I sit at the campfire watching as the rays of the sun begin to crest the redwoods to the east. The coffee pot simmers but has not yet begun to boil and I view the steam curling off its rim with great expectation. The smoke mixes with the ground mist and the trees glow with the backlighting of the morning to come.
We’ve come for a camping sojourn to Prairie Creek, and though it is the end of March we’ve caught lovely weather, clear and sunny though chilly at night. Ample firewood and warm clothes ward off the chill, though my fingers feel it as I tap the keys.
I enjoy the rhythm and routine of writing such that I’ve chosen to bring the laptop along on the journey. I wasn’t sure whether I’d put it to use or not, but here I find myself, listening to the blue jays and other morning birds make their calls and watching their first swoops of the morning.
The grass is wet with dew as the campground begins to stir to life, families and travelers awakening to the dawn. As the rays of the sun grow brighter, I contemplate the journey of this trip and the broader journey of life. Separation gives space for reflection, and I feel gratitude for farm and family. I look forward to returning and seeing the growth that has occurred in our short absence.
Though we have only been gone two days, during this time of year there will be visible changes in the crops. It’s harder to see how fast things are growing when you’re there every day, but a short distancing yields a perspective shift that brings amazement. We are full steam into the spring planting and the riotous abundance is a joy to behold.
We’re harvesting more salad and mesclun mixes than we ever have before, with greater consistency and ease. We are riding the routine of years past into a new season of growth and transformation, watching the farm come to life through the ministrations of our efforts. New tools and knowledge make the jobs easier, while infrastructure improvements make for greater potential in the seasons to come.
March is an odd time of year for us to go camping, right in the thick of spring setup. Then again, there’s always something to be done on the farm, so maybe this is as good a time as any. We set a clear self-care goal this year of taking consistent time off, getting away for a couple-three days at least once a month.
When you live where you work it’s almost impossible to take days off at home. There is always so much to be done, but it’s not just the drudgery of necessary work, it’s also the pull of the calling, deep in the blood like a metronome. I wonder about the modern separation of life from work, where humans travel to jobs that pay money to fund their lives.
There is no farming without economic returns, so it is the job that provides for our needs, yet it’s also the hobbies and things we do for enjoyment. Without the separation between work and life, everything blends together and it becomes very difficult to take the time for self-care and recharge while we’re on farm.
The year before last we did a great job of scheduling and leaving the farm for short sojourns once a month. With the pandemic, we found our workload increased with expanded vegetable production and the opportunity and desire to go places diminished to zero. We almost never left the farm except for market, and it wasn’t a healthy reality for us. This year we’re committed to outside excursions with enough regularity to maintain the sense of perspective about why we farm.
It’s easy to get lost in the day to day and lose sight of the bigger picture of our lives. We get so deep into making the job lists and checking off the items that it’s important to step back and see the forest for the trees. We find that the best way to see the forest is to get out in it, marveling at the beauty and reflecting on our gratitude for the lives we lead.
By recharging and taking time for self-care we create the space to go forward bringing our best and highest selves to the work and to our interactions with others. We are thrilled to serve community in the production of nourishment and we look forward to continuing the process when we return, harvesting abundant food for market and CSA on Monday. As always, much love and great success to you on your journey!
Casey O'Neill co-operates HappyDay Farms, a micro-diversified farm in northern Mendocino County, California. His family raises two acres of Sun+Earth and DEMPure Certified vegetables, poultry and medical cannabis in a small-farm setting while working towards sustainability. Casey is stoked about sharing food, medicine and cultivation techniques with others. He is passionate about representing small farmers and works to support Mendocino County policy-makers in crafting sensible regulations. Casey also serves on the board of Sun+Earth Certified. You can find his radio show podcast at HappyDay Farms - Farm and Reefer Report on iTunes or Soundcloud. You can also find out more about HappyDay Farms here: http://www.happydayfarmscsa.com, on Instagram @happydayfarms and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/casey.oneill.395/ or https://www.facebook.com/happydayfarmscsa/