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].
I love the feeling of “right thing at the right time”. So often I feel pulled in multiple directions, but there are times when I think to myself “this is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing right now.” Yesterday was one of those days, planting kale, collards and bok choy to fill a hoophouse that will provide for our kitchens and market table through the winter.
Starting trays of seeds in the propagation house is easy, a short and simple task, but one that sets in motion a cascade of effects, from bed prep to planting to tending and harvest. The trays of young plants call out to me with an insistence, and I carry the burden of planting as one of many feelings of urgency on the farm.
Though it is self-inflicted (after all, I made the decision to start the seeds), the need for planting can be a heavy weight on a busy schedule, and there are times when plants languish in the hoophouse causing anguish in my mind. The 600 or so starts that I planted yesterday were like that; I worried that I had waited too long, but it worked out just right in the end and I enjoyed the feeling of right work as I placed their roots into the soil.
Things have been very up-and-down of late. We’re struggling with late-season water issues as the springs we use for drinking and household use are slowing down and the occasional cloud cover makes it difficult to pump using solar. Our ag water from the pond is holding out well, and with less crops to irrigate now that the bulk of the cannabis harvest is over, it’s nice not to stress about irrigation, balancing the spring water issues.
Last night I set up a mattress pad on the now-defunct bee stand at the bottom of the garden, and lay out under the stars with a rifle in wait for the pigs that continue to raid most nights. It wasn’t too cold at first, and I wore my space-man suit, which is a 1980’s polyester snowboarding onesie that I wear to stay warm at parties. I’ve never been what I would call a hunter, but it seems clear that the time has come for further action.
The pigs have ripped out the bulk of the remaining squash plants, digging in the soil and ravaging the terraces. I’ve been up two or three times a night when Emma barks, running around the garden with a bright light scaring them off, but it’s getting old. Now that the moon is starting to come back, I’ll be out on the platform hoping to make a dent in the population.
As I dozed in wait, the air cooled and dew arrived, chilling me even through the warm layers of my space-man suit and warm clothing. At midnight I climbed down, feeling stiff and uncomfortable and called it a night. I resolved to bring a sleeping bag for the next foray, and headed back up to the house. Though I wasn’t successful in shooting a pig, I feel good about establishing a new paradigm in which I am willing and able to create the conditions under which I might have success in further attempts.
It’s much harder to do something you’ve never done before than it is to repeat and refine an action, and I’m glad to have moved from a theoretical “I guess I could set up on the bee platform” to “next time I’ll spend the whole night out and hopefully get some meat for the freezer”. I’ve been pretty demoralized by my lack of ability to do anything about the pigs, so it feels good to have a direction and set of actions that may help.
I’ve been cycling through the ups and downs as a long season draws towards its finish. I feel great about the harvests we’ve brought in; this is our best crop of cannabis yet, and we did well with pumpkins, winter squash and have canned and processed more tomatoes and peppers than ever before. Sales have been strong at market, and I feel deep appreciation for the support of the community.
The pigs and water troubles weigh on me, and I’m tired and struggling with some burnout as I work to get winter crops in the ground, but I find strength in the efforts. Our expanded animal husbandry efforts bring me great joy, though there is much to be done to carry into winter with more pigs, chickens and rabbits than we have ever had before. I’m finishing up this writing as the clock approaches 5:30, at which time I’ll join Pops to process jalapenos and carrots, and also pickled turnips and beets. Overall, I have no complaints and am glad for the life I lead. As always, much love and great success to you on your journey!