Winding up the old service roads, deep into the woods, higher and higher until we reach “The gate”. a significant part of the scene, one or more solid steel beams block the road. nobody may enter and no body leaves without permission, and even then it is all in the boss/supervisors own time, it signifies that once your in, your in. through that gate, I guarantee is like no other world you have seen, nor could possibly imagine, the main thing obviously being the sheer amount of weed you come to encounter, gardens and grows (Hoops) of 300-500 plants spread throughout various locations over properties as big as 1000 Acres. This was my second season, though in my first I was blessed to meet an awesome, determined crew of dudes no older then 35 aiming to grow 1000Lbs of weed for the year. A beautiful set up, high on up, four hours from any civilised township, there was everything we could have needed to comfortably survive in isolation. Two gigantic cabins, one where we slept and hung the copious amounts of weed to dry. The other was another drying room, though downstairs, a fully equipped commercial kitchen, wide screen TV and a DVD player, bathroom with hot shower and flushing toilet. with couches surrounding a communal fire place. This was where we would sit those long 15 hour days. That was the first time I walked into that world. Coming in the second time, I had stepped on into a much larger operation, although our accommodation wasn’t as equip, the property was stretched over two mountains, with seven operations working at once. A couple of ambitious friends put their money eight years ago investing in what I think would be one of the largest in the area, probably harvesting anywhere between 500-1000 pounds per property.
This season we were moved all over the place, starting at one farm hidden well under the gigantic pines, no plane nor drone would ever know it was there. With very little to no sun shining through it was hard to determine the time of the day, those cold long hours consistently having to re-position yourself for those few minutes of flickering light through the canopy. We ate, slept, and worked underneath the weed. The stuff was everywhere. I would have trimmings in my food, in my bed, my clothes, my hair, on my tooth brush!
From that kid picking through the carpet for any leftover green, just enough to fill the bong. and here I was, scraping what would be $100’s worth of weed in Australia on the floor to sweep up and throw into a pile to be burnt later on. Each time I would get up out of my seat, half ounces at a time falling off of my clothes, having to consistently satisfy my never ending hunger the pile underneath my chair slowly fattened throughout the day.
The first month was very slow, a couple of close friends and I, amongst a small crew of others hailing from all corners of the globe moved around the mountains trimming the first weed to come down for the season. We started trimming what is known as Light deprivation, it was awful! though we got through it, the previous year it wasn’t un common to be getting paid between $150-$200 per pound, this year the price had dropped to $100 to the legalization and that the west coast of America is swimming in Marijuana, majority of the people you meet will be or will know somebody growing pot, the weed scene on the west coast has been a booming underground scene that has been ongoing since the early 70’s dead head, hippy beat movement and is now leading the world in anything weed.
Frustratingly skipping between farms, with too many days off stuck with nothing to do out in the middle of nowhere, our sanity was beginning to disappear at an alarming pace. One minute we would be making big bucks, the next we have 3 days off, with 2 more days’ work, followed with another 2 days off. When we did have work everyone would enter into lock down, trying to trim as much weed as possible, and as some are faster then others jealously tends to occur. Nobody likes a high baller in this industry with the exception of the boss. The growers are out there for 9 months at a time, they just want it down, dried, trimmed and off their hands. The trimmers on the other hand, we role on in for 1-3 months, make what has the potential to be massive money and continue on our way. The locals like to call us “The Trimigrants” and a lot of the growers couldn’t stand it. Take Bob for example, now the grower is different then the owner of the property “The Boss”, the boss has set himself up over the last years, he has done all the hard work, now its time for somebody else to come in and take care of the plants. It takes a certain type of person to sit out on the mountain 24/hour a day for such a long period of time, somebody who understands the aphrodisiac of their own loneliness, or somebody able to smoke enough weed to subside all desire and feel comfort in doing nothing over long periods of time.
Our 2nd Farm was on top the ridge of the second mountain, a large 2 story cedar cabin, downstairs the fans and de-humidifiers buzz on a 24-hour cycle. Up stairs was a TV, hundreds of DVD’s, most of them heavily scratched rendering a vast majority of then useless. The fridge, with less a variety then the last. Around the edge of the walls were cots/camping beds for people to sleep in very tight knit. It was a lot nicer then wandering in shadows all day.
Arriving in the back of the Ute, we were met with looks of concern. It’s a weird moment when you’ve arrived at a farm that there are trimmers already on the scene, it hasn’t ever felt to welcoming, more so like a “who are these cunts coming to steal our work?” Which it kind of is. Especially in this case when a group of 5 or more people turn up to the farm with dollar sign in their eyes. “how are you?” following up with the question, “how’s the weed?”
The Farm was calm and people seemed fairly chill. Its always nice to work with nice people. Until they realize how much you’re actually trimming, then once again people become a little bit on edge. We stuck out around ten days, trimming no more then 2 totes a day, that’s around 2lbs. What little weed there was, was fairly distributed out between everyone, though that meant that those who would trim 2 pounds in 5 hours where left with the entire afternoon off with nowhere to go, watching as everybody else trims on through to the next day. I would try to remove myself from the farm as much as I could when ever id find myself in this situation. the sound of the scissors snipping over the buds whilst you sit and twiddle your thumbs. Its enough to drive a man mad.
I found a nice spot on the very edge of the mountains ridge that looked on outwards towards Mount Shasta. A 180-degree vision of lush Northern Californian wilderness, the other 180 behind, 30 or so weed plants nestled between the ominous black and green serpentine. I took off my clothes and sprawled out in the sun’s light, embracing a very rare moment for myself.
It wasn’t long before the weed ran out and the work finished, it was time for a holiday. We had been on the mountain for a total of three weeks, 3 weeks that one could mistake as a lifetime. Two friends and I jumped into Fiona and headed towards the coast, but first thing we had to do was fix the starter motor, we drove out to Eureka where we bought a starter motor from O’reilys.
Parking beside a rusty little van with a rusty little man banging his hammer on his starter motor, I gave him a smile, he nodded his head slightly, just enough to know this guy and I had nothing in common. It wasn’t long after I realized that this crusty little man was selling Meth out of the back on his van to the fiendish zombies loitering around the car park. Within an hour I had successfully changed a starter motor and learnt a valuable lesson in motor mechanics. We where free to turn our engine off anywhere our heart desired.
We travelled around the western coastlines of northern California for about a week in less then ideal conditions for setting up a tent and therefore we must all find space a cozy spot in the van. One week of stepping over bodies in the morning, not having a decent night’s rest, constantly cleaning. The three of us were as indecisive as each other, a lack of communication and consistently waiting, wondering where the fuck every bodies always gone? it all gets a little frustrating, its more then enough to cause a couple of cracks in a friendship.
Twenty minutes after we had decided to drive somewhere out into the serenity of the nature to find somewhere we could set up some tents and at last take some personal space. As we hit the highway the phone rings. It was two friends who had found a trimming job on Craigslist, they had recommended us for position up on the Sothern border of Oregon, we looked at each other nervously knowing what we all wanted to do. We turned the van around and headed north. It was an incredibly beautiful six-hour drive north winding through the forests into southern Oregon. Arriving in reasonably populated countryside we arrived at the gate of a semi suburban home right off the paved road. Out the back peering over the bamboo fence, at around 3 meters tall where what was without a doubt the healthiest and happiest plants we had encountered of our little expedition. A couple in the late 30’s came to greet us at the gate. Although we didn’t realize at the time, it was then that things got weird.
We spent a total of a week under the façade of those incredible beautiful weed plants, grown under a medicinal license, all had received a lot of love and attention, though something still didn’t feel rite. I parked up the van and set my self up comfortably. It had been the first time I had a consistent Wi-Fi connection and was able to run a power cable to the van. Simple luxuries after being so far out of civilisation. Meanwhile the girl who was travelling with us was offered to sleep in the couples’ camper tailor, though our other friend was told in a stern and drunken manner that he wasn’t aloud to take one of the 4 beds that were also inside the trailer, because he didn’t want anybody fucking in there.
They wanted us to trim the weed wet, though in the mean time we would trim year old weed, nuggets the size of my fingernail. It was awful. Unable to break the 2-pounds. That’s if you where lucky. Its hard to be making 5-6 pounds in one place, to suddenly working just as hard and getting no-where. The house was nice, we had a real bathroom, with real showers. Good food cooked for us, TV, movies, comfortable couches, town was 15 minutes up the road. It all seemed perfect, beside the wet trimming it felt like a dream.
We had one week off before the buds where coning down. the plan was to drive down to san Francisco to a 3-day free Country and Bluegrass festival in Golden gate park. After that we would spend the rest of the week between San Fran and Grass Valley to then head back north and start trimming “the good stuff”. It was an 8-hour drive in Fiona, still with 3 different wheels, a plastic bag and an elastic band over the fuel cap, out of registration and still putting along. Along the way we would pick up old mate River. The same River that I had travelled to India with, the same one I met in Canada, and now here were where once again. Same shit, different everything.
We arrived at Rivers farm, its an incredible house outside of Grass valley, 20 minutes from Nevada city, a hub of good music, good food and all round good vibrations. The house is gorgeous, on site there is an incredibly equip music studio with hundreds and thousands dollars’ worth of guitars, ukuleles, banjos, synths, key boards, drums, and almost any instrument one could imagine. On site where a couple of cabins, including a tree house you could stay whilst you trim. It’s the house of a very kind and welcoming older couple that for most of their lives just followed the grateful dead, living the classic 70’s Californian acid crazed weed farmers, now retired and living the life.
We stayed for a couple of days exploring the area, seeing the sites with glazed over eyes before it was time to get our shit together and hit the road to San Francisco! I love san Francisco, it’s a neat, steep, colourful, cultural city. Its great! By far one of the nicest most comfortable cities I’ve come across during my travels. We park the van at the end of Golden gate park in the ocean beach car park amongst the other RVS and various campers full of hippies, beatniks, punks, dead heads, drunks and junkies. That night we had some beers and made our way on into the festival to soak in the vibes. The sun slowly set and the classic Californian sunset painted the skies, Oh how i love that Californian sunshine. we met up with some friends for a short while, called it early and went to bed.
It was a free, 3-day festival in the center of Golden gate park! We where staying rite on the water, next to the cities edge, no body hassling us to move on, we stayed 4 days bumming around in and out of the city. I could have stayed longer, maybe I should have stayed? And not bothered going back up into the mountains? Those 5 days passed with its moments of joyous down to a very vulnerable un-pleasantness. By the end of it we were exhausted. It was time to go “home”. It was then our friend had received the message that the couple in Oregon had been filming us and recording our audio. It turns out they didn’t like us discussing his drinking habits, or the relationship where he sits on his ass all day drinking ciders from 7 in the morning until he passes out on the couch snoring loudly at 6pm, being a lazy sack of shit watching porn all day, talking about other women whilst she is literally doing everything, cleaning up after him, looking after the plants, harvesting, cooking, managing. It was a crazy dynamic we couldn’t understand, maybe there’s another side to him we couldn’t see, maybe she was in to deep. Either way it was strange, and of course we where going to discuss it. On a few occasions I had made comments that I felt they were recording us, as I started noticing deer cams and cameras covering every inch of the property.
We were happy to not return. We rang our old boss and he told us to head on back, we would have a couple of days trimming at our original farm under the canopy and then would be moved out to another farm where we would spend the remainder of our time. We had a coin toss which three out of the 6 of us would move to the new farm. As at the time we didn’t have a right to really care I had was wishing upon every single star that we would win. My wish had come true, we packed our shit, jumped in the back of the truck and got the fuck out of there.
We drove an hour through the mountains on the old service roads until we reach yet another farm. This one was very open, with a nice large cabin warmed with a self contained barrel fire place blazing in the center on the room. 3 meter weed plants, at least 100 or so surround the left side of the cabin, on the right are 3 hoops (light deprivation garden beds) about 25 meters long, over a hundred plants in each. Another very beautiful sight for the dedicated stoner.
We met our new farmer, a big guy from the Caribbean, he stood tall with a big build and a heavy head of dreadlocks. he seemed like a nice guy, that is after you accept that he is sometimes under a lot of stress, I mean who can blame the somewhat strange and erratic behaviour under the circumstances of one’s self induced cabin fever, that being in the mountains with nobody around for miles for months on end can create.
Time went by with consistent drams between friends and fellow trimmers. The cold weather was creeping in and space out of the rain was limited. It was a couple of weeks before we settled in and really got to know each other though my two friends and I weren’t able to connect on the same level anymore, when one person was happy the other was upset or angry, we had lost the balance and eventually had a big falling out. One day one friend woke up and left with no explanation, she just had to go! It wasn’t long after a couple of us followed suit. We were equally stressing each other out. It had been 3 months now we had shared my van. And there just wasn’t enough personal space between the three of us and it was most likely just time to go.
As I originally would have liked to explain in depth and more detail the traumas and conflicts that had happened along the way. And it wasn’t all bad though I currently sit back home from my travels and upon reflection and confronting the situation, having now discussed what it was that drove each of us mad I find it unfair to call anybody out on any unnecessary action.
So I will conclude this story, finally bringing this past memory to rest, I carried on for one week after Halloween, after some of the farmers started going mad and became very unhappy with the bosses, there were a lot of disagreements, people left. People had been coming in and stealing from the properties, neighboring farms were being raided. Something just didn’t feel right, it was time to leave and call an end to the season. I counted my numbers, called the boss and arranged for him to pay me, open the gate and taste that freedom.
After an expected fuck around, having been let out 6 hours after I had asked so I could get to my appointment at the Swedish hot tubs I met with my boss on the way back to the coast, after re-negotiating the $500 he wanted to underpay me I settled with $200 less and drove off out into the Californian sunset. I got in the bubbling hot tub with some dark chocolate and a strong IPA and sat in contemplation, relaying the past 3 months over in my mind. Would I ever stumble back into those woods? I guess I am just happy to be out healthy and alive.
It’s a funny world out there in the mountains.
No body, nor yourself quite knows where you are, though there are many different scenes, from the one with a personal cook, a masseuse and beer on tap, to the one out there in the middle of the desert, in the woods, somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Some may find themselves inside a suburban home in front of the TV, trimming away for hours on end, another may find them selves comfortably set up under the shade of a gazebo out the back of a local winery watering the plants and having to climb ladders to removing the water leaves. It’s a hugely diverse industry, the farmers come from all different walks of life. Some the friendliest people in the world to some just down right dirty dogs. Why would one want to trim? Why did I want to trim? It’s an incredible experience, especially coming from a country where marijuana is illegal, it’s a stoners dream, and an eye opening experience into a very wild and progressive industry, that and the amount of money one walks away with in a relatively short amount of time.
I took a few days to drive down to San Francisco before catching my flight out of the country. I parked Fiona a ten-minute walk from the terminal with the keys in the car and a post on Facebook that she’s there waiting for her knight in shining armour to rescue her from the industrial ghetto her father left her behind. It was with that I boarded my flight to Mexico.