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 needed these last few days of decent weather like a thirsty man needs water. It’s amazing how much like plants we are; the sun comes out and everyone perks up. I’m starting to get my shit together, climbing out of the hole that the storm left me in, though it will be awhile before everything is put to rights, and the farm won’t be back on schedule this year.
During the early part of the melt-off there seemed an unending realization of breakages, messes and damage, but when the sun came out I started to feel like maybe I could chip away at it. I repaired the blown water line, got the irrigation running in the hoophouses, cleared the large oak branches off of two tunnels and got the animal quarters back to normal.
When the snow came we cinched the chicken run down to a small area made up of the coop, the stout chicken tractor and a small run in between the two protected by metal fencing. The electric poultry netting is useless with deep snow, so the smaller area provided a safe haven to keep predators away from the birds, but nobody was happy about it and it felt good to get the fencing back to normal and give the birds more space to range. Fresh straw in the pig enclosures made a big difference, and they had more space to move once the snow melted back down.
There’s something to that feeling of spring cleaning, when I get a break from winter and start to set things to rights it reaches all the way down to the soul, the deep core of my humanity. I start to feel a sense of forward motion, an awakening that holds the essence of “hope springs eternal”. The first daffodils are starting to unfurl, though they’re only about 4 inches tall this year. The sight of them gladdens my heart.
The last patches of snow are melting, though there are still big piles in the places where it came off the roofs. The wash-pack area still has a large mound but I’ve made a path along the sinks so we can harvest for market tomorrow. The main faucet on the 3-tub sink blew up, so I’ve ordered a new one and we’ll make do for the time being.
I was pleased to find that despite the crazy weather many of the crops continued in the hoophouses and I have a decent amount of salad mix and cooking greens to pick this week. It seems like things will run fine for a couple of weeks and then I’ll hit the production gap caused by 3 weeks of not farming, but it was a pleasant surprise to find salable veggies which will bring some needed income to the farm.
The last part of February and the early part of March is normally the biggest seed-starting time of our year, so with nothing to show for that period I’m having to rework my planning and projections, shooting from the hip and waffling between optimism and overwhelm as I try to figure out what will be possible. This will be a year of late hot crops and with a big spring gap it’s going to be hard to maintain a late spring/early summer market table. I’m considering a shutdown when we hit the gap, but will just have to wait and see how it all progresses.
With one of my main spring crop hoophouses destroyed it has thrown a wrench into the works. Even after the long hiatus, I have trays of paperpot starts that are still ok to plant, so I’m juggling space in the other hoops to get these crops in the ground before they’re too stunted to bounce back. Today is planting day, and I’m excited to get my hands back in the dirt and start moving forward again.
As with most things in life, my situation could be worse, and my natural optimism is starting to reassert itself as I make slow progress. I’m striving to find balance with the various aspects of our operations; we have more livestock than ever before, which takes time away from the vegetable operation, and when cannabis season begins that will add another layer to the planning and execution.
With needed infrastructure improvements and maintenance to consider, things are just going to be slower this year and I won’t be pushing my production goals so hard. Last year was a banner year for overall veggie production and sales, and though it’s hard to scale back when the market demand is there, I’m recognizing the course I need to take. One step at a time goes life and farm, as always, much love and great success to you on your journey!