“It’s not Weeds, it’s Real.”
By Sharon Letts
Nick turned off Myrtle Ave onto Park Street, and down a dirt road. Caitlin had been living in a trailer on someone’s property since leaving Jake. Today, they were traveling together to an historic apple orchard he was looking to restore, with an eye on good medicine.
“Why shouldn’t cannabis be grown with food,” he argued to a circle of self-righteous, back-woods growers. “Why shouldn’t farmers be allowed to include Cannabis and Hemp?”
“Because they will throw your ass in Federal prison,” someone responded to howls of laughter.
Caitlin was waiting at the end of the road, smiling and waving as he pulled into the drive.
“Forgive me for not inviting you in,” she said, a little shy about her new digs. “The good news is, Jake is NOT inside!”
“No worries, Caitlin,” Nice countered quickly. Not wanting to add to the awkwardness. “How about them apples?” he winked, and they both shared a laugh.
“Did you know there is a doctor that lives in this neighborhood with more than 100 varieties of apples on just one acre?” Nick informed, veering the conversation away from “Jake the Jerk,” as he liked to call her old boyfriend.
“I did not know that,” Caitlin said, visibly impressed, and grateful for the change of topic. “They grow this close to the coast?”
“Some do,” he said. “I also read that one apple can produce many varieties, and because of this little known fact, Johnny Appleseed was a lush.”
“What?” Caitlin said, raising her eyebrows in disbelief. “I thought he was a do-gooder, spreading the love of apples through the land.”
“Nope,” Nick countered. “He was spreading the love of hard cider throughout the country. It was the beverage of choice to the Brits, and the colonists were no different. It’s what I’m going to make, you know?”
“I remember,” Caitlin said, as they turned onto Highway 101, and headed south to Highway 36 to Carlotta.
In Humboldt County all one needed to do was drive about one hour or less inland, away from the coolness of the coast, to feel the warmth of the sun.
Caitlin rolled down her window, stuck her head out, closed her eyes, and felt the sun on her face.
Nick smiled. It was a perfect morning and he couldn’t think of anyone else he wanted to share this moment with as he turned onto Orchard Lane and into an apple orchard begging a second chance.
Carlotta, named after the daughter of lumber baron, John M. Vance, who laid out the town in 1903, is comprised of pasture land and forests winding along the picturesque Van Duzen River, 11 miles east of Fortuna – the largest neighboring town, and 35 miles south east from the County seat of Eureka.
“It’s the perfect location for distribution,” he had said to Caitlin during a workshop at the Northern California Small Business Development Agency not long ago.
“Shakefork Farm is growing grain out here now,” Nick informed. “They are young farmers with an eye to the future. Did you know that in Humboldt County, up until 50 years ago, we were completely self-sufficient?
“How so?” Caitlin asked.
“Grain,” Nick advised. “A community that grows grain and can make their own oil is more self-sufficient that a society dependent on big trucks and diesel fuel trucking it in from far away. Ranching is making a big comeback too – with lighter-on-the-land, small foot-printed animals – like goats, rabbits and fowl.”
Nick wanted to be part of the change that was inevitable, not just in agriculture, but with good medicine in the mix. Caitlin liked that.
Doty was waiting for them in front of the house, wringing her hands dry on an apron, then smiling and waving.
“She said she was born in this house,” Nick said, smiling and waving back.
Caitlin looked at the farmhouse and its gabled windows, wrap around porch and gingerbread along the windows. Her eyes followed the dirt path back alongside the house to the neat rows of apple trees beyond and thought, “That could be me wearing that apron. This could be home.”
The old farmstead had thrived for decades as an apple orchard, feeding its lineage, surviving the great depression, and the rise and fall of the lumber industry – only to fail at the hands of indoor growers.
Doty had told him she couldn’t keep it up any longer and most of the family had moved away. “No work here – no wages either,” she said during one of many phone conversations leading up to this visit. The industry had taken her trust away, and it took several tries for Nick to get this visit.
Doty was settling for an income through leasing the farm out through retirement, but past renters had thrashed the place with an indoor grow. Now she was looking to partner with someone to bring the orchard back. Nick wasn’t quite sure if she was senile or sincere.
“Welcome to my family’s farm,” Doty said, a warm, inviting smile on her face. She liked the look of them. The young woman put out her hand in greeting. She seemed down to earth, friendly. She liked her instantly.
“I love your farm,” Caitlin said, nearly tearing up.
Doty took Caitlin’s hand in hers, and with the wisdom of her years said, “I think this farm loves you too.”