This is our farm column from farmer Casey O’Neill. O’Neill is the operating owner of HappyDay Farms North Laytonville, and a longtime advocate for the cannabis community at Mendocino Co.; More of his writing can be found here. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author. If you want to send a letter to the editor, feel free to write to him [email protected].
I like the feeling of “the right thing at the right time”. I often feel drifting in multiple directions, but there are times when I think to myself “This is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing right now.” Yesterday was one of those days, when we planted kale, cabbage, and bok choy to fill a birdhouse that supplies our kitchens and marketing tables during the winter.
Starting seed trays in a breeding house is easy, a short and simple task, but triggers a gamut of influences, from bed preparation to planting to care and harvest. Small plant trays call out to me insistently, as I bear the burden of planting as one of the many pressing passions on the farm.
Even though it is self-made (after all, I have made the decision to start seeds), the need to plant can be a heavy burden in a busy schedule, and there are times when plants languish in the house causing stress in my mind. 600 or so beginnings I sowed yesterday were like this; I was worried that I had waited too long, but in the end it worked perfectly and enjoyed the feeling of proper work as I put their roots in the soil.
Things have been very volatile lately. We struggle with water issues in the late season as the springs we use for drinking and domestic use slow down and occasional cloud cover makes it difficult to pump water using solar energy. Our water from the pond holds up well, and with fewer crops to irrigate now that the bulk of the hemp crop is over, it’s a good idea not to stress over irrigation, balancing spring water issues.
Last night I made a mattress pad on the now defunct bee platform at the bottom of the garden, and lay under the stars with a shotgun waiting for the pigs that keep raiding most nights. It wasn’t cold at first, and I was wearing a spaceman suit, a polyester ice skating jumpsuit from the ’80s that I wear to keep warm to parties. I’ve never been what I would call a hunter, but it seems clear it’s time for more work.
The pigs uprooted the bulk of the remaining squash plants, dug into the soil and destroyed the stands. I was up two or three times a night when Emma barked, running around the garden with a bright light frightening her, but she was getting older. Now that the moon is starting to return, I’ll be on the platform hoping to make an impact on the population.
As I nap waiting, the air cooled and the dew arrived, frightening me even through the warm layers of my spacesuit and my warm clothes. I went down in the middle of the night, felt stiff and uncomfortable and called it a night. Determined to bring a sleeping bag for the next foray, she went home. Although I have not been successful at shooting a boar, I feel good about creating a new model that I am willing and able to create the conditions in which I might have success in further attempts.
Doing something you’ve never done before is a lot harder than repeating and improving an action, and I’m happy to go from the theory of “I think I can set up on a bee stand” to “Next time I’m going to spend the whole night outside and hopefully get some meat in the freezer.” Frustrated by my lack of ability to do anything about pigs, so it’s good to have a direction and a set of actions that might help.
I’ve been cycling through the ups and downs as a long season comes to a close. I feel good about the crops we brought; This is our best hemp crop to date, and we’ve worked well with squash and winter squash and canned and processed more tomatoes and peppers than ever before. Sales have been strong in the marketplace, and I deeply appreciate the community’s support.
Pigs and water problems weigh on me, and I am tired and struggle with some exhaustion as I work to bring winter crops to the ground, but I find strength in the efforts. Our extended efforts in animal husbandry bring me great joy, even though there is much more to be done until winter with more pigs, chickens and rabbits than ever before. I’m finishing this writing as 5:30 approaches, at which time I’ll join Pops to tackle jalapenos and carrots, as well as turnips and pickled beets. In general, I have no complaints and I am happy with the life I lead. As usual, lots of love and great success to you on your journey!
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