Friday, August 30, 2013

Tobacco Roads (this is raw)

Arleta (my wife) and I smoke cigarettes, a bad habit, but that is what it is.   We consume about a pound of tobacco a week, on average.  That means we would have to purchase 4 pounds per month, or 48 pounds per year.  To be on the safe side we would really need about 5 lbs per month, or 60 lbs per year.  In terms of green tobacco we grow ourselves we would need at least 5 times that much to compensate for a 85% loss in water through the drying process.  We can purchase it for about $20.00 a pound in bulk (includes freight) on line, so our monthly cost is about $100.00 per month, while our annual cost is about $600.00 per year (not including supplies).  If we were to purchase a years supply we could probably cut the cost to about $400.00 per year.  We also use tubes, which are paper tubes with a filter already attached, and we use about 2.5 a week, which equals about 2.5 cartons of cigarettes a week.  Each box of tubes cost about $3.00 each, so we would spend about $7.50 per week on tubes.  So that comes out to about $30.00 a month in tubes.  That means it would cost us about $360.00 per year for the tubes, give or take a few as we would want to have at least 5 extra boxes.  So our annual cost of this habit so far is about $790.00 for tobacco and tubes.  However it does not stop there, there is the machine used to cut the tobacco, about $60.00, but that is averaged over its lifetime of 5 years, so that equals about $12.00 per year in cost.  Then there is the machine that stuffs the tubes, again about $80.00 averaged over 5 years, or $16.00 per year.  This brings our total cost per year to about $818.00 per year, or about $830.00 for sundry expenses, and other miscellaneous supplies and items.

Contrast that to the cost of average cigarettes purchased at the local reservation.  We pay about $35.00 per carton and we smoke about 2.5 cartons a week.  That equals about $87.50 per week, about $350.00 per month, and about $4,200.00 per year, and does not take into account for fuel to go to the reservation, or the cost of lighters and other sundry cost.  I can not even begin to think what a name brand cigarette carton at almost $80.00 each would cost on a per year basis.

Then contrast that to the cost of growing it ourselves, well that is very hard, because I can not really come up to the real cost of that.  I can say that seeds cost about $3.50 per package of about 35 seeds on average (they are packed per weight).  We can expect about 80% germination and we use about 70% of the leaves.  We are going to need a whole lot of plants, as we need to have two different types of plants (maybe even three), and we need enough extra plants that we can harvest enough leaf material for our smoking, while at the same time leave enough plants that we can harvest enough seeds to replant twice as many plants the next year.  We also have to account for the deer and rabbits and such, as well as for other such animals, even our own sheep if they get out of their fence and into our gardens.  So we need a lot of plants, maybe a few hundred of Virginia Bright, and at least as much Burly.  I think I might try a couple other plants, if nothing more than for the experience and to collect seeds.

The trouble here is there is no market.  I can not sell tobacco, that is against the law.  I can grow it, consume it myself, and such things, but like moonshine, I can make it, but I can not make a living off it.  That is something that breaches an entirely different subject, but it does mean that any of the “sin” products are not just tightly regulated, but are also reserved for the large corporate interest.  Again that does open a new area of discussion, the selling of “sin”, but I will get to that later.  I should not say there is no market, I should say there is no access to the market in a legal and ordinary way.  As a farmer if I have a few pecks of tomatoes over what I want to use or store, I can sell them right off the farm on a roadside stand.  In fact I can even set myself up a little roadside store if I want to.  I can sell eggs from my chickens, vegetables from my gardens, baked goods and preserves from my kitchen, and as long as it is within reason, pretty much anything and any amount, without much in the way.  The only issue with eggs is refrigeration, and with produce is washing (stupid people do not realize that they keep better if they are not washed until you use them).  Even if I wanted to sell milk, or dairy products, or even meat products, I could with relatively low entry, although certainly higher than produce.

On the one hand I understand the need for safety concerns and compliance with certain regulations when it comes to meat and dairy products, really any product.  However, it really takes it to the extreme when it comes to “sin” products.  I suppose I could try to comply with whatever regulations there were, but the cost and taxes would make it really worthless to try.  Exactly what the large corporate interest want.  They put the regulations there and support them, as they are the only ones that can either comply with them, or have so much of the market, and revenue, that they can afford the fines for not complying with them.

What if I can make a better cigarette, sell it for less than the corporate interest, well I would have to add almost $6.00 in tax.  Are you kidding me, tax, on an agricultural product, that is just ridiculous.  I can not even begin to express my frustration and disagreement with tax on agricultural products.  Land taxes I can almost understand, almost, but I will not go into that here.  Income tax sort of makes sense, sort of, but again I will stay out of that one for now.  Even sales tax on manufactured products, like tools and machinery, or household goods like furniture, almost, almost is justifiable, as far as taxes are justifiable at all.  Agricultural products, well I guess you have to first define agricultural products, so yea I think maybe I should table this for another time as well.

So the basic thing is I can not sell tobacco or tobacco products (except seed).  Well I can still grow it and cure it, and make my own.  I can make and sell pipes, and I guess that is something yet.  I can grow my own without pesticides, without fertilizers (except compost and mulch), and without the associated other additives throughout the process.  It also allows me to hand pick the leaves I want to use for cigarettes, the ones I want to use for other purposes, like maybe some hand rolled cigars, maybe for pipe tobacco, maybe even for pesticide use (yes tobacco is a great pesticide).  It gives me and my wife Arleta our own choice, we can make our own blends, and in the end have a very high quality smoke, free of the issues, dangers, and guilt of the company smokes.  Maybe some of our friends that smoke (we really do not have any) will come over and they too can smoke a couple of our cigarettes while they are here, just to try them, oh, no they can not because that is against the law too.  Well if you happen by and you are not one of those people, but are one of those people that might like to smoke a cigarette or a cigar, well, if you happen to drop by, I will not tell if you do not tell.  Especially about the scotch, that one can really get us all into some deep hooey.

That’s it, a little thing about our tobacco adventure.  We can not start the new plants until late winter, to be put out in late spring, but we can buy decent whole leaf tobacco from the growers that are licensed to sell at substantial discounts.  We will have to do that for a couple of years, as our crops not only have to be established well, it always takes a couple of years for a strain of plants to acclimate itself to its environment before you get really good results, most important with items like grapes, tobacco, and other such items that are ingested for the sake of their taste, so yes tomatoes is part of that group.

In a couple of years we will have a very fine blend of tobacco, exceptional tomatoes, not quite a good aged scotch, maybe some small beers, and a couple of spring wines, and short aged cheeses, but it will be better than the crap you get at the store, and we will not mind if you do not mind, we will just let it be.

Now I know that tobacco smoking is bad for you, but so is driving your car, or using your cellphone, or, or, or… the point is nothing is exactly good for you or bad for you, it is all about you.  Sure I will agree that tobacco smoke is smelly, and causes many things to be discoloured and dingy, and to some people smelly.  I have seen the results, I know theses things, and I have my opinions, and you all have your own.  I personally like the smell of a good pipe of tobacco, or even a nice cigar.  I think a lot of the cigarette issues are with the additives and chemicals used in the processing of cigarette tobacco, and in the making of the papers (white is not the natural color of paper).  While I have not yet figured out how to make my own tubes, maybe I could just make cigars, I can make filters (charcoal, cotton, wool, linen, other fibers), and I can make papers, just not really tubes that are convenient to use with my machine.  If you use a pipe made of any type of material other than glass, pretty much you are also smoking the pipe as well, give or take a few ppm of volatile compounds.  A cigar has glue, as does a cigarette paper, so it still is not just a pure smoke.  There is chew, but I have never quite brought myself to that level, for me it just does not work, and there are all the troubles associated with it as well.  Tobacco is bad for you, no matter what form, how it is ingested, and nicotine is a drug, a highly addictive drug that has horrible side effects.  I am aware of this, and I just do not care.

On the side note, smoking has never really killed anyone, it may have contributed to the cause of death, but it rarely if ever was the actual cause of death.  That said there is ample evidence that secondhand smoke is bad for innocent bystanders, and you really should not smoke around the little ones, they are not consenting adults, and like other “sin” products, they do not have the mind to make up if they should be exposed to these things or not, kind of like sex and violence, but that is another subject too.  I agree that smoking should be banned in most public spaces, except those where the majority of the people are ok with smoking, like cigar bars and maybe a few restaurants that have a certain clientele.  There are so many variables, and no I do not think we need more legislation to ban smoking from public spaces, I think we need better education, and owners with better control of their spaces.  People in general have to be more responsible of their actions, and the impact of their desires upon the desires of others.  Ah the old be responsible not only of self, but conscious of those around you.  That however brings us to what is personal space, and what is right.  If six or seven of us are in a space and we are all smokers, and some people who are non-smokers come along, do we respect their rights and put out our pipes or cigarettes, or do they respect our rights and go somewhere else, or just put up with our nasty smoking because we have to put up with their nasty perfume, or whining, or righteousness, and the argument goes on and on.  If I want to sit on my back porch in the evening with a couple of friends after a long day of work, and have a nice pipe of tobacco, and my granddaughter is there, do I forego the pipe, and maybe tell my friends who have helped me in the field that day, that they have to put out their cigarettes because my granddaughter is here, or do I justify it by saying well we are out in the open air of the back porch, and she should be ok.  These are questions I ask myself, as I really want to be that person that goes the high road, and at least contemplates these things.  Up here in the northern part of New York State, we have winter, I mean we have winter, so the go outside and smoke thing becomes really difficult in winter, maybe not so much for me, but definitely for my wife.  What then, do we smoke inside, even though our grandchildren may be about.  How do we then justify our actions, with additional circulation, I do not have a pretty packaged answer for that.  It is a conversation I would like to have with my wife Arleta, but I am a horrible conversationalist, and she is bit too emotional, especially when it comes to such subjects.  It is a dialog I would not mind having with other people from both sides of the fence, but again, emotions run high, and I am not a real strong conversationalist.  I say I am not a strong conversationalist, it is not that I am against conversation, but that I tend to dominate conversations, or not participate, kind of my ego gets in the way of my ability to share the floor.  So this is why I write it out, so others can debate it, and I will sit back and watch, and write more or less depending on the outcome of the first draft.

I will have to say I do not like the cigarettes we currently smoke, they seem harsh and not too flavorful, not like I remember the really good cigars, pipes, or even name brand cigarettes.  I also remember years ago, while traveling with some friends we got some pure tobacco strait from the farmer so to speak, and rolled it up with our rolling papers (used at the time for something else usually) and that was completely different.  That was an experience I will not soon forget.  It was at that time that I made the decision that if ever I did settle down on a piece of ground I would grow and cure my own tobacco.  At the time I was about as far from settling down as anyone could be.  I also made the decision to make my own whiskey, as at the same time I had gotten my taste for scotch, but then I tried real single malt handmade barley whiskey.  That was before all the emotional times, and before I lost myself to cheap wine and beer.  After a bout with the indulgence in too much of everything, I did find myself wanting to settle down, and with Arleta I found someone with whom settling down seemed a worthwhile goal.  It has not happened, not really, not sure exactly why, sometimes I wonder about that, but hopefully soon we will find a way to finally rest our bones on some soil that we can call our own for a time, and not have to worry so much about the wolf at the door.  I have given up the alcohol, and more importantly I have given up the hard drugs that threatened to take my life.  I do not know if I can ever return even to the alcohol, I would like to think that at some point we could make our own scotch whiskey, or such, just for our own purposes, and stay ahead of the addiction, but I would be a fool to think that at this time.  Like all the vices, there are good with the bad, and maybe someday we can work through that.  Tobacco and coffee still remain my vices of choice, and I do not foresee foregoing them anytime in the near future.  Especially if I can get better supplies of higher quality at a cost I can better afford.  I will not go into my coffee rant right now, maybe some other day, but suffice to say that there is a world of difference between the Folgers® coffee that I can get at the store and buying good quality green coffee beans and roasting them as needed when needed to a roast and blend that I prefer.

I am one who prefers the finer things, but I have not been able to get them lately, so I have forgone most things because I would rather go without than settle for less, most of the time.  I will admit that I eat the Walmart™ brand of toaster pastry, not because I can not afford the name brand, but because I would rather not.  I would rather make my own, for I would find them that much better.  I like my toaster pastries, they are a quick little snack and a tasty food I can take with me to the field if need be.  I can think of a few other things I would enjoy just as much, but currently we do not have the kitchen or house that would even begin to allow for such indulgence, even if it would be better for our health, and for our budget.  I do not like that I must live upon the “dole” as it were, that I am at the mercy of the state comptrollers, but currently I have no other choice.  My wife is dying and she can no longer care for herself, so that becomes my responsibility, and one I take on happily.  However it also means I am limited in what work I can do outside the house.  I am working on more profitable writing, so that maybe if I can, we can get ourselves off the state and enjoy the freedom of independence from the tyranny of the social system.  This is my only option at the moment, but it is a slow and arduous process of self depreciation and editing before I can be satisfied with the work I will put out there for others to read.  Not so with documents like this, these are discussions with the self, and therefore are for open debate should one choose to use them.  I hold no right to this work, it is but thoughts for the moment, some that anyone might have.  I hope they add to the contemplation of society as a whole and somehow help others to see that they are not alone in their struggle with what is right, and what is just righteous.  In the coming future I will most likely put a few more of these out there, I am thinking they will include such subjects as social services, the service of others, alcohol, firearms, rights, liberty, “sin” and all sort and manner of subjects that are rolling around in my head, and affect my state of being.  I hope this helps, and I have to close for now, unfinished, but with time I will revisit this subject, maybe with more to say, maybe with just an adjustment of what I think, and perhaps through the grace of those that grace such things with the fuel of opinion expressed by those that concern themselves with such things either way.

Thank you for taking an interest, and comment if you would like, I do not edit comments, just delete spam.



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