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 woke up this morning feeling carpentry sore, which is different from farming sore. We’re tearing off the south wall of Pops’ house and replacing all the woodpecker damaged siding with new plywood and then cement fiber-board over the top. Yesterday we got the scaffolding up to the height we needed, some twenty four feet above the ground, and got the tear-down of the old materials almost done.
The metal scaffolding frames are stout and not super light, but they’re nothing compared to the heavy composite boards that make up the scaffold decking. Hauling them up in the air is no joke, and I’m feeling it today, but there’s something about being that high up in the air and being able to do the work comfortably that feels damn good. The job wouldn’t even be possible but for the fact that Unc has built up such a good stock of scaffolding over his decades in construction, and we’re super grateful for the use of it.
Dusting off the old carpentry tools feels good. It’s been ten years since I worked in the building trades, and I look back on those times with a great fondness. After I finished my short jail stint for cultivation, my probation officer required me to have a job and my uncle was awesome and hired me to work on the mountain construction crew. It was a great experience for me, learning the ins and outs of the building trades, from foundations to framing to roofing, plumbing, and electrical, although I never got much good at finish work because I lack the patience.
I loved the rhythm and routine of the work, of seeing a project rise up from the ground into a framed structure and finally to someone’s home. We built houses, sheds, cabins and did remodels and repair work over the years I worked on the crew, and I gathered the tools of the trade one at a time as money allowed. For the last ten years those tools have seen occasional use, but today will be the first time I’ve used my nail gun in years.
The continuity of the building trades in my life goes all the way back to childhood when Pop was a carpenter and I went to work with him. Some of my favorite childhood memories were from job sites; I was the cleanup guy and I would nail off siding or flooring. At first I had to use two hands to swing the hammer, but as time went on I got stronger and faster, hammering with my left hand and setting the nails with my right. I remember learning to tie my shoes at lunch one day, and I loved having my lunch box packed with sandwiches, chips and cookies for dessert just like the men on the crew.
The crew built a deck for a neighbor, and I worked all week nailing off decking and doing cleanup. At the end of the week on the way to work Pops said to me “a fella’s gotta know what he’s worth, so think about what your wages should be and you can tell the homeowner what he owes you for your work”. It felt almost too big for me to manage, but I thought it through hard and when it came time for pay I said that I felt like I had earned $40.
Our neighbor chuckled a little and asked me “you were here every day this week and worked hard right?” I nodded nervously and he said “how bout $80?” I was ecstatic, in part because of the money and in part because it meant that my work was valued at twice what I expected. Those early experiences working mostly with Pops but sometimes with the whole crew imprinted me with a sense of work ethic and camaraderie in shared effort that I treasure.
Grandpa was a tradesman and his motto was always “Let us be happy in our work”. The saying has been handed down, a well-worn and much loved articulation of our effort in the world. There is always work to be done, so let’s do it with a smile and a few jokes to keep things moving and fun.
When we were first contemplating the current project I felt overwhelmed by the effort, with the background of farm work hanging over me and my rustiness in construction, but we’ve made such strong strides already that I’m feeling almost excited about the project. The farm is in a brief downbeat thanks to all the hard work in the last few weeks, and I’m forestalling the fall brassica plantings a bit to buy some time. The only time I was caught up was the time I thought I was caught up, but I’m feeling good about things. As always, much love and great success to you on your journey!