2020 Isolation Grow: Working Through Stress

Jun 12, 20202020 Isolation Grow Blog

June 10

I don’t know anyone who is having an easy time right now. I’m not certain I’d trust someone if they said they were not struggling. We have been feeling increased stress. I’m certain stress played a major part in my recent weekend malady. Stress is debilitating. When stress takes hold of me, it is challenging to keep doing some of the preventative things I do on a daily basis. If I skip my daily exercise, even one time, I run a greater risk of allowing stress to influence, or even dominate my process. When stress mounts in me, I lose my writing voice. When this happens, Karen and I have both noticed, it leads to some stinkin’ thinkin’.

To someone with auto-immune issues, increased stress is the last thing they need. We can tell the stress is catching up to Karen when pain re-emerges from places we thought her new medicine had calmed. With auto-immune, all that pain needs is a slight push of stress to become a dominating factor again.

Obviously, what I grow helps, but there are other things you can do, other plants you can grow, to help with the stresses of living through these challenging and changing times. 

Yesterday, Karen decided to harvest lavender. Smelling lavender has a calming effect. Knowing this, and recognizing we had a full crop growing around our beds, Karen decided to inundate herself with it. She positioned a large umbrella around where she was working and remained in the shade, while cutting large bunches of lavender in close quarters.

Before Karen started cutting, I went out to the cottage and cleaned out most of the seed starting material. That included all the extra 3 gallon containers of soil that housed male plants, all the little sprout containers, and the two folding tables I used to hold all the pots. After carrying everything outside, I swept the cottage floor. The room had been a complete mess from the six weeks of growing. A basic cleaning (a much deeper cleaning will occur before cannabis is hung for harvest in the fall) took about 30 minutes, but completely transformed and repurposed the cottage. It is now back to being a 72 degree 50% humidity drying room. When Karen finishes drying her lavender (holy cow, the odor is incredible), I’m thinking of gathering bat guano from beneath the bat houses we have hung around the property and against our house. We used live bat guano once and that was a mistake. The best way to use bat guano is to dry it completely. We used it live the second year, which was the year we had the most mold. It needs to be dried first, and then it can be dropped into compost teas. I will admit, I do not use guano as much as I thought I would when we first discovered bats flying around the property. But I will collect it, dry it  and store it in a little jar, just in case I need to hit the plants with a change of pace. Since settling on kelp and ocean based fertilizing, I’ve been so content, I have not been as inclined to use guano. But I believe in utilizing the tools nature provides me, so if the local bats want to live here and give me their precious scat, I should at least give them the respect of collecting it. Besides, collecting and drying it is better than smelling it all summer molding in the heat. 

So Karen hung the lavender in the cottage, turned on the vent fans and left them to dry for a few days. 

Another plant growing like crazy that needs harvesting, and is also a common ingredient in tinctures is feverfew. We thought this was chamomile and it’s in the same family, but it’s another, medicinal plant growing wild all over our aviary. As a grower, it’s important to note that feverfew is new to our garden and aviary. We have no idea how it migrated onto our property. This is an example of evolution in process. However feverfew arrived, it has survived, and is now thriving. 

Baby quail have returned. We saw them yesterday for the first time, but could not get a picture before they disappeared into their nursery, which is covered by a coffee berry bush, and surrounded by ferns. 

Karen saw the twin baby deer I described a couple of blogs ago. We’d seen another, single baby with a mother, and wondered if all that frollicing had turned tragic for one of the twins, but thankfully, they both emerged yesterday while Karen was trimming.

Our property feels like a gigantic playpen for babies. I’ve watched at least six different kinds of baby birds, begging for seeds or suet. Their parents are eating, while the babies sit on nearby posts, branches, or the ground, and constantly flutter their wings and beg for either scraps or regurgitation. They have not yet figured out how to access the seeds or suet. Every baby bird goes through this. During this fledgling phase, we also notice the parents behave differently than any other time of year. They are noticeably more patient, and less aggressive toward other birds with babies, even those they would ordinarily be warring. Young jays and woodpeckers tend to be polite and wait patiently for turns at the suet feeder. That will change, but is quite pleasant at the moment. Baby owls sit on branches with swivel heads and gigantic, stay puft torsos.

That’s one big baby. Full disclosure: Not on our property, but nearby.

Getting in the spirit of things, even the western cucumber beetles are working up a sweat.

Witnessing all of this is, of course, a wonder. Watching this year, however, takes on a more meaningful tone. I watch these daily miracles that happen here all the time, everywhere, and I am in awe of how little nature cares for our troubles. They have their own life and death concerns. They face these issues on a daily, hourly, minute by minute basis. Nature has no sympathy or empathy for what we are facing, or any improvements we are attempting to attain. I truly admire their indifference. I also acknowledge that nature does not hesitate to fill any gaps left by humans. During the period of deepest isolation out here, I was not the only person to notice nature filling in the void, making their presence even more obvious to the huddled humans. We’ve even recently had howling coyotes. I had not heard so many howling like that out here in many years.

Karen and I have both found that the quiet, mindful observation of the world around us, without much chatter from us, has a uniquely calming effect. It’s a similar level of contentment to cuddling a pet, which we also do a lot of around here, with Charlie. I am also a well known, and documented duck kisser. (I kiss Wilma the duck during the closing credits)

So in addition to tending the cannabis right now, to feeding them, looking for any early flower sign, early training and topping, we are seeking solace, comfort, even guidance from all the other plants growing around us, and the local critters. 

Stress is a killer. It is best dealt with proactively, through actions that reduce stress. Physical activity is critical. As I’ve indicated earlier, sweat is a great stress reliever, but any activity that gets you outside, away from the computer, and the news, is giving your mind/body a break from the relentless negativity. That includes simply sitting under the sun, pruning and shaping plants.

I’m about to do my own cardio walking to get started. Then, I’ll pick the greens I want for the next tea. I’ll get the tea brewing. I’ll look at every plant, every node, every new growth. Tomorrow morning will bring the first full Regalia spray since putting plants in the beds. It’s only once a week right now. Sometime before the end of June, I’ll give the first BT spray. As the plants settle into their growing mediums, we move into the regular, rather monotonous (though never boring) routine of caring for vegetative growing cannabis plants. 

At the moment, the world seems to be going a bit mad. Many of us are finally acknowledging the absolute truth of Black Lives Matter, and attempting to use this moment to reflect and evolve, hopefully to the best form of ourselves. In nature, there are plants and animals who have been at this whole conflict resolution gig a lot longer than any human. Wherever you are during this time, try to take a few minutes at least every single day, to walk outside and listen. Just listen. If you stay outside long enough, you are liable to hear something that will make you smile; or at least, give your aching heart a few moments of peace during these turbulent times.

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.