Farm Report #3: Sexing and Pulling

So this morning I went into the fields and kicked it in an anachronistic but fundamental way, sexing plants and pulling the males by hand. This is done for two reasons. Growers, indoor and out, don’t want male plants to pollinate the females; and this farmer, like many of the OG Original Growers up in Humboldt wants to keep plant count down to comply with Prop 215 and more importantly federal sentencing guidelines. I was on an outdoor organic grow where the farmer has raised pot for over two decades and now is able to work on refining seed strains and creating new breeds, rather than growing purely for profit. He has other businesses now, and works on cross breeding decorative flowering garden plants of various sorts, but has a love an respect for the weed which got him to this plateau.

The male cannabis plants have little pointy horns, the females thin white hairs. I am slow at identifying them but good at pulling them out. But I don’t seem to have much of future as a ganja worker at least in skill, since the farmer has pulled twenty to my inexperienced six.

The plants smell great, green and musky, they are sticky and thick-stemmed. Years ago a company called Frantic Farmer baked pot cookies and other goods with butter made in huge vats cooked down with male leaves, shake and stems as well as the trim and waste from females. Everything form punk rock clubs to Drivers Ed class was a lot more fun with a snack of those. Luckily we didn’t have to watch Red Asphalt.

There is now a medical use for the leaves of the males, which are allegedly non-psychoactive, as an anti-inflammatory.  However these boys won’t be making it to the dispensary; they are are slated for a mulch pile, since there are plenty of males for the dispensaries.

Farm Report #2: Environment

Arcata, pop 14,000 is bucolic historic little town, home to Humboldt State University and the epicenter of grower chic, replete with a French style bakery, wine shops and a creperie.  The old frontier hotel with beautiful tile floors and ornate ceiling panels is owned by the local Native American tribe, and the bars lining the square which once  served the loggers, and still has some noontime drinkers see a huge uptick in young faces as soon as classes start up.

This could be just a basic college and tourist town, a stop on the 101 before you get to Loleta for the cheese, or Ferndale for the cemetery and county fair.  But the underground economy is what has pumped real life into this town, and at a cost to the environment.

Growing uses electricity, a lot of it. The Humboldt County Journal reports that one grow house case prosecuted by the DA was using 10,000 kWh, or about 20 times the average household. Sadly solar panels won’t make enough to fuel a grow house.

The extra electricity used by grows in Humboldt County totals an astounding 90 million kWhs a year — about 70 times the total output of all the solar panels in the county, or enough to power 13,000 typical homes. Generating that electricity, even with PG&E’s relatively low-carbon grid, puts 20,000 metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. And that’s without considering the energy and environmental costs of using chemical fertilizers, which are significant.

But legalization comes with a bonus for many electricity consumers in the Emerald Triangle. Should Prop 19 pass, there will be traceable, reportable income streams for growers, and commercial growers will be paying taxes And their electricity bills.

The Humboldt Journal also reports:

Many growers have no reportable income so they qualify for subsidized electricity under PG&E’s “CARE” program, which is intended to help low income households keep the lights on. That means we all pay higher electricity rates and underwrite lower rates for growers who use this assistance program.

I’m all for helping low income folks. But like the kid from AmeriCorps speculated:

Seems like there’s a lot of income here, just not on paper.

Legalization will allow anyone who can to grow enough for themselves on a minimum 5′x5′ plot, with individual municipalities being able to set a larger space for private per person use.

Off grid growing currently presents environmental challenges as well. The Journal reports:

Grows on the grid are only part of the story. Many of the largest indoor grows are off-grid in the more remote areas of the county. These operations use diesel generators to provide the electricity and have even worse environmental consequences, since there are fuel spills as well as CO2 emissions. Setting aside the issue of spills, we used estimates from Jack Nelson of the Humboldt County Drug Task Force of the number and size of off-grid grows to estimate the amount of CO2 they emit — another 20,000 metric tons a year.

These clandestine remote grows, like the on-grid ones, allow for year ’round crops of weed to supply medical marijuana clubs and dispensaries state wide, as well as going to out of state distributors that aren’t so above ground.

I know some people that got in a lot of trouble for doing out state deals. Like, busted.

said one of my contacts.

Next: I sex plants and pull males.

Farm Report #1: Humboldt

A nice day spent driving around Humboldt County, seeing the sights, including numerous grow shops, along with local cafes and shops that were funded via the underground economy over a dozen years ago. There is still an active sawmill or two. And my guide told me that lately there have been more timber trucks on the highway but that raw logs are being exported to be sawed elsewhere, striping the area of valuable resources without the value added by producing items from and for the area.

The discussions I’ve had with growers have been about how only certain strains will be able to be sold, and the lack of biodiversity in pot strains that will occur, much like commercial chicken and potato farming.

Welcome to Farmville: I’m in Humboldt

I caught the last flight out of LAX to Eureka on Thursday night. We made quick stop in Redding where we offloaded a few passengers, including a woman who had just finished her tour of duty in Afganistan and was returning to base. She got a round of applause and the flight attendants asked that we remain in our seats until she deplaned. A lovely gesture. She has four more years to serve. I hope the majority will be during peace time.

Bad news when some passengers got on–they had nearly landed in Eureka but the fog had forced the plane to turn back; no flights had landed Thursday at all.

On approach we went through the dense fog bank, and abruptly pulled up. No dice. Twenty minutes and a lot of prayer later, we landed. Two guys had no transport, I had a rental car, and so I met a college student and an AmeriCorps volunteer who is in Eureka to help develop small businesses.

On paper, the area looks poor, since it’s a cash economy.  I’m staying with a college friend who used to be a professional grower; but now, with indoor so popular, his methods are obsolete. More to come.

U2 in Denmark: Rock, Global Awareness, Hope and Love


Casa Arena in Horsens Denmark hosted the third and forth dates of the 2010 European leg of U2′s monumental 360 tour which is spanning the globe, hitting places like Ankara Turkey (their first time in Turkey, should I go to that one? The lure is strong for reasons that shall be revealed).

What an incredible show, starting as the sun set, the giant Cthuluesque space octopus stage–which also conjures up for me the Paul Williams and William L. Pereira designed LAX Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport– began to glow, responding to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” signaling the band’s emergence on the stage. The roar of the crowd, it’s a “Beautiful Day” followed by tight fast pacing of hits and treasures (“New Year’s Day,” “Get on your Boots,” “Magnificent,” the super sexy “Mysterious Ways,” “Elevation,” “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”). Then a huge surprise, a brand new song they’re still working out, “Glastonbury” which was heaps of fun.

Oh and I loved “Miss Sarajevo,” with Bono’s soaring tenor taking quite nicely over the operatics recorded originally by Pavorati, then the erotic, cathartic guilt love and loathing explosion of “Until the End of the World, “sublime, profound with intense instrumental bridges highlighting Edge’s guitar  work.

U2 is not afraid to take risks live that is clear (and I loved the PopMart tour, heck I saw it four times times, tho I missed the show when the band, dressed in disco wear, got accidentally trapped the glittering lemon), and despite all the intense lighting and sound cues and vast array of technologies needed to make this show run, U2 steps up and steps out, jamming and improvising, riffing and running with the vibe of the crowd to insure each gig is unique. And it works, or it least it did in Horsens.

What also works is Bono’s skill at tapping into the audience’s mindset and bringing then along on the band’s voyage. In Horsens that included referencing (and all his spiels were translated and subtitled on the massive round screen) the previous day’s fashion show in Copenhagen–the world’s longest cat walk–and model Helena Christensen’s work on behalf of charity as a lead in to a video featuring Bishop Desmond Tutu praising those who marched for civil rights in America, peace in Ireland and elsewhere and debt forgiveness in the Jubilee Year.

We are those people. Because of our voices, millions more are alive thanks to HIV drugs.

And then the band launched into “One” as the final part of their socio-political trilogy of songs that seamlessly integrated into the show, taking us to an emotional climax. The triad began with the stage bathed in green. A video of Arabic script and a hijab wearing woman appear on screen. “Sunday Bloody Sunday” melded into “Get Up Stand Up”  performed as images of the Iranian student protests, inspiring and violent, tragic and uplifting, merge.

From there Bono spoke about the legally elected Burmese premier Ang San Suu, asking for our thoughts to go out to her, singing what he called

an Irish lullaby

the song “MLK “, then “Walk On,” as the Amnesty International candle logo glowed out from the stage. (Side note: One of of Amnesty International’s founders, the late Sean MacBride–Nobel Peace Prize winner and a former President of the United Nations General Assembly–was the son of Maud Gonne, the Irish revolutionary and inspiration of many of Yeats’ poetry who worked with the poet in the struggled for Irish independence. Sean’s father, Major John MacBride, was executed for his part in the 1916 Easter uprising).

Tutu’s video and “One” are followed by “Where the Streets have No Name” and a greeting from the commander of the International Space Station, then more songs, and an encore.

It’s the the green bathed stage and the Iranian protest videos that are pulling me to Istanbul’s Ataturk Olympic Stadium–built for Turkey’ failed bid for the 2006 Olympics. The Iranians and Turks have a tenuous relationship, and Turkey is a very much a secular Islamic state, though there are factions lobbying for a greater religious force in government.

And in the time it has taken me to write this, the decision has been made. I am going to Turkey.


Way Out West is a Wonderful Fest

After the mud and rain that was Sonisphere and hearing about the Finnish leg of that metal fest–a freak storm blew in out nowhere, destroyed the stage Iggy was to play on, injured 40 people, and damaged Motley Crue’s equipment so they had to cancel (though once the storm died down, Iggy did four songs acoustically and police and city officials allowed the event to go on longer so Iron Maiden fans could bang their heads; and if this had happened in the states, of course Pat Robertson or some other numbskull would have blathered on about it being Divine justice, though frankly that more weren’t hurt or worse says plenty…)  So I was cautiously optimistic about Way Out West in Göteborg. But a rock fest in Gothenburg! One Friday the 13th, with a twist.

And the Swedish trains are irresistible as well. I rode in second class, huge seats, super clean, WiFi for about $12.50 for the whole trip and quiet car with no cellphones.  If we could only have a national train system like that!

Way Out West was amazingly well run, and so mellow. Friday’s show in park was part of the citywide WayOut West event, where clubs are open late and a wristband gets you in to see acts from all over. I opted for the huge all-day fest in the park,  and wow it was glorious.  Maybe that was due in large part to the acts which cut a wide swath from Iggy and Stooges and Wu-Tang Clan to Paul Weller and the Chemical Brothers, different sort of fan than metal heads, and then there was the weather, warm with no rain.

Many of the staff were volunteers, some of whom worked for a few hours then were able to frolic. I talked to a couple girls, Bea and Lillia, who were part of the volunteer crew. They’re on break from school for the summer and not working so they are availing themselves of state money to stay afloat. Bea managed to brave the crowd and get onstage for “Shake Up” during Iggy when he caps up a few dozen audience members to dance with him. She was ecstatic.  She was in school studying for her teaching credential, but is switching to psychology. She says she would like to work with the homeless and help to reintegrate them into society, with the goal of opening a shelter.

Despite a drinking age of 18, no one seemed out-of-control drunk.  On the way into the fest I smelled a little pot, but seriously, everyone was so polite and nice and happy.

Booths of food and goods lined the walkway to the stages, everyone in port-a-potty queues was cheery.  It was astounding and uplifting.  I spotted people wearing Germs, Flipper and Black Flag tee shirts and even someone with Trader Joe’s canvas bag, which was a little weird.

Tonight I’m in Copenhagen after taking the super wonderful train again (Internet half price on weekends!) where it’s pouring rain, thunder and lightning; but at midnight, rain or shine, there are fireworks at Tivoli Garden and I’m going.  Had a delicious Vietnamese meal and shopped for funny candy. Skum, anyone?

Prop 8 decision globalized

People in Stockholm know about Prop 8, and the staff at American Apparel told me that the “Legalize Gay Overturn Prop 8″ tees have been big sellers with locals and tourists alike. They congratulated California on Judge Walker’s decision, saying they were happy about It.

Just Say Now to Sonisphere

Sonisphere, the huge heavy metal fest swings through Europe this summer with acts like Slayer, Anthrax, Motley Crue, Alice Cooper and Iggy Pop. I caught the headbang-athon here in Stockholm this rainy Saturday.

My friend Lyssa B who is crew on Leonard Cohen–he’s playing Sunday–staggered through the mud and crowds with wristbands and badges which were supposed to be for artist area. security–mostly volunteer kids– sent us to different gates where each time we were told to either go back where we’d been or given odd directions. We took a breather to watch a great set by Iggy Pop and that’s when I got to talk to Kevin from Southern California who was there for show. He had the same wristbands we did. So of course I asked him about Prop 19.

That’ll be my first election, I’ll be turning 18 in time to vote and I’m for legalization. My dad is a lawyer and I think the prisons are overcrowded and that someone getting strikes under three strikes for possession of pot is wrong. Their whole life could be ruined just for pot? That’s wrong. And so I’m really excited I get to vote!

After a great set by Iggy (with Mike Watt on bass!) and with Kevin in tow–he was quite a gentleman holding our umbrella above our heads like we were Puff Diddy– we once again tried to access the artist area since I’d wanted to ask the bands about Prop 19, but my plans were foiled by zealous though polite volunteers who weren’t sure what our credentials meant, so saying “no” just seemed safer for them. But at a certain point we went fuck it, stopped asking and somehow by strolling firmly, blithely in the rain with sunglasses on, heads down and ignoring security we ended up backstage. Literally.

yes, we were backstage. Literally.

Suddenly were behind the main stage in a no-man’s land with two clean portapotties (seriously awesome!) and a tiny pop up tent where several cool chick production assistants beckoned us over as the skies opened up. Ah, shelter! We fashioned ponchos from trash bags and tried to text and call our friend who was head of production to no avail since between the storm and tens of thousands people on their cell phones the circuits were jammed. I begged the clouds for a golf cart. Or a coffee machine. Alas there.

Despair as the rain increased. We were resigned to sitting there until..something. But ask and ye shall receive– a golf cart whizzed by and I ran out into the pelting rain.

Are you going to the production office?! Please can you take us?!

Tom the very cute golf cart dude took one look at we three drowning rats who obviously were someplace we weren’t supposed to be and said sure. Our drenched trio squeezed in, me on dashboard, and Lyssa B on Kevin’s lap as we zipped up some side road past crew catering and the rear of stalls selling food and tee shirts. Saint Tom dropped us at production where we were given rain ponchos to replace our trash bags couture, plus candy bars and coffee before being escorted to the fenced off grassy area close to the stage to watch Alice Cooper–a section we’d been sent away from at one point because–who knows why. But now we were there.

Alice so rocked. “Billion Dollar Babies” was awesome. And with real ponchos replacing our rubbish sack wear, we didn’t mind the damp. Until it started to hail, at which point we hightailed it back to production and were ferried in van by a charming tour vet named Duke. He dropped the three of us at the train station which had we hiked to would have be a 30 minute walk. In the rain.

As he drove us through the vast park Duke showed us the community gardens which have a several year waiting list for plots– and he told us the royal residence, which is also on the grounds, has 300 rooms but the newly married princess wants a bigger one. At least it will provide construction jobs.

It wasn’t the day we had envisioned but it was pretty darn fun, despite being soaked to the skin and not getting to exactly where I was trying to be. Met some nice people, managed one discussion about Prop 19 and saw parts of the festival most attendees don’t. It was a pretty rad adventure.

Tonight, Sunday, it’s Leonard Cohen followed by a few days here then on to Gothenburg for Way Out West, a citywide music fest.

Amazon/”Everything…Gay Porn Stars” Score One for the Internets

Amazon has lifted their ban on carrying John Roecker’s documentary “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Gay Porn Stars” after first declining it for content. Amazon carries a lot of adult material, gay and straight, as well as plenty of indie films and small documentaries.

When the mega-online retailer’s stance was made public, people emailed and called the company, and Amazon now stocks the two disc set.

Let’s see what happens with Target now that it’s come out about their donations to anti-LGBT candidates because the PAC that supports Michele Bachmann and Tom Emmer is “good for business.”

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