A Novice Grows his First Pot

[Reefer Madness or Green Living? This article, a year old, describes my maiden voyage growing pot. The irony is that, having grown it, I don’t really enjoy consuming it. Give me a green salad any day. SB SM]

A Novice Grows his First Marijuana

There’s a saying that “when the world ceases to satisfy, there’s always the garden,” and I embrace the concept. Gardening is my year-round pastime. In January I’m studying the seed catalogs and organizing my carryover seeds. In February I plant my onions, knowing they will fail. In March I prune my fruit trees and berries. In April I pull back the hay covering the garlic planted last fall to see if a green chute confirms that they have survived the winter.

As a curious gardener I figure I’m entitled to at least one experiment a year. One year it was cardoon, a close relative to artichoke that is grown, and eaten, for its stalks rather than its globe. Then, there was the year of four basils, none as good as the standby Genovese. And there was the broccoli that refused to head but had excellent tasty stalks, hence the term “stoccoli.” And the sweet potato patch that yielded one, skinny four-inch long sweet potato. You win some; you lose some; and some are rained out.

This year I tried marijuana, newly legalized in the state of Vermont where you can grow up to six plants for personal use and consumption. (Selling is still illegal.) By “try,” I mean “grew.” While I haven’t smoked anything in years, as a gardener I could not resist the temptation to take a fling at something new.

This is not a growers guide, but rather an account of complete neophyte’s experience. There is an abundance of information on every aspect of growing, harvesting, and consuming marijuana online with helpful instructional videos on YouTube.

I was given seeds by a friend from Massachusetts last fall. (Marijuana is now legal there, too.) I planted them in spring but couldn’t get them to germinate. When I mentioned this to the friend, he immediately graced me with six seedlings. They looked scrawny, but I dutifully planted them in rich soil with full sun. And that’s that. I didn’t weed them, didn’t fertilize them, didn’t prune, didn’t even water them. Yet, by July 4th I had a half-dozen healthy-looking plants already thigh-high that were clearly going to be larger than the gardening space alotted. “That’s part of the learning curve,” I told myself.

A month later some of them developed tiny seed balls at the tips of the limbs. The plants were now nearly five feet tall. A visiting friend, also a gardener, told me. “You’ve got to get rid of the males. They’ll fertilize the female and ruin your crops.” Marijauna has sexes? Who knew? More Internet research. He’s right. The males had to go. Pot is a metaphor for life.

Males apparently do have some value. They are a source of strong fiber and contain amounts of CBD oil, the extract that is portrayed as a treatment for everything from sleep disorders to anxiety management to pain control. To do anything meaningful with the fiber or oil, however, meant learning new processing techniques. Maybe next year. This is a learning experience, right?

With marijuana, as with many other species, the male plants are close to useless.

It was a sad day when I uprooted and removed the male plants. They were a lovely dark green, entirely healthy, and innocent of any wrongdoing. So far as I could tell, they hadn’t even had their way with my lone female, now named Merry Mary. Into the burn pile they went.

MM continued to look great through the end of August, then into September. We went through a minor drought that she weathered very nicely. Still no water, no pests, no yellowing of leaves, the signal that harvest time had arrived.

Internet research became hard to interpret because so much involved maximizing the potency factor, something of secondary importance to me. Much of the information originates on the West Coast where extensive indoor growing operations exist. Not much is directed towards a hardscrabble Vermont gardener, now in his seventh decade and just learning what this plant was all about.

Gardeners love to swap notes and tour other gardens. To my surprise I discovered that all my fellow gardeners in the area were also conducting the same experiment. Either we’re all brilliant, all fools, or all dim-witted sheep. We’ll have to wait until the end of the season to know for sure.

Merry Mary survived two light frosts in early October and looked none the worse for wear. In the second week, I decided to harvest, something more akin to tree management than gardening. I cut the branches with my heaviest loppers, put them in big garbage bag, and dragged the trunk (you can’t quite call it a “stem””) to the burn pile. I hung the stems, inverted to allow whatever essence remained to flow to the buds, in our woodshed which is well-ventilated and dark. The smell, somewhere between an aroma and an odor, is overwhelming, like a college dormitory on a Friday night, minus the stale beer.

As of this writing I am halfway through the post-harvest processing. I am also out of storage space and getting impatient, I’ve begun using a food dehydrator to cut down the drying time. It’s a time-consuming, tedious but not unpleasant process, especially wearing headphones tuned to my favorite Spotify stations. Maybe the Grateful Dead will finally start sounding good to me.

Now what? What does someone who doesn’t smoke do with a bunch of marijuana of unknown quality? I could give it to my kids, but that would seem weird after a lifetime of cautionary tales. I feel about marijuana like I do about turnip. Every year I plant some in the garden, but I’m never sure quite why, because I don’t know what to do with the resulting product.

Serendipitously, I ran into an acquaintance, a fellow graybeard, at the local Post Office. “Watchu been up to?” I asked. “Making an audio version of my book” he responded. “What’s the title of your book?” I asked. “Confessions of a Marijuana Eater,” came the response.

Bingo.

The author is Bobby Gosh, a professional songwriter, who, while not a household name, has experienced considerable success on a national stage and who has chosen to make his home in rural Vermont. My curiosity was immediately piqued, and I wanted to know more. So did the postal clerks on duty. Now that marijuana is legal, there is no need for furtive whispering.

So I read Bobby’s book, an enjoyable account of a colorful life that is as notable for his close brushes with fame and fortune as his advocacy for eating pot. The harvest is in; the book is read; and the 2020 gardening season is several months away. Stay tuned to see how this story works out.

Times change. It’s 2019 and we’re talking pot in the Post Office. Fifty years ago I had a high school, the class president in fact, who went off to college at Tulane in New Orleans, Louisiana. Like a zillion other college kids, he experimented with smoking marijuana. But unlike most of the other zillion, he got caught, an offense that in Louisiana could earn you a life sentence. Some legal maneuvering helped him emerge with a slap on the wrist, but it’s sobering to think how so many others were victims of the time. Yesterday’s reefer madness is today’s expression of green living.

I guess that’s progress.

SIDEBAR

graphic: cover of Bobby’s book

A Near Miss that’s a Direct Hit

Bobby Gosh’s personal story is a chronicle of “near misses,” any one of which could have launched him into popular music superstardom. It never happened. Although he was in the same arena as the likes of Streisand, Sinatra, and Paul Anka and has plenty of great behind-the-scenes stories to tell, he found a different path to a much deeper and meaningful success. Bobby turns out to be the lucky one.

Instead of pursuing fame and fortune on Tin Pan Alley, Bobby and wife Billi relocate to the pastoral wilds of Vermont. Billi becomes politically active and quickly moves up the ranks in the state Democratic Party, eventually rubbing shoulders with the political elite of the era. Bobby continues his less glamorous but more-lucrative career as a commercial song-writer, scoring several credits that are likely buried deep in your neo-cortex. He tries, not-very-successfully, to become a restaurateur and ultimately finds a niche as a collector of fine art. Along the way he develops a passion for consuming marijuana in edible forms, a pastime that brings pleasure, balance, and creativity to his life.

This is a straightforward, unpretentious memoir that has great charm, especially when it is presenting the narrative of the author’s life. It is less successful when it ventures into the spiritual realm, because the author is discussing matters that are so deeply personal. While his conclusions are insightful, the presentation is stronger when it sticks to the narrative of his life path. Along the way the reader is treated to interesting peeks into the music business, brushes with stardom, the world of collecting art, life in Vermont, and the do’s and don’t of marijuana consumption. This is an interesting story, well-told, by someone who has turned near misses into a lifetime of success.

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