give a lady some flowers?  He’s on a limited budget, you know.  Why he goes out to the front porch of the home, and steals a hanging basket of flowers off of a hook, then takes it to his lady friend!  Oh the laughs we had over that one!  “Mr. Red” never did kindle a romance with mama, even after he brought her flowers!

Another funny incident concerning my MIL happened a few weeks back.  Occasionally, she has out-of-town doctor’s appointments.  Whenever this occurs, my husband takes her car to the home and leaves it.  The lady administrator then drives my MIL to her out-of-town appointments. My MIL enjoys riding in her own car on these trips.

My MIL’s car had been parked at the home for a couple of days when another one of the residents, Ms. Jean, asked her, “Is that your car parked out there?”  My MIL answered, “Yes, it is.”  Ms. Jean  went on to say, “Well why don’t I go and pack my things, and you go and pack up yours, and let’s get the heck out of here?!”  We got a few laughs out of that story, too! 

My MIL went on to explain to Ms. Jean that they couldn’t just run away.  This particular lady, happens to have Alzheimer’s, and has been on a quest to run away for several months now.  She’s made several escape attempts, bless her heart.

Recently, a cousin of my MIL’s moved into the home.  At first, I thought, this will be great!  Well, I think I was wrong!  This lady has Alzheimer’s, too.  She has it stuck in her mind that her husband is coming back from Mexico,  to rescue her from the home!  She’s driving my MIL crazy about this!  I don’t know if the lady has a husband, or if so, why he’s in Mexico, but she’s adamant that he’s coming to rescue her!  Which brings to mind another story about my mom…

At one point, after my daddy passed away, my mom had a complete mental breakdown.  The doctor explained to us that sometimes when reality is just too painful to deal with, our minds will create a type of “fantasy world”.  For a time, in my mama’s “fantasy world”, she  thought she had won the lottery– and that “Walker, Texas Ranger”, aka Chuck Norris, was coming to rescue her from the nursing home!  She was totally convinced about all of this, so we didn’t try to argue much with her about it.  Fortunately, she eventually came out of her “fantasy world”, but occasionally she would still say “odd” things right up until she passed away a few years later.  Mama kept us on our toes, right up until the end. 

 And I used to think life in a retirement home was boring…


Published in: on August 26, 2011 at 8:50 am  Comments (3)  
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