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Harvesting in the Bush When Disaster Strikes

Smokin Moose

Fallen Cannabis Warrior
With a southern hemisphere summer on us, I thought this article would be an interesting read.

Our Australian grow-master's tale of harvesting havoc

For four seasons I lived with my crops in the bush, as recounted in CC #58 and #60, Aussie Bush Paradise 1 and 2. When growing in the bush there is one law to live by: Murphy's Law. "If it can go wrong, it will." Screw-ups happen and you have to put flexibility into your plan. Anticipating trouble and variables will minimize that which can indeed go wrong. If you allot only a week to harvest and cure, and it rains for a month straight, what then?

Typically, when all goes right, 110 pounds (50 kg) of freshly harvested cannabis plants will net a golden 10 pounds (4.5 kg) of perfect pot after drying, curing, trimming and manicuring.

In my first season I had neither the time nor money to set up a drying facility. The plants were chopped down in blazing sun. But, once in fresh harvest heaps, rain rolled in. Twenty-four hours of solid rain! The next day there was mold everywhere. I was faced with an urgent decision: accept it as a huge loss, or get it off-site to dry. It was my first season and I needed money desperately, so I had to remove it from the location to a dry climate. I had to get the wet pot from my camp 2 km (1.2 miles) from the road to my vehicle, load it all in, and then drive. Not just 2 km in a straight line, mind you, but 2 km up to and along a ridge line, down a steep slippery hill to a creek, across the creek which was half flooded at the time, up a steep hill, then along that ridge line, winding through the trees to the road.

When you have no load on your back, on a sunny dry day this will take a minimum of 30 minutes. However, I was carrying a load of about 33 pounds (15 kg) at night, while it was raining. Each trip to the car took an hour, with another half hour required to get back to camp, relax a little, and start on the next load.

If you have ever dealt with wet green anything bundled together you will know that after awhile it will start to heat up. Pot gets really hot when it is still green and wet and clumped together, and it can even burst into flames. (In some occasions on farms where hay is cultivated, fresh moist hay has burned down entire barns.) Heat also degrades THC, so as soon as my bundles were dropped near the road they had to be spread out to cool down in the rain. That led to the buds getting wetter and heavier, and leaves dropped off, buds snagged onto branches—all in all, leaving an obvious sign that anybody coming through would know what's been going on.

After a total of five hours hauling, I had the pot in the car—which, by the way, had to first be retrieved from its hiding place 8 km away. I left at 10:00pm, crammed with wet pot reeking up the vehicle. My crop had been situated where there were three different exits, so you could enter one way then exit another. When observed, you were not seen coming and going, but all exits eventually pass by a house. The first houses you see when driving out of the forest make a bush grower nervous, as the occupants know that no one lives further along the road than they do. If anyone in those homes saw my vehicle emerging it would be suspicious. At 11:30pm, it may have been difficult to see my vehicle in detail, but the noise and headlights would be noticeable.

I sweated through that drive. If anyone stops you in that situation, you are fucked. A car full of wet pot is impossible to disguise. The smell is rank. I was pushing buds from my crowded field of view just to see the road outside. I could hardly move for stalks, buds, and leaves that were like a cocoon around me. My groaning car lurched out of the forest, and lights snapped on in each of the houses I passed, faces peering from the windows to see who would be driving in the rain in the middle of nowhere at that time of the night. These people know growers are all over the forests — they know what you are up to. Where you came from in the forest is what they want to know, but if the rain is heavy enough it is impossible to track you back as the tire prints have long been washed away by morning. In my four years growing in the forests, exiting without anybody seeing or stopping you is the greatest risk and challenge.

Now I had to get as far away as possible to a dry area. Unfortunately, the rain was part of a big low-pressure system that covered most of the state. My stinking weed-mobile was limping into the nearest town and I needed fuel, but I had next to no money so couldn't afford the luxury of multiple jerry cans pre-filled with fuel. I needed to fuel up at 2:00am in this small town knowing I was dirty and wet, reeked of pot, and hadn't washed for at least a week. I quickly changed into a fresh shirt with a liberal dose of deodorant and drove up to a self-serve gas station that was miraculously open. My heart raced while I filled the tank, trying to look calm, even a little tired, considering the hour. Rounding the cost off to a neat $50, I walked in, said "G'day mate", dropped the fifty on the counter, turned around and was out.

I headed west into the drier part of the state. By 4:00am I was falling asleep at the wheel, so I looked for a place to pull over to take a brief nap. Twenty minutes later I spied a car park for a long-abandoned tourist attraction, so I quickly spread the pot over the ground. The wet combustible weed had gotten very hot packed in the car, so the drizzle of the early morning cooled it down. I wrapped myself in a blanket and a tarp and got some overdue sleep. I awoke at 6:00 am and it was overcast, but the rain had stopped. I rolled all the pot back up into the tarps and put the bundles into the car, taking care not to let any buds or leaves peek out so people wouldn't see it on a casual glance. With the light strengthening by the second, I saw hundreds of leaves and little buds all over the ground; it took the best part of an hour to pick them all up, leaving no trace behind.

Back on the road, I looked for a diner with much anticipation, desperately needing some food, a shower, and some supplies for the next few days. Soon enough I came across one of the many truck stops littered all over the country. After eating and cleaning up, I was back on the road and the stench in the car was almost overpowering.

Eight hours of driving later, I had finally broken into the outback. It had rained within the last 24 hours but the sky was clearing. I ducked off the highway and went down a random old road through the cypress pines that cover vast areas of the outback. Straight into the forest I drove for another 30 minutes, following an old rutted trail. I spotted herds of wild goats, and saw pig signs everywhere. Finally, I reached a spot that looked open and discreet. Pushing my car into the clearing I got to work quickly, as the weed would undoubtedly be very hot again. By now it had been abused for 24 hours straight with the intense heat accelerating mold growth. Due to the high number of goats in the area, I had to keep the plants off the ground. I started to pull twine rope between trees at least 8 feet from the ground — the weight of the pot would sag the line down to around 6 feet off the ground — so animals couldn't reach it. It took another three hours to string all the pot up, and already the air was starting to dry out from the pervious days rain. Immediately I could see that I had huge losses with the plants, as whole branches had been lost to mold. I took consolation with the fact that if I had not made the trip, there would be nothing at all. At dusk I had everything up high and out of the way of the goats. I was exhausted, as the last 24 hours had been both physically and mentally draining. I made a small camp fire, ate a little of the food I picked up at the truck stop, and settled down for a night's sleep, finally able to relax.

By the light of early morning, I could already see a difference in the buds. Over the next four days I stayed with the plants, occasionally going for scouting trips through the bush and exploring the area. It was primarily made up of cypress pines, with a few eucalyptus trees. It was obvious that hunters came through on a fairly regular basis, at least once or twice a year. There was evidence of hunters everywhere; spent shotgun shells, bones of pigs and goats, numerous beer cans; but they were all fairly old.

Four days is all that it took to dry the pot properly. I had strung the plants up in the shade, making sure that they received an absolute minimum amount of sunlight (i.e. heat). The arid semi-desert air sucked all moisture from the buds and stems quite effectively. After bringing the plants down, I cut them to the buds. After all that work, the load came to a little over 10 pounds (5 kg) and fit into one Hessian sack. I burned all evidence that I had been there, cleaned up the spot, and left, with only a couple of tire prints in the red soil behind me. My trip back was leisurely and much more enjoyable, but it left me with no doubt as to whether or not this was going to happen again. Never! The risk was too great and the losses were enormous. That fuck up ended up costing me about $25,000 in lost income because the pot was so degraded in quality from the extreme heat and rough handling, and I'd lost five kilos outright to mold.

by Joe Walsh
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