Friday, February 26, 2021

Remnant: Growing Capacity

“Is there any chance you know Dan O’Sullivan?” Mayor Wagner asked Jarrell.

“Yeah. I do. As a matter of fact he watches my dog when I am working” Jarrell said. “How did you know?”

“As mayor, it is my business to know a lot of stuff” the Mayor deflected.

It was not much of a guess.

Jarrell came to town every morning with the rank skunky/cat-piss smell of weed clinging to him. He didn’t smoke but his girlfriend Ashley and her mother Krystal were heavy smokers.

Danny was the biggest grower in town. Dan O’Sullivan and Jarrell graduated from high school the same year.

Two plus two equals four.

Danny O’Sullivan was the biggest residential consumer of electricity in Eaton Rapids by a very, very wide margin. The snow on the roof of the 24-by-48 foot pole barn behind the O’Sullivan house never stayed very long after if fell, even in the coldest of weather. 15,000 Watts of electrical loading will do that.

Recreational cannabis is legal under Michigan state law but the number of plants that a person can grow was limited. Danny solved that problem by (on paper) leasing out room in his pole barn. Then he had paper-work designating him as the caretaker of those plants. He accepted payment in-kind...that is, he kept nearly all of the crop.

As long as Danny didn’t sell to minors there was not much the Mayor could do about it so he just looked the other way.

Now the Mayor was going to ask Danny to shut down the grow business until the terrorism stopped. He did not expect it to go well but that was beside the point. For Wagner to have any moral authority to ask others to make sacrifices, he had to take the bull by the horns and confront the biggest power user in town.

Jarrell listened to the Mayor while he outlined the problem and his thinking. He didn’t ask any questions.

Jarrell and the Mayor were lost in their respective thoughts as they trudged to the north end of town.

Jarrell let the Mayor do the talking.

Mayor talked about the rapidly dropping pressure in the natural gas feed-lines. He talked about the need for conservation. He pointed out that if nothing changed the utility would not be able to deliver power to Danny’s operation anyway….so would Danny consider pulling the plug NOW to smooth the transition for his neighbors.

Danny was stunned. It had never occurred to him that the events in the news would impact his operation.

“I won't. I can’t” was all Danny said. Every week Danny planted the seeds for the plants he would harvest in 13 weeks. Half of those weeks involved growing the plant. The second half involved the formation and ripening of the “bud”. Pulling the plug meant he might be able to salvage two-weeks of inferior “bud” and some leaf but it would mean he would have, at a minimum, a 13 week period with no product.

In Danny’s mind, it was a no-go.

Jarrell spoke up for the first time. “Can you taper-down. If you knew the power-plant couldn’t supply you power long-term, is there a way you could reduce your use or speed up ripening?”

“I suppose I could turn off the lights in the 1-through-7 week plants portion of the building. Those run 24 hours a day. The ripening half only runs twelve hours.” Danny said. “Summer is coming and I can probably make that production back growing outside.”

“OK, that just reduced use by two-thirds” Jarrell said.

“Not quite” Danny said. “I cram the young plants closer together so the footprint is smaller. It won’t be that much of a reduction.”

Danny was in a dammed if he did and damned if he didn’t situation.

Then Jarrell had an idea. “What if you bought a generator?”

In an instant Danny was on his smart-phone checking stores and auction sites. Generators were being offered for ten-times retail and were being snapped up within seconds. Jarrell was not the first person with that idea.

“No” Danny said after a minute. "The market for generators is white-hot. I can't get a bid in edgewise."

But that was enough to trigger a thought in the Mayor’s head. The proverbial light-bulb went off above his head.

“Tell you what. If you buy the magneto, I am sure the City has a diesel tractor with a PTO that can drive it. I will LOAN you the tractor if you supply the diesel fuel* and feed the power into the grid during the twelve hours you are not running the lights” the Mayor proposed.

It would mean getting Richards over to ensure the controls to match phase were adequate, but it looked like a way for Danny and the Mayor to both have their pie and eat it, too. 

"How do I know you will keep your word?" Danny asked.

The Mayor extended his hand. "We will shake on it."

It was a novel experience for Danny. Most officials looked down their nose at Danny. They eagerly took his money but then treated him like a social pariah. Mayor Wagner hadn't asked for any money. He just offered a business deal that was to their mutual advantage.

Danny shook the Mayor's hand.

Seconds later, Danny was on his phone and looking at generators sans motors. They were a hot item but not as hot as self-contained units. He purchased the first 15kW, PTO driven generator head that was anywhere close to Michigan. He had no doubt he could sell it locally if things with the City didn't work out.

Many people around town owed Danny favors. The only hard part might be finding somebody who wasn’t too stoned to drive to Kansas City to pick up the unit.

A half-hour later, Jarrell and Jim Morris were driving Mayor Wagner's personal, 2004 Silverado west out of Eaton Rapids to pick up the generator in Kansas City. Danny and Mayor Wagner agreed that it would take too long to ship it and the seller might sell it again at a higher price. He might not do that if he knew two guys were already on their way to pick it up.

Danny was already thinking of how he could split the ripening plants into two groups and alternate the twelve hours of light between them. If he did it right, he could put the smaller plants on pallets and shuffle them from one side to the other and he could use the space in the aisles to keep most of them growing.

*Back of envelop calcs: A 30hp tractor is recommended to run a 15kW gen-head. An efficient 30 hp turbo-diesel will use about 1.5 gallons an hour or 36 gallons every day at peak power.



  1. Alternator, or generator head, not magneto.

    1. Hello Mr B.

      I think I will leave it "magneto". The mayor is a politician and sold insurance for a living. I cannot make him too perfect. Grabbing the wrong word is one of those forgivable imperfections.

      And thank-you very much for pointing out the error.


  2. First time commenter but daily reader here-- I like your blog and your fiction.

    Small detail point: most commercial cannabis growers propagate with cloned cuttings. Clones jumpstart the growth process, and allowing plants to go to seed reduces crop yield and quality.


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