Sunday, December 20, 2015

Yule Tijd Season

December has been such a whirl-wind of activity and I am overdue for posting a blog on abbey happenings.  This Sunday before the Winter Solstice (Dec 22nd) and this moon cycle's full moon (December 25th), I decided to write our December in lyrics to the twelve days of Christmas. 

It should be noted that the Sisters, tired of the fake war on Christmas touted by Faux News, decided to give them their badly wanted and needed war on Christmas (else they wouldn't talk about it so much) and this year, we are celebrating Yule Tijd -- Yule Season.  We still have a Yule Tree and wreaths, pre-cursors to the Christian-created holiday.  We still have gifts and candles and we still sing songs and over-indulge in all our favorite things.

We still gather round the candle-lit table, hold hands, bow our heads and give thanks.  It was a good year for the Sisters.  We have worked hard and deserve a holiday rest.

My picture blog.  The twelve days of Christmas at the abbey.

On the first day of Yule Tijd, my true love gave to me,
One Zrina smiling carefree.

On the second day of Yule Tijd, my true love gave to me,
Two travel mates,
And my Zrina smiling carefree.

 On the third day of Yule Tijd, my true love gave to me,
Three bags of CBD,
Two travel mates,
And my Zrina smiling carefree.

On the fourth day of Yule Tijd my true love gave to me,
Four activist events,
Three bags of CBD
Two travel mates
And my Zrina smiling carefree.

On the fifth day of Yule Tijd my true love gave to me:
Five college kids back home!
Four activist events,
Two travel mates
And my Zrina smiling carefree.

On the sixth day of Yule Tijd my true love gave to me,
Six structures on a farm,
Five college kids back home,
Four activist events
Three bags of CBD
Two travel mates
And my Zrina smiling carefree.

On the seventh day of Yule Tijd my true love gave to me,
My first college graduate,
Six structures on a farm,
Five college kids back home,
Four activist events
Two travel mates
And my Zrina smiling carefree.

On the eight day of Yule Tijd my true love gave to me,
An eight hour workshop,
(It was social media)
Seven smiles for college grad,
Six structures on a farm,
Five college kids back home!
Four activist events
Two travel mates
And mijn Zrina smiling carefree.

On the ninth day of Yule Tijd my true love gave to me,
Nine gathered for a feast
Eight hour workshop,
Seven smiles for college grad,
Six structures on a farm,
Five college kids back home,
Four activist events
Two travel mates
And mijn Zrina smiling carefree.

On the tenth day of Yule Tijd my true love gave to me,
Ten kinds of cookies,
Nine gathered for a feast.
Eight hour workshop,
Seven smiles for college grad,
Six structures on a farm,
Five college kids back home,
Four activist events
Two travel mates
And mijn Zrina smiling carefree.

On the eleventh day of Yule Tijd my true love gave to me,
Eleven vegan dishes
(Blessed be Sister Darcy)
Ten kinds of cookies,
Nine gathered for a feast.
Eight hour workshop,
(It was social media)
Seven smiles for college grad,
Six structures on a farm,
Five college kids back home!
Four activist events
Two travel mates
And mijn Zrina smiling carefree.

On the twelfth day of Yule Tijd, my true love gave to me,
Twelve candles burning,
Eleven vegan dishes
Ten kinds of cookies,
Nine gathered for a feast.
Eight hour workshop,
Seven smiles for college grad,
Six structures on a farm,
Five college kids back home!
Four activist events
Two travel mates
And mijn Zrina smiling carefree.

Friday, November 13, 2015

What’s New at the Abbey: CBD Laws and Business Mountains

The Fall harvest isn’t quite complete, although we’ve begun with the annual tradition of having all the carpets cleaned, filters changed, ducts cleaned, in the aftermath of bringing in the crops.  The Sisters of the Valley was a dream, three years ago, and today, I am happy to report that I share the view from the mountaintop with Sister Darcy, and she shares my vision of what we shall become.

I can’t speak for the people’s whose lives intersect with mine, but I feel like my personal view of life is that I climbed an impossible mountain and now, uitendelijk, I am breathing fresh air, hope, progress once again.  I look down on the many plateaus upon which I got stuck, and the many times I circled hopelessly at the bottom of a precipice, making no progress, working so hard just to stay in place.  The theme song from Orange is the New Black speaks to my heart, to the sadness that overcame me when I was stuck:  “Taking steps is easy, standing still is hard.”

After imagining Sisters of the Valley as a business, as a life-style concept, after fomenting ideas and concepts for years, this was the year she was born.  And she was born to the world with dignity and honor and five-star testimonials.  A year ago, we were focused on supplying California dispensaries at wholesale, high-THC tinctures, salves and teas.  Today, we are focused on retail sales of high CBD products that we sell nationwide and internationally.  It’s kind of like the business was born a boy, but turned girl by the time she was one year old.  THC medicine is the masculine side of cannabis, where CBD is the feminine.  (I just made that up.)

I think, sometimes, dreams are like cats.  You have to ignore them, for them to come to you.  It had always been my dream to drag the poverty out of the valley (or at least a few residents or a community), by infusing the valley with income from the rest of the world.  It was how the wine and almond and pomegranate businesses were born here, and how they thrive.  (You can’t really understand the poverty here until you’ve lived here.)  When I began Sisters of the Valley, however, I was just focused on making a living for myself, in the aftermath of the family calamity and my personal brush with homelessness.

As part of a market trial, halfway through the year, we put our non-psychotropics in an on-line store and our focus and our prayers and our energies were suddenly brought to where they belong.  The dispensary bread-and-butter business comes from the stoner population.  The CBD customers are those that are interested in the healing and physical pain relief.  The turn of direction brought us home.

I don’t know why the folks in the industry decided to get on the CBD internet sales band-wagon just this year, when the law changed eleven years ago.  But this past year has certainly been the year that CBD products went mainstream.  I suspect it has something to do with the special strains that have been bred to be high CBD and that has to do with modifying Mother Nature, and that’s a process that takes awhile.

On February 6, 2004 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a unanimous decision in favor of the HIA (Hemp Industry Association) in which Judge Betty Fletcher wrote, “….non-psychoactive hemp is not included in Schedule I. The DEA has no authority to regulate drugs that are not scheduled, and it has not followed procedures required to schedule a substance. The DEA’s definition of “THC” contravenes the unambiguously expressed intent of Congress in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and cannot be upheld”. 

The net effect of this ruling nearly twelve years ago, is that we had to mess with Mother Nature, not to improve her, but to satisfy laws that are silly, anyway.  Some people complain that the CBD medicine (alone) give them headaches, but if taken with THC, they don’t get that side effect.  So local folks with chronic pain, or with cancer, can buy the CBD tincture from us, but have to get a cannabis card to acquire the THC tincture through a licensed dispensary, and basically, what I see happening is that we are breaking up Mother Nature, just to discover she was better in one piece.  (Bernie wants to take the whole plant off the Schedule I drug list, and, yes, he’s our man and yes, we will be ‘activating’ for him.)

In the past weekend, we held an ‘all weekend conference’ with the newly-formed Sisters of the Valley board.  We made some strategy decisions.  We reviewed financials.  We took a tour of the farm.  We narrowed our marketing focus.  We decided on Equity.  We decided on Incorporation State.  Many things.

The City has refused us our business license and we have to figure out a way to appeal that decision.  No surprise, but the local planning office doesn’t know CBD from catshit.  The farm mortgage people have demanded a ton of documents . . . yet we are hoping to go out on a road trip next week to Humboldt County to acquire CBD wholesale for our next batches.  Winter crop planning is in process.  We have the college kids coming for Thanksgiving, followed by a special visitor coming from Croatia on December first, then farm-house interior painting and floors to lay, a college graduation ceremony at UC Davis December 13th, and a move to the farm just after Winter Solstice. 

We have more mountains to climb for the business, of course.  The one we just climbed was the first of four.  We had to produce a quality product.   The second mountain to climb is in securing profit.  We are beginning this month to put 15% of receipts in a ‘profit savings’ to treat profit as if it is an expense and, thereby, protect it. 

The third mountain is quality of life and ease of operations.  That means, once we climb the next mountain, the Sisters can work on toning down the twelve hour work days.  And after we climb those, we climb the one that’s all about legacy and making a system-built enterprise that goes on long after we are all six feet under.

More mountains.  But as the song says, taking steps is easy, standing still is hard.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Gangsta Side of Growing Ganja (with a dash of Sisterhood)

There is so much I don’t know about what I call ‘the gansta side of growing ganja’.  I’m just a simple Sister, trying to eek out a simple existence, while serving the people.  I know of no other way to do business than with complete transparency . . . open books, open attitude, open dialogue, democratic decision making.  Anything else is foreign to me.  In the grower’s world, however, everything is stealth.  Everything is done on a handshake.  Nothing is written down.  It is this contrast between my modus operandi and the growers’ that creates all the tension. 

I am not saying that all Hispanic men are old-school, sexist, bullies, who think men should make all the decisions, but all the Hispanic men I have worked with are all that.  For many decades, cannabis growing has been their domain and for many decades, the women pretended it wasn’t happening and stayed out of their way.  Then they met the Sisters, who have their own way of doing everything.  The Sisters who are unashamed, unapologetic, and feel like we are on a mission from God. And that is the basis for many culture clashes in our ganja growing operations.

“This is a very, very, very special strain.” Chico told me one day last season, as we were visiting and checking up on the Ladies.  “You have to be specific, when you tell people about this strain, because it’s not just ordinary strawberry diesel.  It is strawberry diesel coffin cut.”  When I heard the words, my brain thought ‘cough and cut’, not ‘coffin cut’.  But I just listened as he extolled the virtues of that plant, knowing I would be at my computer later to properly research the strain.

I listened with grave attention to him warning me to specify to all buyers the true nature of the plant, by using the full title.  “My home-boy paid five thousand dollars for a little tiny cut of this plant, and he only let me buy some clones if I promised him that I wouldn’t make any clones that weren’t just for me.  We can’t let this strain go out the door.”

“That’s crazy.” I said.  “Five thousand dollars for a ten dollar clone?”

“No, it’s not an ordinary plant.  It has been bred for maximum THC and maximum output and it’s in high demand with the coastal dispensaries.  You’ll sell the shit out of this, Sister.” 

Ok, Chico, Ok.  That was in the autumn of last year.  A few months later, Brother Larry and I had produced our first line of products to initiate a market trial.  In the ingredients, on the labels, it clearly says “Strawberry Diesel Coffin Cut”.  When Chico, our grow foreman, saw the line of products, he whistled.  “Wow, Sister, these are really nice!”  I don’t know if he read the tiny print next to ingredients. 

This week, I learned that Chico got in a bit of trouble over our labels. I didn’t learn this from Chico, but from his growers, who were talking about it in the garden when I suddenly appeared.  “What are you talking about?” I asked, having overheard a bit of the conversation. 

Sometime in the past four months, one of our bottles of tincture made its way into the hands of the man who sold his proprietary strain for five thousand dollars a clipping.  He saw it and then asked around until he determined who grew for the Sisters of the Valley.  Then he called Chico in and said (basically) “WTF?”

“These guys are bad-asses,” said the man explaining, the younger of Chico’s two crewmen.  “They cut off people’s arms for violating treaties.  But don’t worry about it, Sister, Chico handled it.”

I wasn’t worried.  Just puzzled.  ‘Didn’t he tell me to be specific?’

Later that day, I saw Chico and asked him about it.  “I didn’t know you were going to put it on your labels,” he said.  “I’m not sure I even knew you were making a line of products . . ."

“That’s because you don’t listen to the women.” I said.  “When women talk, you hear ‘yada yada yada’ . . . “

This week’s confrontation happened because the Sisters’ co-opted Chico’s work crew to help us with our harvest.  This time of year, good, experienced harvest teams can choose where they work and we weren't really ready for an early harvest.

We had a meeting, Chico, his team, the Sisters.  At the time of the meeting, we all agreed that starting the very next day, Chico’s team would be in to work with the sisters for the first six hours of every workday until we got caught up from what we call the Ballico breakaway.  Ballico is where we had a rather large crop going (sixty plants).  We had to harvest early – and suddenly -- because every day for four days, the thieves made a visit and on the fourth day, there was a shoot-out.  We harvested and were out of our location by one-thirty in the afternoon on that fourth day.

One of my most favorite old movies is Lilies of the Field with Sydney Poitier.  The Mother Superior wanted a shshshshshapel (chapel).  No money, no work crews, but she wanted that chapel and the whole movie was about her getting it.  Chico is my Sydney.  He says ‘No’ much more comfortably than he says ‘yes’, and he has tried to say ‘no’ to me many times, but I just don’t accept it.  Just like the tough old bird in the movie.

Chico is a good guy -- old school, but big-hearted.  One of his crew members is a recovering meth addict.  So, when that young man came by the abbey, unannounced, after a successful court hearing, we welcomed him in, made him some tea, sat to hear about what happened.  He has only been off the powder for eight weeks, and only six weeks ago, he joined our foreman's work crew.

Later that night, Chico stopped by to scold the sisters for being too soft on his men.  “You Ladies molly-coddle them!” he complained.  “You give them tea and cookies and act like it’s all guns and roses!” Chico frequently mixes his metaphors, English not being his first language.  We don’t laugh, though, because he’s not the kind of man who takes teasing lightly, and especially not when he’s intent on making a point, as he was the other night.

Well, sometimes we can't resist.  As soon as a reasonable amount of silence passed as a sort of ‘we’re listening’ from the Sisters, Sister Darcy said “Would you like some tea or cookies?”  And I couldn’t help but add, “Or maybe today you would rather have us serve guns and roses?”  Both of us began laughing, then, and had to live with the fact that Chico waved his hand dismissively, and stomped away.

We didn’t get through one day of the new work schedule, without Chico blasting me for commandeering his team during his busiest season of the year.  Chico was at that meeting, Chico agreed to the schedule and the staffing and to the whole plan.  When I reminded him of that, his only response was a good one.  “I can’t say no to you, Sister.”  Awwwwww.  So he’s a raging bull because he lost his work crew, but he agreed to give them up to help us and now he’s angry about it.  “So you are really mad at yourself because you can’t say no to me?”  I laughed.  “How delightful!”

Somehow, we have to get caught up on our harvest and give Chico back his men, at least part time.  We will work that out.  Can’t have a grumpy foreman.  He’s building our chapel.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

CBD - Not Just for Goats - Part II

 “You don’t happen to know anyone with CBD, do you?”  I asked Sister Susan, three days before the commencement of the Autumn moon cycle.  I quickly went on to explain that we were sold out, that the moon cycle started in three days, that I needed to re-stock the ETSY store shelves or the money flow would stop and everything would stop.

“I think Cliff has some,” said Susan, “And I have to go out to his farm today.  Do you want to go with?”

I knew Cliff.  He had grown for the Sisters when we ran our cannabis co-op years ago.  I knew he grew organic, but I also knew that he never kept track of his strains, he never cured properly, and he always pulled his crops too soon.  I also knew he was a bit crazy.   Cliff earned his crazy, though, having lost a brother and mother to a home fire, and his dad a few months later to sheer heart-ache.  That was five or six years ago and Cliff has lived as a hermit ever since.  Eschewing people for dogs, and goats.  Trauma changes people.  Cliff’s crazy isn’t really crazy to me.  Pets are healers, and he is just self healing.

Susan agreed to pick me up at noon, and we drove to the bank.  Knowing that we didn’t know what he had, or what he would charge for it, I explained to Sister Susan, “I’m taking out a thousand dollars and I’ll see what it gets us.”

I knew Cliff never went out, never had visitors, didn’t read the local papers, nor pay much attention to news, so I exchanged my habit for lay-clothes.  I was quite sure he didn’t know I had become a nun.

It was 105 degrees out when Susan and I were rolling up on the dusty road in front of his property.  We sat out there with the car idling, basking in the cold air pumping from the vents, while Susan called him to let him know we had arrived.  “There’s no entrance gate to his property,” Susan explained, as she hung up.  “He took it out recently; he said if there is no entrance, any police coming on his property are actually doing breaking and entry.”  I smiled a weary smile.  I knew this would be an adventure.

Cliff arrived in a souped up golf cart.  He had a battery powered hand drill to remove screws from the metal fencing, and I waited and watched from the car, as he also had to untie numerous pieces of twine that were holding bits and pieces of the fence in place.  Reluctantly, we shut off the engine and got out into the hot sun.

“You cut your hair,” he said – his very first words to me.  I think I must have given him a confused look because his next words were, “What happened to your braids?  When I saw you last they hung on your shoulders and I liked them.”

“Hello, Cliff,” I said, smiling and stepping into a stiff hug.  As we stepped through the open section of fence, he got busy re-drilling the metal sheets in place, re-tying the metal bars.  “Get in the cart, Ladies.”

We drove the cart about fifteen feet when he stopped the engine, jumped out, and using keys for multiple locks, opened another gate, drove through.  Stopped, jumped out and re-locked it.  Once through that, we rode across several acres of dusty, sandy, barren land, passing dilapidated structures, the stumps of harvested cannabis plants, and his herd of goats, lying under a canopy that was the nicest structure in view.

He pulled the golf cart onto a little path that led through an open gate at the front of his house.  We walked through an enclosed garden that held approximately twenty mature, un-harvested cannabis plants.  We walked through his house, where the air conditioning felt heavenly, but the noise from the seven yappie dogs unbearable.  Susan took a seat on a recliner, announced that she would wait for us there, and we continued through the kitchen door, out to the back side of the house.  We then walked across a half acre of more flat, dry land to a place where eight mature cannabis plants stood alone waving slightly in the hot wind.

“This is my CBD crop.” He said, pointing to the plants that towered above me in the hot sun.  I shaded my eyes to look up, to assess their height.  I inspected the bud.  “What kind?” I asked. 

“I’m not sure any more.” Cliff answered.  And I smiled, because I was quite sure he wouldn’t know.  I’m quite sure the reason he doesn’t keep track of his strains is because he cannot read or write.  He was raised on that farm.  Even though he is now near sixty, he and his brother and mother and father lived there, and ran the scrap metal business together for nearly forty years.  Then one summer, they all crossed over and left Cliff to care for the dogs – and the goats, and the environmental clean-up of the property.

“This woman brought me seeds she bought from either a dispensary or a seed bank.  They were all labeled and stuff, but I didn’t keep ‘em.  She had cancer, and asked me to grow her CBD.  I was just about to harvest it, and she died.”

“Oh, Cliff, I’m so sorry.” I said.  Just recently, I had a cancer patient reach out to me from Oregon and I played telephone tag with his care-giver for a week, at the end of which, I was notified that the patient died. 

“Oh, I didn’t know her very well,” he explained.  “A friend of a friend, kind of thing.  I don’t even remember her name.  Flo, I think.  Yeah, I think it was that.” 

The patron saint of Sisters of the Valley is Florence Nightingale.  My Grandmother’s name was Florence. I smiled again.  I appreciate synchronicity, even standing under what was by then, a 107 degree mid-day sun.

It appeared to me that the eight plants were from eight different strains.  “Do you remember any of the strain names, Cliff?” I asked, hopefully.

“Cannatonic.” He said.  “That’s the only one I remember.  But she said they were all high CBD.  It’s why I kept them far away from my other plants.  See?  They have their own acre.  I needed to make sure I didn’t mix them up.”  It was quiet for a moment as I wondered how many more weeks before they were ready to harvest.  As if he read my thoughts, Cliff said, “If you take them right now, you can have them.” 

“What?” I asked, totally puzzled.  “They aren’t ready!” 

“Their past ready.” He said.  “I’ve already harvest twenty big-uns, out front!  Didn’t you see when we were driving past the goats?”

“I saw.” I said, and refrained from having a discussion with him that I knew would go no-where.  It was September seventeenth.  No one harvested outdoor this early.  No one did – by choice, anyway. 

“I started a new business.” I began to explain, but he waived me away saying, “I know, I know, you use it to make salves and stuff. You can have it, but you gotta take it now before I shoot someone.  I’m getting my whole crop in because the east avenue gang of tweekers is coming for it.  I’ma cutting this today one way or t’nother.  I was gonna just feed it to my goats, but then Susan called . . .”

“Don’t feed this to the goats!” I said, shocked.  “America is currently sold out of bulk CBD!  People are pre-ordering for Fall harvests!  I would have to ship it in from Europe right now!”

“Well, I tried to give it to the cancer society, but they wanted my social security number, so I had to just hang up the phone.”  I smiled.  This from the man who has a wall-sized American flag hanging in his living room.  He loves his country.  He hates his country.

“Well, Lady, you can have it all, if you want it.”

“Hell, yes, we want it!  Of course we want it.  But, Cliff, this will not all fit in my little Ford.  Let me go get a van, let me call my son . . . “ I pleaded.  It was now past one o’clock and the day was getting hotter.  His whole property was dry dirty-white sand, spotted with tumble weed and cannabis root stalks.

“Don’t you worry about your car.  I’ll make it fit.  Worry about the goats.” He warned, as he started cutting at the base of the tallest of the eight plants.  I put out my arms as forty pounds or more of a cannabis tree was handed to me.  I swear it made me sink two inches down into the sand.  I had sandals on.  I had a linen skirt and blouse and a straw hat and lipstick and mascara and I was about to carry eight huge plants across a half acre of sand, one at a time, and that was just the first part of a multi-part journey to the car.

While I trudged across the sand, I was mentally shaking my head in disbelief.  “Really?  Really, my angels and Guardians?  This is what you want me to do to get CBD?”  But then my other Gemini twin said, “You ungrateful brat!  You just scored ten pounds minimum of CBD bud and ten pounds minimum of CBD leaf and it was donated and you have it for your moon cycle batch!  And you are complaining about the form of delivery?  Suck it up, girl!”  I stood and wiped my brow after dropping the first load.   “You can do this, Kate.” I told myself.

I started to think of Flo, in heaven, watching us and smiling with pride that she managed to get her medicine into good hands.  Cliff and I toiled wordlessly for the next hour, sweat pouring into our eyes, stopping only once to get some water.  When we were done, we had a huge pile by the back door of his house.

“Now you go in and set for a bit,” he said, “While I load up the golf cart.”

“Hey, Cliff, would the goats leave us alone if we give them an offering?  You know, give them each a stalk?” I asked seriously, but Cliff chuckled.  “Not my goats.  They want it all and they know they can have it all.  Nope, we’ll just have to take the long way around the property.  I will get their food out, and that might distract ‘em . . . “  He looked worried.  All I needed was an attack of the goat herd.  I had seen the damage goats could do.

Uitendelijk (finally), Susan and I drove fifteen miles back to the abbey with eight foot cannabis trees hanging out the trunk of the Ford Focus.  He had no plastic bags, no blankets or tarps, and he kept insisting it was all good and that no one would bother us.  When we pulled into the driveway, Susan and I, feeling relieved and victorious, my son came out, took one look at the car, and he was the first to begin scolding us.

“Are you crazy, Mom?  Have you totally lost your marbles?”  He was all puffed up and angry-looking.  Susan and I both had stupid grins on our faces and that just made him madder.  “Who does this?” he asked rhetorically, waving to the tail of the car.  Behind him came Italia.  “What in the f*** are you doing?” he said, rubbing his eyes, as if he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

“It’s CBD.” I announced, “And really, Italia, I would have done it any other way, if I could, but the guy who donated the crop, well, he’s kind of a hermit, and he is dealing with some gang of bandits, and we had no choice but to take it right now.”

“You couldn’t get the van?  Why didn’t you take the van?  Why didn’t you call me?”

“He wouldn’t let me.  I didn’t take the van because I thought it was a business meeting.  Look at me!” I said, lifting my skirts to show him my scratched and dirty feet, my ruined sandals. 

“Don’t stand there talking,” Italia said, “We have to get this into the garage.” 

Later that night, Chico gave me a bunch of words on how my little stunt put the whole house and family at risk of gangsters robbing us.  How driving home with cannabis hanging out of your trunk is the same as announcing that there is cannabis in my home, come rob me. 

“It’s CBD.” I said, knowing that just because it’s non-psychotropic, just because there is no local black market for these strains, doesn’t mean the crooks know that.  As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I regretted them, because Chico hollered “THEY DON’T KNOW THAT, you foolish woman!”

I argued that if they grew my CBD properly, like they did the THC plants, I wouldn’t be in this pickle, but Chico was too clever to accept that argument.  He pointed out to everyone listening that even if their CBD crop had succeeded, the sisters would be out of leaf and bud for this moon cycle, anyway, due to the fact that it wasn’t yet time to harvest.

“You shouldn’t yell at me.” I told Chico.  “I have magical powers.  Look what I did?  I manifested CBD!  Yesterday I had no CBD and today I have racks of it!”  Chico was scowling, so with that, I said my good-nights and scooted off to bed. 

Back in another era of my life, I consulted for newly-deregulated businesses.  Energy, Telecom, Cable.  I learned back then that working in a newly-deregulated business is much like a ride on a bull.  You have to hang on tight.  You have to be determined.  You have to be able to roll with the punches.  If you get thrown, you have to get right back on.  Hours and days of hard work, interspersed with moments of fun and moments of pure terror.

“This is the first batch that I have ever made that I am afraid of.” I commented to Sister Darcy one night prior to beginning the batch.  “We must pray to rid the fear.” I said.

“Why are you afraid, Sister?” 

“The stakes are higher.” I said, simply.  “There is much to lose.  We have stepped onto the world stage.  We are being watched.  People from all over the world are re-ordering and relying on our medicines to manage pain, to help reverse cancer, to reduce seizures.  Our mistakes will have public consequences.”

I didn’t tell young Sister Darcy what I was really worried about.  I didn’t tell her my fear that the lab results would come back upside down, that the CBD to THC ratios would be wrong, that the batch we just invested over a thousand dollars of high quality ingredients to make, might not cut the mustard for shipping out of state, and then the value of the batch reduces by fifty percent, and the store gets neglected, as we turn our energies to the California dispensaries to distribute . . . I didn’t connect all those dots for her.  I didn’t explain that if the worst happens, it would have been better for the goats to eat the CBD.

“If the universe wanted the goats to get the CBD,” she said as she hugged me, “It wouldn’t have delivered it to us, Sister.”  I didn’t believe her, but her hugs are sweet and all I really needed to banish the nagging fear.  It will be what it will be.  And if we get thrown off the bull, we will just have to brush ourselves off and get back on.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

CBD - Not Just for Goats Part I of 2

When I awoke Wednesday morning to the birds chirping outside the window and the smell of the cannabis plants wafting in the air, my first thoughts were of the CBD plants that the Sisters lost.  Or, more accurately, the CBD plants our growers lost.  It caused my brow to furrow.

I had just learned the night before, that most of the crop didn’t make it.  And they didn’t just die recently.  They had died a long time ago and no one bothered to tell me.  The growers don’t care about the CBD plants, I knew that when I went into this venture, but still, I felt a flare of anger that I didn’t want to begin my day with.  I turned over in bed, punching and then re-arranging the pillow under my heard, determined not to get up until the anger was gone.

Think about the plants, Kate, I told myself, but then my other Gemini brain said ‘No, that leads to the grow team and that leads to this epic grow failure and that leads to anger’.  Think about the birds, I told myself, but that led to thoughts of the kittens, which led to thoughts of Chico Junior who brought us those dear ones, which led directly to thoughts of his grow team, which led to the plant losses . . . it was all bad. 

Math.  I’ll do the math, I thought, as I lay there.  I counted the total number of plants my grow team had produced for me since we met a year and a half ago.  I counted how many died and required replacing, and I determined they had a less than ten percent loss rate overall.  That seems reasonable unless you look beneath the statistics and look at the strains.  Nine of fifteen CBD plants died.  What that means is that sixty percent of the CBD plants died, while only two percent of the THC plants died.  I sat up abruptly in bed, appalled at the mathematical evidence.
I recalled Chico shrugging and saying “I guess they don’t like this soil”, as if it were nothing. 

It made me angry.  I got out of bed and went for my coffee.  I tried to ignore the gnawing of my stomach, like antennae, telling me that my carefully constructed ship was about to tank.

I had to face the alarming facts of the matter. 

My growers can’t – or won’t -- grow CBD. 

They are CBD killers.  Then they don’t tell me so there is no chance of replacing them, as is done with the THC plants. 

The Sisters are about to sell out of CBD products. 

The Sisters have no CBD plant medicine in stock in order to make more product.

The Sisters have no proven alternative source for the plant.

That little dream of mine of seeing month over month increase in sales was just shot out of the sky with a shotgun. 

“I guess they just don’t like this soil”, I said, shrugging and mimicking Chico in a not-nice way.   That felt good so I said it again, complete with a shrug.

Damn them.  I knew the CBD plants went in the ground later and I knew they were very small compared to the THC plants, and I knew that some wouldn’t make it.  But the majority died?

I poured cream in my coffee and took it to my office and decided that I was perfectly justified in being angry and I was just going to go with it.  My business partners are a huge disappointment, I announced to my empty office.  That felt good too, so I said it again, louder, and with a whine . . .

Why didn’t they tell me?  My stomach churned at the idea that the plants may have all died a long time ago, and that they held the secret for months, let me talk about the plans for the CBD crop for months, knowing all along that my estimates for harvest were way overstated.  What the hell kind of growers do I have? 

What difference does it make if they are good growers, if they can only grow THC plants and if they withhold important business-impacting facts from me?  Why wouldn’t they tell me?

It was six a.m. and I had people arriving at seven thirty a.m. for a group trip out to the Turlock flea market.  My nephew needed household furnishings for his soon to occupy apartment and the Sisters of the Valley needed a tortilla press for their oil making process.  I poured more coffee, I checked my emails and the ETSY store, and I got dressed.

I spent an hour in my office trying to keep my mind off of the CBD plants and my grow team.  But it was gnawing at me.  ‘Be cool,’ I told myself.  ‘Don’t go blowing up at anyone.’

Over two cups of coffee and a bit of facebook diversion, I calmed down and realized I was just sad.  Sad that people are so disappointing.  Sad that my nature is to expect the best and sadder still that that fact dooms me to an ever-after-land of disillusionment.

I approached Italia about it as soon as I saw him this morning.   He was with his comrades, his fellow farmers, so I probably should have done it privately, but I didn’t feel like sparing feelings.  Mine hadn’t been. 

They were standing in the garden by the plants when I approached. 

“Interesting statistics, Italia.  Did you know that your kill rate on plants is only two percent of all the THC plants that you tend, but sixty percent of the CBD plants?  Isn’t that a horrific variance?”  I asked.

Italia looked around, a sign of nervousness, and said “ah, you noticed that, huh?”

“So when were you going to tell me?” I asked, noticing that the other two workers were wincing as my voice took on that ‘you’re doing battle with me now’ tone. 

“Look,” he said, “we lost three of them before they even went in the ground.”

My eyes went wide at the realization that they began deceiving me the night I believed fifteen plants went in the ground. 

“So, you pretended to plant fifteen when you really didn’t?”  I stopped, realizing the depth and scope of this deceit.

Then I began again, and I didn’t stop for a long while.

“I agreed to do the farm in Mariposa because I needed CBD.  Because the Sisters of the Valley need CBD.  I wanted to plant ninety plants, you guys wanted only sixty.  It went your way.  I wanted fifty percent CBD, you wanted twenty-five percent CBD; it went your way.  Now I am learning that what I really have is ten percent CBD?  And no one told me??

“Jiminy Crickets!” I continued, not waiting for a reply.  “A gopher ate one of the THC plants and you guys called out the troops, spent two hundred dollars on organic gopher treatment solutions, you all stopped everything and tended the gophers but nine of our fifteen CBD plants died and NO ONE mentioned it?  What is the matter with you?”

“I know, I should have told you,” said Italia apologetically, making it practically impossible for me to go on with my speech, but I persevered.   

“So, you wouldn’t know this, but I am in the process of putting together projections, based on sales forecasts and CBD plants, in order to know how much we can make, how much we are going to have to buy, and I was, all along, planning for a thirty pound crop and what did I learn six weeks before harvest time?  The Sisters will be lucky to get six pounds.  And you didn’t tell me?  You didn’t think we would notice?  You were putting it off until harvest?  What were you thinking?”

Italia offered to help us find more.  He felt bad about it.  A few hours later, I delivered the same lecture to the grow foreman, but he wasn’t owning it.  “You should have counted sooner.” He said lamely, “I didn’t know you didn’t know.” He said lamely.  He insisted upon talking about why the plants didn’t make it, instead of talking about what I wanted to talk about, which was why they didn’t tell me when the losses happened.  It made me so angry I had to leave the room to count to ten, to take deep breaths, to come back and not shout.

“One or both of you walked me through fifteen plants the night they were planted and led me to believe they were all CBD.  That happened!  I didn’t imagine it.”

Chico shrugged (again).  “I don’t remember that.” He said.  I wanted to claw his eyes out.

I took a deep breath and then gave him my lecture on how forgiving my nature is, how much I love people and working with people, but, how I also can’t tolerate deception and they were being deceptive, letting me believe something that wasn’t true.  Something the Sisters’ business depends upon. 

I drew circles in the air with my arms.  “This is your world,” I said to Chico, “And you have all kinds of shit going on in that circle.”  Then I drew another circle in the air saying, “This is your circle, Italia, and you have all kinds of shit going on in that circle.  And a third circle, the Sisters, and we have all kinds of things going on as well.  And only do these circles overlap, like a nice Venn diagram, right here (and I held up one hand and pinched my fore-finger near my thumb to make a tiny circle) and only this teeny little place in the diagram do we all overlap.  And it’s about growing.  You grow for the Sisters.  And so the only information the Sisters really need is in regard to the growing.  And though I know an awful lot about everything else in your life and you know an awful lot about everything in mine, you couldn’t keep me informed of the one thing that matters to the Sisters?  Our crop?  What kind of business partner are you, precisely?”

That was Black Wednesday. 

From a business perspective, the loss of the plants was like taking a bat to the knees.  We opened the ETSY store in July, with about four hundred dollars a week in sales and within ten weeks, we were doing triple that and we haven’t yet spent a dime on advertising.  We had a good problem in that we found we were struggling to keep up with demand.  Our large salves have been sold out for nearly a month.

Ever since I came to the Central Valley of California, it was my dream to create a business that would draw wealth from outside the valley.  It’s poor as hell here, and It isn’t helpful enough just to make a product for the poor locals.  It is more helpful to the locals to draw in money from outside the valley, to create jobs for them.  CBD cannabis being sold all over the world – that helps with the mission because eliminating poverty is the best healer.  Alleviate the poverty, cure the people.  And do it on the back of curing others.  I love this business for those reasons.

I went to bed discouraged that night.  I could find CBD leaf and CBD bud on the internet, in bulk, in pounds and I could buy them, but I couldn’t have them by the next new moon.  The American places selling seemed to be sold out and would have you pre-order from their coming Fall harvest.  The European companies took four weeks to ship.  The new moon is this weekend.  I could see the worst happening, like dominoes falling.

No CBD plant meant having no ingredients for the new moon.

No ingredients meant no re-stocking.

No re-stocking meant closing a store that we just opened!   

Tired of the theme of the thoughts rattling in my head and determined to fall asleep quickly, I handed my problems over to a higher power.  Not very elegantly, in hindsight, but a hand-over happened, nevertheless. 

“Hey, you guardians, who are charged with watching over my butt here on the earth plane, I NEED CBD plant!  If you guys don’t want to be guarding a pissy Kate, you should put some serious energy into motion and manifest me some plant.  I will be schitzo-sad and schitzo-mad and maybe even skitzo-bad if I have to close the ETSY store . . .” And having duly unloaded myself, I rolled over and went right to sleep.

My angels had to have worked hard that night, while I slept, because the next day was magical, mystical and mighty!   The very next day the Universe delivered eight (quantity 8) ten-foot tall CBD plants -- fat with leaf, still in the ground but ready to harvest -- directly into my wide open arms.  But that’s another story. 

Stay tuned for part two.