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Learn Grow Nourish

Overcoming Challenges: Water & Neighbors

One of my great concerns about starting a garden is having access to enough water.  Even with permaculture techniques, which help to reduce water usage through the use of grey water,  swales, lasagna layers,  etc,  the very dry mountain desert climate I live in needs water to grow anything and keep growing.

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If you were to walk south about 5 minutes from my house, this is exactly what you will see.

The irrigation water comes from the snow melt from the Sawtooth National Forest that my town of Boise, Idaho is nestled at the base of.

 

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Winter view of downtown Boise, Idaho

So, a big summer project for my husband, D,  and I has been setting up an irrigation pump system to water our garden, trees, and remaining yard.  The neighborhood we live in has access to pressure irrigation. In Boise, pressure irrigation means using water diverted from the Boise River and distributing it through large irrigation canals and smaller irrigation laterals to local neighborhoods throughout the city. We have a small ditch that runs through the back of our half-acre property and we pay each year for the use of water one day each week.  We can use and store as much water as we are able to hold during our designated day.  It costs significantly less than using city water which is our only other option as we don’t have a private or community well.

Here are some pictures of what we have done so far:

This 35 gallon garbage can we set in the ground will hold our water pump, which will pull water from the irrigation ditch and through our sprinklers and watering system.
This 35 gallon garbage can we set in the ground will hold our water pump, which will pull water from the irrigation ditch and through our sprinklers and watering system.
Irrigation Ditch at the back of our property.
Irrigation Ditch at the back of our property.
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A float switch will hang from the bar on top of the can and will switch off if the water level gets too low so the pump doesn’t continue to run.
This is the pipe that sits in the ditch and draws water into the can set in the ground.
This is the pipe that sits in the ditch and draws water into the can set in the ground.
D explaining to me how the float switch will work.
D explaining to me how the float switch will work.
Water pump on stand. Still working on this, so more pictures will come later.
Water pump on stand. Still working on this, so more pictures will come later.

One issue we have noticed over the summer is a significant drop in the water level in our ditch. It would not be enough to back fill the can in the ground when the pump is running at its current levels. After talking with several neighbors who access water from the same ditch, we realized that we are not alone. We reached out to our neighborhood irrigation manager, who agreed to look into the issue and invited us to join him as he literally walked the ditch line to see if there are any blockages. We quickly discovered that several homes above us have not properly cleaned out their ditches of grass, weeds, etc., which quickly impair the flow of water over the years.

One of the ditches we cleared out with some of our neighbors, including our irrigation manager. This wasn't even close to being as overgrown as some of the other stretches of the ditch we found. In fact, we will have to go back at another time to finish clearing the grass, weeds, and moss that have overtaken stretches of the ditch.
One of the ditches we cleared out with some of our neighbors, including our irrigation manager. This wasn’t even close to being as overgrown as some of the other stretches of the ditch we found. In fact, we will have to go back at another time to finish clearing the grass, weeds, and moss that have overtaken stretches of the ditch.

We spent about four hours yesterday trimming the grass and weeds growing along the ditches as well as clearing out the overgrowth of moss in the ditches we were able to access, and trying to build good relationships with the neighbors to hopefully help the irrigation manager as he works to keep all the neighbors happy (an impossible job in itself). It is likely we will need to repeat this at least once a year in order to keep the water flowing through the neighborhood.

Jed came to say hi when we got back from cleaning the ditches. It was messy work and I was covered in mud and grass.
Jed came to say hi when we got back from cleaning the ditches. It was messy work and I was covered in mud and grass.

It can be a tricky thing, working with neighbors, some of whom are renters and homeowners who do not use irrigation water to water their lawns and therefore do not care about whether their section of the ditch is cleared. By law, the irrigation manager is allowed access to the ditches, and there is supposed to be a 5 foot easement on each side of the ditch, so it is not technically on someone’s property, but in order to access it he needs permission to walk through their yard.

We are hoping to see an improvement in our water level this evening as a result of the clearing we did yesterday when they turn the water on for our section of the ditch. And, we will be working on the pump this afternoon, so I may have an update for this topic by this evening!

Robin

It Begins Here

Well here it is, my first post. I had so many ideas of what to write about but somehow it only seems right to start here:
 

This is a picture of my garden.

Okay, yes I know, this is actually a picture of a bunch of cardboard boxes I scavenged from my work-site, a hospital. (which unknowingly provides an endless supply of cardboard which I will be sure to help reduce and repurpose)

You see, the future of my garden is right here in these boxes. This fall I will lay them on my current water-sucking lawn in the pattern of my garden beds. And I will add layers of different natural materials, like dirt, grass clippings, brown leaves, manure, wood ashes, etc, until I have created “lasagna layers”. Then I will let nature takes its course, and the little worms living in the ground will do their important work while I stay warm inside my house all winter. And come spring, I will head out with my packets of seeds and starters and plant my garden in the good and nutrient soil and then watch them grow and later harvest the fruits and vegetables to feed and nourish my family, and to share with neighbors and friends in the hopes of better connecting with the world around me.

I know this all probably sounds so basic, and you may be wondering why I created a website to document growing a garden. Lots of people garden, it’s true. I feel it is so much more than that, and my hope is that if you stick around you will also understand that it is not just about planting seeds. It is an intentional restoration of freedoms and choices our society has relinquished, and frankly, been robbed of over several generations as corporations and lawmakers have taken the control of our food supply and our food choices. Until now. For me, that is. (More on that, later).

So while you may see a stack of Tater Gem cardboard boxes, I see ripe strawberries, carrots, peppers and tomatoes, and so many other good and nourishing foods growing. I hope you will see that, too.

There will be many lessons learned along the way, which I will share here, and I foresee many changes and adjustments as I learn what works best for my climate and growing space. I have much to learn, am eager to do so, and I plan to share many different topics from my own research of permaculture, food security, and sustainability, including how to grow food in different living environments in the hopes of inspiring others to take back some of their own power and choices whether they live in the country, suburbs, or big city.

Let’s Grow Something!

Robin

 

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