The light posts of Marseilles, France. (at Port Marseille)
The glass jar was empty of everything but a fine dust and I was beginning to feel anxious. I’d made the requisite phone calls to providers, both legal and not so much.
Seems my favorite strain of green bud had been sold out for many weeks, and the harvest was still months away. The only thing left to do was go to the source. We loaded the old wagon with a few days’ worth of provisions; cheese and yogurt, smoked trout and cured ham, tomatoes and peppers still warm from the garden, bottles of Sicilian red and old Champagne, crackers, granola, green tea and honey, olive oil and salt. Books, three fingers of magazines, knives, bathing suits, hiking boots, and an old yellow Lab named Haas were all tucked in, too.
Anderson Valley in northern California was our aim; home of tie-dye and flannel, age-worthy Pinot Noir, ancient redwood forests, un-oaked Chardonnay, crystal and rock shops, decades-old apple orchards, and some of the finest marijuana in the world; not just any old street-skunk, dime-bag ganja, but the nonpareil Blue Dream.
A sativa-dominant hybrid, the Blue Dream strain is a cross of 80% sativa (haze) with 20% indica (blueberry). Sativa and indica are the two predominant marijuana species, which when crossed, create hybrid strains. Both the species and their strains produce different effects.
Indica plants are short and stocky, are fast to flower within 45-60 days, and respond well to being grown inside. Indica strains, such as OG Kush, Northern Lights, Buddha’s Sister, and Yumbolt hail from India and central Asia. Their buds are thick and heavy, with sweetish sour aromas reminiscent of a Manhattan Jewish deli on a cold Sunday morning; warm yeasty dough, brined pickles, honeyed baklava, and sour tomatoes.
Indica produces a stony body high. Muscles relax and a sense of thickness permeates the physical being. Also mentally relaxing, indicas are often smoked at night to induce sleep, and used to relieve body pain, spasms, anxiety and headaches.
But it is the sativa strain for which I jones.
Sativa plants are well suited to being grown outside, as their long leafy branches can tower to 25 feet in height. Requiring a whopping 60-90 days of nurturing sun to flower, this strain was originally tended to in the equatorial climes of Jamaica, Mexico, Thailand, and southern India. Sativa buds are often larger than those of indica, but less dense, and unfortunately for the grower, therefore not as weighty. In spite of lower grow weights and a longer flowering period, the sativa strain is in high demand. As opposed to indica’s body high, sativa produces a more energetic, uplifting, and cerebral high best suited to creative, daytime endeavors. Sativa varieties, such as Willie Nelson, Lamb’s Bread, and Allen Wrench are often used to fight depression; toking to a sense of well-being. Sativa’s fragrance is the essence of green: pine needles, sage, wet evergreen, pineapple skin, juniper berry, white pepper, Jasmine green tea, peppermint.
The entry to the long, winding dirt drive was difficult to locate and the gardens were set a fair distance from the main road. Sequestered from prying eyes in different valleys at varying altitudes, the gardens were laid with rows of ‘smart pots’, each accommodating four hundred pounds of soil, a mulch of rice straw, and the fully mature plant. The copious amounts of water needed to feed the giant ganja springs from a recently dug well and is gravity fed from tank to tank and from garden to garden, meandering all the way down the rocky mountainside.
The maestro of this semi-clandestine, pop-up farm is a young vegan yogi with longish hair and thick eyelashes who studies permaculture and ecological design. His tanned and filthy bare feet are caked with the dry dirt of a drought-ridden summer. In stained red running shorts falling from his thin frame, he proudly walked us through the gardens, a cloud of dust trailing him like a Charlie Brown character.
Blue Dream, the one and only strain produced at the farm, is grown outside under the summer sun and lovingly fed an organic diet of guano from Oregonian bats, seaweed kelp from the nearby Mendocino coast, a special blend of phosphates and minerals, and a potent compost tea. Cannabis plants produce nodes along their stems, from which grow leaves, branches and flowers (the buds). The large green leaves flashing in the sun were unsurprisingly familiar; the leaf now emblazoned on a posters, beach towels and tee shirts around the world. It was however, the warm sun and heady aromas of water, minerals, earth, and flowering green bud wafting in the afternoon breeze that made me excitedly high.
And nothing had even been lit yet.
The constant whirr of DEA helicopters overhead was mildly disconcerting. Sheeting the size of billboards displayed next to each garden with the California-issued license grow number did little to alleviate the feeling of shadiness and illegality.
Perhaps I was expecting a Napa Valley with guns. There was, however, nothing manicured about the place. Rather, there was a wild, wild west vibe to the operation, albeit one with a very ecologically conscious bent. And most growers, the ones doing it legally anyway, seem more concerned with poachers than with law enforcement.
After being gifted the last two large buds of Blue Dream from the harvest prior, we drove from Anderson Valley’s hot floor to the cool of our rented cottage atop a forested mountain. From the porch, we watched the fog shuffle in from the Mendocino coast, slowly and determinately, like an old lady set in her ways. The cackle from the crows perched overhead in the old-growth redwoods and throaty, amorous calls from the bullfrogs in the pond below introduced early evening. Two king-sized rolling papers were glued together and the fragrant bud was finely ground in a stone mortar and pestle found in a kitchen cupboard. A couple of puffs were sufficient to giddily send us into the nearby orchards, now overgrown with Asian and Bartlett pears, ambrosial Clingstone peaches, and a half-dozen varieties of apples.
Under a darkening sky, we ate pears baked with butter, maple syrup, a whiff of nutmeg, a healthful douse of the local Germain Robin brandy, and topped with a dollop of fresh, soft cheese from Pennyroyal Farmstead, whose goats roam the neighboring hills.
Ah, yes, that advertised feeling of contentment and well-being… Anderson Valley is the stuff of dreams.