Humboldt Stories: Leaving The Life Of A Grow House


All photos by Sharon Letts

Humboldt Stories
“It’s not Weeds, it’s real.”
By Sharon Letts
Caitlin stopped and turned to look one more time at the bed she had shared with Jake for more than five years. Part of her felt a pang of sadness — of not wanting to leave — and that was an odd feeling, considering the neglect and abuse she had suffered in his care.
She picked up her pillow and put it under her arm. The bed looked empty and small. The room unfamiliar with her lovely things removed.
She would not miss the lifestyle of living in a grow house. Especially one in a tract house community where no one says hello — it was like living in a strange Twilight Zone episode where your house was quarantined off from the rest of the world. A neighborhood where you couldn’t chat over the picket fence and say, “Would you like to come in for a cuppa?” That is, unless it was understood the “cuppa” was a “bowl of,” with a wink.

She likened it to Christians in the day of Jesus making the fish sign in the sand, signaling one’s faith. Only in Humboldt, it was that big, illusive pot leaf pressed idealistically into a soft pile of figurative redwood mulch.

In the beginning everything was mysterious — like espionage. She was Jake’s comrade in the fight to subsidize, and everything had to do with how much they could get for a pound.
If you asked her today, she’d say the sound of fans in the back room irritated her, kept her up at night, and made her feel guilty. She smoked more than she ever had living with Jake and was looking forward to a reprieve.
Some would say that growers were a lazy lot, who smoked their profits away, but she knew better now. It was hard, tedious work with long hours and fear added to the mix. It’s showing no income to speak of, yet renting a three bedroom house with a PG&E energy subsidy.
“Won’t they know we don’t deserve this break in our energy bill by the amount we use?” she asked, naively.
“Every third house in this neighborhood is a grow house, maybe more,” he’d say in an irritated tone. “Everyone’s usage is up and PG&E sure doesn’t hesitate collecting the cash.”
Still, using sixty percent more energy than an average household made her feel dirty. They ate organic produce and truly cared about the environment – yet they recycled everything but the big, white, plastic gallon jugs of organic fertilizer because they didn’t want to be “seen” at the local recycling yard. There was curbside pick-up, but you could be found out by having those jugs in your recycling bin. It was a strange and confusing world, to be sure.
And then there was the paradox of good medicine, and Caitlin believed in its medicinal values.
Jake wouldn’t listen to any of it. He liked to smoke, liked the habitual ritual of cutting up the bud, loading the bong, one hit after another. He wouldn’t listen to her ramblings after consulting with a doctor on too much THC from smoking.

“One or two hits helps me relax, more than that and I’m nervous and, well, just stoned, unable to function — not getting things done,” she’d lament. “Dr. Courtney said 10 grams of raw bud juiced is medicinal,” she’d advised Jake. “He said, when you heat up just 10 miligrams of THC it becomes psychotoxic, and you are just severely stoned.”
“I like smoking it,” is all Jake would say. There was no reasoning with him, and no living with a habitual user who wouldn’t even try a tincture for his chronic pain.
She could hear Jake’s truck pull into the driveway. She had hoped he’d stay away until she was gone, but he couldn’t leave her alone. He could no longer control her, but he still had a hold on her emotions. It’s all he had left of her.
“One bong hit before you go?” he asked, as she walked outside past him.
“Another defining moment,” she thought to herself.

“I’m good, but thanks,” she answered trying to hold back tears. That was the only way he knew to show affection, she thought. He was just a pot head in a grow house, chasing grow girls — and that’s all he’d ever be – no higher aspirations – pun intended.
Caitlin put her pillow on the seat next to Nick and watched Jake go into the house, alone.
“It took a couple of hours to move in with him,” she said aloud, “and a couple of hours to move out.”
“Truck’s full; you ready?” Nick said with a kind smile. He knew how hard this was for her, though bittersweet.
They say make one change and the rest will follow.
Caitlin was on her way to a better life. Nick had fixed up a small cabin for her next to the apple orchard. She would help with the production and business. They would be friends and partners, forging the world of Canna-by-products together – making infused hard cider and other healing remedies.
She would grow medicinal herbs and experiment with salves, lotions and oils. The future looked bright and Caitlin wanted to see it without the prohibition of cannabis. 
Driving out of the neighborhood, Caitlin saw a few neighbors coming and going from houses to cars. She didn’t wave goodbye. She didn’t dare.

Sharon Letts
Editor’s note: Sharon Letts began her love of gardening in Southern California by her mother’s side, watching as she buried fish heads at the base of roses.

At 24, Sharon hung her shingle, “Secret Garden,” planting flower beds for dainty ladies. Gardening led to producing and writing for television with “Secret Garden Productions.”

Today Sharon makes her home in Humboldt County, cannabis capitol of the world, where she continues to write about gardening and all that implies, advocating for the bud, and writing for many magazines, including Toke of the Town.

Her series, “Humboldt Stories,” is a fictional account, based on fact, of the Humboldt grow scene. Tag line: “It’s not Weeds, it’s real.”

She also pens “Road Trip: In Search of Good Medicine,” touring the Golden State, following the Green Rush.