2020 Isolation Grow: Three Taps

Sep 11, 20202020 Isolation Grow Blog

Bee and Azure left yesterday, and as a parent, I am not always a fan of empty nest reminders. They had been inside with us for most of two weeks, without masks, just like the old days. It was family. Toward the end of their stay, they were exposed to others, and had to sleep in a tent outside, to be safe. The tent remains for now, because it might come into use again before the end of harvest. In fact, it is likely to come back into use. 

But until then, it is empty. This might not make sense to anyone unless you’re a parent, but as long as that tent remains up, when I walk by it in the morning, on my way to get up the ducks, I’ll walk softly. I wouldn’t want to disturb the potential occupants, just in case any members of our family have returned, and are waiting to surprise us. The hardest part of being a parent is learning to let go of your children. It’s counterintuitive, and cannot be avoided. Our empty nest also phantomly hosts friends of our children who have also grown up. I remember all of you.

I giggle just a bit at my silliness, but I cannot deny who I am. I’m a Dad who misses his kids.

But right now, I’m also a farmer with flowering plants, one of which is about to enter the harvest zone. Shiatsu Kush will be eight weeks into flowering as of tomorrow. That means she’ll begin to get daily examinations through various magnified lenses.

September 9

Our air quality is listed as moderate to healthy. This, despite the persistent yellow sky we’ve had the last couple of days, caused by smoke in the upper atmosphere. Given our continued proximity to active fire, it is appropriately apocalyptic, giving everything a jaundiced quality. The thickness of the layer causes periods of the day to suddenly appear as if twilight. As I write this, the sun has been up for over two hours, but the ambient light outside feels like we’re about 20 minutes from dark. When I walked outside about five minutes ago, all the motion sensor lights went on when I walked by. Even the lights think it’s dark. Birds are heading home, or are already hunkering deep into their nests. The day almost seems to be trying to reverse itself, or just get it over with, double quick.

10:38 a.m. Four hours after sunrise. Motion sensor lights on behind me. 

I have read that proximity to dense smoke is destroying crops both north and south of me. We have not experienced that kind of smoke here. There have been a couple of smoky days, but the winds have largely pushed the worst smoke from the controlled burns away from us. There has been some ash fall, but not excessive. I haven’t seen much research on wildfire smoke and cannabis, and we’ve got a long way to go on this harvest, but so far, the impact on my grow has been minimal. Knock on wood.

I will say this: If the wind changes direction for any length of time and smoke lingers on us, I would be inclined to harvest some plants early; especially the high CBD plants. I would rather harvest somewhat diminished medicine, than lose it entirely. 

Despite the almost complete fire containment of the blaze nearby, this is a fluid situation and will be monitored for the remainder of the grow. 

I am watching our weather closely. You may have noticed through this blog how my understanding and following of weather proves to be immensely helpful for the grow. As the local fire developed, I was relatively confident the weather was going to allow us to stay, and it did. I suggest weather should be a side hobby for someone involved with any grow. There have been interesting, even helpful variations in our weather pattern lately. I was able to get in a comprehensive BT spray to address the rising worm issue. Due to a few days where the humidity dropped and remained below 50%, while temperatures flirted with 100 degrees, it was the perfect time to address the worms, and not pathogens. But that is about to change.

The marine layer has returned, and with it, higher sustained humidity. I want to give the BT a few more days to work on worms before I return to aggressive pathogen fighting. If I see any powdery mildew in the next couple of days, I’ll Neem everything, except Shiatsu Kush.

Today is day 56 of flowering for Shiatsu Kush. She is now at eight weeks exactly, so she has entered the harvest zone. Many of her flowers will be inspected with various magnifying lenses every day until we deem her ready for taking down. For this particular cultivar, we’ll be looking for a little over 50% of the trichome tops being amber. Shiatsu is a THC plant, as opposed to a CBD plant. On CBD plants, I tend to harvest as soon as the first few trichomes turn amber. As soon as the amber is showing, CBD begins to degrade. I like my CBD plants as full of cannabinoids as possible, and I like my THC plants to be obviously ripe.

What I see when I look at flowers on SK are many clear trichomes beginning to fill. Nothing amber yet, but she’s getting close. She’ll possibly be ready by this weekend, and certainly by the middle of next week. Would have loved to take a picture of them today, but cannot in this weird lighting outside, and we’ll be away from home tomorrow. The next blog . . . 

Yesterday, my love, Karen, cleaned out and prepared the drying shed. She did it all. She had to hang some new strings, sweep the floor, vacuum, and clean a bunch of garbage off the desk. The room still needs the filters on both the air conditioner and dehumidifier to be cleaned, but I’ll handle that. Other than those things, the room is ready for another round of perfect drying.

Ok. You caught me. There’s a Christmas tree in the corner. Cuz . . . there is.

The other side with the AC on the floor. Both the AC and the small heater are thermostat driven. The AC goes on with the room temp climbs to 72℉ and the heater goes on when it drops to 68℉. An extra oscillating fan is brought in as well. 

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a real drying room. We’ve all dried things wherever we can, with varying results. If you want to get serious about drying anything, build yourself a proper drying room. You’ve just spent six months of your life growing these plants as well as possible, with medicine in mind. The last thing you want to do is ruin all that work by poor drying. A great drying room is also a place where you can catch and fix some problems you didn’t catch in the beds. A proper drying room, with humidity at 50%, will catch and stop any remaining mold that might still be on a flower. You can cut it out in the room or when you trim. Thankfully, we don’t have this problem anymore, because we catch almost all residual mold when we wash the plants. More on that when we harvest. 

A great drying room is a savior for cannabis growers. A great drying room ensures that every hour of work put in outside matters, and that you don’t blow all that work at the very end.  Proper drying sets you up for making real medicine. My advice is to dry the hell out of your plants. You don’t want anything wet going into jars. Burping is great, but sometimes we forget to burp. I’m talking about Karen and Jeff here. We start strong, but end up forgetting to burp a lot.

One of my favorite devices in the drying room is Karen’s old magnifying lamp from when she was still doing cell animation. This mag lamp is large. You can put an entire bud underneath for exquisitely detailed examination. A lens like this is great for both detection and surgical extraction.

Again, this comes under the guiding principle of Making Medicine. Having a large mag lamp in the drying room is one more layer of protection against having product with mold. Especially on potentially problematic plants, and thickly clustered flowers, you WANT to look at each bud under a large magnifying lens and check for any mold. Treat each flower like medicine. You must be certain of what you and your loved ones are putting into your bodies.

Our first two years of growing, we had serious mold issues in the beds. The second year, we estimate we lost 40% of our potential crop to mold.

Because we’ve put in such strict safety measures, the last two years, we’ve lost perhaps 2% of our crop to mold, and I think that’s being generous. We still get mold, as you’ve seen in photos on this blog, but tend to catch it, long before it can come into our homes and ruin our medicine. I want to emphasize here that the only way you can catch it is by active, daily inspection. Taking a day off, even in conditions like today, means plants are unprotected. As a grower, I can’t live with that.

I’m back outside. Weather events, or events that conspire with weather, whatever they are, have a catnip effect on me. I’m rather insistently drawn to them. Getting outside in these events, being one with them, is the essence of being alive, to me. It is only outside, amidst and among the glorious uniqueness of today that I feel I have the right to stare at the sky and cosmos beyond and simply ask, on behalf of all of us, regarding this entire year, “WTF?”

It is also a reminder to me, that before I go in for the night, I have one more thing to do. I used to do something similar when our children would leave for a night out. I softly walk back over to the tent, which I’m now certain is empty, but I walk softly anyway, to not disturb whatever lingering energy is causing and upholding this delicious delusion, and I do a simple thing. I tap the top of the tent three times for good luck, and with those taps, I say these words:

“Come home soon.”

Survive and vote. Harvest begins next week.

61℉  16.11℃  91% 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.