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Here we go with part 3....ripening of the plants, and on to the final harvest............
Sept 1, 2004: Sloshed my way out into the swamp through about two inches of standing water today in order to check on the swamp grow Hindu Kush's. The grow bags are sitting in about two to three inches of swamp water, and the grow mix is definitely wet on the bottom and pretty moist on the top, but the plants are loving it. They are in full flower now and the buds are thick and heavy, and are starting to show a sparkling coating of resin. Hit each bale with a little bit of water + Budswel at full strength. No more Earth Juice Bloom or chemicals at this time.
A couple of medium sized branches were broken by the storm last week, and were already wilted by the time I got out here, so they were just cut off using the wire cutters. I then sprayed tree pruning sealer on the cut ends in order to keep mold or fungus from starting. I did not install supports or staking of any kind at this grow site. The buds are looking so nice that I am tempted to take a sample back to dry out in the microwave, but I know that with more than four weeks left until harvest, it really will not be worth it. Patience… Patience… that bud that is picked today will plump up to four or five times its size by the time 30 more days pass. It will be worth the wait.
Sept 14, 2004: Last trip out to the 8 x 30 site before harvest on October 1 or 2…all plants are looking green, healthy, and are completely packed with bud. They are anywhere from 3.5 to 4.5 feet tall at this point, and the stems have doubled in size at the base, thanks to the support cages that were put in a few weeks ago. Some of the unsupported side branches are starting to sag due to the weight of the buds. I hit them up with the last watering before harvest which consisted of 6 gallons of water plus liquid Budswel at full strength. I added the Budswel, because it is organic, and it insures that all of the plants have their nutrient needs filled for the next two weeks, without over fertilizing them and ruining or affecting the taste of the buds with a chemical fertilizer. There are still fully charged up water polymers all over the grow area, these things work great. I scouted the area a little bit looking for footprints, beer cans, cigarette butts, or other signs of humanity in the general area, but nothing was spotted…nothing I could do at this point anyway if someone had spotted them because they have more than two weeks to go anyway. But, all is looking good.
Sept 29, 2004: Paranoia, waiting, wondering…are my plants still there? Can't go in to check on them because I will trample down more vegetation and create an even more conspicuous trail or be spotted by the wrong person on my way in or out from the grow. It is just not worth the risk unless you have a really good reason to go there, such as checking for weather or wind damage after a heavy duty thunderstorm or windstorm. This late in the year a lot of vegetation is dying off and will stay flattened once stepped upon. If it rains, the trampled vegetation will be even flatter and lower to the ground due to the weight of the water. The weathers been pretty good, but a couple of days of rain and some really cold nights have me worrying about mold in those thick Indica buds. The only good thing is that it was windy between and after the rainstorms, which I am hoping helped to dry out any moisture that got into the buds.
October 2, 2004: Harvest day is tomorrow at both grow sites. Today is the day to gather the needed tools and implements together, and to get those tools ready to carry into the grow sites. The first thing to find is your tree pruning shears; get the blade sharpened, and give the shears a good oiling so that they open and close with little or no resistance. Wipe off all of the excess oil to avoid a slippery grip when using the shears. I also carry a pair of medium duty wire cutters with me to use for cutting any support wires or ropes that I have tied the plants off to. It is much easier and quicker to just cut the support lines instead of trying to untie and untangle long, thick branches and buds from the steel rebar wire. Remember, you are harvesting a completed crop, and you do not want to be at the grow site any longer than possible once harvesting begins.
Next on the list is to run to the hardware store and buy a 10 foot x 10 foot plastic mesh tarp; you want one that is relatively heavy duty, at least 6 - 8 mil thickness minimum. This tarp will be used to roll up the cut down plants into one manageable bundle. Along with the tarp, you will need some metal baling wire, also called rebar wire, which will be used to wrap the tarp and the plants into one, solid bundle for transporting. Also, if you do not have a decent pair of gloves, buy some now. I buy the cheaper 6-pack packages of cotton work gloves-I think 6 pairs for about $8 or so. When the harvest is done, you can throw these gloves away because they will be covered with leaf, dried bud, and resin, and will smell like a fresh bag of buds after using them to handle your freshly harvested plants. The plan is to do the harvest over two days time right at and after sunset. I plan on being at the sites with my tools unpacked and ready to go at 10 minutes before sunset. Sunset is at 5:28 pm, so I will have to be onsite and ready to go by 5:18 pm. The end of Civil Twilight on this date is 5:55 pm, and the end of Nautical Twilight is 6:28. My working time frame will be from 5:18 to 5:55 pm, while the time for hiking the harvest out and back to my vehicle will be from 5:55 to about 6:15 pm (Nautical Twilight). As you approach the end of Civil Twilight, it is so dark that it is almost impossible to work, but there is still just enough light to navigate a path by for about twenty minutes after that; this is the time of day when the sun has completely disappeared over the horizon, but the light from the sun is still reaching the sky above you, providing JUST enough light for navigation. If you are in the woods or the swamp any later than this, you will have a good chance of getting lost, or falling down and hurting yourself.
October 3, 2004: HARVEST DAY!…Saturday…first site to be harvested will be the swamp site. I am using my vehicle to carry me and my harvest home, so I will want to do a safety check before driving anywhere, making sure that all of the headlights, running lights, license plate light, brake lights, etc. are in proper working order. If your license plate is hanging or crooked, use some of the baling wire and the wire cutters to straighten it. A Chicago cop told me years ago that a car with a hanging or crooked license plate was usually a good candidate for someone who was driving with a suspended license, and also a good candidate for getting pulled over. Do not be stupid or lazy on this harvest day…and no f***ing alcohol either!
The growsite is about ten minutes from my house by car, so I left at 4:55 pm, drove to the site, and pulled my car into my "secret" driveway area. This is an old driveway, cut on a vacant lot near the grow, that allows me to back my car in a good twenty yards and park in the brush/woods, out of sight of vehicles or pedestrians traveling along the road. I unpacked the tools, and the tarp from the trunk, and started hiking. Once I got about 50 yards from the grow site I stopped, crouched down, and just watched and listened in the direction of the growsite for a couple of minutes time. After verifying that there were no voices, vehicles, disturbed birds, or other sounds coming from the direction of the growsite, I started in. Time now is 5:15 pm, still plenty of light, so I am being careful not to draw attention to myself. Approached the plants slowly, staying low in the 7 foot tall cattails that surrounded the growsite. Damn, the buds have more than doubled in size in the last 18 days or so, and are weighing down and cracking a lot of the side branches. One of the females, at about 5 feet tall, has a main cola so huge and top heavy that the entire plant is pulled over to the side, with the main cola now almost touching the ground, and curling back up towards the sun. After doing a quick check of the plants and flowers, I pulled out the 10 foot x 10 foot plastic tarp and spread it out on the ground. Time is now 5:20 pm.
Once the tarp was ready I pulled out my wire cutters and cut out any support wires on the branches and the buds. Next, I pulled out the tree pruning shears and started cutting the plants down at the base of their main stems. Once the plant was cut, I allowed that plant to drop and went on and cut the next one down, until I had six, cut down plants lying in a pile on top of the grow bags. It was now time to pack the plants into the plastic tarp. I grabbed a cut plant at the base with both hands and lifted it up to chest height. I then shook the plant out thoroughly, trying to knock insects and dead leaves off of the plants before rolling them up. I then took plant number one and layed her down in the center of the tarp, with the cut end facing north and main cola facing south. I then picked up, and shook out, plant number two. This plant will be laid in the tarp, with the cut end facing south, and the main cola facing south. Each of the next four plants was then shaken out, and also placed in the tarp, facing in alternate directions. The reason that the plants are alternated is so that the plastic tarp will roll up uniformly, making it much easier to carry it back to the car. If all of the plants are laid in the tarp facing in the same direction, you will end up with a roll of plants that is very thin at the cut end, and very thick at the main cola end. Once all of the plants are piled in the middle of the tarp, I rolled the tarp into a tight bundle of plants, folded the ends of the bundle over towards the middle of the tarp, and wound the steel baling wire around the entire bundle from top to bottom. I then cut the baling wire with the wire cutters and twisted the ends of the wire over on itself. What I have now is a plastic mesh cylinder, about 6 feet tall, and about 1.5 feet diameter. This bale can be carried through the woods on your shoulder, or can be pulled along the forest floor or grasslands area at ground level, using the steel baling wire as a 'leash" to pull it along. Keep the bundle at ground level when you are walking across a field or open area where you might be spotted carrying your 'suspicious package".
Time is now 5:45 pm…..17 minutes after official sunset…..still some light to navigate by, but the visibility is starting to dwindle a bit. I have about 15 minutes before visibility is 99% gone. I did a quick once over of the grow site, and made sure that all of my tools were packed away or pocketed, and that no incriminating evidence had been left behind or dropped. At this point, I picked up the bundle of plants, threw it over my shoulder, and started hiking into the darkness. When I got within 50 or so yards from my vehicle, I did the stop, look, and listen thing once again. At this point I am listening for police radios or walkie-talkie sounds, or police flashers/lights, etc, just in case law enforcement has spotted my vehicle and is checking it out. Time is now 6:00 pm exactly. Once I was sure everything was OK, I moved closer to the vehicle, dropping my bundle into the bushes about 25 yards from the car. I then took off my work gloves, and threw them into the brush, and proceeded to walk up to my vehicle. Time is now 6:10 pm. I hopped into the car, started the engine, and then sat there and waited for about two minutes, watching and observing the whole time. I then hopped out of the car and popped the trunk open. At this point, I ran the 25 yards back to my bundle of plants, grabbed it out of the bushes, and sprinted back to the car, throwing the bundle into the trunk and closing it as I passed by. I jumped into the drivers seat, put my seat belt on, made sure that all interior and exterior lights were off, and idled out of my driveway hiding place. When I came to the street exit, I stopped the car, got out and walked to the front of the car, and looked up and down the street for any "surprises" that might be lurking. Everything looked good at this point, so I hopped back into the drivers seat and drove the car out, hitting my headlights as I turned right. Time now is 6:15 pm. I drove home and pulled the bundle of plants out of my trunk so that noone would smell them in my driveway. The plants were unbundled and were hung on clotheslines that I have strung up in my outdoor 12 x 20 foot garden shed for drying and further processing.
October 4, 2004: HARVEST DAY (again)…Sunday…packed up all of my tools and my plastic tarp and hiked into the swamp. This one is accessible through the back of my property, and a 20 minute or so walk through the woods/wetlands. This grow location is way more secluded than the swamp site was, so I am going to head out a little earlier in the day. With a 20 minute walk back to my house, I do not want to get stuck in the woods, after dark, carrying 30 pounds of plants on my shoulder, plus I am less worried about meeting up with hikers or sightseers along the route that I take. I hiked in to a location about 100 yards out from the growsite, and made this my observation post, again listening and observing; watching for birds being flushed out of the trees ahead which could mean that there are people there disturbing the birds, running or startled deer, voices, police radios, sunlight reflections, movement, etc. A pair of decent binoculars will help with this task, but watch so that the sunlight doesn't reflect off of YOUR binoculars, giving away your position to whomever may be watching. Try to approach from the west, so that anyone looking towards you will reflect sunlight off of their binocular lenses!
The time now is 5:01 pm…after watching and listening for about five minutes or so, I worked my
way forward, slowly but surely, and checked out the garden area. The plants were an average of five feet tall, and the top of each of the 23 females consisted of a huge, football-sized, main cola, being held up by the support stakes and steel support wire that were installed about a month ago. Each plant then sported another 20 or so side buds that were purple and red, literally frosted with sparkling resin glands. I got a few pictures with the camera and proceeded with the work at hand. The 10 x 10 foot tarp was spread out at one end of the garden with a couple of rocks weighting it down because it is very windy today. Just like at the swamp garden, the wire cutters were used to cut the support wires, and then the wooden supports were removed. Then the tree pruning shears were used to cut the mainstem at the base, allowing each plant to flop over until I had a nice "haystack" of Hindu Kush lying on the ground in front of me. I Then piled the plants on the tarp in alternating directions…first plant with main cola pointing north, the next plant with main cola pointing south, etc…until they were all in the tarp. The tarp was then rolled up around the plants and the ends were folded over. Now, this was one big roll of plants, so I ran the steel baling wire around the roll a good three dozen times from top to bottom, compressing the buds down tightly. After this was done, I lifted the bale and it was pretty heavy at around thirty pounds or so; a little too heavy to carry ½ mile by hand, so I ran three more pieces of wire connected to the roll at the top and at the bottom and put the whole roll on my back like a backpack, using the wire as a backpack strap across my chest and over my shoulder. Time is now 5:29 pm...three minutes after sunset and still plenty of light to navigate by. I walked another 10 minutes or so and came upon the field that separated the back of my property from the woods. This field was about 100 yards wide or so, and would take about me about 3-4 minutes to cross with the bundle of plants across my shoulders.
Instead of just jumping out into the open and crossing the open field, I crouched down and waited, again observing and listening for hazards, and scanning the area with the binoculars. This also gave me a chance to rest for a couple of minutes, because carrying a 30 pound bundle on your back, through the woods, is no easy task; in fact, it is quite a workout. A little rest here will also give me the needed energy to cross the field at a faster pace, in lesser time. Time is now 5:45 pm and it is starting to get pretty dark. I did not see any human activity in the field so I picked up my package, slung it over my shoulder, and proceeded to make the 300 or so foot crossing through the open field, still watching and listening, ready at any time to sink down to the floor of the field, below the grassline if any trouble or activity is spotted. Made it to the back of my property just as it got too dark to navigate. I then proceeded to unwrap the bundle of plants in order to allow the buds to get some air and decompress so that they would not be damaged and lose market value. The mainstems were then cut in half and the plant pieces were hung on the drying lines in the backyard garden shed to await further processing.
A lot of cutting, clipping trimming, manicuring, , smoking finger hash, drying, and sampling awaits before a finished product can be realized…should be three or four days worth of trimming work.
This adventure will be continued, year after year, until I am no longer able, and that is a promise!
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