2020 Isolation Grow: Appreciation

Aug 4, 20202020 Isolation Grow Blog

Our grow supervisor this year is a kit. This fine fellow sat and watched us while we pruned. We should have cropped the bucket out.

August 1

As we roll along into the back end of this grow, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge my appreciation for others who help me with this blog.

Not only does Brenden help me in the beds, not only is their help indispensable, but they also take some of the most amazing photographs. All of the coolest, most spectacular nature shots have been from Brenden. Karen takes most of the other shots, and I’m constantly dragging her outside to take shots for me. Some of the photos in the blog are from me, but all of mine are from past years. This year, it is all Karen and Brenden doing all the photos. 

For example, here are some plums up the hill that are going over and starting to show mold spores. Brenden took this shot while picking most of the plums I’ll use in teas next tea. I threw a few into the tea I poured this morning, but I’d already picked about 60 plums for the teas. However, these plums had the beginning of mold spores. I was inspired to include them in the tea when I received the following link from Brenden. I am for anything that helps prevent brown mold.

Brenden has a knack from capturing unexpected moments, like the following worm on top of parsley pods.

It helps so much to have a fresh set of eyes; especially trained eyes. Arguably, (or perhaps not), Brenden is more adept at noticing a problem than I. Part of that is simply my familiarity with each plant. My eyes are so used to each plant looking a certain way, I can initially overlook something that fresh eyes will pick up immediately. For example, several dead or dying leaves were on ACDC 22 yesterday, courtesy of probably more than one spider mite. I think Brenden saw at least four. Here was one:

As a result of this finding of multiple spider mites running amok in our beloved bounce back ACDC 22, I fired up the foliar sprayer and gave the entire garden a Neem soaking. I found no evidence of spider mites this morning. If these spider mites had not been eradicated from ACDC 22, we might have lost her. That many spider mites unchecked would mean plant death.

Brenden also has a keen eye for the miraculous work of moths and butterflies, as you’ve already seen. This example found yesterday of brand new eggs next to older eggs that were beginning to hatch is exceptional.

Because of Brenden, I am able to spend more quality time with this blog. It might be fair to say that up to now, I’ve spent more total time working on this blog than I have in the beds. I spend a lot of time doing both, but I’ve probably spent more time writing. Without Brenden’s help, writing this blog might be more of a burden. As it is, writing this has been a joy.

Speaking of joy, here is Shiatsu Kush, Day 16:

And this is Sour Tsunami, Day 8:

Those last two photos were taken by Karen, at my request, just after she returned from a walk in the neighborhood with Charlie in a birdy backpack.

Karen takes my request shots, the weekly bed shot, the set pieces. She shoots the videos.  I am incredibly fortunate to have an international award winning filmmaker as my partner. She doesn’t like me bragging about her, so I’ll be brief. She’s had an impressive career. She won a bunch of awards for her student film in college at California Institute of the Arts. She animated Gumby. She animated Pixar films from Toy Story through Up.

You guys saw the little video she did for the Summer Solstice blog. (There are more videos to come).

I’m lucky.

At a certain point with every blog, I feel I’m ready to send it to Oaksterdam for some fresh eyes to proof it, and editorial ideas. By the time they get it, I’ve gone over it to the best of my ability. But anything I write is always made better by an editor. For this, I get Natalie Darves, the Dean at Oaksterdam. I am honored to have such an esteemed editor. Natalie reminds me of my audience, and for a while, she attempted to steer me away from some of my writing flights of fancy. 

It’s a wise person that knows when to give up, and I think Natalie did that weeks ago. She has given me a full length of rope to do with what I will. I am honored by the trust, and value her suggestions.

So I write it, edit it, assemble pictures for it and where it all should go, and send it in to Ace Kisch. He turns it into the blogs. He processes the videos. He selects the thumbnail shot for each blog (and has done a great job, imo).

I remember Ace when I was a student with a limp. He has a kindness from the inside out, and the guy knows his stuff. I enjoyed listening to him talk to others about the plants growing adjacent to our classroom. 

Jessie Smith sends posts of mine through various media to keep eyeballs looking in our direction. When I was wondering out loud about reactions, she sent me a timely note of support.

Elizabeth Bowen is in charge of setting up the zoom sessions, and it is vital for her to understand that she may utilize me as she sees fit. Looking forward to when I can zoom from the garden for another group of students. I’m already thinking about what I want to teach.

Dale Sky Jones sent me a sweet note acknowledging the 40th blog in the series, and reiterating Oaksterdam’s support. Since I’ve got no gauge for how people are reacting to the blog, a note of support from the Chancellor meant a lot. 

I would like to take a moment right now to acknowledge something that has been such a surprise:

I did not expect to burn this hard again. To feel as on fire as I’ve felt since beginning this blog is a pleasure I had largely accepted as gone from possibility. I believed that Karen’s illness, combined with her need for care, ended my writing career, and I had already made my peace with this. I was settling into a much more sedentary existence, even while growing these last few years. I felt good about growing this year, happy about what I was going to grow and how it would benefit all of us. That was my level of excitement, until Oaksterdam asked me to blog.

So I have an appreciation for Oaksterdam as an institution, for helping reignite my creative fire. The last time I felt like this was when I was writing my last novel, scary, man. After Karen became ill, I stopped writing, other than blistering comments under a pseudonym in the Washington Post. (If anyone out there can guess my name on WAPO, I’ll . . . tip my hat). Lol.

This blog has also obviously been a balm for me during Covid-19, along with everything else going on in the world. As much as possible, I appreciate this blog for helping keep me calm, for forcing me to focus on the multiple tasks at hand. I must remain mindful. The grow this year is no breeze. Having multiple ruderalis forces you to a different approach. The same tricks we use with standard plants are not as applicable with ruderalis. 

I want to acknowledge the privilege I feel in writing this blog. I regard it as not only an honor, but a huge responsibility to write honestly about my process with this special, ancient plant. I have been an author of children’s stories, and very adult novels. I have at least one more novel to finish, but in the meantime, this blog represents my first attempt at non-fiction.

Since Karen became ill, I have listened to countless people suggest what a wonderful and inspiring book I could write. I would politely nod my head and move on. I had no desire at all to write about what we were enduring, because we were still in the midst of enduring it. What I needed was a therapist, and a safe place for me to vent. Thankfully, I found that outlet.

I had been talking with Oaksterdam about doing something for them. Teaching something, or perhaps making my farm available for field trips and special seminars. I could feel the pull of teaching again, but I could not envision the form it might take. 

Then the virus hit, and on March 7, Karen and I went into our isolation. Under the advice of doctors, we began to mentally prepare ourselves for an even longer and more extensive isolation than we’d already been experiencing. We basically shrugged our shoulders and were moving ahead. Karen was starting to improve just a bit, so our mood was on the upswing, pandemic or not.

When I was asked to blog, it pushed me into the perfect place. Writing about cannabis was not only a brand new topic for me to write about, it was also the perfect way to tell our story without making our story the focus. The only way I wanted to share our tale was if it helped others in similar straits. There are many well written self help books focusing on catastrophic loss. I did not feel qualified to write anything specifically like that. 

But to write about cannabis; especially when the process is still so new to me, and the blush of  knowledge has not worn off, is to take the fullest advantage of all my excitement and enthusiasm, short of turning me loose to speak with a live audience. 

The process of writing, a process essential to me since I was eight years old, brings me to full flower. When I’m writing, when I’m in this mode of creativity without limits, is when I most fully understand the concept of freedom. When I write, I work outside any realm of doubt or fear. I feel obligated to write the truth, to share the details, and to honor the hope I feel in my heart whenever I grow this plant. I am a lucky man.

Survive and vote. Back on Friday.

72℉  58% humidity


Jeffery Hickey
Oaksterdam Alumni

Jeffrey Hickey is a 2014 IPPY award winning novelist, performing in over 900 Reader’s Theater shows that featured his authorship of adult novels, and books for children. His accomplishments include a program of self-empowerment and effective oral communication, “Find Your Voice,” that he taught in public and private schools throughout Northern California. Jeffrey is the father of twin sons, and is arguably the happiest married man on the planet.