2020 Isolation Grow: Epilogue: The Future is Full of Flowers

Nov 10, 20202020 Isolation Grow Blog

Well, now that we’ve got all that behind us, (and thank you for voting), we can finish this blog properly.

The final harvest tally was 13.27 pounds, which is our second largest yield. We averaged slightly over one pound a plant.

The last three plants we harvested, the two Rainbow Kush plants and the one giant Ringo’s Gift, accounted for 6.83 pounds. Over half of our total yield came from three plants.

This gives us clarity for next year. We plan on growing only eight plants, but with an empty bed between all the plants, so we may train them to be the largest they can be. Our biggest plant, RK 18, was 2.76 pounds, our largest yielding plant to date, in five years of growing. We speculate that the amount of that plant we had to remove due to mold in the last two weeks might have pushed the total yield over three pounds, but that is rather useless speculation. With an outdoor coastal grow, there is always going to be mold.

We wish we had yielded more ACDC than we did, but we still got almost two pounds from four different plants. That will give us a solid base from that cultivar, on which to build in coming years. With over a pound of Sour Tsunami from bed 15, we bolstered and added variety to our CBD library. Between all of that, plus over two pounds of Ringo’s Gift, we now have multiple sources of high functioning cultivars (high CBD, low THC), so we can feel confident about attacking any malady that comes our way with fresh medicine.

Once again, we battled with plants attempting to flower early, and we’ll have to do some tree trimming around our property to squeeze out another 30-60 minutes or so of prime, vegetative growing sun next year. This will always be a battle for us.

It was a successful year, despite any disappointments. There will always be difficult plants. The perfect grow is a fantasy. But it’s why we get up every day to work, and it’s why I’m already dreaming of the potential for next year.

When this significant year of 2020 began, I was an older man, getting older fast. I had fully accepted my inevitable slow decline, and gradual diminishment as a vital life force on this earth. I was perfectly content to live my life, grow my plants, close the gate, and tend to the small flock of people that I love. It’s all my ego required. I think it’s also called retirement. Spending days with Karen, Charlie, our kids and a few cherished friends was enough. Karen and I had both battled very hard, for a discouragingly long period of time trying to reestablish our lives. At the beginning of this year, I still doubted aloud if I would ever seriously write again. When anyone asked me about writing, I would often ask in response, “Why?”

That was before the pandemic took over all our lives, of course.That was also before April, when Natalie Darves of Oaksterdam University called and asked me to write this blog.

I didn’t know that being asked to write again was all I needed to rekindle my pilot light. It had to do with being asked. The amount of respect I felt when I was asked. Such an unexpected twist.

I had no idea I was going to write a gardening book this year. This blog is 121,035 words since April 20. I don’t think I would have written anything without being asked. But asking me to write was not quite enough. Asking me to write specifically about our grow this year sparked both the writer, and the long dormant teacher in me. That mindset made it fairly easy to remain disciplined. This is not the first time I’ve written a book in six months. My last novel was the same way. 

I suspect I’m about to transition into renewing writing on my 4th novel, called Where She Stands, a novel about the life of an ancient tree, as told by the tree. I wish I could tell you more. I wish I could read you the first chapter. Hmm . . . But that brings me to an interesting possibility, and this is where some of you might come into view.

I have taught before, while still in college, and then the voice program I taught to children and adults. I enjoy teaching. I’m an enthusiastic teacher. The thought of teaching again, especially at this unique and interesting stage of my life, is motivating. I did not see this coming, and my response to this task during these bleak months of isolation was an unequivocal yes. I honestly yearned for the opportunity to teach you what I know. That’s part of the reason for this blog.

One of my favorite things that happened this year was to have virtual tours of our garden for Oaksterdam classes. Meeting students, structuring mini lessons, listening to and then answering questions, are all things I had not realized how much I missed. 

But more than that, seeing all those bright, beaming faces, featuring such wondrous diversity from all over the world, I felt something I never expected to feel again: Youthful. Stamina for days. Ask me, ask me, ask me please.

I’m old enough now to understand that it’s time for me to turn over the reins, and let others do it. 

The future is yours, and it has become my distinct goal to help you. 

When I looked at those faces staring back at me on Zoom, when I heard your voices, I kept thinking about the wondrous journey you have begun, and how your future, for each of you, is going to be full of flowers. That is the way things are beginning to break. At the moment, we are all on this path, you and I. Perhaps we are destined to meet. It would be very cool to meet someone who found the isolation grow blog helpful through this awful pandemic, or just wants to talk about growing. Ask Karen, I’m a geek. I can go on and on about growing.

Who knows? Maybe, just maybe I will one day be one of your teachers. Or perhaps you’ll meet me through an Oaksterdam virtual tour. Because as long as I’m still kicking, I’ll be growing.

I am not a political pundit, so I have no specific wisdom about the future of our country as it pertains to cannabis. What I hope is that with so many states having legalized, in some form, this is the perfect time for many of you to be choosing this field for a potential career. I also noticed that of the four pieces of cannabis related legislation up for votes around the nation on Tuesday, all four passed. I never thought I’d see marijuana legalized at all, now I cautiously believe it’s only a matter of time before it’s legal everywhere. Lots of people are going to need to learn how to grow.

There are many more qualified than I to discuss employment opportunities. For me, the irony with much of this is that I never expected to be doing what I’ve been doing. I’m not doing it for profit, which separates me from many of you. I’m doing it for my family and friends, but also just for the sake of growing well. 

At some point, whether indoors or outdoors, you’re going to have to roll up your sleeves, get in the dirt and learn about growing.

I have tried to describe the process for you in this blog. I have attempted to teach you basic techniques for growing, start to finish. I have hoped to motivate you to learn about everything that grows around you, and how those plants can help your cannabis. I have instructed you on the importance of finding your own sources for water, soil, and the microbiology that is key to successful cannabis farming. 

But now, here at the end of this improbable blog, nearing the end of this impossibly difficult year, I share some thoughts with you from the heart. 

If there is one thing I know for certain about cannabis, it’s that it fosters hope. I know this from our own experience, but I’ve also witnessed this in the reactions of others, especially sick people, to what I grow. When someone in pain hears I grow cannabis, I often become their focus. This has happened again and again. I am no doctor, but I do have an expanding amount of knowledge about these cultivars and how they work for us. I cannot predict how cannabis will affect others, but I can share our experience. As many of you already do with your peeps.

Hope is a precious commodity. It is meant to be cherished, nurtured and protected. From personal experience, I know how difficult it is to access hope once it has been lost. When this happened to me, I floundered, and teetered on the edge of slipping away. That was long before a pandemic. The hateful politics of our time have also made maintaining hope more challenging.

Through all this, I’ve realized the importance of sharing the hope that has resurrected in me.

When I was at my lowest point after Karen became ill, and my brother passed away, I discovered something that I had not known about myself. I truly love making things grow. I’m certain many of you have already come to understand this about yourselves. I had not. I didn’t know how much hope I found in growing until I had to grow to try and help Karen. 

My life’s focus began to change. The way I perceived the world began to change. The way I interacted with the wildlife around me changed. I think my entire energy changed. I had allowed Karen’s illness to overwhelm me. Understandable, perhaps, but I had lost my life to her illness, and I did not know how I could find myself again. 

Turns out, the garden was full of answers, in the form of a new life. In fact, the garden was full of new friends. I had no idea the variety of relationships I was about to establish in our 22 raised beds. I understand now that every flower in our garden brings the promise of help. For me, that help defines hope. Therefore, our future is full of hope. After Saturday’s election results, I feel even stronger about this.

So today, Sunday, I sit in my completely shaded covered beds. A cold wind is blowing, and it will go below freezing here tonight. A small cherry tomato plant is about to be pulled and harvested, because she’ll die in the frost. I wear a down jacket and a wooly cap. Leaves fly from the maple tree but are not allowed to remain on our deck. It’s nice of the wind to do the clean up work for us.

I watch the sun slowly creep along and just over the hill line to touch our beds. Even on a cold day, and winter looming, I watch the moisture forming beneath the plastic as heat from solarization stifles any remaining pathogens. Next year’s growing mediums are already being prepared.

This windswept day is convenient. It keeps me blinking, and my emotions in check while I finish this work. Winter is tapping on the front of my recently shaved scalp, with days of rain forecast to begin within 100 hours from right now. 

Soon, I will go inside and select flowers from each of our harvested plants to be taken in tomorrow for testing. We use a lab in the East Bay. We will have our samples tested for cannabinoids, THC potency, terpenes, and any evidence of mold, because we must be certain. It will take a few days for the tests to conclude, and once we get the results, we can close the book on the 2020 Isolation Grow.

I am yearning for the rain, and for fire. I am craving the mercifully brief period of darkest winter in these parts, and a look around tells me it has already begun. Can any of you guess what I’m not seeing right now, that tells me winter is already here?

There are no more flying insects. The flys and moths are gone. Carpenter bees have stopped eating our house. The next flying insects we see will happen approximately 24-72 hours after the first significant rain. From the earth as source, our entire valley airspace will be filled with ground based termites. They will emerge from beneath us by the thousands in a one day spectacle of seeking new homes, occasionally inside some of ours. That is not a day you want to be outside exercising, breathing hard with your mouth open. It could get disgustingly crunchy. Then, the outside air will quiet again while we await spring for the vast battalions and armadas of insects to return in time for our next grow.

So, it’s time to hunker, rest a bunch, get a few things fixed on me, and then get back to work. You folks know what I’ll be growing, so  there’s not much left for me to write on this project, except this:

Every single time I wrote for this blog, I thought of you. I wrote this as honestly as possible, warts and all. Admitting what you don’t know is the best way to learn for everyone. Mistakes are what humanize us, and equalize us. We all make them, so admitting them puts us on equal footing as gardeners, and human beings. 

I thought of all the people in similar straits as Karen and me. I hope with all my heart that this document, at the very least, gave you some ideas of where you might find some help.

I think of all you during this pandemic, cautiously though bravely moving around doing the necessary, dangerous work, or remaining inside, like us, safe and intact. 

At all times, I wished my words could transport you from wherever you were to my garden. I wanted you there with me, learning what I know, learning as I learn, and dreaming of how you are one day going to grow your own.

Because that, my friends, is where we are heading. Whatever your dreams are in terms of this plant, for me, the greatest single freedom is what we’re doing: Growing Our Own.

People ask me all the time about what cannabis products do I recommend? I have to shake my head and tell them I haven’t been in contact with a dispensary since I began growing. I have no idea what products are out there . . . other than what we grow and make here in our own home.

I’m going to miss writing for you. I hope this blog has been a good source to check out during this portion of Covid 19 we’ve shared. I hope reading this blog has been an entertaining and informative respite from all the bad news we’ve had to contend with for far too long. 

But the bad news is over now, and it is my hope that the good news has only begun. To that end, while this blog is coming to a close, the possibility of perhaps interacting with some of you, meeting some of you, and possibly teaching some of you, is very much in play. 

If you are a future student at Oaksterdam, you are very likely to have a virtual tour of my garden, at the very least. It is my distinct hope that sometime in 2021, with proper leadership again, that we finally get a handle on Covid 19, and can return to in person and/or classroom based teaching. I would love nothing more than to host a classroom of students in my garden, and put you all to work. I would love to walk into a classroom to give a lecture, and meet you. I can’t wait to sit down in front of a bunch of you and hear you tell me about your flowers. We are living in a world that is becoming full of flowers. If I can do what I’ve done, you can do it even better. I would love to witness your work, and hear you tell how you did it with your own voices. I would love to learn from you. 

Though I’ve yet to meet most of you, I will think about you, and the time we’ve spent together, the rest of my life. This has been one hell of a year. Thank you for reading this blog.

For the rest of your lives, growers, know your water pH, and most importantly, always remember to survive and vote.

With LOVE, from Karen & Jeff

See ya next year, treeline. I start seeds again in a little over five months.


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.