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].
The trouble with putting on a new roof is that you never know what you’re going to find when you get into it, and it’s often worse than you expect. Like a lot of hill houses, our place was built one box at a time as money and needs required. The original cabin went up in 2006, a shared family effort that was me and Pops working together along with help from my brothers when they were home from their work as firefighters. My uncle provided crucial know-how and the project came together like a dream. It was the first time we had ever used the cement board siding that has become so ubiquitous. The job took us most of the summer and finished out as a beautiful 16×20 cabin with stairs up to a loft.
The layout and design matched the original cabin that Pops built in 1981, the year before my folks moved up in May and I was born in September of 1982. Working with Pops on the cabin was such a sweet experience; I was 24 years old and starting to put down roots after coming home from college, and it felt good to have a place to call home. The resonance of repeating the original design was an echo that I treasured and still reflect on with love and satisfaction.
I thought a lot about how it had been for my elders, moving out to an undeveloped piece of land and creating a place to call home. It was easier for me because even though I was camping in the meadow while we worked, I could always go down to the folks’ for meals and all the modern amenities. I remember asking my Ma, “what did you guys used to do for entertainment?” She got kind of a faraway look on her face and after a moment responded “we took a lot of walks.”
Thinking back on those days.gives me a fond feeling, although in the midst of the current roof debacle I’m a little chagrined. In 2007 I added an addition to the cabin that eventually became a bathroom and small living room with a loft above it. This project didn’t have the oversight of the elder professionals, it was my buddies and I, and my brother still refers to it as “the addition that bong hits built.”
This was in the days before my time as a carpenter working with my uncle, and there were a number of decisions made on the project that go against the grain of standard construction. Regardless, it worked out pretty well for more than 15 years, but with the record snowfall this last spring the roof started making loud cracking noises and sagged under the weight. We shoveled it off as best we could and awaited the dry period to make a full reconnaissance.
Yesterday we started the tear off and found that the main ridge beam had cracked and the nailer that attached to the original cabin had split as well, causing a serious structural issue and sagging enough to allow water to leak in. When FEMA came around this summer I showed the inspector the damage and lo and behold, a check came in the mail for almost $10,000, which was crucial because I wasn’t sure how I was going to pay for the repairs.
I’m experiencing a wide mix of feelings as we go through this process. I’m overwhelmed with the level of effort that has been needed this summer to manage upkeep on the homestead, but I’m joyful to be finally getting this project done. This job has been hanging over me and the uncertainty of the damage has been difficult to navigate, so it feels good to be underway. Replacing the old composite shingles with metal roofing will make the house less likely to burn in the event of fire, and I hope that this will be the last time I have to do the roof in my lifetime.
It feels odd to reach an age where things that I built as a young man begin to wear out or need replacing, yet also to do the work in ways that I think to myself “well, I won’t be alive to have to do this again.” It’s a strange, middle-of-the-road kind of feeling that I suppose comes to each of us in the course of a life journey, but I’m still turning it around in my head and trying to make sense of it.
It feels good to work with family, and I deeply appreciate the support and assistance in working through a problem that was more than I could manage on my own. As weather patterns continue to intensify in the future, I’m glad to know our house will be able to withstand potential heavy snows. It feels uncomfortable to recognize some of the young man’s follies in my early construction efforts, but it feels good to set them to rights. As always, much love and great success to you in your journey!