HappyDay: ‘The Rhythm of Life’

Casey O’Neill is a cannabis and food farmer in Mendocino County who has been writing newsletters about his efforts to provide sustainable produce and marijuana. We feature his column once a week.

Farming is one part routine repetition and one part change.  As the cycle of the seasons passes, our efforts shift through the varying tasks of the year, from prep to planting to harvest as we move through the journey.  Some things are constant, like looking after the laying hens and rabbits, while some work comes during one part of the year.

      The day always begins with caring for animals and this continuity is an important part of our lives.  We always have layers and rabbits, but in spring and summer we have meat chickens and this last year we raised turkeys and ducks as well.  This winter we have pigs for the first time in several years.

      While the work changes, there is always work to do.  This anchor point sets the rhythm of life and keeps us rooted in the land.  The work is always there, providing constancy and definition for life but also adding a layer of stress that can prove dangerous.  When you live where you work it can be hard to walk away from it and take enough time for self-care.

      As we enter the new year I feel both excitement and trepidation for the season to come.  Coming off a season of overwork, we must learn to be more efficient and capable in order to meet an increase in production without suffering burnout.  We are in the process of finishing two new 14’x50’ caterpillar tunnels for row cropping vegetables.  Each tunnel has 4 beds, each bed is 30 inches across.  Starting in the second week of January, Amber will be using the seeder to sow lettuce, greens and root crops.

      We do different blends for our salad mixes.  We used to just use a lettuce mix but over the past couple years we’ve been doing a lot of Tokyo Bekana which is a mild mustard very similar to lettuce, fast growing and hardy.  We also use mizuna, baby kale, arugula, tatsoi and various chois.  We’ll blend whatever is available for salad mix and we also do a heartier mesclun blend that can be sauteed or eaten raw.

       Quick turnaround root crops have become a big favorite, Sora radishes and Hakurei salad turnips chief among them.  We’re also doing Eagle beets, Mokum carrots and the bigger storage turnips but these take a bit longer than the rapid rotations we can get with the salad turnip/radish combination.  We sow half a bed of each, and since the radishes are faster we have the option to replant that half of the bed sooner.

       We have very limited bed space, so we’re always trying to maximize our production/square foot.  Sowings are based on expected sales so we’ll often split a bed so that we can sell all of the production and clear the bed as soon as possible for another planting.  Rapid rotation crops like salad mixes and roots are quick, valuable and in high demand because they’re so damn tasty.  It takes time and effort to get good at running rotations and keeping the beds occupied but we’re getting better at it as the seasons go by.

      Having the two new hoophouses gives us 8 new beds that are sheltered from battering storms and freezing weather.  The produce will still freeze inside the unheated tunnels but without the desiccating winds everything will fare much better.  Winter hoophouse vegetables are archetypal, prime expressions that are a joy to grow, harvest and eat.

      During the summer we’ll use the new tunnels for cucumbers and tomatoes in the two center rows where there is more head-space for trellising these tall growing crops.  The two outer rows in each tunnel will serve well for peppers, okra, eggplants and basil.

      Farming on small scale is about utilizing the microclimate of landscape, but also about using the microclimate of the farm itself.  The landscape is a Southwest ridgeline at 3000 ft with afternoon coastal influences, fewer frosts than the valley but more snow load in winter.  The farm has beds that get afternoon shade and can be used for summer crops that don’t want too much heat.  Some places will be hotter or drier depending on air currents and the lay of the land.  These observations are noted over time through practice and become part of how we farm.

       We are up above the inversion layer which means that it don’t cool off as much at night as in the valleys around us.  We also don’t heat up as much during the day and we usually see a cooling afternoon breeze coming from the coast 20 miles away.  We struggle to do summer salad mixes because they get bitter in the heat, but if we can keep them cooler through use of shade and irrigation then they are a welcome treat during the hot months.

      We have a hoophouse that gets good shade in the afternoon in the summer time but up until now has been a prime summer production tunnel for cukes, tomatoes, peppers and basil.  The two new tunnels are in a sunnier location, so we’re moving the hot crop production and will use the old tunnel to grow summer salad mixes under shadecloth with overhead sprinklers.

       Each year the farm changes as we grow in our knowledge, build new infrastructure and get new equipment.  We are excited for the year to come, to put our studies and planning into practice to produce food and medicine for ourselves and for community.  As always, much love and great success to you on your journey!

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19 comments

  • Framing. A rose by any other name. Call it what you want. Once you go down the rabbit hole. If only I stayed in shape. When will things return. Just another day in the life.

  • This guy is a certified CLOWN.
    Just another Poser trying to talk about farming.
    Your weed sucks.

    • Happy now??
      [edit]

    • KeyboardWarriorsRUs

      Can you be a poser if you’re certified. The certification process usually gets rid of posers I’d think.

      • Wasn’t Trump certified – as POTUS?
        Might want to re-think that logic.

        A clown’s a clown, certified or not. Although orange hair does seem to be the new norm.

        While you can check for the standard red nose, floppy shoes, and tiny car,
        around here you’re better off checking for red eyes, resin-coated boots, and hybrid cars…
        with trunks stuffed with weed and cash.

  • every time I see a loser post a rag on Casey & the fellow “Casey’s” of this area. Whom are trying to make a difference in this community and whom hold some form of a vision for the future. . I am constantly reminded of the devastating amount of ignorance that prevails by those who’ve posted said rags.Stand tall Casey. Most, if not all, naysayers are fodder for future endeavors by those who actually work for an honest living.

    • Ignorance often comes with blindness.

      In your and many cases in this Emerald tri-county area,
      it’s caused by green-colored glasses…

      Weed
      and
      Cash

  • It is good to have haters, it means you’re doing things

  • Keep up the hard work, Casey. I follow several farmers ( not weed) all over the United States on Instagram. The never ending cycles come and go and I love watching the innovation and dedication thru the years in their endeavors.

  • A pot farmer is a pot farmer… This guy looks like he is about 30, and his parents paid over $10,000 for his beautiful teeth to be straightened and attended to, so, he’s upper middle class. He can write and spell too, so he probably has one of those $100,000 diplomas from UC Davis or Chico or somewhere…

    So I have to ask: Why a pot farm in Mendo, somewhere?

    Why not a nice job at UBER or GOOGLE, Asahi, Air B&B, YELP or somewhere’s?

    Lots of opportunity, why throw away all that breeding and education to grow Organic Spring Mix and Purple Urkle for your favorite consumers, while living in a dangerous and deeply embedded bastion of throw-back-ism and random crime like Mendocino County?

    And keeping a journal? Why the need for publicity? Growing pounds is better kept quiet, no? And weekly poems, paeans to vegetable and cannabis farming? Better to write them in Espanol, mijo…

    I worry about this guy, not only because he’s growing shit down some back road, maybe on his parent’s or grandparent’s Mendo retreat out off of Laytonville Dos Rios Road somewhere, but because he’s just so earnest, silly, and stoned…

    Well, carry on, Hippie Boy, and remember, there’s no pension for weed growers, no Social Security, and, your parents may leave you a pile, but there’s no substitute for accomplishment, working and building a future! You can languish in the back-country a while longer, but consider the risks, and the competition… Pot Farming on the small scale has no future beyond the next 5-10 years, but salad, good organic salad, you can always eat it with those great teeth…

    He’s deluded, but handsome! Namaste, little brother, and roll up another one…

    Certainly shows how marijuana can destroy your children…

  • so glad to hear all the VMG’s and those of the same ilk are all moving the fuck out of here and going to work for google, praise Jah,,,happiness is a VMG going south with one under each arm, stand tall Casey

    • Before you get too far down that track, GinBeard, it’s not about what you paranoidly refer to as weed haters. It’s about too much of what, when it was grown in moderation here twenty years ago, was a good thing. These counties have been overrun by born-again bong farmers looking to make the Green Rush work for ’em, when there used to be a better balance of different types of employment in our communities.

      Back in the days of the Gold Rush, people left solid jobs to go work the gold fields for the promise of getting rich quick. That left many communities in the lurch, as their workforces were gutted. (A favorite example is admittedly Hollywoodized, but that’s the basis for the John Wayne movie “The Cowboys.”) Similarly, in communities like the one here in Trinity, the promise of big green from Big Green has gutted our workforce. It’s impossible to find quality, dependable workers willing to give a full day’s work for a month, let alone a year. They make money off of grows during season, either directly or as a trimmer, and they slouch the rest of the year.

      Of course, then there’s the lack of balance that weed growing has caused within the ecosystem in which we live, with salmon streams drained and polluted due to grading and chemical use. I’ve occasionally harped on that topic here, where it usually falls on stoned ears touting their green cause.

      I think it’s great that the medicinal uses of cannabis are being reconsidered in our society, after the reefer madness generation of politicians put the kibash on it and industrial hemp for decades. Having worked for biomedical government and private agencies, I also think that the legitimate use of weed for illness is safer than many pharmaceuticals – not to mention cheaper.

      But that’s not what most legal and, certainly, illegal grows in our Triangle are about. They’re growing a drug, like alcohol, to get people high. They’re profiteering from it at the expense of our culture and the places in which we live. They’ve addicted the communities in which we live to this influx of drug money in rural economies that have long histories of boom and bust (ranching, gold, logging, home building, etc.). And they hide behind words like “medicine,” “holistic,” and religious icons like Buddha and Jah. The Green Rush is the new Reefer Madness – and it’s just as laughable as it is sadly criminal to our ways of life here.

      There needs to be a return to balance in our Emerald Triangle counties.
      Not the current addiction to another Rush that’s doomed to fail as balance is restored.

      • Thank you.

        The social and environmental degradation caused by these hand-to-mouth “farmers” will take hundreds of years to repair, even if nature allows a repair…

        It’s silly to call a “back-to-the-lander” a “positive force”, since they are using scarce resources to hide in a natural area and grow plants that are not native or necessary…

        And calling marijuana a “medicine” is very ridiculous, when it has been engineered to be nothing but an intoxicant… In fact, the social damage caused by highly intoxicated people who ingest concentrated and high-potency cannabis is probably incalculable.

        Growing marijuana for money has destroyed the area these folks pretend to revere, and, the hiding and growing will destroy the entire lifestyle, in time…

        It was proven in the 60’s and 70’s, when the commune folk had kids, wanted homes, cars, bank accounts, the Babylon they previously eschewed, they ran away and got jobs, apartments, health insurance and educations… We already know how this ends!

        Good luck, Kid! You’re living in a dream world, but enjoy it while you can… When you actually grow up, we’ll give you a job as a contact tracer, a garbageman, or a marijuana farm assistant, down in Kern or Salinas, which is where pot should be grown and will be in the not too distant future…

  • Nawh.. your responses come from a delusional dream world.. Your statements all lack vision and flexibility..Aching for life to go back to the ‘good ole days’ when folks made like .50cents an hour or something.. Got drunk and violent instead of Stoned and mello..Hah! Welcome to the future.. where most industrial factory farms, and factories are run more and more by automation, and migrant workers..Work hard get nowhere. That’s America’s new motto. Hard days work for minimum wage or less w/o health insurance.. That’s what everyone should strive for right? Isn’t it interesting that the most back breaking labor of general Ag or otherwise is often what is paid the least in our society? Ass backwards if u ask me.. And I will add that actually.. drinking alcohol is becoming less of a trend among younger folks, and healthier alternatives such as cannabis is becoming more and more popular..
    Sorry not sorry if the Cannabis industry in some ways rose the bar on many levels, in terms of paying workers better in many instances.. And spreading the wealth with a variety of successful micro enterprises. The problem with the green rush isn’t a lack of success.. Maybe if other industries paid better, had a better work/life ratio.. they would find a better and happier work force as well.
    And who is to say where Cannabis should be “grown”. Low flat land is not the traditional or biologically identical home for many strains of cannabis. The hills are. Many strains of cannabis evolved in the higher elevations of the Kush Mountains. The hills of Humboldt and Mendocino are a closer replica of the climate. Flat land should be reserved for growing food and other resources society needs anyway. Some of the best farmland in the nation is occupied by vineyards and turf farms.. and now growing suburbia..

    Even so.. when it will be grown in mass in the flat lands.. the larger farmers will be subject to the same market forces that any farmer faces. No industry is too big to fail. That fact is ground into my family history, of successes and losses when it comes to farming.. Even if Salinas or Central Valley goes big.. eventually it will all be grown in Mexico and legally transported across state lines.. of which the bigger farms here won’t stand a chance in competition.. Now a days say in the Wine industry.. China stands to take over the Cheap Wine market.. an Asian woman, to boot, is kicking everyone’s ass… But. Cheap as it may be.. it will NEVER be organic sustainably farmed craft wine.. never.. And if they did find a way to be sustainable and eco conscious in their endeavors.. actually that would be a good thing. I know I certainly would be wary of what they will be using to grow massive vineyards like that with..
    But one thing they will NEVER be able to take on is the small scale organically, and naturally produced Artisional Cannabis. They can’t produce that identity.. because that is the nature of Giant Ag. The ONLY WAY to produce Cannabis or even any other farming commodity on a big scale is with Massive Chemicals and GMO technology.

    They may try, but.. they would have to scale back. Produce things on a smaller level at a higher cost as well, which would open up the market in the end anyway..
    Cannabis is much different than many other commodities in so many ways. We can’t stop the Waves from Crashing on the Beach.. but we can ride to waves.. and learn from our falls..

    There is no doubt that Cannabis farming has an impact on the Environment here, or anywhere for that matter.. and that measures need to be taken To keep the Environment healthy. But how much of it is just straight exploitation, and over taxation by the gov?
    And to be straight.. Why is Humboldt’s economy such a mess?? Hmmm. Well it couldn’t possibly be because the government allowed a massive Corporation to come in and essentially take all of Humboldt’s resources and Slaughter the majority of Ancient Redwood trees..A certain giant Corporation called Maxxam?? And Green Diamond..
    if Humboldt had done a better job of managing its resources in a more sustainable way.. the fallout of the Cannabis Industry wouldn’t have hit so hard.. It’s delusional to blame the financial mess or the Environmental degradation that Humboldt ultimately faces on the Cannabis farmers exclusively..

    On a better note.. Blessed Luck to you and your endeavors Casey. The road is definitely rocky. Most Things done Organically and small scale take more effort in my experience. I think it’s a sacrifice of comfort many folks living this way willingly take on, and can result in stronger outcomes because of it! Soon the Rhythm will blossom into a symphony! Take heart. I am not a fan of the path of the “legal”
    Markets. And I think that it’s misfortunate that “legalization” has taken the scope that it has.. Especially here in the triangle where it has turned into just another shade of prohibition.

    And good job caring for your grill! These commenters are just jaded the image of the Triangle isn’t some toothless potbellied “Obama turned all the frogs gay” ..Budweiser sucking ..redneck hick…
    Again.. blessed Luck to you and your endeavors..

    • That’s Humboldt in a paragraph… The blind calling their detractors “delusional” when the drug is what creates the blindness!

      You love to smoke and grow weed, and way too many others do the same. This is not identical to being a steward or preserving the environment, and, in the end, the misuses will end the practices, when the resources disappear…

      You are correct about two things, pulling out the orchards and forests and planting grapes everywhere, will fail under extreme competition, and that Asian women can outwork everyone else! Whether marijuana will all come from Mexico is one of those supply and demand questions, and Mexicans are well on their way to wanting a better lifestyle, and, there will soon be so many Americans living in Mexico that we will have to annex the whole damn place anyway… Along with Costa Rica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Panama and all the rest!

      It’s extremely unlikely that I will be around to watch, so Namaste, and I hope everyone loves the future that your particular drug culture bought you, and, don’t expect everything to go the way you believe it will… As nature loves little surprises, and your money won’t save you in the end…

      Possibly, Mr Teeth, above, has all the right answers, but, I kindly doubt it!

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