Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My Favorite Time Of The Year

Not. We started laying out pipe yesterday. It's not my favorite thing to do, but it's necessary. Remember the hilling pictures? The pictures I share today will bring it all in.

This is irrigation pipe. They are 30' pieces of either aluminum or plastic. The most common sizes (determined by diameter) are 6", 8", and 10". They have a male and a female end, and slide together. Laying out pipe works best with 3 people - a driver, and a person on each end of the pipe. The size of pipe you use is determined by how much water your wells pump. We have some wells that pump 300-400 gallons a minute, so they get 6" pipe. The bigger pipe on top in this picture is 10", while the pipe on the bottom of the trailer is 8". The well that this pipe goes to probably puts out about 1,000 gallons of water a minute.

The above picture shows a well. I now realize that this was a bad well to take a picture of, because we had the motor off to get repaired. There is a pump attached to a motor with pulleys and belts. When the motor spins the pulleys, it pumps water. 

This is what one piece of pipe attached to the well looks like. Sorry for the blurriness. 

This is an up close look of the female end, known as the "bell". You can see a rubber gasket on the inside of the bell, which allows the pipes to seal so they don't leak water all over hell. You're probably wondering how we get the water down the row. Enter "gates" into the discussion.

There are gates every 20" on a piece of pipe. I'm too lazy to do the math, but if I remember right, that means there are 18 gates on every pipe. They slide open and closed. We run every other row when we irrigate, and we only run a certain number at a time, referred to as a "set". This also depends on how much water your well pumps. On the 300-400 gallon a minute well, you're looking at 10-15 gates a set. With this large pipe and good well, I'm guessing Dad runs 30-40 gates a set. We change sets every 12 hours or so - once around 6:30AM, and once around the same time in the PM. The third picture shows the pipe sitting on top of the ridges that I hilled last week. Our fields our leveled to run a certain direction, so once we open the gates, the water will run to the other end of the field, hence the term "gravity" irrigation. Here is a picture of a finished field:

And my favorite picture - an empty trailer:

The handsome fella in the pictures is my old man, Mike.

Questions? Fire away.


  1. Dumb questions first:

    Is that free water that just comes up out of the ground? Do you have to pay for having the well dug and then you can take as much water as you want?

    (Where I grew up, you'd buy "shares" of water--woe to the person who forgot to call on the day the order was due. The water came from a reservoir in the area that was diverted into above-ground irrigation ditches. They're all underground now, so the asparagus picking is extinct and the glorious sound of running water everywhere you went is dead, too. We'd lay pipe that would need to be moved around the field every couple of days. Luckily it was light--4" in diameter, so one person could manage it, but it took a lot of walking because you'd have to link the pipe together and then pull it tight after dropping the hook down. There were "heads" or "birds" attached to the pipe. The number of birds you ran was determined by the amount of shares you bought. And that's how you grow alfalfa out in Colorado.)

    Now for the smart question: Oh, wait. I don't have a smart question.

  2. This is truly fascinating stuff, Ben. Thanks so much for the insight into your life as a farmer. I'm learning so, so much, and my appreciate for you lot increases with every bit you share.

  3. Lisa - Yes, you're correct. The land owner pays for a well to be put in. The water is free. For now. I expect that we will be taxed or charged somehow for groundwater at some point in my farming career.

  4. And Michelle - Thanks! That's kind of what I was hoping for - that someone out there would come to appreciate and learn what goes into farming.