Friday, April 9, 2010

Diggin' Ditch

With the arrival of spring, and all it's budding beauty, comes the beginning of our irrigation season. But before we can quench the earth with a much needed drink, we have the dreaded task of preparing the ditches. Rushing water, cattle, weeds, and winter snow all contribute to the demise of our waterways, and every year we (and by we, I mean mostly my husband) must renew the path for water to flow, so we can irrigate.
On the other side of our fence we have a large concrete ditch where we take our irrigation water from. This ditch runs for miles along the countryside, serving the water needs of many ranchers. At our scheduled time, we open our head-gate and the water flows from the "big" ditch into our pasture's small ditch. From here we control what sections of the pasture receive water by blocking off small culverts on the sides of our ditch. Irrigation is more of an art than a science. It's all about gauging the water, and guessing when to stop the flow. If the grass is tall, it takes longer for the water to run it's course, if it's rained recently and the earth is saturated, it spreads quickly.
I personally have a love/hate relationship with irrigation. I love how water can transform this wintry dead looking pasture into a lush green oasis in a short period of time. I love irrigating during hot summer days, when standing in the cool refreshing water makes wearing my hot black rubber irrigation boots more bearable. I love watching my dogs, and my children frolic through the pasture, soaking wet, having the time of their lives. And I love the peacefulness of the water as the sun reflects it's beauty at sunset.

I hate irrigating at 2am when I have church the next morning at 8am. I hate irrigating during a pitch black, thumbnail moon. The kind of night that you can't see an inch in front of your face. I hate night irrigation when I encounter skunks and wild dogs in the pasture, and all I can see is sets of glowing eyes all around me when I shine my flashlight. I hate walking through the ditch and coming face to face with a water snake. And I hate sleeping in the truck during our 8 hour watering.
But I love irrigation during a full moon when it's so bright, I don't need a flashlight to see. I love the brilliant stars in the night sky, and the soft rustling noise of cattle bedded down. And I love the exhaustion that comes from a full day of hard, physical labor. It's a gratifying task when you drive away and see a field completely covered in water. There's just something about working with earth, and water, and cattle that makes me feel alive and free.

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