Category Archives: Watering

Who’s Eating Our Strawberries?

When we discovered that some of our ripe strawberries were being eaten, before we had a chance to pick them, I assumed it was slugs.  Slugs are notorious for invading strawberry patches.  I began saving our coffee grounds separate from the other compost and spreading them around the strawberry plants to deter the slugs. Since I didn’t have enough coffee grounds to do them all at once I wasn’t surprised that I was still seeing eaten berries.

Earlier this week while I was watering garlic and my husband was watering strawberries, he called me over to the strawberry patch. “Want to see some baby bunnies?’ he asked. I grabbed my camera.

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There are at least four of them. My husband found their nest, a small hole in the ground, hidden in an area where the strawberry plants are thick. It is well camouflaged as are the baby bunnies. They are very difficult to see until they start moving around.

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I can’t say for sure that there are no slugs eating the berries, and I have also found a few bugs which I assume are sap beetles, http://extension.psu.edu/plants/gardening/fphg/strawberries/insects-mites/sap-beetle  but I suspect the majority of the eaten berries are providing yummy meals to these cute little critters who couldn’t care less about the coffee grounds.

A Wise Use Of Resources

Summer is flying by. I can’t believe that it has been a month since I have posted anything but anyone who knows anything about farming can probably figure out that this is a very busy time of year for us. While the gardens are doing well it has taken much watering to keep them alive.

Although the drought monitor listed us as only abnormally dry, for people like us who are trying to keep crops alive it seemed extremely dry. We had a least 3 weeks, maybe even 4 weeks, straight where no rain fell on our farm. Even the days when scattered showers were in the area they went around us to the north, they went around us to the south, or they simply broke apart before the reached us.

My husband spent countless hours watering the gardens. At first our system at the farm https://donteatitsoap.com/2016/06/05/our-off-grid-irrigation-system/   was sufficient. Eventually  some of the plants got too large for individual watering to be feasible, and there were days when the windmill didn’t keep up. He began hauling additional water in barrels in the back of his truck. The barrels are fitted with spigots near the bottom so a hose can be attached and gravity makes the water flow through the hose, but since there was no way to get the hose to every squash and corn plant I saw my husband using five gallon buckets to throw water on the field in an effort to get some water to whatever plants he could. As we prayed daily for rain, the weather forecasts offered little hope, and the task of watering became arduous. My husband was exhausted, frustrated and depressed.

I truly believe that God answers all prayer, and while He doesn’t always give us want we want, He gives us what we need. As my husband expressed his frustration, I continued to pray for rain and wished there was something I could say or do to make things better. Then one morning I was sitting on our deck and noticing that the house needs to be power washed. I got this really crazy idea. Is it possible that that power washer could be operated by hose attached to the barrels on the back of the truck? Would it operate by being gravity fed? If so he could use it to spray water the gardens. “That’s insane” I thought, but it would make things easier. For a couple of hours I argued about it in my mind, before I finally decided to let my husband know that his wife had lost her mind.  I think I started by saying “I have a crazy idea.” As soon as I said it,  he said, “power washer?” Ok, maybe I’m not so crazy. We discussed the idea and decided it was worth a try.

After we returned from grocery shopping he got the power washer out of the shed. It started on the first pull. He hooked it up to one of the barrels, and yes, it worked as we hoped it would. Within an hour he was at the farm delivering more precious, life sustaining water to the foods that will sustain us. That evening I did some of the watering as well. I have to say that I was impressed at how well this worked. It saved time, it saved (our) energy, and we could get the water where it was needed.

Call it a wise use of resources, or maybe it was innovation born out of desperation. While both phrases are fitting I prefer to say, “Thank you God, for giving us what we need”.

For the next 4 days my husband continued to “power water”, delivering enough water to keep things alive. We also continued to pray for rain. On Thursday, August 11 the glorious, life giving rains came. It was a happy time to say the least, not only for my husband and I; but for the lawns as the brown began to turn green again; for the squash plants as, their wilting leaves perked up; for the green beans which had stopped making beans, as they began to blossom again; and even for new life as late plantings of carrots and green beans began to sprout. It was a happy time as (our piece of) the earth was revived. In the past week we have had rain on a regular basis, and while we are still not at levels of what would be considered normal for our area, we thank God for every drop that falls.

 

Our Off Grid Irrigation System

Since the farm does not have electricity hooked up, watering the gardens is not as easy as hooking up a hose and turning on a sprinkler.  One of the reasons we put in the pond four years ago was to have the ability to use it for watering.

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Our pond was dug according to the township requirements. I don’t remember the exact slope ratio but it has a gradual slope for the first 30 feet all the way around the edge. We gave it less of a slope at the beach area because we anticipate grandbabies playing in the water. After the first 30 feet it becomes a deep hole dropping down to 20+ feet. The clay bottom helps to retain water. So there is not much likelihood of it drying up.

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In the spring of the following year we put up the windmill. Like the pond the windmill has more than one purpose. It aerates the pond through a hose connected on one end to the windmill and on the other end to an airstone diffuser that sits on the bottom of the pond. The windmill adds life-giving oxygen to the pond. The windmill is located on the bank of the pond. It is somewhat central to our various garden locations. It’s second function is to pump water out of the pond for irrigation purposes.

 

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We purchased this pump, from the same company that we bought the windmill from, in order to pump water out of the pond. While I can’t explain the mechanics of the pump, I know that one hose connects from the windmill to the pump. It pumps air into the pump. A second hose connects to an outlet on the pump and pushes water out.

We discovered the one downside to this pump a few weeks ago. In order to prevent it from being damaged by freezing during the winter the pump is removed from the water in the fall. It must be reinstalled in the spring. This spring the temperatures were slow to warm and we had many days without rain. Since my husband found himself carrying buckets of water from the pond to water things that were newly planted, we knew that the pump needed to be installed. The truth is if I had to install the pump, I would have continued to  carry buckets of water to the plants. Even though I love spending time in the pond in the heat of the summer, it takes several days with temps in the high 70’s or 80’s before I am ready to go in. My husband on the other hand has spent much of his life either playing or working in or on the water. I am sure he has experienced water temperatures like this before.

I was not surprised on May 12th, being only the second consecutive day with a high temperature in the low to mid 70’s, that he decided he had to put the pump in the pond. I’m not sure what the water temperature was, but I do know that it was not warm enough for me to get in the water, and it was not comfortable for him, at least getting in. He asked that I not take pictures, so I complied with his request.  I watched the faces he made as he walked into the water, and introduced his body, especially the sensitive areas, to the cold temperatures, I told him it was ok to cuss. He didn’t. It may have taken about 15 or 20 minutes for him to get the pump in place and afterwards he said “it really was not that bad”.

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When the water is pumped out of the pond we run the hose to one of the strategically located 275 gallon holding tanks. My husband has installed spigots near the bottom of each tank that a garden hose will attach to. He also made a level an area on the side of this hill for one tank to sit on. Since getting the water from the tank to the plants requires gravity the raised tank provides more pressure and the tank will drain down farther.

When we use the garden hose to water individual plants we place  wooden stakes at row ends to act as hose guides so dragging the hose does not crush plants.

 

When we want to use drip irrigation we connect the hose to this pvc pipe that has small holes drilled in it. It is capped on the opposite end.

We also discovered the need to raise the drip pipe up in some areas so my husband went to a pile of limbs, from trees we have cut down, and found some branches that have a Y in them. He cut them so the are about 2 1/2 to 3 feet long and stuck them in the ground. Three of them, appropriately spaced, will support the drip pipe when it is placed in the Y of the three sticks.

While our prayers for rain were many, we are also extremely grateful for the wind that allowed us to irrigate the crops until the rains came.  Last night and today we have had our first sufficient rainfall in several weeks. We will now be able to take a break from watering the crops and face the battle of the weeds that continue to grow with or without water.