2020 Isolation Grow: Costs

Apr 22, 20202020 Isolation Grow Blog

In the previous post, you read about the basic infrastructural work that went into what I’m doing now. We tapped into our spring water long before we started growing cannabis. That cost close to $20,000. We built our own beds and fence, but had to re-build the beds after ten years. That cost another $10,000. You see we had an electrician come and change things for our most efficient use in the cottage. We had a drip irrigation system put into our beds and attached to our spring water. We added a pump to gain adequate water pressure for the drip system. Everything is on a timer. All of these contracted events cost money. If you want to grow well for yourself and family, or professionally, it will require some level of monetary investment on your part. You can get by for a while, but eventually, you’re going to need to ante up and pay for a professional set up. It’s not cheap, unless you can do most of the contract work yourself. We were able to build our infrastructure slowly and incrementally over 18 years. Giving you costs for the work is a bit misleading, because all the work was done at different times, different economies of scale apply, etc. It also probably cost me more to do this in California than it would for others living elsewhere.

Products you need to use add up. Organic molasses, organic humic acid, Organic liquid fertilizer for compost tea, disposable gloves (we use the entire growing season), foliar spraying device, a pH gauge, materials for blending calcium and magnesium baths, other additives, different fertilizers (fish emulsion for high nitrogen teas), pruning shears, trimming scissors, trimming trays, half gallon mason jars for storage, another refrigerator to store pills and tinctures, upgrading to a four gallon, battery powered foliar sprayer, the list goes on. Some of these are annual costs, like laboratory tests, a few are one time expenses, and some are every couple of years. My first large bottle of liquid fertilizer, while expensive, lasted three years of growing, because compost teas only require one cup a week. All these costs add up, and there is no getting around them. An unexpected new cost arrived near the end of last year’s harvest.

Over last winter, we added one more expensive piece of hardware into our grow for insurance: A propane powered generator. This is not an essential piece for everyone, but it will be for us in California. The cost of the generator and labor was a little over $12,000.

You may have read about the wildfires in California, and how we were forced to lose power for days on end as a fire prevention measure. We are probably looking at a long period of time where these extended power outages are common. My guess is extended power outages will happen in California for at least the next decade. When we were without power late last October for three days, Karen and I lost all our food and some of our medicine. This is not acceptable, and it is preventable. Our stove and water are propane powered. We found a generator that would hook up directly to our propane, when we lose electricity. Within five seconds of losing power, the generator kicks on. Because it is not gas powered, there is no odor. We have a large propane tank, and on it we put a monitor that speaks directly to both the office of our propane company, and also our delivery driver. They will know the moment our tank is at 30% capacity and they will be on their way to fill it. We have complete control over what circuits are on or off, and this helps limit the amount of propane we use. A full tank would give us eight days of constant power. Since we’d only run it during the day, we could double that length. I am greatly relieved to have resolved this problem before another growing season. Eventually, we would love to go fully solar, with a battery backup. But that is out of our budget at the moment, and we needed an immediate solution. 

When we lost power last year, I had one more plant to harvest. While we were out of power, and a wildfire was raging in the next county north of us, with smoke from that fire in our trees, we woke to discover it was 28 degrees outside. The word surreal only begins to describe that situation. I needed to harvest our last plant immediately. Freezing temps can cause trichomes to become brittle and break. I brought down that last large plant (2.2 pounds of White Widow as it turned out), by myself, having just thrown out my back. I looked like a crooked man. My upper body was up here, but below my waist was way over there. That plant had two days of drying in darkness in our bedroom. I hung every flower from smaller red tomato cages that we have repurposed for carrying cannabis to and from the beds and cottage when we harvest. Our cut flowers are always hanging upside down and never on their sides, even in transport. I’ll share pictures from this later in the summer. With the generator, we’ll be able to continue drying in the cottage during outages of power.

All the above work and supplies, in total, have cost close to $52,000. Subtract the generator, which not everyone would need and it’s closer to $40,000. We didn’t have to pay that all at once, but even spread out over eighteen years is not a casual chunk of change in order to effectively grow cannabis, or anything else. The largest single expense was tapping into the water, but if you can do that, it’s worth every penny. Water is the new gold. It’s also important to mention that we did not move to this fortuitous piece of property until I was 41 years old. All of which reinforces the notion that good things take time and planning. Every single day I use the water on this blessed property, I am grateful. I take nothing for granted.

There are significant costs to creating a home/family dispensary. It is wise to know that costs like these are coming. Make your plans with eyes wide open. But no one in our family, or in our little collective community of similarly ill, has purchased any cannabis in four years, and the cannabis we’ve used is certified medical grade. I’m not certain there is a price you can pay for that level of peace of mind.

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.