Chronicles of Less Urban Living, Fresh from In the Night Farm

Digging Ditches

You know summer’s coming when the irrigation ditches fill with water, gated pipe sends glistening streams across the fields, and massive sprinkler systems cast great plumes over the emerald wheat.

Irrigation is a big deal in our corner of Idaho. Despite having just emerged from our snowiest winter since the 1980’s, our reservoirs and aquifers are alarmingly low after nearly ten years of drought. Here at In the Night Farm, we’re permitted to irrigate only one of our five acres…and we’re determined to make the most of it.

Travis spent the weekend overhauling the professionally-installed, automatic sprinkler system that seemed to assume we, like most Americans, would want to surround our house with a neatly manicured lawn.
H.C. Flores, in his book Food Not Lawns, wasn’t the first to note that “58 million Americans spend approximately thirty billion dollars every year to maintain more than twenty-three million acres of lawns….the same-sized plot of land could still have a small lawn for recreation and produce all the vegetables needed to feed a family of six. The lawns in the United States consume around 270 billion gallons of water a week – enough to water eighty-one million acres of organic vegetables, all summer long.”

Now, before you run away with the idea that Travis and I spend our weekends hugging trees and protesting the de-listing of Idaho’s gray wolves, note that we do keep a minimally maintained, fenced yard for Wyrsa‘s pleasure. (Note also that we use no chemicals and feed the grass clippings to the sheep and chickens.) We do not, however, have any interest in pouring time and money into a vast expanse of useless turf.

Instead, we’re revamping our irrigated acre to include a berry patch, a fruit and nut orchard, large plots for vines and corn, and the main garden. This last has been a bit of a problem, considering its size and the unfortunate configuration of the sprinkler system. Travis spent several days digging up sections of pipe and laying them in new trenches around the perimeter.

He wasn’t the only one digging ditches. Forced by gusty winds to abandon my horse training on Sunday afternoon, I retired to the garden, where I planted three pounds of onion sets and fifteen pounds of Yukon Gold seed potatoes. Rather than planting in hills, I’m attempting the trench method of growing potatoes this year.

The seed potatoes are placed in trenches and covered with a few inches of soil. As they grow, I’ll pile in more soil to keep the tubers below ground (and to cover the frost-tender shoots if another cold snap blows through).
This is satisfying work. Every Monday, we look back on more projects completed, more small steps toward the large dream.
Is there another way to live?
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