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].
Pink sky at sunrise, a comfortable feeling of self-care and balance in the work. We spent the last two days camping on the coast, came home yesterday for some chores and checking on things, and are headed back out again today. The last few years we’ve begun something of a tradition of camping and rest during the week after Labor day, a brief respite before the onslaught of harvest.
Yesterday, after we got home and unloaded, I pumped water, checked tanks and restocked the farmstand. A farm walk-through confirmed that everything was on track and looking good, and the heavy scent of flowering cannabis delighted my nostrils and tickled my fancy. Salad mix is growing nicely and will be back in full supply for our return to markets this coming week.
The seasonal downturn can be tricky to manage in terms of marketing; each transition between seasons leaves a gap in which the new crops aren’t yet producing but the old ones are winding down. With the cooler weather last week the spider mites and powdery mildew have begun to get the best of the cukes after a glorious run, and the beans are pretty much done after limping along for a while.
I had a task to plant the broccoli, cauliflower and romanesco before heading back out on the second sojourn, so I set to working as the shadows lengthened. I laid out the plants in the bed we had prepped over the weekend, just above the row of personal use cannabis that has some interesting sativas, a couple DOCs OG, Sour D, Ogre Berry x ACDC, Apples and Bananas, Pink Boost Goddess and a Trainwreck. I’m going for a wide variety this year for head stash, and the various aromas of sweet, skunk, funk and floral were a delightful background bouquet as I worked to get the brassica in the ground.
As the sun lowered and evening crept in, I reveled in the changing season, the planting of food for winter and the health and vitality surrounding me. Winter squash in different stages, some finishing out gorgeous orange pumpkins and the later succession still in the vibrant stage of vegetative growth. Comfrey is everywhere awaiting harvest for animals and digging for replanting and propagation in new areas. Flowers bloom in their beds awaiting harvest for bouquets, while the renegade sunflowers are in full riot all over the garden where they have moved of their own accord with assistance from the birds that frolic among them.
In another sign of abundance we had piglets born on the farm this week. Ms. Piggie and her daughter Sweetie both birthed healthy, unassisted litters, 5 for Sweetie and 7 for Ms. Piggie. We lost one a few days later, so there are 11 super cute tiny piglets scampering around and piggie piling for nap time.
The piglets were sired by the KuneKune boars we brought home last winter, and mark a new step in our farm journey as we move into full Kune genetics. We slaughtered our previous boar this year, in part because he had become occasionally aggressive and in part because his KuneKune x Guinea Hog genetics weren’t what we desired for the long term.
KuneKunes are a heritage breed from New Zealand, super mild and mellow and bred to survive on whatever is available. In lean times they still make gains, and they put on a lot of fat very easily, especially if they’re fed too much grain and not exercised enough. We eat a lot of lard, so we’re happy to have the extra fat, but this time of year we’re feeding very little grain with mostly an apple and summer squash diet, and the pigs are thriving. Kunes are slower growing, taking a year to eighteen months to reach full market weight, but they’re very capable of growing without intensive feeding and we love their mild temperament that allows the children to interact with them without nervousness for the adults. They don’t test fences much if they’re fed well, and the electric pig netting keeps them in without much trouble.
It’s good that this is an abundant time of year for fruit and other farm waste because with 20 pigs now on the farm we’re gonna need to gather plenty. Most of the piglets will be up for sale after weaning, and we’ll slaughter two of the larger males from Ms. Piggie’s first litter to fill the freezers with meat for the winter. By November when the apples start to wane, we’ll have our numbers down some and will be starting the transition to winter quarters in the barn, where the smells of hay and shit will bring the comfortable feeling of the year coming to a close as rain pounds on the roof. As always, much love and great success to you on your journey!