2020 Isolation Grow: Harvest Eve

Sep 15, 20202020 Isolation Grow Blog

You know it has entered harvest time when the front side of the leaf is green and the backside is purple. This orb spider points toward one of the first signs of autumn in the beds.

First, just a few words of thanks to the excellent zoom session yesterday with Oaksterdam students. It was a great group of questions and know that I could have kept working with all of you for hours. I truly hope these students captured at least a bit of my enthusiasm for growing.

We will harvest our first plant soon. It’s time to get ready.

Checklist:

  • 4 pair Lopping Shears
  • 4 small red tomato cages (more will be needed for larger plants, but four should cover SK)
  • Deep tray for popcorn (not sure they’ll be any for this plant)
  • Alcohol, gloves
  • 6 brand new curved trimming scissors. 
  • A small cup next to each trimmer with isopropyl for scissor cleaning
  • Seats covered with bedsheets (actually, this won’t happen until the full trimming in a few days)
  • 4 trimming surfaces with kief trays (again, these come in handy during the final trim, with help) 
  • Take stock of Mason Jars 
    And by the way, what is up with Mason Jars? Has Covid closed them? All I know is there is a shortage, and seriously lame price gouging online. Is the world out of mason jars as we knew them until Covid ends? Shall I be looking at apothecary jars to finish harvest? The mason jar situation is going to be tight around here; especially when we get to the last two plants, both of which are very large.
  • Hydrogen Peroxide and Lemon Juice (These are both for cleaning the plants)

There has been a pattern to all five harvests that has been consistent so far. The first plant is usually harvested around the second week of September, and the second plant usually comes down about two weeks later. About two weeks after that, the parade (onslaught) begins.

This weekend brings deep, thick fog, and an increase in humidity that cannot be ignored. It’s currently 5:25 in the morning, and in about an hour, I’ll have stretched and will be going out to resume Regalia sprays. We are facing days where the humidity will not drop below 80%, and be higher than that most of the day. It is in this heightened level of humidity where pathogens prey, and mold spores flourish. Other than the fire threat, this weekend poses the first sustained threat to the plants so far this season. In fact, when I look at the extended forecast, I see a raised level of humidity for the next five days. That is high alert humidity, and will probably require daily sprays to protect the crop. Humidity should lessen by next weekend, allowing for a break in pathogen treatment, and an opportunity to spray BT again, if needed. That last spray of fresh BT quieted things down quite a bit, worm wise, except for one low lying region of the White Widow that must have been missed in the spray. We remain on high alert for mold.

Mold is nasty business. It can be anywhere, but often is deep and low, under and behind. You have to pull things apart to see. Wear gloves, have cutting devices, rubbing alcohol and honey.

There is a heightened awareness needed during flowering. Every change in the weather presents a treatment opportunity for the grower. There are no days off until the last plant is in jars.

I will not spray Shiatsu Kush, though it is safe to spray Regalia, even on harvest day. However, when it’s time to harvest, I prefer stopping all treatments for a plant at least two weeks prior to cutting them down. If possible, I prefer each plant finishing on their own, and I’ll keep a closer eye on the plant for any late developing pathogens, and simply cut them out.

Finally, after almost a week of filtered sun, I’m hoping a breeze today will bring us a clearer sky. We are monitoring certain tops on the plant for readiness. 

Ok, the crop has been soaked with Regalia. Took a little over seven gallons to get everything.

Then, I discovered my compost tea had stopped brewing. Looks like something triggered the surge protector. So I moved the tea to the drying cottage and they have resumed brewing. It’s better electricity in that room, anyway.

I can feel the excitement of harvesting a plant building inside me. I’ve been growing these for almost five months now, so a little taste and sampling soon of the 2020 harvest seems fitting.

There are thirteen plants to harvest this year. The process will begin in about 48 hours, and will not conclude until the last plant is trimmed, weighed and added to the final tally. This should occur on or about November 1.

Shiatsu Kush will be the first. Sour Tsunami will follow in a couple of weeks. ACDC 22 will be the third, followed rapid fire by all the ACDC, again about two weeks later. Then, they turn ready in much the same way they started to flower, like dominoes. From approximately October 10 to nearly the end of the month, Bee and I will be hopping from station to station. We will be inside and outside as we juggle all the tasks at once, taking plants down, cleaning, drying and trimming them, while keeping up plant maintenance through those very vulnerable final days. I admit that some of our worst flower loss due to mold has occurred while we were preoccupied with other aspects of harvest. You take your eyes off flowering plants at your own peril.

Oh yeah, I also have to fit writing this blog in there somewhere. Lol.

We actually have the potential for an overcrowded drying room. We can comfortably hang five or six plants at one time, but if it appears we might have more plants than we have room, we will have to do some creative harvesting. Waiting an extra day for a plant is one simple fix. The window of peak opportunity at harvest is about 72 hours, so harvesting plants can be staggered with that in mind.

Fairly full here from last year.

We can also hang flowers from the sides of the flat racks, and if necessary, they could continue hanging on the small red tomato cages we use to bring them in the house for their first trimming before washing. We could fit several of those cages in the room. So I think we’ve got it covered regarding any potential overload. We’re also fortunate that the two largest plants RG 11, and RK 18, are slated to harvest last. Each plant will occupy their own side of the drying room.

Harvest Alert 

Correction:  Harvest will not begin in 48 hours. Karen and I examined multiple flowers on Shiatsu Kush, and we both saw enough amber to make the call. She comes down early tomorrow morning.

OK, well, that just put the spurs into my giddyup. Harvest begins for me in about 18 hours, just after I pour compost tea and water in the other beds. Looks like it’s just the old folks for bringing down the first plant, and that’s fine. SK is not large at all by our standards, and as such, a perfect plant to get our feet wet again with the entire trimming/cleaning/hanging process.

Shiatsu Kush on Harvest Eve. Close up photos for ready trichomes have failed for this plant. Part is the very strange ambient lighting we’ve lived with recently. With our separate mag lens, we can see the amber trichomes, but cannot as yet through the camera. We will endeavor to improve that going forward.

As a grower, this is the day your work literally bears flowers. I will hold each and every stalk in my hands on a Sunday morning in September, and examine them hopefully under the much appreciated light of the sun, or refreshingly in the forgiving mist of fog. I’ll check for mold, random powdery mildew, and any other imperfections I choose to eliminate then and there.

The process of bringing down a plant is serious, almost solemn. We are harvesting medicine, but we are killing the gracious and lovely host. We will miss seeing and smelling her in the beds. Checking each flower for mold is not conversational work, either, unless something is found. This is the work of due diligence. If I can find any mold, and extract it cleanly from the plant here and now, the remainder of our work is much more risk free and pleasurable.

I have already informed the other plants. The one most impacted will be the reigning giant, RK 18. Upon the removal of SK, the huge branches of the Kush will be stretched into her former neighbor’s erstwhile bed and promptly attached to the still remaining bottom of the tomato cage. Actually, the job, the singularly pleasurable job of stretching and training this plant will fall to the most capable hands of the Bee. 

Soon after SK goes, RK 18 will move in. On the right, just behind SK flowers, you can see she already has. On the other side of RK 18, she has usurped the bed of ACDC 17 so much, that one of her branches extends to the edge of the far side of 17’s tomato cage. Early in this blog, I referred to the occasional plant that is a champion. I regard both RK 18 and RG 11 as examples. The seeds that produced those two plants are destined for greatness.

My work station for tomorrow is set. I walk around and closely inspect the other plants. They were sprayed this morning, thankfully, so a new coating of pathogen protection is building. They will largely be neglected tomorrow until SK is hanging in the cottage.

These flowers, though purple and lovely, are not as large as flowers to come, so the washing tomorrow will be in 5-gallon cans, and not the 20-gallon cans we use for the larger flowers. We don’t have to use quite as much lemon juice and peroxide for this first wash.

As we begin harvest, I walk around the beds, and based on experience, I can eyeball the other plants and start guessing at what kind of yield we’ll have this year. Will we pass our total of 17.1 pounds from last year? I think we might. It will come down to the last plant, that much I’m certain.

So I stand here and stare at my station for tomorrow. What a strange year, and through it all, we’ve finally arrived at the start of the long harvest season. The next six weeks of work beckon. Glad all of you are with me. 

Survive and vote. Back with Harvest Begins on Friday.

So long, Shiatsu Kush

54℉  12.22℃  97% humidity  Harvest morning, 9:05 a.m. This is the final picture taken with 13 plants still in the beds. One down, 12 to go.

 

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.