Pipes are Not Water

One of the great mysteries of this property is our “irrigation system.” We have a great well, that produces 60 gallons of water a minute from a large natural aquifer right underneath us. In a drought state like California, that’s pure gold. We also have the remains of a once burly and functional irrigation system. We have found valves and spigots and knobs all over the place. If feels a lot like a game of Myst, if you remember that. A typical session of play goes something like this: let’s see, if I turn this valve on, and this electrical switch on (even though it looks like it will kill me), and turn off this other valve off, maybe those spray heads on the arena will turn on? Yes! wait, No! Only half of them turned on … WHY WHY WHY?


The entire irrigation system is full of similar mysteries in a myriad of baffling ways. Lots of water, but not actually flowing through all the pipes, or at least the pipes we have managed to find. There are pipes running underground all over these 8 acres … but we are not exactly sure where they all are. A blueprint you say? Hah! No such thing exists. And before we ask some serious guys with serious tractors to go ripping and discing and other mightily destructive sounding practices on top, we really need to know where these pipes are underneath.


So, we hired some experts. Thank all the gods of agriculture for agricultural experts. One of the great benefits of moving to a town where a lot of people still make a living from farming is that we are surrounded by extremely knowledgeable neighbors, and the many businesses and business owners who service this community.

It’s odd being a total newbie again, and oddly exhilarating. I have worked in technology for over 15 years, and hey, it’s great to be an expert, but at the same time, a bit sad to realize there isn’t that much more to learn, patterns repeat, change is incremental. As far as knowledge about farming on this scale goes, however, I have only deep passion, fairly good instincts, lots of book learning and some very foggy childhood memories. Without the physical local community, and some excellent online communities as well, this farming adventure would be sooooo much harder.


Jason and I love to learn, but some subjects like industrial agricultural irrigation take more to master than a few hours of web surfing. I did buy a college course textbook for irrigation, and quickly realized I needed several semesters of study, or even better years of experience, to have any sort of clue about such basic questions as: what size pump do we need? What width of pipe in which material goes where? How much pressure do we need to get to the top of our hill? What filtration does drip irrigation require? And this is one that really scares me: what questions that I don’t know to ask should I really be asking?

As I was saying, I give thanks to experts, especially the extremely friendly ones we keep meeting.