Reefer growing madness

The Grinch Who Stole Cannabis

The Grinch Who Stole Cannabis

It started with a pot-leaf Jack-O-Lantern and a creepy tarantula showing up at a trim scene on Halloween and then for Thanksgiving we got turkey-bag jokes. Now the Grinch busted someone’s cannabis tree. Reading the words from the famous “How The Grinch Stole Christmas,” I couldn’t help but use them as line-by-line commentary on the story.

German police find pot plant adorned as Xmas tree

The Associated PressThursday, December 9, 2010

“Santy Claus, why,” “Why are you taking our Christmas tree? WHY?” –Little Cindy-Lou Who, who was not more than two.

Then he got an idea! An awful idea!

BERLIN — German police say an “old hippy” is facing possible prosecution for his version of the, ahem, highest Christmas tree – a festively decorated two-meter- (two-yard-) tall marijuana plant.

Then he slid down the chimney. A rather tight pinch.
But, if Santa could do it, then so could the Grinch

Koblenz police spokesman Ralf Schomisch says officers raided the apartment of the 58-year-old man following a tip Monday and uncovered a cache of 5.3 ounces (150 grams) of marijuana.

Then he slithered and slunk, with a smile most unpleasant,
Around the whole room, and he took every present!

Then in the living room they discovered the tree – a pot plant adorned with Christmas lights. The suspect, whose name was not released, said he had planned to decorate it further and putting presents under it at Christmas.

“And NOW!” grinned the Grinch, “I will stuff up the tree!”

But it was not to be. Schomisch said Thursday that authorities “had to destroy this pre-Christmas dream” and seize the plant as evidence.

The Grinch had been caught by this tiny Who daughter,
Who’d got out of bed for a cup of cold water.
She stared at the Grinch and said, “Santy Claus, why,”
“Why are you taking our Christmas tree? WHY?”
But, you know, that old Grinch was so smart and so slick,
He thought up a lie, and he thought it up quick!
“Why, my sweet little tot,” the fake Santy Claus lied,
“There’s a light on this tree that won’t light on one side.”
“So I’m taking it home to my workshop, my dear.”
“I’ll fix it up there. Then I’ll bring it back here.”
And his fib fooled the child. Then he patted her head,
And he got her a drink and he sent her to bed.
And when Cindy-Lou Who went to bed with her cup,
HE went to the chimney and stuffed the tree up!

(Complete “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” words here.)

On Thanksgiving in Humboldt, the turkeys run wild and the people get baked.

I’m busy with family over the holiday, so won’t be posting a whole lot, but I had to share this from Kym Kemp. For those who don’t live in pot-growing country, the standard unit of trade is one pound of weed and pounds conveniently fit in Reynolds turkey bags—which are also reputedly smell-proof, even to drug dogs. See some of my previous posts about how many bags our local grocery stores (and garden stores and music store, etc.) sell. We also have flocks of wild turkeys roaming the hills here, introduced for sport hunting over a hundred years ago. So, Kym says that the turkeys will be glad to know that,

“in the Emerald Triangle, the bags are stuffed with vegetables and the people get baked.”

Happy Thanksgiving y’all.

(By the way, I actually saw a turkey bag used to cook a turkey today. How very odd.)

“Mr. postman, won’t you bring me a letter, the sooner the better.”

“Mr. postman, won’t you bring me a letter, the sooner the better.”

Thanks to local blogger Kym Kemp for tipping me off to this story from the New York Times Opinion Pages.

Quite a lot of postage due on this package.

Seems someone mailed a package of pot out of state and put a local bookstore as the (fake) return address in order to make it look legit. Perhaps the sender had partaken in a bit of her or his own produce and wasn’t paying attention, because the parcel was sent without adequate postage, causing it to be “returned” to the bookstore. The bookstore owners, not wanting to be inadvertently caught in someone else’s deal or a potential sting, turned the weed over to local law enforcement—who were reluctant to even deal with such a small amount (under a pound).

For a stoner, having a bag of trimmed pot arrive unexpectedly in the mail would be an even better catch than my earlier post about bags of untrimmed weed causing a traffic hazard in the middle of Highway 101. In both cases, the cops ended up with the marijuana, which is the only reason we were able to hear about these events. It makes you wonder how frequently someone’s misplaced product is found by a smoker who gleefully—and quietly—accepts it as a groundscore from heaven. Probably more often than anyone realizes.

The Emerald Triangle would be a difficult location a fiction writer to set a story in, since truth is so much less believable than anything you could make up. If someone from St. Louis or Tampa or Fargo heard these tales from some random pothead, their response would probably be, “dude, you’re smoking way too much dope to believe things like that!” It’s just like that here.

With all the local and national publicity this story has garnered, one thing can be sure: there won’t be any accusations by either the sender or intended receiver of the parcel that the other is lying about what happened to it.

Day Of The Living-Dead Marijuana

Day Of The Living-Dead Marijuana

By Mikal Jakubal

It's just a few brown leaves...

After yesterday’s tarantula in the trim scene photo, I thought I’d share these much more gruesome (to growers) images of pot-farm terror. Powdery mildew, mold and stretching buds are three end-of-season demons that rival thieves and law enforcement as the stuff of grower nightmares and B-grade slasher movie plots. Well, if anyone made B-grade slasher movies about growing weed.

The photo at right is Botrytis bud mold or stem mold. It kills the plant as it grows, feeding on the dead plant matter like the giant space amoeba in that old movie THE BLOB. I freakin’ loved that movie as a kid!

Mold first shows as brown leaves on the outside of the bud. This entire bud, including all the way to the bottom of the photo (above), is trashed. Compost. Once you cut into something like this, you find the stems rotten well beyond the surface indicators. If you catch it when you see one teeny, tiny brown leaflet, you can often save most of the bud. Within one or two more days at most, this entire bud would have been brown. It happens faster than the bite of a zombie leaves you undead.

Powdery mildew. No, that is not frosty with hash crystals, it's fungus.

Powdery mildew is caused by another, parasitic, fungus that feeds on the living plant juices like a vampire and spreads by wind-blown spores to infect other healthy leaves and plants. A wooden stake wouldn’t do much, but potassium bicarbonate or hydrogen peroxide foliar spray helps.

The plant pictured above was left untreated for far, far too long. Once it gets this bad, it is very hard to eliminate, especially this close to harvest.

Like one of those beanie caps with the little propeller on top.

This bud (right) was left on the plant well past optimal harvest time. Note how the tip has elongated into a central stalk circled by leaflets and calyxes. It’s the marijuana-plant equivalent of being put on the rack.

Growers call this “stretching” or “helicoptering” because of the way the leaflets protrude in alternating pairs like the blades of a helicopter. I’m a volunteer firefighter/EMT, so I usually consider helicopters a blessing, but they get a bad rap in this town.

Once this bud is harvested and dried, that tip will be cut off, leaving a little snipped off stump-end on the tip of the bud instead of a nice, round, groomed top. This sort of stretching takes place throughout the entire bud structure, decreasing the density and increasing difficulty in trimming. I’m told that leaving them on the plant this long also makes the smoke more “stoney” as opposed to giving a more “up” high had it been harvested earlier. (Opinions on this anyone?)

Leaving a bud on the plant this long also increases the risk of mold, as evidenced by the stretch-out tip on the moldy bud in the first photo.

Happy Day Of The Undead!

Trim scene trick or treat!

Trim scene trick or treat!

Maybe it was after some “White Widow.”

(Caution, open this post carefully to avoid upsetting contents.)

Ah, so this is what the “trick” part of “trick or treat” means when you don’t give candy to the little goblins at the door. I thought it meant they’d egg your house or cover the trees in your yard with toilet paper. Must be the local Wiccan kids responsible for this one.

This hirsute fella wandered into a local trim scene today, seen here in a cardboard trimming tray. It’s Halloween and all, but the trimmer who first saw him was not amused, On the bright side, it could’ve been a werewolf or walking skeleton. Or a DEA agent.

And on a lighter Halloween note, some trim scene humor seasonal decoration.

The native tarantulas in Northern California are in the genus Aphonopelma—as if you really care about anything other than getting the damn thing out of the house—but I don’t know which species this is. They are rarely seen except in the fall when the males go out wandering in search of females, who usually live hidden in burrows. Last fall, I found two of these on the walls inside my house, which is the only time I’ve ever seen them. I don’t know why they thought they’d find mates here.

According to the California Poison Control System, the bites are painful (their fangs are HUGE), but don’t usually result in systemic poisoning symptoms. So, while not dangerous like a black widow, they’re just…creepy. Like the ones in my house, this one pictured today was captured and released way back in the property.

Of course, there are plenty more where that came from.
And they’re headed.

Bwaaaaaaahhhhhaaaaa haaaaaa haaaaa!


By Mikal Jakubal

In many ways, Southern Humboldt is like one of those tribal villages in New Guinea where, isolated by mountain ridges from neighboring settlements for generations, the people developed an entirely separate language and culture. While the Redwood Curtain is more metaphorical than topographical, the underground nature of the economy here and three generations of isolation from the larger culture have moved us well on our way to becoming linguistically incomprehensible to the outside world.

Southern Humboldt blogger Kym Kemp was asked by another writer for a glossary of pot-industry jargon. The list below is borrowed from her Redheaded Blackbelt blog post, with some additions and clarifications. While there are many words universal to the consumption side of the marijuana culture—“stoner,” “joint,” “420” and so on—those listed below are either specific to this area or are used in the production side of the industry.

Ill try and post at least one new word each day as I recall them. I’ll post on Twitter with #marijuanalingo tag, so they’ll show up in the feed on the right and I’ll add them to the glossary below as I have time. Have more words you want to contribute? Post them in the comments or message me @OneGoodYear on Twitter.

Cabbagy—used to describe a bud that is extremely dense, but in a bad way. The innards of such buds are often yellow and mold-prone.
Diesel dope—pejorative  term for marijuana grown off the electric grid under lights powered with electricity from diesel generators; also derogatorily called pollution pot.
Grown. a pot garden, indoor or outdoor (e.g. “diesel grow”). This is a term used by growers, law enforcement and the media.
Grower—marijuana farmer. Big-time grower—someone who grows more than you.
—a small home in the hills, usually off-grid, where marijuana is often but not always grown.
Humboldt honey—hippie chick often dressed unconventionally in cotton or hemp clothing and generally with unshaven legs and armpits.
Indo—Indoor grown marijuana.
Patch—outdoor marijuana garden.
Potstitute—a negative term for a woman who likes to have relationships with wealthy growers.
Quad—a four wheel motorized open vehicle similar to a motorcycle often used for transportation to and from marijuana gardens. Also known as a four-wheeler.
Salad—mix of different strains; usually less desirable
Scene—where marijuana is cultivated or processed (e.g. “trim scene,” “dry scene”); also general personal space, e.g.  “Dude, your scene is a mess.”
Shake—waste leaves of trimmed pot. In some areas, “shake” refers to the loose bits at the bottom of a bag of trimmed weed.
Trim—the short sticky leaves removed or “trimmed” from a marijuana bud.
Trimmer—one who cleans marijuana; also: manicurist, cleaner, picker.

Stay tuned for many, many more!

Bags of green buds found on Hwy 101

By Mikal Jakubal

I filmed the local Sheriff Sergeant today telling the story of a deputy stopping on Hwy 101 last night near Garberville to kick two large plastic trash bags off of the road. Turns out they were full of untrimmed pot. We walked over to the evidence room and opened them up for my camera. There were some decent sized buds, but most looked kind of scraggly, with lots of sticks. (I’ll try and post a screen shot later.)

I figured that someone must have been transporting it from a garden to their trim scene. Seems crazy to do that in a way that it would blow out of the truck.

A short while after the interview—by sheer coincidence, at 4:20pm—I got a follow up call from the Sergeant  telling me that the bags actually flew out of a Drug Task Force truck after a raid. He said, “it’s evidence and they want their dope back.”

Only in Garberville do you find bags of fresh weed on the road. Now, if I could just find a bag of money to help finish the film…

Rot-off Moon

By Mikal Jakubal

If the full moon of two weeks ago was the “Ripoff Moon,” as my thieving neighbor put it, this dark moon has to be called “Rot-off Moon,” in dubious honor of the brown stem mold that is sweeping Northcoast pot gardens.

“Stem mold” or “bud mold,” as it’s alternately called, is a species of the fungus Botrytis. It is one of the many predictable pests of marijuana in damp climates and appears each fall at harvest. What makes it so vexing and anxiety-inducing is that it starts invisibly on the stems of the biggest buds, rotting them from the inside out.

Often, the first sign is a yellowed or wilted bud leaflet or two. Pulling the bud open reveals either brown slime or grey fuzz where green, crystal-coated calyxes, pistils and leaflets should be. Trying to cut the rot out is often futile, with each successive cut leading deeper and deeper into the bud structure until nothing is left but a disheartening pile of brown and green clippings destined for the compost pile.

Of the many crop-loss threats a small-scale cannabis farmer faces on the Northcoast, bud mold has become the most serious, far surpassing losses to law enforcement eradication efforts.

For many growers, this is the worst mold year they’ve ever experienced. The combination of a long, wet spring with rains persisting well into June, a relatively cool summer and an unseasonably heavy rain in September has provided an ideal climate for mold growth. The fact that everyone has doubled and tripled crop size this year means that a farmer’s limited time is spread thinner, with less time per plant to monitor and take preventative measures.

Once it starts, Botrytis can race through a crop, destroying most of the large buds in mere days. Since it forms mostly in large, maturing buds, the usual remedy for mold is immediate harvest of the surrounding healthy ones. But, what do you do when half of your crop—which this year is three times a large as you normally handle—shows signs of mold all at once?

This is the dilemma that many growers face at this very moment and there is some major freaking-out going on in Garberville. Stores are selling out of heaters, dehumidifiers and propane. I’ve spoken with many, many growers and only a very few are not having mold problems. It was even a topic of discussion on the popular Thank Jah It’s Friday radio program on KMUD radio this morning.

Throughout the hills, large piles of moldy buds are being tossed on the compost heap as growers race to get plants cut and dried before mold can consume their entire season’s work. I’ve heard of people putting large fans outside in their gardens to keep the air moving, though this is probably about as effective as a bucket brigade trying to make a river run uphill. Many people get up early and shake the dew off of each branch. Others cut large branches at once, hanging the whole thing indoors in a dry-room to be properly processed later. The best solution, for those who have the money, is to hire a large crew to do an accelerated harvest, converting your entire house into a drying shed.

Of my four documentary subjects, one harvested early and another is in the process of a slow, phased harvest. Neither had any significant mold. The other two, however think they might have as much as 30% crop loss. One of the two is also a meticulous breeder and she lost years of breeding work when carefully pollinated flowers rotted off the stem.

The accelerated harvest has pushed my ability to keep up with filming. Where I might have otherwise had weeks to show the harvest process, I’ve now had to run around to grab footage of plants being cut before they were gone. With mold running amok, no one is going to wait for me and my camera. Of course, the mold has also added a significant new level of tension to the story, temporarily backburnering concerns about the coming vote on Proposition 19 and the effects that might have. It’s hard to worry about something that might affect you next year—for better or worse—when your entire crop is melting before your eyes.

Farming of any kind is never predictable and pot-growing is no different. I wonder if a future, legalized cannabis industry will have crop-loss insurance available for bud mold?

Someone cut the lock!

A friend who lives down the road and grows a small medical marijuana garden just called to tell me that last night at around 8pm, someone cut the lock on her gate. She assumes that they drove in, saw that the other resident was there in his cabin with the lights on and left. Oddly enough, the lock was just dummy-hooked. They didn’t have to cut it, but could have just unhooked it had they messed with it for a couple seconds. This indicates they came prepared to cut a lock, so there was clearly ill-intent.

This sort of thing adds to the tension around here this time of year. Lots of strangers come into town either with harvest work lined up already or in the hope of finding work. Others come here to scam and steal. This was someone who had cased the place already. She should get some motion-activated alarms, at minimum. Or a dog. If that happened to me, where I knew someone had clearly intended to rip me off, it’s hard to say I would not be tempted to arm myself in case they came back. It’s creepy when it happens to someone you know. I hope she at least has a sharp machete by the door.

Ripoff Moon

Ripoff Moon

By Mikal Jakubal
“The ripoff moon. That’s what my grandpa used to call it…the ripoff moon.”

Ripoff moon

“Yes,” I mumbled under my breath to my friend standing next to me, “he should know.” The speaker was, after all, the notorious ripoff son of said grandpa, himself a notorious ripoff. A friend and I were talking with him in front of my place, across the street from the junkyard and jumbled cluster of squalid hovels where the family lives.

He was referring to the full moon of late September. While still several days away, it is already bright enough to permit movement at night without a flashlight. This is the most dangerous and risky time for growers. The entire year’s work is riding on the hope that the next two to five weeks will go well. While the marijuana crop is not at peak harvest quality, it is mature enough to be smokable, salable and, unfortunately, stealable. By next month, with harvest in full swing, each farm will be abuzz with workers busily cutting, hanging and trimming the marijuana. But now, it is still quiet, with most growers doing the guarding themselves.

Anywhere you find an abundance of illicit wealth you will find an abundance of thieves. Some are locals—such as the family across the street from me—who make their living ripping off others’ marijuana harvest. In other cases, low-lifes come here from elsewhere with the intent of reaping what others have grown. Thieves in pot country are considered the lowest of the low, the scummiest of the scum, probably even lower on the totem pole of social respect than snitches.

Most growers I know rely on the remoteness of their homesteads—security through obscurity—for protection against ripoffs. Many also have dogs and simple security systems such as motion-activated lights or alarms to alert them to intruders. All have fences to protect the marijuana and the rest of their garden from deer. One grower I know has a large greenhouse with chicken wire air-nailed and battened to the inside of the stud framing, adding an additional layer of difficulty to any attempted break-in.

Almost ready…

The real fear of most pot farmers I know is what is generically referred to as “armed home invasion,” where there is a forcible break-in involving weapons and a direct confrontation. In most cases, ripoffs will flee the garden if they think they have been seen. They are only there for an easy heist that isn’t worth the risk of a confrontation with an angry grower who may be armed or at least recognize them if they’re local. In an armed home invasion, the thieves are more determined, aggressive and unpredictable.

I haven’t seen any law enforcement statistics on this, but my overall impression is that these sort of violent conflicts have increased in the last half-dozen years. The actual numbers are also likely far higher than any official statistics, since many crimes go unreported due to the pirate nature of the industry. I should note that the fact that marijuana is becoming mainstream and tolerated might mean that the apparent increase is actually just an increase in reporting, now that busting hippies for a few plants is no longer a law-enforcement priority in Humboldt County or most of California.

Growers I know have responded to this perceived threat in a number of ways, mostly involving more security devices, fences, dogs and, unfortunately, guns. Many sleep in or near their pot patch this time of the year. While I have yet to talk to anyone who says that pot is worth killing anyone over or dying for, those who carry weapons usually phrase it as a matter of self-defense against an armed intruder. While they say they wouldn’t kill someone for ripping off their marijuana plants, they might shoot back—or shoot first—if the intruder points a gun at them.

A couple days ago, I talked to someone who lives down the same paved road I live on about his situation. He is not far off the road and only has a deer fence for protection. He has to leave to work elsewhere during the day. The patch is in his large vegetable garden, eighty feet from the house and too far to hear an intruder cutting plants while he is sleeping at night. He says he plans to put up motion-activated alarms soon [dude, do it now!], but in the meantime, he describes his situation like this:

“Every morning I get up and go down to the garden first thing to see if my marijuana is still there. Every evening when I get back from work I go down to see if it’s still there. So far it has been. Tomorrow it may all be gone. I could lose the entire year’s crop and the majority of my year’s income in a few minutes when my back is turned, but I can’t let it run my life. I have work to do in the day, I have to sleep at night and I don’t have anyone else here to guard it for me. You can’t be attached to an outcome in a situation like this. It’s like this every frickin’ year, so I’ve learned to accept that I might get nothing and then be grateful for whatever harvest I do get.”

While unarmed, my neighbor does keep a big, sharp machete by the door in case he has to go out at night and confront someone, noting, finally, “I always sleep a little easier once this full moon is past.”

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