Converting Sprinklers to Drip, and other random stuff

This weekend, Tom embarked on what will end up being a multi-weekend job, which is converting our sprinkler system to drip. We had the sprinklers put in our yard ten years ago, and as long as we had a lawn, they were adequate. Now that we've revamped our yard to be mostly food production and natives, sprinklers just aren't doing the job. So much of our water gets lost to evaporation; the wood chips get watered regularly, promoting weed germination and wasting valuable water; and the water spray often is too strong or too weak. Not to mention that the foliage is getting wet, which promotes disease. So, we knew it was time to switch, and were very convicted when it looked like December was going to be our only rainy month this year. I know you're tired of reading it, and I'm sure tired of typing it, but we're in a serious drought here, and any way that we can save water is a bonus. Our water bill is still very cheap; about $100 a month in the summer months and half that in the winter, but honestly at some point they've got to raise the rates just to get people to stop washing their cars and watering their grass. This conversion to drip is costing us about $200, which will pay for itself in water savings.

A side note: Many folks in our area have wells, and they water their lawns from their wells. (We do not have a well.) But I am uneasy about using wells to water monoculture. Isn't this still using a precious resource? So many homes have little signs on their fences proudly stating "well-watered," as though they are worried someone is going to comment on the lushness of their lawn and they need to go on the defensive at the outset. But how is using well water any better than city water? Is it because it just drips down to the water table again? I'm just not sure about this. Please weigh in if you can help me understand. And also, this goes without saying, but WHY WATER GRASS???? We drive pass a city park every morning which is a couple acres of grass, with sprinklers arcing across it nearly every day. Why is the city blatantly using up our precious resources on something that produces nothing? It burns my butt, I tell you. I'm gearing up to write the Mayor a letter.

Anyway, this project is muddy (because existing sprinkler heads need to be dug up and either capped or repurposed), fiddly (because trying to figure out which parts go where is a little bit of a puzzle), and frustrating (because trying to determine which sprinklers are on which station requires turning them on and off and getting wet a bunch). Tom's more than halfway done, and hopefully by next week we'll have a working system. Meanwhile I'm watering everything by hand, which is interesting because I'm having to spend a lot of time getting to know my plants and becoming intuitively connected with their water needs, which is something I haven't been in a long time. So it's not all bad, but it does take too much time. I've also now used up all the water in the rain barrel and it doesn't look like that will be filling up again any time soon. Before next winter, we need to figure out more catchement systems.

A friend of mine was hoping for more current pictures of the vegetable beds, so here's one.

It's hard to get a good picture of everything in one shot. The closest bed has braising greens, beets, and broccoli. The next one up has romaine and spinach. Next one has kale and chard. And the final one has peas. Everything is big and lush and delicious.

Here's one of the shallots, garlic, and strawberry wall.

In the forefront are native flower seedlings

The strawberry wall is doing great, but tends to run very dry. I have to stay on top of it with water. I'll get a closeup next week.

The asparagus aren't doing anything further, yet. The blueberries are blooming, as well as strawberries in the ground. The peach tree is blooming.

The herb spiral is doing just great and I harvest from that every couple of days. The mint is starting to make a break for it, as mint is wont to do, so it just takes an eagle eye from me to prevent it from spreading.

The chickens are growing and happy to eat greens from the garden every day. I've cleaned their house several times already and have a good start on the new compost bins. I dug out some compost from the smaller bin and sprinkled some on the new bin, to get those good microbes working. I also begged some grass cuttings from a neighbor to spread on top of the straw. He also promised to bring me grass every time he mows. (I guess lawn is good for one thing, at least.)

Bees are on order and arrive April 11; I'm constantly adding to the flower garden, as well as pruning everything in sight. I took a trip to an interesting nursery today in San Francisco. It's called Bay Natives and it's on the southern waterfront. I bought a bunch of neat plants: checker bloom, yampah, mallow, phacelia, yarrow, salvia, and a few things I can't remember the name of.

The nursery was next door to a place that rents out goats for weed control. They were cute! We enjoyed feeding them scraps from the nursery.

The spiders are growing, they are yellow with black legs and a black spot on their rumps. Anyone know what these are? I'm going to have to let them go soon, I think. But I'd sure like to know what they are first so I know where in the garden to put them.

Adam is working on a great project; he wants to change the school district's lunch program. To that end, he's been interviewing everyone from the lunch staff at school to the district's CFO. He also went on a tour to The Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, which is Alice Waters' pet project. I had to work and couldn't go, but my folks took him and it sounded like a great, educational time. Here are a few pictures of their day.

Next, Adam and I are going to visit a chef who changed her school lunch program in the district next to ours. I can't wait! I love this project!

As soon as Tom's done with the drip system, we're going to make a serious start on raising the height of our fences, so deer can't get in. The fence part isn't hard, but we'll have to make three new gates, yikes. After that it'll be time to make the new raised beds for the chicken coop garden, and get planting!