By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
By Charles Lam
At the end of last year's harvest, Anton and Lucky realized their trimmers had left more than 50 pounds of decent pot lying on the cutting-room floor simply because they were too lazy to trim it. The buds didn't go to waste; now, they're being rolled into joints several times per day and are expected to last through the summer. "You have to have a small, tight, trustworthy team," Lucky says. "You don't want a mutiny on your hands, or people ripping you off, or maybe just taking off and telling the cops. It takes a lot of fucking work to run a farm like this."
Just as important as worker morale, Lucky says, is making sure the plants remain healthy and produce the highest-yield crop possible. This is the job of Dave the horticulturalist, who speaks in a soft, mid-Atlantic accent and always seems to have a pair of fingernail-trimming scissors in his hand, whether to clip unproductive branches off the pot plants he's growing or to snip up a joint's worth of weed when his work is done.
Dave has his portable stereo turned up so the plants can hear the Puccini opera he's playing above the deafening roar outside. He explains that the 5-foot-to-6-foot plants that fill the three greenhouses were all tiny plants just 6 inches tall only four months ago; these are the Sour Diesel clones, which Lucky instructed him to reproduce. To clone a marijuana plant, Dave explains, you clip a branch from the original containing three or four nodes, dip the twig in a rooting-hormone solution, clip the leaves to prevent them from sucking up too much water in the crucial first few days, and finally scrape the bottom of the stem to create injuries, which help the plant develop roots.
While the clones in the greenhouse are now almost ready for flowering, the next crop of clones is spread out on the deck and in the basement of the house, in dozens of 50-cube trays, each square containing a pinch of soil and a single clone. The soil, Dave says, is called Formula 707—after an Emerald Triangle area code—and in the greenhouse, each plant is in a camouflaged plastic sack made by a Sacramento-based company called, appropriately enough, Camo Pots, which also has a small shipping office in Costa Mesa.
"This is as tall as the plants will get," Dave says. "We're pruning for production, high yield, and for airflow to prevent mold and diseases, so these plants are shorter and wider, with more terminal ends that have energy flowing to them. Right now, we're doing preventative care, so I'm pruning out insignificant growth that won't make much of a bud and is taking energy away from the rest of the plant."
In about a week, the plants will be ready for "light-dep," pot-growing parlance for light-deprivation therapy. Because 12 hours is the magic amount of time plants need to begin flowering, the strategy is to use as much natural light as possible to provide a half-day of light, and then, when 12 hours is up, to immediately cover the plants under a plastic tarp, thereby tricking them into thinking it's now almost autumn, and therefore time to reproduce, which, in the case of pot, means to blossom into sticky buds.
"If you do this right, you get your crop earlier than you would otherwise," Dave says. "With two people and a decent system of winches and pulleys, it's pretty easy to do. And then in three months, you have big, beautiful, sticky buds, and all you have to do is dry them, cure them and trim them."
Dave has been at the farm since last fall, just after the outdoor harvest had ended. He has rarely left the property, although once, during the spring rainy season, he came close to driving up the mountain when the river began to flood. "If you have the right personality, it's a lovely place to be," he says. "You're out in the woods, secluded. It's 6 miles to the main road, 3 miles up and 3 miles down. I've spent days here without even thinking of leaving."
Whether the farm can provide Dave and the rest of the workers with a living ultimately depends on Lucky's ability to sell the weed once it has been successfully harvested. Although the level of quality of the marijuana depends on countless factors, it helps to ensure the clones belong to the correct strain to begin with.
"There is nothing worse than spending six months of your time, money and effort on a crop, only to realize you're growing the wrong fucking strain," Lucky says, and it's clear he's speaking from experience. "I have 140 pounds sitting in New York right now that's turning to powder because it's not the right strain. I can't move it for any price. It's a quarter-of-a-million dollars' worth of shit sitting in Manhattan that nobody can touch, and that's just so fucked-up."
* * *
The foreman of the chain saw crew, Red, a lanky giant from Santa Cruz with sinewy arms and a weather-beaten face, is covered in sweat and sawdust. He's standing on the deck of the main house, examining his day's work now that the sun is starting to set in the exact spot he'd predicted, newly devoid of redwoods and open to the light. Red and Lucky are guzzling Bud Lights. Red is Lucky's cousin; he jokes that he's not necessarily the best trimmer in the Yellow Pages, but with an underground operation like this, you can't just let your fingers do the walking and hire anyone in the book.