This is our farm column from farmer Casey O’Neill. O’Neill is the owner operator of HappyDay Farms north of Laytonville, and a long time advocate for the cannabis community in Mendocino Co; more of his writing can be found here. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer. If you would like to submit a letter to the editor feel free to write to [email protected].
The Bell Springs Volunteer Fire Department Benefit was a great success indeed! It takes a village, and I’m so thrilled to be part of the community, to work together to raise needed funds and to have a great time doing it! There is so much joy in gathering, in shared effort, and it reminds me of what I value and how I want to be in the world.
After the recent fire that came right up to the edge of our farm, our work to foster and maintain a volunteer fire department has taken on even more significance in my life. We started our efforts after the 2008 Lightning Complex fires, and we’ve grown a little bit each year, raising funds for new equipment, doing the work of training together and learning to communicate and share the effort amongst the community.
It was a lot of work to make the Benefit come together, and the willingness of many helping hands made it a joyful experience. Big shout out to Michelle Delean for her skill as an event producer, guiding the process and pulling the many strings together for an outstanding evening of food, fun and fundraising.
We’ve always held the Benefit up on the hill, but this year we ventured down to Tan Oak Park, tucked in the woods right off of 101. The green grass and shady trees made such a welcome, with a gorgeous amphitheater surrounded by young redwoods planted with the intention of fostering a circular gathering space. Big gratitude to the community at Tan Oak for hosting us and for creating such a stellar venue!
Moving down off the hill made more room for gathering, with needed amenities that enabled a much larger showing of attendees. I was thrilled to see how many people came out in support, and I loved the musical lineup. Gratitude to all the musicians who took the time to play for us, making joyful noises and building on the general brevity of the evening, and to everyone who came out in support!
So many folks pitched in to help make the food, from tamales and taco plates with all the fixins to a thorough dessert table with goodies for sale by donation. Big thanks to everyone for working so hard to make a good meal for everyone, and for the tasty libations that were much enjoyed. We’ve always been a potluck-style community and it brings me great joy to see all the good things that people show up with.
The Fire Department raffle is one of the highlights of my year and has become a strong tradition in my life. Community members and businesses donate prizes and our firefighters cut a cord of wood each year as one of the grand prizes. As time has gone on, the list of raffle prizes has grown abundant and I’m lucky enough to get to play the emcee for the raffle drawing. I’ve always enjoyed the theater of public speaking and being up in front of people, and I love getting to pull names out of the hat for goodies, emphasizing the joys of community and bantering my way through the drawing.
The final tally isn’t in yet but I’m certain that we raised a large chunk of funds and that we all had a great time. One of the things I love about the small-town feeling is that so many of the gatherings are done with a specific purpose, usually to raise funds for local nonprofit organizations.
In stark reminder of our reasons for being a volunteer fire department, I awoke this morning to the thickened smoke that blew in overnight. As I went about my morning chores I felt the air dragging at me, the lower oxygen levels slowing my footsteps and adding a layer of fatigue to the work. I tell myself to go slow, not to overdo it. Later, when I feel the late afternoon tiredness I will remind myself that it comes with the smoke and try to be more patient with myself and everyone around me.
Summer is a time of great joy and great difficulty. The heavy effort makes the results all the sweeter, like the first melons on the vine. I count my blessings and remember the things I’m grateful for as an antidote to burnout and fatigue. The work continues hand-in-hand with joy. As always, much love and great success to you on your journey!