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].
Though there is still snow on the ground from the most recent storm, glints of spring lurk on the horizon. The daffodils are finally starting to flower up here at our higher elevation, though their stems are short and stocky this year because of all the cold and snow. I look forward to the spring flowers every year, and each fall we plant more bulbs to augment the spring beauty and marketability of early bouquets.
As the buds swell and the green sprouts climb from the soil, so too does my blood flow like the sap rising in the trees. I feel energized, empowered, excited as I see the sunrise lighting up the clouds to the East. It’s funny how weather dependent my moods are. Yesterday was cold and rainy and I had a hard time with motivation, but today, with just a hint of sunshine, I’m raring to go.
Once I realized that EVERYTHING is slower than usual, I made peace with a later start to the year. It ceased to matter where I felt like I was in my progression, and I was able to accept the flow of things. This week we’re finally going to start hot crops, with summer squash, peppers, tomatoes and cannabis slated for sowing today. I’m up-planting the round of brassica which managed to limp through the weeks of snow in small cells, and planting out salad mixes with the paperpot transplanter.
I’m still amazed at the combination of 264 cell paperpot trays, drop seeder for rapid sowing, and old-refrigerator-heat-mat germination chamber. 13 trays of salad mixes, turnips, tatsoi, bok choy, arugula and mizuna hold almost 3500 cells but will take only a couple of hours to plant, and took about an hour to sow. Having the jump start of near-perfect germination and rapid growth in the trays, the benefit of maximizing use of row space, and the even planting with limited effort makes for a trifecta of check marks in the WIN column.
Along with increasing efficiency and lowering physical effort with new tools, I’ve been thinking about health and wellness, how my actions each day add up to habits that either benefit or detract from my physical and mental performance and my overall happiness. With the cold, dark days I find myself craving fresh, vital greens. We’ve been eating big salads once or twice a day with meals, consuming a wide variety of leafy greens and root crops.
The salad mix I’ve been working with is a blend of arugula, tatsoi, tokyo bekana, mizuna and the occasional baby kale. Radishes, salad turnips, carrots and beets add a slaw-like blend to the top of the salad, flavoring a sweet crunch that contrasts with the balsamic and olive oil I get at the Laytonville farmers market, and a sprinkling of nutritional yeast for a simple topping.
One of the greatest changes in my food preparation has been an addition of a handheld dicer with a pull string that spins two blades inside the chamber. It was a present from Pops, who has become a culinary wizard, and it makes a huge difference in my meal prep time and enjoyment. I throw in all of the root crops in chunks, pull the string a few times and the dicer cuts them into tiny pieces that are fabulous on the salad. I use it for all the alliums (onions, garlic, shallots, scallions, etc) and it speeds up the process and cuts the tedium of the initial foray into food prep.
I find that I’m healthier and happier when I’m making time to cook and enjoy unhurried meals. So often it’s easy to slip into the mode of “gotta get shit done I’ll just stuff some cheese and crackers in my mouth standing at the counter so I can get back to work”, and this high-pressure type of lifestyle is detrimental to me over time. I’m working on finding peace with the idea that “today I’ll do the things that I get done”, not “I’ll feel good when I finish all the things I want to do today”. The more I can be comfortable with a measured pace and knowing I’ll do what gets done in that time, the better of a job I do because I’m not rushing through to get to the next task.
I’ve been noticing how often I get frustrated at delays or unexpected hiccups in the work, realizing that it’s because I’ve created artificial expectations for myself. The more I can accept the present effort without pressure, the better my life is. It flows from taking the time to be intentional in the broader farmwork, to the growing, tending and harvesting of food, to taking the time to prepare and enjoy the results.
This past week we got away for a few days to Wilbur Hot Springs for some rest and support for sore and tired bodies, and some reflection and spiritual recharge. I thought about my goals for a healthy, happy life. The time away gave me perspective and renewed my willingness and love for the work, and I’m glad to head into the burgeoning spring. As always, much love and great success to you on your journey!