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’ve always been a “good enough” person, as in “yeah that’s good enough to last a while”. Everything on the farm was built to be serviceable for a short time, in part because that was my inclination, but also because as we grew and changed in our operations, our needs for infrastructure changed so much that most things would end up having to be redone anyway.
As we move into our 13th year of market farming and CSA and the beginning of my 40’s, I’m starting to look at infrastructure through a different eye. I’m making a conscious effort to do things all the way till they’re as permanent as I can make them. I keep thinking of the old saying “if you can’t find time to do it right you’ll surely find time to do it twice”.
Many aspects of our vegetable and cannabis operation have solidified enough that they either don’t need further refining, or if they do, we can take the time to make it right. Going through and fixing the fences these past couple months has been a good lesson in this. We put a lot of energy into cutting down t-posts into chunks and staking them between the existing fence posts to keep the wild pigs out, but it was good to know that this is the last time we’ll have to do this job.
I expect we may still see the odd pig incursion since they’re such wiley bastards, but I feel pretty good about the sum totality of our fencing. The t-posts helped, and we also had a number of 12” tall x 16’ hog panel chunks left from old raised beds that we employed on the bottom of the fencing in the weak parts. Because the terrain is so uneven, there were a number of places that needed extra support beyond what the fencing could offer, and the hog panel chunks worked very well.
I have a bad habit of being too optimistic about my time assessments for a given job. I always think we’ll get things done quicker than it will actually take, and this leads me down the road of “good enough” instead of “done right”. Too optimistic of an assessment means that I’m irritable with setbacks or changes and I lose my best and highest self as I strive to achieve a timeline that was flawed from the outset.
When the timeline is appropriate, the work flows well and I feel good about what we’re getting done, instead of finding myself in negative thought loops that are all based on an artificial comparison of expectations. If I can manage my expectations, I find that I can have a much more pleasant work life, which leads to a more pleasant overall existence.
I read somewhere that a good structure for a workday is to spend three hours on the main, big project that is underway, take on 3 shorter tasks and do 3 maintenance activities. This idea struck me because I often get so involved in the big projects that I let the little things and the maintenance slide, until something breaks that demands immediate attention and throws the day off schedule, ruining my expectations and putting me in foul humor.
Am I doing my best or just going through the motions? Am I taking the path of least resistance or am I tackling the hard things so that I don’t leave them for my future self? I’ve been enjoying thinking of my future self as a person, and trying to be aware of the things I’m putting on his plate. Knowing that he will be frustrated if I forsake too much today and leave it for him gives me motivation to make the extra effort to do it right the first time.
Animals are teaching me about doing things right in ways that plants don’t. With plants there are few immediate reactions; bad decisions in animal management have a way of getting out of hand right away. We moved Ms. Piggie to the big barn to be on her own as she approaches birthing time, but the pen we built should have been thought through a bit more. We used the red sheep panels, which are sturdy but not heavy.
When I showed up for feeding the next morning, she had lifted the whole side of the paddock and worked her way out underneath the panels. She ate all the apples and as much of the winter squash as she could fit, and when I arrived I thought she was dead from overeating. It took her a few minutes to gain her feet, swaying as though she might capsize. I coaxed her back into the pen and tied a straw bale to each of the panels, the added weight keeping her contained since then. Once again, lesson learned; do it so well that you know there won’t be an issue, or come back later to find a catastrophe. As always, much love and great success to you on your journey!