Monthly Archives: August 2011

Hillbilly internet behind the Great Redwood Firewall

Hillbilly internet behind the Great Redwood Firewall

Internet antennas atop ancient redwood

SoHum’s off-grid lifestyle and our extremely rugged topography create special access challenges, whether by car or computer. We live on the dusty, tortuous, slide-prone backroads of both the physical landscape and the internet superhighway. We surf the web in high-clearance 4WD.

While many people are still on 16K-24K dialup modem connections and others with southern sky access have satellite internet, one local provider has found a way to bring high-speed wireless broadband to many remote areas via a network of repeaters that bounce the signal deep behind the Redwood Firewall—the 21st Century version of our perennially puncture-resistant Redwood Curtain.

The small white antennas barely visible at the top of this ancient redwood are in line-of-sight to a tower on a high ridge somewhere that in turn is line-of-sight to another tower and so on, bouncing the internet signal via microwaves to the residents in this narrow, wooded canyon. A ladder up the inside of the tree, hollowed out over the centuries by multiple wildfires, provides maintenance access. The steel ladder is a recent improvement over the old wooden ladder nailed up behind it.

And, no, your cell phone won’t work out here.

Ladder access up hollow tree to internet antennas

Google me silly. Funny search keywords that led to this film blog.

Google me silly. Funny search keywords that led to this film blog.

A key element of a social media outreach strategy for an independent documentary is knowing who your readers, fans and supporters are and how they’re finding your blog. To that end, I usually monitor my Google Analytics data for this site pretty closely. That way, for example, if I see a spike in views after another blog mentions the film, I can go there and participate in any conversations going on and make some new friends. Or new enemies as the case may be.

With the busy summer, I’ve been neglecting my Analytics data, but decided on a whim to check in there this evening. Nothing exciting, really, till I took a look at the keywords that people had typed into Google that had led them to my site. Some are pretty funny and were good for a giggle after a very long day. I’ve posted a screenshot of the top sixteen, but there are pages-worth of keywords/keyphrases that eventually led people here.

Each of the keywords in the screenshot sent between two and nine visitors to the site. Below that, the list contains hundreds of keywords that each sent one visitor. Many of these visits were “bounces,” where someone clicked a link in a search result, opened the page and then closed it without spending time on it, most likely because it obviously wasn’t what they were looking for.

Below are the most amusing search terms that led at least one person here. The numbers in parentheses indicate how ranked in the Google search results for that term. Some are rather surprising.

* how to buy weed from a stranger (#8)

* turkey bag drug dog (#5)

* the biggest weed plant in the world (an image I borrowed from the article I quoted)

* smoking botrytis on marijuana (#6)

* prices for west coast cannabis (#3)

* sequoia living off grid (#8)

* powdery mildew marijuana plant (original image)

* postage due return to sender (original image)

* oldest marijuana found (#4)

* moldy bud brown (original image)

* marijuana stash found (#3)

* life as a pot grower (#3)

* i have my marijuana seeds five days and they don’t crack (#2)

* how much is a pound of weed in humboldt (#4)

* helicopter shot down in humboldt county (UTL)*

* cannabis peace (UTL)*

* biggest cannabis plants glow in humboldt (sic)(UTL)*

(UTL = emergency responder language for “unable to locate.”)

The award goes to:

* what is humboldt (#4, #5)

When Google can answer that, I want to be the first to know.

Save the ravens! Boycott SoHum weed?

Save the ravens! Boycott SoHum weed?

By Mikal Jakubal


That was my first thought as I drove by the woman holding the sign in Redway this morning. Being one of the more unusual protest signs I’d ever seen, I pulled over and walked back.

Here’s the short version that I got from her, paraphrasing a bit since I didn’t record it. She (who didn’t want to be in the photo) says she feeds the ravens in town. For the last four years there have been consistently 70-80 of them every morning. In less than a week, that number has dropped to 40-45, with several dead ones being found around town with blood coming from their beaks. “Word on the street is that one of the merchants put a bounty on them and then put out poison because they were pecking at the roof of his building.”

She says the local Fish And Game officials don’t care, but the local Native American tribes, for whom the raven is sacred, do care and so does the U.S. Dept. Of Interior. She said people can call KMUD radio if they find a dead bird.

I asked her about the SoHum pot connection and she explained it so: “This is a community that likes to take care of its own problems. So, if people don’t do something to stop the killing of the ravens, the Native people will. They’ll bring the officials and the TV cameras and it will give SoHum pot a bad name.” I asked whether she thought anyone would really notice or make the connection. “Well, if people have a choice to buy weed from, say, Hawaii or from a place where white people kill the ravens, I think they’ll chose the other place, so boycott SoHum weed until it stops.”

She wasn’t suggesting at all that it was growers who were killing the ravens, so I’m not quite sure of her logic there.

Anyone else hear anything about this?

It’s a boy!

It’s a boy!

By Mikal Jakubal

While the world condemns countries that practice female infanticide, in the Emerald Triangle, we do the botanical opposite, nipping mostly-useless male plants in the bud long before they can pollinate any nearby females and ruin the quality of the finished “buds.”

For those unfamiliar with marijuana botany, the plants are typically dioecious, meaning male and female flowers are borne on separate plants, the way most animals have male and female reproductive organs on separate male or female individuals. “Dioecy,” as it’s known to botanists, is relatively uncommon in the plant world, compared to bisexuality, where each individual flower on all plants of the species has both male and female parts. Kiwis, date palms and pistacios are some common dioecious food plants that require the occasional male plant to be grown for pollen with the fruit-bearing females. The dioecious Ginko trees that you buy in most commercial nurseries are usually male plants, grown from cuttings (“clones”) of known male trees. The Ginko fruit produced by female plants is apparently stomach-churningly foul-smelling, though I’ve never had the pleasure of that experience.

Male pot plant ready to bloom. (Sorry for the blurry iPhone shot.)

The process of identifying the sex of seed-grown pot plants is known as “sexing” and is usually done with the naked eye or a good magnifying glass between late April and early June. “Sexing” is also used to describe the growth stage where the plants first show visible flowers, e.g. “my O.G. Kush plants are all sexing, but the Sour Diesel hasn’t shown yet.” The earlier that plants can be sexed, the better for the grower, since this means the females can be planted out in their holes or large pots and the males can be composted (or a few selected out for later breeding). Most pot strains have a greater than 1/1 ratio of females to males when grown from seed. Some strains will end up with 70% females, a real boon when you have to buy seeds or had a poor seed crop the previous year.

Cannabis is special not only in its dioecy, but also in that it can also form separate male and female flowers on the same plant, making it “monoecious.” The vernacular term in the grower community for this is “hermaphrodite,” though I believe hermaphrodite is actually a synonym for bisexuality. “Hermies” are a serious bane to growers, since they typically don’t show up until late in the season on otherwise female plants. It can happen that a month before harvest, a huge female plant in full flower suddenly starts popping out male or “staminate” flowers (after the uniquely boy parts called stamens) intermixed with the female, or “pistillate,” flowers. Not only will these male flowers seed the “hermaphrodite” plant itself, but they’ll seed any plants downwind. Because they have been previously identified as confirmed females, hermies can sneak up on a grower, not being noticed until the damage has been done.

This guy in the photo was mistakenly sexed as a female and put in a 45-gallon plastic pot in a garden very near fifteen other female plants in similar pots. All of them are just beginning to flower, so had this male plant slipped the grower’s notice, it would have seeded a good portion of the nearby plants. Seedy bud is weaker, unaesthetic and virtually unsalable.  The term sinsemilla, if you’re not familiar with stoner culture, is Spanish for “seedless.” For those who’ve been reading this blog regularly, last July one of my main film subjects had to destroy a dozen huge plants when they ultimately sexed-out as males. That was nearly a quarter of her entire potential crop. (She later lost a good third to the mold epidemic we had last fall.) I’ve known people to lose a similar percentage of their crop to hermies. Several years ago, when smoke from forest fires discolored the sky for months, many growers in SoHum reported an explosion of monoecy.

It used to be that the male plants were just killed and buried to prevent any buds from opening after the fact and causing mischief. Nowadays, with so much competition in both the medical market and black market, pollen from good strains is becoming valuable. Last week I was at a meeting of a local medical marijuana collective with which I’m involved, the Tea House Collective, where someone was looking for pollen from “Sour Diesel” (a strain of Cannabis). He had sourced females from a grower for bud production, but wanted to do his own breeding, since Sour D is popular with the legal medical marijuana dispensaries and with medical-use patients now.

New research is coming out regularly about the beneficial, but non-psychoactive, effects of eating raw marijuana leaves or drinking the juice, especially that from strains high in CBD, one of the other chemicals found in pot besides the well known and psychoactive THC. As a result, many people either juice their sacrificial males or give them to others who will use them. In what will be an amusing scene in the film, one of my other subjects accidentally cut and juiced one of his female plants. Ouch.