Irrigation time again

I live on the western edge of the Central Valley in CA.  We get winter rain and it’s dry all summer. The only way that things stay green here is through irrigation. One reason that we wanted this property was because it was part of the Solano Irrigation District and we could get irrigation water without having an ag well.

When I order water the water tender opens a valve at the west end of this ditch (left in the photo). This is not on our property, but the water flows down this ditch and then onto our property by opening the valve at this end.

The water flows through a pipe that goes under the fence and the water comes up in this standpipe and out the hole into the ditch in the pasture.

This view is still looking west. The water is starting to flow from the standpipe down the ditch at the north end of the property. The ditch turns south and gets the water to the rest of the pasture. The ditch is supposed to have high enough sides that the water is contained and only flows out where I dig a cut-out that lets the water into the pasture. The idea is to open a few areas at a time and be able to fill those cut-outs in as you open more. Ideally the pasture would have just the right amount of slope so that the water would flow evenly. Easier said than done. One problem with our place is that we don’t have the equipment to re-ditch the property. I’m using the same ditch that we had dug (by a neighbor with a tractor and ditcher) when we first started here. I see the alfalfa farmers re-ditch every time they irrigate and I’m jealous. I’ve looked into a pipeline system in which there wouldn’t be a ditch, but a buried pipe with valves that could be open and shut to control the irrigation. Unfortunatly the cost is completely unrealistic for my business. So I keep plugging away with the shovel and hoping for the best.

That is a mowed alfalfa field on the north (top of the photo) and our property is the green field. The standpipe is in the northwest corner of the property and the ditch in one of the photos above is along the north fenceline. You can see the water flowing down the ditch going south and that part of the pasture is already flooded. The sheep have to be in the corrals and barn when I’m irrigating. (So I have to feed them hay for several days every 3-4 weeks. I usually have the water on for 36 hours, but it takes several days for the field to drain enough to turn the sheep back out.)

That ditch that takes the water south dead-ends on this ditch that runs east-west and carries water to the other 5 acres. This view shows the south west corner of the property.

Here is the south east corner. I strip graze this 5 acre pasture. The strips run north-south and are separated by a 3-wire electric fence. You can make out the strips in this photo. See that black thing towards the top? That’s a portable water trough that I plug into the water pipeline that we installed a couple of years ago. The water trough is on one of the fencelines. I have just finished grazing the strips on either side of the water trough. The next two strips are more lush. They are ready to be grazed next. Notice the very pale green in the strip above the water trough? This strip is hard to irrigate and for several years I couldn’t get much water on it. That light green color is medusahead–a very unpalatable grass. Ideally I think burning it would be good, but I don’t think I can do that. We just bought a better heavy-duty weed-eater and I think I’m going to try to stay on top of the medusahead by using the weed-eater. I hope that I can make an impact on it this year. It renders that strip of the pasture unuseable. I noticed tonight that my irrigation water was getting there. I hope that if I can keep the medushead at bay then something else will start growing there.


5 thoughts on “Irrigation time again

    • When Dan built the barn he added a “tower” above the second story. It is a cool place for a view, but getting to it is treacherous because there is just a ladder under the hole and it doesn’t quite go all the way. Someday maybe there will be “public” access. If we go up there on July 4th we can see fireworks in 6-7 different towns! Robin Lynde Meridian Jacobs Vacaville, CA

  1. WOW Robin!
    your website is top notch and i love the blog. we just got hi speed internet at the house so this is the first time i could really look at all of it. you have come along way baby! you amaze me. thanks for sharing your farm with us and i may be in the market for one of your lambs. i think i am going to have to put down one of the boys i got from you. he’s been a good boy all these years and makes beautiful wool but i think his day is here :o(
    thanks again for sharing with us.

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