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].
Early to bed, early to rise goes the old saying, and I’ve been living it with gusto and satisfaction! Lying down by 8 and asleep by 830, sometimes even a little earlier. I’m relishing the early mornings for reading, catching up on paperwork and cooking big meals that will hold us for a couple of days. I treasure the early mornings, but I can only really access them if I’m going to bed early.
I’ve been thinking about health, productivity, quality of life and how I spend my time. This is the season for reflection, for rest, for maintenance of farm and soul. The way it goes on the farm is that I work till dark, which makes for very long summer days but now the days are short and I’m leaning into the call of hibernation, the slowdown that I feel in my body and psyche.
After a growing season that began with deep struggle through the snowstorms and ramped up to a state of constant effort, it feels good to step back a bit, to start to collect the pieces and form the beginnings of the puzzle for next year. What worked well? What didn’t? What changes do I want to make, while the lessons of this year are still fresh and the spirit is still imprinted by the struggle.
It’s easy to be optimistic while drinking coffee in January with the season well behind me and the feeling of hope-springs-eternal quickening my blood. It’s more sobering to assess while still on the tail end of the effort. Some lessons relate to the mechanics of the business; scheduling and timing, crop planning and the interrelationships between the animal, cannabis, cut flower and vegetable enterprises. Some lessons are more personal, about how I want to spend my time and where I put my finite energy.
These last few weeks of getting up early began with the demands of harvest, which we start at 5am. This year though, it felt more smooth, like I was in the flow of the thing, and most of it had to do with going to bed in the 8’s. It’s like the most obvious “duh” kind of a thing, but if I sleep a full 8 hours then I’m ready to get up between 4 and 5. Those early morning hours when I’m fresh are awesome; I feel better and I do better at whatever thing I undertake because I’m fresh and well-rested, as opposed to the rushed way I tend to do things when I’m running low on energy in the evening.
I’m trying to learn the lesson of all the old cliches; “if you don’t find time to do it right, you’ll find time to do it twice; “a stitch in time saves nine”; “do it right the first time”. It’s fun to step back and look at myself and my practices, to see that I’m beginning to slow down and focus on doing things well so that they don’t need to be done again.
As I reflect on this, I see that a big part of it is that now I know HOW to do things. As we built the farm, I read widely and took on all sorts of different methodologies. I always suffered from process anxiety, and I rushed through the job list because there was always too much to do. Our methods weren’t set, so I did things with a deliberate impermanence that expended as few resources as possible but often yielded sub-par results.
I think about competence, about our specific context here on the farm, about having A Way That I Do Things. I see it as a life-course spectrum, from an open “I don’t know how to do things but I’ll give it a shot” all the way to a closed “I’m so set in my ways that there is only one method I could imagine for how I do things.” Somewhere in between is the sweet spot, knowledge enough to be competent in the tasks at hand, but uncalcified so that I can still revise and change my practices as new information becomes available.
I love to look at my work, to analyze the steps of any given process, to revise and refine to make things more efficient and economical in movement. There is a deep joy in work that flows well, and the more smooth and simple a job can be, the more it flows. If I can shave 10 seconds off of a task I do ten thousand times, I change the course of my life by a small degree. Make lots of these changes and the whole current shifts. It becomes a game, a deep joy of refinement that I apply to the work, and that I’m learning to apply to my relationships. Small steps towards joy and contentment. As always, much love and great success to you on your journey!