Reeling in Irrigation: Week #10 – Aug. 12, 2020

 In CSA Newsletter

This week’s newsletter is a shout out to Farmer Mike for keeping all the crops on the farm watered.

Despite last night’s sprinkling, we haven’t seen a good rain since Sunday, July 26. That’s two full weeks of no rain, with warm summer temperatures.

I’m at the point that I’m writing this newsletter in hopes that the possible storm they are forecasting today will bring us lots of moisture and make this newsletter moot. Here’s hoping….

If we could order the rain, we would order 1 inch to fall every Saturday night. (This would give us a great weekend to play in, as well as dry fields to hop into on Monday. Our plants would be hydrated and our crews and equipment could work in the ways that are most efficient.) A woman can dream, right?

When the skies don’t give us rain, we begin to irrigate. Some of our crops, like our warm season fruiting crops (peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, melons, zucchini, and cucumbers) are grown on plastic mulch with a system of drip tape irrigation that is in place from the start of the season. We are always responsible for making sure these crops get water.

For the rest of our crops, we depend on rain. When it doesn’t fall, we use what are called irrigation reels to keep the crops hydrated.

Imagine the part of a fishing pole where the line rolls up. You there?  Okay, now imagine that reel to be way bigger – just about your height and your arm span in width. Instead of fishing line, wound up around the reel is several hundred feet of 1.5 inch hard black plastic hosing. One end of the hose connects to our well water system, the other to a huge, powerful sprinkler set up on a tripod cart with wheels.

Mike uses a tractor to hook on to the sprinkler cart and pull the tripod all the way down a bed. The water gets turned on, water starts pumping across 12-20 beds at a time, depending on the size of the reel (we own 5 of various sizes). Then slowly, an inch at time, the reel begins to pull the sprinkler cart back in. Depending on how much water we are trying to lay down, it takes between 5 and 13 hours to reel in.

Mike moves and sets up these irrigation reels two times and day, every day when there is no rain. The process adds three hours to each work day. It is so much extra work!

There is one silver lining to all this extra irrigation work – far less disease.

Many plant diseases transmit through the water splash and the heavy winds of storms. Drier times yield less disease. After two extremely wet seasons, we’ll take one where we have to irrigate a little.  As we like to tell people: you can always put down water on the fields in dry times, but you can’t take it away in wet ones.

Three cheers to irrigation infrastructure, and the fantastic job Mike does at keeping all the crops hydrated.

Cheers and enjoy your veggies!
Farmer Cassie