Working With Water

A couple of days ago I "ordered" water from our ditchrider to fill the reservoir in the far south corner of the property. The reservoir water is where all of our irrigation comes from for our vegetables. It's a gravity-fed system which is primarily why we use all drip irrigation.

The water originates in the Rocky Mountains which feed various streams and rivers which flow into Lake Frances just 15 miles to the north. Then the water is released into the main canal from which much of the farm ground around us is irrigated, including our little farm.


When I order water, the ditchrider sets boards across the canal to back the water up to where our turnout is (a metal gate which opens to turn water into the farm's main ditch). He then opens that metal gate and the rest of the job is up to me. At this point, I can choose, by selectively damming parts of the ditch, where I want the water to go. In this instance, the water's natural inclination is to head east, so I set a dam right inside the turnout so the water heads west toward the reservoir. There is one gate between here and the reservoir which I leave open, and one on the other side of the reservoir, which I board up so the water will back up and flow into the reservoir.

There is something that I enjoy about working with the water as it comes out of the main canal. Maybe because it requires me to try to know it; to understand why it flows the way it does. It also reminds me how much we humans have manipulated water and to not take it for granted. There is no switch that I turn on and let water flow from the tap like magic.

While yesterday's task was a simple one to fill the reservoir, the farm's main fields are flood irrigated which requires a more nuanced use of dams and gates. I once thought that flood irrigation was the brute force method of irrigating (just soak everything in water!), but now believe it can be low-tech elegant and thoughtful. And here's how I will learn how to effectively work with it:

The 1955 Yearbook of Ag: yet another wonderful book on my bookshelf that needs to be read.

Lydia really likes it when I work with the water, too, because we drive by the field that so many gophers have decided is home. All Lydia wants to do is knock on their front doors and say hi. They usually don't answer.

Knock, knock.

Lydia looks about.


  1. You're much more zen about all this irrigation than I am. I'm going to have to try to force myself to see it your way I think. . .it will probably make me a better person. Happy soaking!

  2. I was going to say the same thing--you have a very zen outlook. When working with water I remind myself--this is what cut out the Grand Canyon--oh the mighty water!

  3. Usually the zen comes later, after the frustration and cursing and I'm sitting in front of my computer looking at photos all calm-like. Though in this instance yesterday, it was rather pleasant and enjoyable. But wait until I irrigate our 15-acre field later this summer. I think the blog post will be much different.


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