Archive for February, 2010

25
Feb
10

Are you still master of your domain?

On a recent visit to one of the area’s local dispensaries, I ran into a grower I know as he was stocking clones of a new strain he’d created.   The strain had a pretty dumb name, and one that I’d never heard before, so I asked about it.  I don’t want to violate any confidences, so I’ll just call it “Dumb ass” and say it’s a cross between Amnesia Haze and Donkey Dick.  (Actually, my imaginary name is a little better than the real name I don’t want to use, since mine reflects parent geneology in an obtuse sort of way, and the real name I’m not using didn’t.)

“Dumb Ass, huh?  That’s an odd name.  Where does it come from?”

I was expecting to hear something relating to the plant’s point of origin, or its genealogy.    Something like:

“Well, I forgot to harvest a couple of plants I left out on Dumb Ass hill last year, a south-facing spot on my property where my Great, great, great grandfather was shot by Pomo Indians he’d been trying to capture to sell to newcomers.   The plants went to seed, cross-pollinated, and this is what I found when I went back this year to plant a new crop.”

But no, nothing that interesting or thoughtful.  The answer I got was more along the lines of:

“I was putting them in my truck, and I realized that I hadn’t named the strain.  I turned on the radio and heard someone call Obama a dumbass, so I decided to name them “Dumb Ass.”

“Oh,” I said.  “Ummmm….so, I’ll see you around.”  Because what more was there to say?

So anyway, a dumb name.  Not surprising, in and of itself; nor, for that matter, is the phenomenon of assigning dumb names all that rare.  “Rat piss” comes to mind, immediately.  There are too many others to mention.  I know lots of people who cringe when they hear the name “Green Crack,” though at least that one makes sense to me.

I don’t want to criticize the “mad scientist” impulse; I know that creating new and better strains is one of the joys of growing, and the inventor deserves the pleasure of naming his/her invention.  And certainly, coming up with a creative name for a beloved new experiment is a cherished part of the culture, so I understand the impulse to create ever newer and weirder names.   There’s always the hope, too, that a rock star will emerge from the crowd of strains on the market, and the proud parent of that star deserves their moment in the sun.  After all, who wouldn’t want to take the credit for the next Headband?  (And, by the way, I can’t count the number of growers I’ve met who have taken credit for Headband.)

I guess I’m still on my branding kick from a few weeks ago, and the discussion of a new growers guild in Humboldt has only encouraged me to keep thinking in that direction.   Anyway, I’m constantly surprised by the lack of location names on local strains.  As I mentioned in my recent response to Mr. Nice, all of the bud-tenders and dispensary operators I know in Southern California turned green with envy when they heard I was moving up to the Emerald Triangle, and I know they’d like to get their hands on verifiably-local product.  Or even unverifiably-local product.

Maybe it wouldn’t hold the same kind of appeal in an Arcata pharmacy, but this seems like another way to “grow the brand,” to borrow a douchebaggy term from the marketing class.  Stick a place name in front of that Dumb Ass weed name, and I bet you’ll increase demand for it.  And as long as it’s half-way decent weed, it couldn’t hurt, right?  Consider the upside – what self-respecting, wanna-be gangsta from Van Nuys or arthritic retiree from Leisure World could resist the prospect of easing their pain with “Humboldt Dumb Ass.”  In fact, I bet they’d ask for it by name.

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19
Feb
10

Paint the town green!

I understand that marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, only partially de-criminalized at the state level, and entirely anathema at the local city government level.  But what if it wasn’t?  What would that look like?

In his/her comment on my branding post, Snickerdoodles wrote:

The subtext for this branding project (and what was whispered between friends involved) is that the push for branding Humboldt as a great place for Beef and Cheese is a direct assault on our rep as the weed capital of the western world. The Economic Dev. folks deplore the fact that we’re known for our weed. And yes, i agree that it’s a disservice to everything else our area has to offer — but why deny the power of our strongest brand, and instead seek to dilute it? Doesn’t make economic sense. Embrace the brand, do like the Times Standard does and stick a pot leaf front and center every time you want to sell out the rack …

So, okay, there won’t be any useful leadership from our currently-elected representatives.  You know what that reminds me of?  Everything that’s ever happened in the West.

The history of the American west – and especially this part of the American west – is chock-full of redemptive narratives of individuals standing up to larger interests who seek to subjugate them for a reason.  Ever since John Ledyard first set foot on the West Coast (look it up; I promise you you’ll like what you find), and Thomas Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark to get the whole exploitative, destructive ball of wax rolling, this has been the place where resources are identified, industries are established and well-intentioned individuals lose out to greedier interests.

We celebrate gunslingers out here because they answered a pressing psychic need for justice in the face of injustice.  Joaquin Murrieta, one of the first California gunslingers, was popular not because he was a good guy, but because those hunting him down were even worse.  Over time, the legends surrounding dangerous activists like Murrieta grew, both in California and around the world.  And those legends were celebrated almost everywhere else because the mythology of the lone gunman standing up against organized injustice resonates with people everywhere.  As Mel Brooks and Richard Pryor so brilliantly revealed in one of the best westerns ever to come out of Hollywood, when it comes to dividing up the economic pie, your elected representatives are rarely looking out for you.  The film was a comedy, but the reality is pretty tragic.  You citizens are either going to stand up for your own interests, or you’re going to watch the bust that follows the boom.  Again.

But before you can stand up for your own interests, you have to have some sense of what is in your own best interests.  As Karl Marx insightfully pointed out in his discussion of “false consciousness,” pretty much all of the institutional structures in a capitalist economy are designed to mislead you and individuals like you about what is in your own best interests, so when you do agitate, you’re more likely to agitate against your own interests without even knowing that that’s what you’re doing.    After all, you know now that clear-cutting the forests and overfishing the oceans weren’t in your best interests, but the environmentalists who tried to point that out were demonized and driven up into the trees with the spotted owls until it was too late to save any of the jobs.   Or the owls.  Or the big trees.  You’re headed down that path again, and just like the city council meeting scene below, it looks like you’re on track to ignore what’s in your best interests again.

When the townsfolk of Rock Ridge are gifted with the help they need, they want to send it back.  That’s false consciousness at work.  It may not be possible to avoid “false consciousness” entirely, but what will help immensely is if you can figure out what you want.   So what do you want?

My first question is:  What is it that local civic leaders and city government officials could reasonably be expected to do?  Could they be prodded into establishing a local framework for the medical marijuana or decriminalized marijuana economy?  Is there something to be done, even if they don’t want to help?  Could we encourage the creation of local co-ops, such as the ones that encourage traditional farming methods in developing countries?

My favorite coffee comes from Ethiopia, by way of the Thanksgiving Coffee Company in Fort Bragg – and I feel pretty good about paying top dollar for it, in part because I believe Paul Katzeff when he tells me that he’s committed to fair trade practices that encourage quality and sustainability.  The coffee kicks ass, too.

If not co-ops, is there some better option for protecting the only remaining industry that brings significant economic resources into the Emerald Triangle counties?  If, as Snickerdoodles claims, the elected representation is actively working against that industry, what could be accomplished without their help?

I know one obstacle to organizing in this way is the culture of secrecy that has (necessarily) festered within this underground economy.   But if this deeply-embedded suspicion continues, places willing to operate more openly (like Oaksterdam), are in line to usurp places like the Emerald Triangle as a center for weed cultivation and expertise.  And because they were willing to lower their guard just a little, to take a little risk, to act in their own best interests, they’ve advanced and prospered in the current climate while all of us up here sit on our hands.  Oakland, I’ll remind you, was hardly the model of an enlightened city.  But they’re miles ahead of us now, and a lot better off than they were before they embraced what others rejected; and I promise you, if we continue to scorn our hard-earned brand, legalization will allow the guys running Oaksterdam to take it from us, say thank you very much suckers, and make a fortune in the process.  And that could be in as little as nine months, in case anyone is counting.  And you should be.

My second big question is:  What are the desired objectives for civic or city leadership?  What is it that would preserve what we like about the current culture, that we would want to protect if the larger apparatuses of state and federal government gave way to public demands for de-criminalization, taxation or outright legalization?  Now is the time to plan, not when the law changes around you and it’s too late.

It seems to me that the first order of business would be some kind of structure that would protect and encourage the good practices that already exist, without encouraging an incursion of outsiders bringing bad practices.

You already know the bad.  Diesel spills, Mexican drug cartels, absentee growers or one-timers, more destruction of the redwood forest.  The good would include things like:  environmental sustainability, small-scale economic development, protection and promotion of local control, protection and promotion of the local brand, etc.  Unfortunately, those sorts of things might require some level of planning and regulation.   They certainly won’t just emerge organically, without some kind of motivated effort to bring them about.  As I said, this will require more trust and openness in the gunslinger community.  A huge obstacle to overcome, I know, but I’m hoping that self-preservation will count for something up here.

In my earlier post on the DEA crackdown of medical marijuana testing agencies in Colorado, I skimmed over the opportunity that testing offers.   Michael Lee, the owner of Colorado Springs-based testing faciilty Genovations explained:

“Sixty-eight percent of all weed on the shelf right now is not appropriate for human consumption…I can test for molds, I can test for all these different pesticides. The funny thing is, the DEA doesn’t want me to test for them.”

I guess the question is, do we?  Any attempt to claim the mantle of superiority – promoting the brand – might require actually proving it in some appropriately objective manner, and I’m not sure that the grower community would embrace that.  Would this be an opportunity for HSU to step in and become a more integral part of the existing social and economic structure of the county?  Could any federally-funded university actually do that without risking their reputation?  Or even their continued existence?  Is there some other trusted entity out there that could do the same, or might this even be an opportunity to pull from those HSU grads looking for a reason to stay, for the community to seed a tech-centered arm of the marijuana industry?

Back to point about gunslingers organizing in the face of elected opposition.  In the wake of the recent efforts to re-brand Humboldt as the difficult-to-reach, cheese-eating, basket-carrying center of the north coast, I have a pretty good idea of the elected opposition, but where are the gunslingers?  Are the good citizens of the Emerald Triangle really going to let Oaksterdam activists pick your pockets and leave you with yet another broken industry?  Kym mentioned a co-op effort in Mendo a little while back, but I’ve heard nothing about that, and certainly nothing like it in Humboldt county.    Maybe it has to start with the few medical marijuana dispensaries scattered up and down the coast, since they’re the only entities who can operate out in the light of day, but until the growers who actually profit from that trade are willing to do something beyond conspicuously consuming, I worry for you poor folks.

17
Feb
10

Acknowledging the stalking horse in the room

I had one of my infrequent migraine headaches yesterday.  Hit the vaporizer twice, and it went away.  That’s not medicine; it’s magic.

I’ve taken lots of different sorts of medicines for my migraines over the years, so I know the difference between medicine and magic.  Here’s what medicine accomplishes:  it transfers large sums of money from my pocket into the coffers of my evil insurer and my less-evil-than-greedy pharmaceutical pushers, it makes me sick to my stomach and woozy for at least a day, and (sometimes) it helps to end my headaches.

I mention all of this as a preface to a few noteworthy positive developments.  The first being that the Obama administration seems to have re-leashed the dogs of the drug war.  Following his rather bellicose threat to the entire medical marijuana community of Colorado of last Saturday, yesterday the DEA’s Jeffrey Sweetin issued the all clear, announcing: “We are not declaring war on dispensaries.”  Scott Morgan of Stop the Drug War offers his analysis, pointing out the effect of changing public attitudes on the implementation of the increasingly-anachronistic federal laws:

The point here isn’t that Obama loves medical marijuana, or that the DEA can now be counted on to behave itself. Politicians and drug war soldiers don’t change overnight, but the mere expectation that the raids have ended can easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy when the media and the public generally believe such activity is now illegal in addition to being unpopular. Imagine trying to convict a medical marijuana defendant in federal court in the current political climate. If you lose, the Dept. of Justice will look impotent during a period of surging marijuana entrepreneurship, and if you win, Obama will get skewered in the press.

It is, of course, those increasingly anachronistic federal laws that have prevented scientists and medical researchers from conducting the replicable studies that will establish beyond any reasonable doubts whether or not marijuana has medicinal value.  Assuming any of the doubts remaining are reasonable – and that seems to be a big assumption.   Bringing me to the second bit of good news, on the science necessary to establish once and for all that the innumerable anecdotal stories of medical relief are based in some real truth, and are not just the product of stoner fantasies.

Scientists working from the University of California’s Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR) have found “reasonable evidence that cannabis is a promising treatment” for some specific, pain-related medical conditions.  My head and I agree.  Read the full report at their website.

The developing science will not only continue to make those who deny the anecdotal evidence look as silly as they really are, but it will add to the snowball effect that California’s medical marijuana industry has produced, in state after state.  Including the states that once seemed far too conservative to follow California’s lead.  Just today, the Iowa Board of Pharmacy recommended that state lawmakers reclassify marijuana for medical use, citing overwhelming public support:

Today’s decision follows a series of four public hearings last fall. Around 90% of the people who spoke at those public hearing or sent emails to the Pharmacy Board said they support medical marijuana.

When public support for the legalization of marijuana as medicine is overwhelming in Iowa – Iowa! – the end of federal prohibition can’t be far behind.

Legalizing marijuana as medicine isn’t the same thing as legalizing marijuana for recreational use, despite the fact that the medical marijuana movement is so often treated by its opponents as an open joke, a stalking horse or trojan horse (for my horse-metaphor loving readers) for recreational users seeking an unassailable front behind which to advance their advocacy.  There’s some truth to that horsey argument, to be sure, and blogs like mine can probably be seen as evidence for such claims.  And it’s true, I look at marijuana in much the same way as I look at alcohol – a drug that adults should be free to use as they decide.  And like all drugs, marijuana can be used to excess.  That’s no argument for legal prohibition, though, and it is certainly no reason to ignore the very real medicinal value that has yet to be supported by overwhelming scientific evidence only because the scientists interested in providing that support have been shackled by absurd federal laws.

It’s unfortunate that the two pro-legalization arguments – the medicinal and the recreational – are so often seen as mutually exclusive.  For my own part, I’m very glad that the state laws in California allow me to get a doctor’s prescription to use marijuana to treat my crippling migraines.  That freedom to select the mildest and most effective treatment for my headaches is one that I wish everyone had.   As the scientific community continues to take aim at the untruths that have been spread over the past few decades, the medical rationale will become undeniable.    And once that stalking horse goes, I hope there’ll be as much public support behind the idea that adults should be able to drown their sorrows any way they want.

15
Feb
10

Brand this, gunslingers!

One of the most succinct formulations of wisdom ever devised is Plato’s famous maxim, “Know thyself.”

Kathy Srabian posted a really well-written, thoughtful and thoroughly depressing account of the recent “Love Humboldt” event for The Humboldt Herald.   Money quote:

If you are branding Humboldt as a place perfect within itself with fresh air and lovely rivers and mystic enriching fog why try to induce the flavor of its exact opposite, Hollywood — known for its paved movie lots, pricey stores, bad air, crowded freeways and clowns getting out of VWs?

Seriously.  Do you not know who you are, you antisocial libertarians, stoners, hippies and gunslingers?  You live in one of the last settled places in the continental United States.  This is the Wild West – not Hollywood.  It wasn’t so long ago that people from this part of the state were agitating to secede from California.  Your heritage is a badass heritage.  You live in the State of Jefferson, but so many of you seem to exist in a state of denial.

This is Kathy Srabian, again, describing the main event at the Love Humboldt gang:

Then finally, their movie starts. If we have a local lipstick manufacturer it was well represented. A young attractive girl who works too hard at the natural healthy look is walking across Arcata Plaza. She is carrying an open basket of lavender. Her walk is slowed by some film adjustment to show she is not in a hurry. She is happy and content with her basket of lavender. Yes! Humboldt where everyone walks with an odd gait and has nowhere in particular to go. She shows up several times in the shorts. Her presence on screen reminded me of a feminine hygiene commercial celebrating those days you can still do anything you want or perhaps a medication that makes everything happy for you. No worries, just walking. See me walking?

I know that lots of people up here think that path to prosperity will come from developing the coastline so that one day Humboldt will look as ugly as the southern California nightmare I just woke from, and apparently, some people think that path is lined with baskets full of lavender.  I’ve got news for you, Humboldt Film Commission, that basket’s full of weed, not lavender.

I know, Humboldt – and Mendocino, and Trinity – have a lot more going for them than one stupid illegal plant.  This is the most beautiful spot in the whole state of California, and that also means that this is one of the most beautiful spots on the entire planet.  The culture up here is deep and rich, and the caricature of the place that’s been promoted in Hollywood does a dis-service to that cultural depth and richness.  But get over it.  That’s what Hollywood does – and it’s not just about you; they do it to everyone, including themselves.  Hollywood has historical richness and cultural depths, too, but you don’t care about that, and the marketing whizzes of Hollywood know you don’t care about that, so they don’t make a big deal of it.  They know what they’re good at, and they do what they’re good at because they want to keep living in the manner to which they’ve become accustomed.

Sure, it’s unfortunate that dumb Hollywood is such a powerful force in global marketing, but it is what it is.  And when one of the most powerful engines of mass marketing decides to shine their spotlight on your little corner of the world, what are you going to do – fight it?  Here’s a thought:  Focus on what YOU’RE good at.  Take the tourist dollars they want to throw at you and build up a nest egg for the time when they forget about you and move on to their next target.

Look, I know it embarrasses lots of you up here to think that this amazing place you all love and appreciate is being defined to the rest of the world in a two-dimensional way, as the home of a stupid, stupid, STOOPID drug; and a drug that was only recently brought here by grungy hippies who weren’t welcomed or wanted when they first came, which was then celebrated and embraced by all kinds of additional stoner idiots around the country.  I don’t even blame those folks for trying to combat the inaccurate, embarrassing and limiting stereotypes that have proliferated about their beautiful, beloved home turf.  After all, those stereotypes are responsible for bringing in waves of newcomers who are mostly oblivious to the depth and richness of the culture around here, drawn in only by the lure of easy money.

I’ve got some news for those folks, though – regardless of what you’ve all come to appreciate about your home, it’s the persistent waves of the unwanted and unwelcomed that is your real heritage, whether you’re interested in embracing it or not.

Read the excellent posts that have been appearing on Lynette’s NorCal History Blog about the way the indigenous populations of this area were systematically slaughtered and removed by settlers who were eager to get their hands on the land.  Read Randy de Rezanov’s excellent post on how those same indigenous inhabitants were legally enslaved, just so the people who took their land would have the free labor necessary to develop it in their own image.

Regardless of how emphatically you want to assert your current ownership of the land you occupy, the historical record is pretty clear.  The Emerald Triangle used to be populated by a bunch of distinct indian groups, doing whatever it was that they were doing before the gold was discovered.   But that discovery changed everything, and once it was discovered, the marketing machines of the mid-19th century kicked into high gear.  Waves upon wave of unwanted immigrants came to get the promised resource that would make them rich.  Most of those people left poorer than when they arrived; of the rest, a few people got rich, and a few people got by.  Some of those people stayed.  And when the gold ran out, those people moved on to the next resource, and then the next – the timber, the fish – and yes – the marijuana.  Don’t kid yourselves – lavender grew on the hillsides, and communities sprung up, but it was never about the community, and it was never about the lavender.  It sure as hell wasn’t about the love.

And speaking of the love – who’s bright idea was this monstrosity?

Maybe I don’t get it, since I’ve only been up here for a little while and I lack that long-term resident cred, but when did Humboldt become the capital of cheesy purple hearts?  What the fuck is that?  Did I miss the Valentine’s Day candy factory tour, or is this just the product of deluded people with too much time on their hands and not enough imagination?

And who are those deluded people?  Here’s the skinny from Ryan Burns, writing for The North Coast Journal:

Funded jointly by the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the county’s Headwaters Fund, the North Coast Small Business Development Center and the participating businesses themselves — to the tune of almost $170,000 — the Humboldt branding project has its sights set on the sea of consumers beyond the Redwood Curtain. The idea, as we understand it, is to publicize not just specific local products but an overarching image, a romanticized Humboldt mystique characterized by pristine landscapes, eco-conscious citizens and quality, hand-crafted wares. Couple these idyllic visions to our county name in the minds of consumers and voilá — the rising tide will lift all Humboldt-made boats.

Really.  Really?   You’re taking economic advice from the U.S. government?

Ryan goes on to point out that local rapper José Recendiz (aka KYZ-J) has been conducting his own branding campaign for some time now, marketing his “Rep Hum” line of clothes.  Sounds good.  In that same spirit, here’s something I whipped up in five minutes on my home computer.  Well, okay, I have to come clean on this, it was really my partner who came up with it.  I just produce anger, frustration and outrage; she’s the creative one in the partnership:

emerald triangle.jpg

Here ya go – a simple emerald triangle with a letter to indicated county of origin – H, M, or T.  I’ve seen stickers like this in every beach community I’ve ever lived in, so I know it’s easy to convince people to identify with a letter.   Convince every grower and dealer and dispensary operator to slap one of these little stickers on every $70 eighth ounce of weed that starts its journey here in our own resource-rich part of the world, and pretty soon everyone from San Diego to Denver to San Francisco is going to want to pay top dollar for what we have, regardless of how easy it might be to grow weed in a garage in Visalia, or Eagle Rock, or Temecula.  Because you know what those places don’t have?  They don’t have the marketing power of Hollywood in their back pockets.

Don’t fight Hollywood.  Manipulate Hollywood to get what you want.  And don’t do it by trying to be something you’re not.  YOU’RE the badasses.  YOU’RE the gunslingers.  For the love of god, YOU’RE the ones with your sticky fingers on the production of the largest cash crop in the state, and every bit of power and prestige that comes along with it.  Even though you don’t seem to know it.

So, again, step one:   “Know thyself.”

13
Feb
10

Katy bar the door

I was pretty surprised to see that Kym’s perfectly-reasonable objection to the cynical homegrown campaign that’s sprung up in the local grower-community opposing legalization was met with such vitriol.  Greed is a powerful motivator, after all, but it’s worth remembering that there are still very real consequences to growing and selling marijuana – real people continue to suffer with real consequences every day as a result of prohibition.  Stupid, stupid prohibition.

Just in case any among us have been too-quickly lulled into complacency by the reassuring words coming from President Obama or his Attorney General, the recent activities by federal agents in Colorado should give us pause.  While Betty Aldworth, the director of outreach for Full Spectrum Labs was getting ready to testify in support of Colorado Sen. Chris Romer’s doctor-patient bill, DEA agents were busy raiding her lab.    Read the full story here.

Apparently, the agents were on a procedural visit and claimed that they raided the place because they “smelled marijuana, which prompted them to request a warrant” – not surprising since Full Spectrum Labs tests marijuana.   Yesterday, DEA agents raided a second testing facility in the state, Colorado Springs-based Genovations.  In both cases, the raids came in response to well-intentioned requests for federal licensing.   Bad move there, trying to follow procedural guidelines.  As long as marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug, there’ll be no coming out of the shadows.

Closer to home, plenty of people are still being busted by state and city law enforcement for home grows, large and small.    In one of the opposing comments on Kym’s blog, Ted Kemp wrote:

If you looked at california MJ laws, you would know that for serious non medical offences the most time most people are looking at is 6-18 months in state prison or less and thats only if your growing 100’s of pounds!

Maybe these folks in Arcadia were too dumb to apply for the necessary paperwork, but they just got busted yesterday for growing 15 plants.  That doesn’t sound like much of a large-scale op to me.  Oh well, how bad could 6-18 months in state prison be, anyway?

11
Feb
10

Keep it simple, stoner – cont.

Part two of the Green Grow-op, version 1.0:

A few of the comments on my previous post pointed out the obvious, that our first grow experiment had some flaws.  No kidding; really?  Like Wile E. Coyote, my partner made mistakes.  Many, many mistakes.  More than once, those nifty bendable arms on the lamps proved to be less than nifty.  Soon it became clear that they were decorative, not industrial, and thus were not meant to be adjusted and moved on a daily basis.  Several plant branches met their doom under collapsed lamp arms, and by the last days of flowering, all of the lamps were held together by varying degrees of wire, duct tape, and string.  Once, when one of the lamps collapsed, the bulb landed too close to the top of the L.A Confidential, causing a large section of the top of the plant to curl up and die from heat stress.  As Mr. Nice accurately points out, while CFL’s aren’t anywhere near as hot as traditional lighting options, they do produce enough heat to slowly fry a leaf, should they get too close.  Oh, Mr. Nice – where were you when I needed you?

L.A. Confidential - extra crispy

There were other mistakes.  My partner was unclear on how long the plants were supposed to veg, so that part of the process went on for much longer than necessary.  The White Widow did so well under these conditions that it outgrew the space, and had to be bent and twisted around its tomato cage so it wouldn’t crowd out the others.

White Widow - Tomato Cage Torture

Then there was the alchemy involved with watering, nutrients, and ph.  My partner was alternately over-feeding and under-feeding because she had no experience recognizing the symptoms displayed by the plants, and no idea how to correct when they showed distress.  It didn’t help that she was using ice cold water from the tap, and that she didn’t find out until weeks into the process that she needed to adjust the ph to compensate for our extremely-acidic water.

The plants were, nonetheless, growing under these budget conditions.  A modest investment in household lamps, lightbulbs, and fans (along with the low, low PG&E bill) were keeping these plants alive and happy.  In fact, if it weren’t for my partner’s tragically poor parenting skills, they would have done even better.  Not her fault, really.  Imagine trying to grow a tomato having only ever seen the tomato itself, and never the plant it was grown from.  And a dried tomato at that!  When the plants started to flower, she didn’t recognize what was going on because she’d never seen it.  Laugh if you want stoners, but not everyone gets to see what you take for granted up here.  For one or two weeks, she was convinced that her crazy lighting scheme had hermied every one of the clones, and that all of her efforts were a waste.  Worse, though, once she realized she had actual bud sites, she read everything she could find on bud development, and convinced herself that “lollipopping” the plants was the way to go for optimal yield.  Ever go to the barber and tell him to take off just a little, but walk out with a crew cut?  The chaos that resulted from her “trim job” was the plant version of that.  The final indignity came when the Blueberry and C-4 both got a touch of the dreaded powdery mildew a mere two weeks before harvest.  Just a touch.  But after two hours on the internet, my partner was convinced that if we didn’t address the mildew IMMEDIATELY, by the next morning all of her plants would be covered in a snowbank of mildew spores.  According to the internet (which never lies), since chemicals were a no-no at this stage, she thought the best option would be to spray the affected plants with high ph water.  May as well have been battery acid.  RIP, Blueberry and C-4.   We saved what could be saved, but it’s fair to say that the powdery mildew would have been jealous of our destruction.

Salvaged C-4. Blueberry too humiliating to show.

So to say this first experience was troubled would be an understatement.  Nonetheless, after being nicely dried and cured by my partner (we won’t go into the hatchet-job she did on the trimming – thanks again, YouTube), the L.A. Confidential yielded 1.5 ounces despite being burnt to a crisp and having branches amputated by lamp arms.

L.A. Confidential in "bud" vase

The White Widow yielded just under 2 ounces despite being twisted up like a pretzel and shorn like Sampson after a night with Delilah.

White Widow bouquet

The smoke?  Well, it was shared by many experienced stoners, and all agreed that it was above-average.  It wasn’t all top-shelf pharmacy grade, but no ditchweed here – the partner’s final product was sparkly, sticky, smelly, and tasty.   In fact, the White Widow was as good as anything I’ve paid for. The yield numbers were modest, it’s true, but I can’t help but wonder how my partner might have done if she were a little more knowledgeable.  And I can’t fault her lighting system.  She managed to get those plants through vegging and flowering with lightbulbs, desk lamps, and clip-on fans – almost everything we used could be purchased at your local box store.  Gunslinger in training, indeed.  And did I mention that through the entire cycle, our PG&E bill was never more than $100/month for the whole house?  A hundred bucks!

We’ve been in the Emerald Triangle long enough to know that these yields wouldn’t impress any of the gunslingers down at the hydro store.  Still, my partner is convinced that there is a market out there for this kind of setup.  Maybe for apartment dwellers who want to grow small amounts for personal use, or mad scientist gunslingers who want to experiment with strains without much of a financial downside if their efforts go belly-up…  What mid-sized grow op wouldn’t appreciate a significant reduction in electrical costs?  Professional growers might suffer a small loss in yeild, but they would be doing a hell of a favor to the environment if they could turn over just a fraction of their operation to a method that offers a smaller carbon footprint.  And am I mistaken in thinking that Californians will pay a little more for good indoor weed that’s not only organic, but also grown in an environmentally friendly manner?

Well, as the saying goes, smoking weed isn’t addictive, but growing it is.  With environmental benefits boosting her confidence, my partner decides to continue refining the experiment.

Coming soon:  Green Grow-op 2.0.  My partner makes modest upgrades to her system with duct tape, extension cords, disassembled lamps, flat white paint, cardboard, string, and a couple more fans.  She also learns from past mistakes.  Will her results be any better?  Hope still springs eternal for the gunslinger in training.

07
Feb
10

Keep it simple, stoner

Despite having lived in cities for long periods of time, my partner is a nature girl deep down.  She was born on a ranch with farm animals, orchards and a huge vegetable and flower garden, and some of that must have worked its way into her blood.  So even when forced by circumstances to live in the city, she always managed to convince our landlords to let her create some beauty and a teeny-tiny bit of green space – and sometimes it took lots of convincing.  She’s never minded breaking up and moving giant stacks of bricks or piles of broken cement or discarded scaffolding or lumber or pavers or gravel because, I suppose, every time she worked her way down to the inevitable layer of dirt, she must have felt like she was reclaiming a little primordial nature from the concrete.


I’ve never been particularly fond of cities, though I like the amenities well enough.  In contrast, my partner has never been happy with city living, and it was really at her insistence that we headed north when the opportunity arose.  Funny thing, though, once we settled into our cabin in the redwoods, she came to the realization that, up here surrounded by such wild and breathtaking beauty, nature was the gardener – no real need for any human help here.  On the one hand, this made her happy, as it did me.  After all, beautiful is hard to dislike.  On the other, it made her a little sad, because it turns out she’d grown accustomed to keeping a domestic garden.  Of course, it didn’t take long for her to realize that most of the domestic gardening here in our new northern home is done indoors, and often hydroponically.  Not really her style, but she missed gardening and she had a prescription for marijuana, so she decided to grow it herself.  Saves cash, exercises the underutilized green thumb, newly legal – I’m on board.

I guess we don’t look like the “gardening” types, because the first time we stepped into our local hydro store, all of the gunslingers standing at the counter stopped talking and stared.  To be fair, we were out of our element and probably felt it more acutely than they did.  I think that came through by the way we edged our way around the subject, not really knowing how candid we could be about what we were after:

“Uh, yeah.  Uh… We want to grow some, uh, indoor tomatoes…”

Trent-the-trainee just rolled his eyes and began to recite a lengthy list of light housings and ballasts and lamps and timers and fans and ventilators and nutrients and hydroponic watering systems…  He mentioned hiring an electrician to curb the astronomical PG&E bills and consulting a contractor about the grow room…  He talked about fans and conduit and splicing…  Finally, my partner stopped him:

“This seems awfully complicated and expensive just to grow a couple of plants. And I thought you folks were all back-to-the-landers up here – using all of that electricity can’t be good for the environment, right?”

We decided to ignore Trent-the-trainee and the snickering gunslingers at the counter.  A plant is a plant, after all, and we’d never needed electricians or contractors to grow roses.  We  gathered up grow bags, tomato cages, bamboo stakes, a big bag of soil, a watering can, three small bottles of organic nutrients, and one bottle of organic pesticide.  When my partner stepped up to the counter to pay, one of the gunslingers said, “Good luck with the tomatoes,” and all of them laughed.

My partner just smiled, reached over to Trent, lifted the “trainee” tag off of his tee-shirt pocket, and said, “Can I have this?” as she pinned the tag to her own shirt.

We stopped on the way home to purchase some clones from my partner’s local dispensary.  Until moving to the Emerald Triangle, neither of us had really seen a marijuana plant, so we knew next to nothing about strains or sizes or yields or finishing times.  Gardening is gardening, though, and have I mentioned that my partner can turn concrete into beauty like magic?  Whatever knowledge she lacked in this specific crop, the woman knows something about plants, and she knows a healthy one when she sees it, so she grabbed four sturdy-looking clones from off the rack – a White Widow, an L.A. Confidential, a Blueberry, and a C-4.  When she went to pay, the woman behind the counter commented on the “variety,” but at least she didn’t laugh.  She smiled when my partner explained her plan to put the clones in grow bags on her back porch and let nature do the rest, and said, “July is getting kind of a late start, but who knows?  Sixty dollars.”

Failure is a funny thing in that it can lead to unexpected opportunity.  So, first the obvious – the plan to grow on the porch was a bust.  Not much sun shine on a covered porch.  So we decided to go mobile, to follow the sun.  That lasted another day.  The grow bags were heavier than expected, and even though my partner is surprisingly tough, she hadn’t realized that she’d be dragging them all over the yard all day long, chasing the sun between the long shadows thrown up by our corridor of redwoods.  Being so far off the main road, she also hadn’t realized that periodic visits from UPS, FedEX, and the mailman would prove problematic in terms of discretion.  It’s legal to grow somewhere between six and twenty-five plants per parcel, but we felt no need to advertise.  And then there were the nocturnal visits from a variety of critters who like to nibble on plant leaves and stems.  She’s stubborn, though, and I’m sure, a little haunted by the laughter of those gunslingers in the hydro store.  So she soldiered on. The end, however, was soon in sight.

The final straw for the moveable garden came on a day when she was wheelbarrowing the plants from place to place, and was surprised by the sudden appearance of a delivery truck zooming down our driveway.  I wasn’t around to see it, unfortunately, but here’s how she described it:  Startled in the midst of her (legal) wrongdoing, she let go of the barrow, and out tumbled the plants and grow bags onto the gravel, right in front of the surprisingly-unsurprised delivery guy.  The partner was horrified, no doubt fearing that her (legal) behavior would be immediately reported to the feds.  While visions of lady-prison danced in my partner’s head, the delivery guy smiled a big smile, got out of the truck, and helped her to scoop soil back into the grow bags and to gently repot the clones.  When he was done, he fetched a tin out of the glove box, rolled a bone, and shared it with her.  

After the delivery-man incident, we decided that we’d need to try something different.    One day I was replacing the spiral-y compact fluorescent bulb in my reading lamp, and I said, “I know you can’t grow your plants under regular bulbs because you need too many watts and the bulbs get too hot.  But I’ve always wondered about the new compact fluorescent light bulbs we’re all using now to save energy.  Same light output as the old bulbs, right?  But the new bulbs are nowhere near as hot and run on less watts.  You should think about it.”

She thought about it a lot.  Her out-loud musings turned almost exclusively to bulbs.  “Did you know that because compact fluorescent bulbs can be screwed into any standard light fixture, start-up costs are lessened considerably?  Did you further know that bulbs that aren’t as hot will lessen ventilation and climate control costs and therefore save even more energy and money?”  She got on the internet and did some research.  Before I knew it, she had ordered low-wattage, high output compact fluorescent light bulbs in the right spectrum for vegging and flowering.  She bought some lamps on ebay that had multiple sockets and bendable arms, as well as a small de-humidifier and three oscillating fans.  As he brought box after box of lighting goods to our doorstep, I have no doubt that the delivery guy understood what was going on.  However, I seriously doubt he had any concept of what he had unleashed.  Neither did the gunslingers at the hydro store.  As for my partner, she cleared the tools out of her tool shed, opened the window, turned on the fans, set the light timer, and put her plants under the lamps.  Then she waited.

When the plants kept growing, and we got our first full month’s PG&E bill and it was under eighty dollars for our whole household (well pump, indoor lights, stove, fridge, water heater, all household appliances AND grow shed), she was encouraged to wait some more.

Curious about the results?  K.I.S.S. part two, next week.  Stay tuned.  Hope springs eternal for the gunslinger-in-training.