Thursday, June 25, 2015

Progress in Paradise...

Progress in Paradise...  During our walk this morning, the dogs and I got to watch the irrigation crews moving two “wheel lines” – the two that I took photos of yesterday.  To move them, they shut off the water, let it drain out of the pipes, then start up a small gas engine in a special unit located in the approximate center of the wheel line string.  There might be a half mile of pipe on each side of these units, whose purpose is to slowly rotate the line to advance it to a new location.  The entire string of pipe rotates simultaneously, so on a big wheel line you've got about 150 pieces of pipe with a wheel in the middle of each, stretching for over a mile – like a gigantic axle with 150 wheels on it.  The line follows the contours of the ground, and in the hilly area to our east one part of the line might be 100 feet or more above or below another part.  It's quite an amazing thing to see in operation.  It's also an incredibly effective and economically efficient way to irrigate quite large tracts of land.  It was fascinating to watch this crew at work.  In less than a half hour, they moved four of these big strings of wheel line and started them back up.  They zipped back and forth on ATVs to do what needed to be done, a total of six people.

When we finished our walk, my friend and neighbor Tim D. came over to start moving his hand lines.  He's got five of them running at the same time, irrigating the four different fields that he's growing alfalfa in, or using as pasture for his two horses.  He and I got all those lines moved in about 30 minutes, and then I drove my tractor over to his place to borrow his cultivator.

Our tractors both have a Category 1 (the size) 3-point hitch, so we can use the same implements.  By happy coincidence, he and I have a perfectly complimentary set of implements – couldn't have done that better if we'd tried!  I spent about an hour using the cultivator to break up all the ground we'd leveled and graded the day before, to prepare it for planting grass.  Some of that soil was so hard-packed that I had to make a dozen or so passes with the cultivator to get it broken up – but in the end, I was able to make a nice bed of soil for the grass seed.

Naturally, the next thing I did was to seed that area.  I ran down to Tractor Supply Company (just six miles up the road) and picked up a 25 pound bag of forage mix – full sun, low water requirement; perfect.  All I had to broadcast the seed with was a little hand-held and hand-cranked broadcast seeder.  It took a while to get the seed spread on a (roughly) half acre!  My right arm, which did the cranking, is now quite sore :)  And the sun was beating down on me the whole time, 90 degrees or so and 40% relative humidity.  It was hot!  After I got the seed down, I set up a couple of sprinklers.  I'll have to move them a few times to cover the whole area, but in a couple of days I should have that grass seed started.  In a few weeks, we'll have turned what was a complete mess into a nice grassy area that I can mow.  Woo hoo!

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