Being alone in your cannabis patch deep in the Canadian wilderness is uniquely stressful. I love nature, but I don’t love worrying about bears and rednecks finding my secret ganja grove.
Yet for some reason, when I’m alone in the wilderness, I have an urge to get super high. At this particular time of my life, I would indulge that impulse. And then I’d freak out over every squirrel I saw while trying to tend to my plants.
I kept up this questionable routine all summer. Drive out of town into the mountains, smoke and garden all day, camp out, and repeat as often as I could. My plants grew, and I was proud.
Until I was harvesting alone in the late afternoon golden hour, just before the sun dips behind the mountains. Taking smoke breaks and gazing out over the Pacific from the mountaintops.
I earned those moments. It’s hard work chopping down plants with fingers and pruning shears sticking together from so many resiny trichomes. Not to mention the tedious challenge of carrying several pounds of organic autoflower through the forest without damaging it.
What’s really shitty is suddenly hearing a car door slam nearby. I was supposed to be alone.
When you suddenly realize someone is close enough to see or at least smell what you have been up too, well, the paranoia hits hard. Particularly when you are harvesting.
No one would believe, “Oh! I was hiking and just stumbled upon these plants!” I had nugs in my hair and 40-litre totes full of fresh plants in my truck.
Maybe you would have handled it. Perhaps you could have come up with a clever story.
I, however, immediately dropped my plants in the swamp that had been watering my plants all summer and ran. I half fell, half climbed through the overhead ferns and bushes of Vancouver Island rainforest at full speed.
Covered in scratches, sweat, and weed, I jumped in my truck and blasted down a sneaky logging road towards the highway.
Suddenly concious I was covered in hunks of sticky Ruderalis, I set up camp, hidden behind some old logging junk and waited for whoever found my patch to come down the mountain, telling myself I’d get their plates or tail them home.
But the adrenaline wore off. I woke up the next morning in my truck, needing to drive several hours back to my real job (also growing weed.) I had lots of time to evaluate my life decisions.
Best to Have Crew
Maybe you have a couple of plants in your garden or a tent in your garage. That’s plenty for most of us and all I aspire to these days.
But the real lessons I learned from cannabis cultivation have been not about growing techniques, they are about community.
A prime example is my harvest mishap in the misty swamps of Van Island. I could easily have just called a friend who would have been stoked to go hiking. Because that’s the way I was taught. When it's time to chop one of the rooms in some warehouse, there is always more than one car parked outside.
If you went inside, you would hear tunes pumping, smell samples burning and maybe find a room in the back full of fast-fingered trimmers updating each other on the happening of our funny little underground network.
Snacks, gossip. Definitely, some intermixing between the males and females.
Let me tell you, community sure does get interesting.
But I’m here for it. Sure, it sucks when all the trimmers are pissed at me for one of a zillion possible reasons. But when your bagging everything up with friends, ocean views, and the finest herb you grew yourself, it’s not something you forget.
Sometimes it’s awesome. Sometimes it’s a nightmare. But those times we remember. And when you go through the downs together instead of fucking off, you build stronger bonds. And that’s why I (was) so happy in that world.
And cannabis is like that too - it’s there in the good times, it’s there in the bad.
And just like a community, it has its ups and downs. Personalities that work and some that don’t. I wish I had known then that blasting off with unlimited Gelato 33 didn’t serve me as well as the CBD gummies I munch on now. I had to learn to actually rest instead of smashing another americano and more dabs.
You know, the honest truth is that the weed world, particularly the underground one, is pretty intense. I constantly found myself working for ambitious type A folks. It wasn’t chill. I had to learn how to navigate people like I chose strains.
But the fact is I’m glad I did it.
Even when the community was a mess, it was with a bunch of people who were trying fucking hard.
Growing weed is hard work. (At least growing good weed anyways.) And hard work is best done together. Be it a wellness routine or trying to grow designer flower, you need a crew, better yet, a community, to support, push, and keep you in check.
And even if the crew falls apart, it’s not about the problems. The personalities. It’s about the lessons.
Don’t get me wrong, community is amazing. But I don't want to glorify it completely. Because I learned way more about taking care of myself from the failures than successes.
Like that weed I dropped in the swamp.
I sobered up, drove back the next day after work and harveseted that shit all night with a headlamp. Drove it to my friend's place and had them help me hang and dry it. No rippers, just me learning to not try to do everything myself and to remember to value the community that I’d never regret making messes with.