Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Water, water everywhere

Hallelujah, it rained. And the temperature dropped to April, so the frantic finding of irrigation has receded somewhat. We still need to develop an irrigation system, but the rain and cooler temps have bought us some time. The field actually stayed pretty wet even though it didn't rain for 2 weeks. Even as late as Monday, when we dug into the soil it was nice and wet beneath the dry, cracked surface. There were a thousand weed seedlings too, all yellow and white and underground - just waiting for a rain to bring them to the surface.

The "plan" is working out great! We have been planting into beds that Wayne made with his tractor. The "beds" the tractor made are more like guidelines really. They create pathways between them we can walk on and inside the beds we make them fertile, soft, and wet. Sounds lovely, doesn't it? We've been taking a hoe and carving out rows into the beds, sometimes planting into the furrow other times planting onto the hill. We planted the onions, leeks, kale, and broccoli into the furrow but the lettuce went on the hill. This will hopefully keep it cleaner. We knew the weeds were going to be challenging on 2 acres, but this planting method might work out great - the field has been undisturbed for a few weeks, and so as we hoe into the beds to plant, we expose all the weed seedlings just below the surface. We might be stirring up new weed seeds, but it feels good to be getting a handle on the weed problem when they are so little and easily managed.

We're learning more about irrigation systems. Another few options we've explored are using a hand pump or a treadle pump. The hand pump is cheap, which is great. I think it can hook right up to 2" hose of sorts (lay flat, pvc) and pump water up to a height of 10 feet. The treadle pump we could build ourselves, so it would also be cheap. Online I read it could pump up to 7 meters...the treadle pump uses leg power while the hand pump uses arm power. Then there's the 12 v DC pump which would be solar powered. We found one that can pump 22 gallons per minute which is great, and I think up to 22 feet. Of course you need other accoutrements with it; the pump is around $200 compared to the hand pump which is $90. Then there's the straight-piped gravity fed system. We could put a larger diameter pipe into the stream far enough upstream to get a "head" of 30 feet or more. A 3" pvc intake pipe should work fine. So we could bury the pvc pipe into the stream and use the bank essentially as a sand filter, carry the water downhill to the field - this may be a length of 1,000 feet or more - and it should have enough pressure to irrigate at least 1/4 of the field at any given time. I like this idea the best though it requires long lengths of pipe or tube. We haven't decided which system would be best. I forgot to mention the possibility of cisterns - we could put a 300 gal cistern at the top of the field, with a good 10 or 15 feet of head; we could put 55 gal drums in places, 5 gal buckets, all kinds of things. And lastly there is furrow irrigation, if we could get a flow of water into the field and dig furrows into the beds between the rows then it would just run the length of the bed. I like the simplicity of this design and the fact that it uses little petroleum products. Any suggestions or advice?

Thank God we're in Taurus. Aries was about to drive me mad and burn me up and set the world on fire! Did you see the pictures of the volcano erupting with red lightning in the sky in Iceland? That's how I felt! An email I got read: "such and such webinar cancelled due to volcano" - all matter of fact. The seeds sure are germinating well now.

We've had so much help at the farm, it's been inspiring. Last week a group of guys showed up and helped Gabe put in a deer fence (T posts, wire in 2 strands, solar battery). I don't know how we would have done that without their's humbling and encouraging. And friends and family came to help plant in the greenhouse and the field - worker/traders are coming...we're figuring this out as we go along, but here from the beginning we are reaching out to some larger community and are being answered and joined in this adventure - it's refreshing! We're meeting people we may have never met otherwise, and sharing in the joyful opportunity this land is lending.

I give thanks for the fertile Earth, the nourishing Rain, the fellowship of loved ones, the succulence of greens, the challenges that are making us grow both out and more densely within, I give thanks for the chance of Life that today was given again.

Love and Light,

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