Humboldt Stories: Housesitting A Marijuana Grow


Sharon Letts

“It’s Not WeedsIt’s Real.”

By Sharon Letts
Nick took the leash down from the hook on the wall. “Here, boy!” he said to the carefree mutt, galloping toward him. “Let’s go for a walk!”
Walking Buster was the hardest part of watching his friend’s house. It meant he had to walk around the neighborhood with the dog, without making eye-contact with the neighbors.
“Just don’t offer any information,” Jake lectured. “I don’t even know their names,” he added. “And they don’t know mine, and that’s the way we all like it.”
Jake said there were a lot of grow houses here in Cutten. The town was an old, established neighborhood in Humboldt’s County seat, and still considered a family neighborhood with parks, a school and a town center. 
This was just one of Jake’s houses and no one lived here. A four-bedroom California ranch-style, with four grow rooms for the ladies and a false room in the garage for growing babies. Nick was just one of several house-sitters keeping watch at any given time.

Unlike other neighborhoods he worked in, you could still see the occasional mom walking with a stroller, and parents walking kids to school in the morning.
Nick quickly led the dog out of the cul-de-sac and onto the busier street of Walnut. “Less people wondering who I am on this street,” he thought, averting his eyes from a passing car.
School was letting out and he had a moment of dread as carpool moms filed past him in a sea of mini-vans. “Note to self: don’t walk dog during school rush.”
Back at the house Nick rinsed out Buster’s water dish and filled it up again, reminding himself to dump the humidifier in the big room.
“It was nice outside, eh boy?” he said, patting him on the head. If only he could open a window or the blinds for some light. But that wasn’t going to happen.
The list of haves and have-nots lies face-up on the kitchen table. “No open curtains or shades, no open blinds. When opening front door, make sure hallway curtain is pulled shut. When opening grow room door, make sure other doors to outside doors are blocked…” The list went on and on.
The house was always too warm from the hot lights in the grow rooms, and no matter how many fans were on back there you could still smell the green of thriving plants. Well, thriving except for the occasional spider mite, but that’s another story altogether.
Nick propped pillows on the open futon in the living room and eyed the cover of an old North Coast Journal, “Best Weed Strains.”
“How would they know,” he laughed to himself. “Let’s see what they think…’OG Kush’ and ‘Headband,’ well, I can agree with Headband – that’s stuff’s killer. Wonder if they even know what the ‘OG’ stands for. Obviously not, or they wouldn’t spread the lie of its So Cal creation. Ocean Grown in Petrolia, on Humboldt soil, assholes.”
The futon felt hard as a rock. Jake said he could sleep in the bedroom, but the noise from the fans was deafening, so he slept on the couch in the living room. Not that he slept much. All of the work was done at night when the lights in the rooms were on.
Last night was exhausting, first pinching back larger plants, then spraying babies with Neem for the never ending mite situation, then fertilizing. Feeding the plants was a bear, as Jake’s notes were always sketchy and each set of plants had different requirements at various stages. 
Nick stuck the pH tester into the runoff water in the drain dish under the more mature ladies and checked the meter. “Six-point-eight, time for vinegar,” he whispered to himself.
There were at least 15 one-gallon jugs of fertilizers to choose from in Mike’s garage and he used them all – Tiger Bloom, Big Bloom, Open Sesame, Beastie Bloom, Bio Bud, Bio Weed, you name it. He was always amazed at the amount of stuff needed to get a few pounds out of this small, four-room grow.
The money was good at a hundred bucks a day, but his better side felt guilty about the waste, the runoff and the energy consumed. He read that grow houses use 60 percent more than the average household. And most of the growers he worked for didn’t recycle all those big, plastic jugs of “organic” fertilizer for fear of being found – either at curbside, or at the recycle yard.
Regulations are out the window too, with spraying without a mask or bending over in cramped spaces a given  with no complaint department, and no Christmas ham.
Yes, everything about this gig was bleak with no future, sans a bigger black market grow to tend.
Nick pulled the brochure from the Small Business Center out of his backpack. “Developing a Business Plan,” he read the first entry aloud. 
Outside a car door slammed. The dog began to bark wildly. Inching the curtain away from the blinds, he carefully peeked out and held his breath.