And the little fix

In my previous post I described some of the big fixes we had to do at Homeland. In this post we carry on with the same theme where I describe some somewhat smaller, but equally necessary fixes we had to apply at Dreamland.

Irrigation 201

When I designed the irrigation for Dreamland, I had it all worked out. Well that’s what I thought at the time… My goodness, we have a 12-station controller for an acre. We run the whole acre of Homeland off 4 stations (OK and we use another pump and battery controller at the vegetable garden and some regular manual watering and… read: complicated setup.)

So the Dreamland fruit trees were all divided in geographical sections, and each section has its own dedicated pipe and drip irrigation (read: there are actually “multi-lane highways” of meters and meters of pipe running under all that mulch…) Of course, I did the same for the guild beds – two sections, one for the back beds and one for the front beds. We’re organised!

In the end, we didn’t end up planting perennial guild plants in all those beds. We repurposed four quite large beds for “forest vegetable growing” (e.g. pottage style gardening). As it turned out, two of those vegetable beds were in the back part and two were in the front part…


Vegetable beds neatly on both sides of the dividing line

So here’s the dilemma: if we water the vegetables regularly, which we have to do in our summer – in fact we have to do it now already – we unnecessarily soak the guild beds too,  both the front and the back beds. I’m sure they will like it, especially over our dry summer, but we just cannot afford to use so much water. Forbid if they introduce water restrictions. (We are running Homeland off tank water, but we are still running Dreamland off town water.)

So some of the irrigation had to be rerouted. All the vegetables had to be grouped together, which was relatively straightforward, and then all the guild beds had to be grouped together, which was an intricate piece of pipe laying and juggling, especially with most of the paths now planted with young growing grass.  Using a bit more pipe to work around the paths, I managed to only have to dig two little trenches across the paths. You win some, you lose some.


Heartbreak Hotel to dig through the newly growing paths

There’s not much to show in terms of photos, as it resulted in even more pipe highways under ground and under mulch, but suffice to say, we can now water the vegetables on their own.

But knowing what I know now, there are a few big changes I would have made in the irrigation design. Currently I use “manual valve-based distributors” on two of the more frequently used sections (new paths and vegetable market garden.)

Maybe one day I’ll combine some of the tree zones with a splitting tap (as they are  only used once a week) and split some of the paths and market vegetables  into separate zones (as they are used more frequently). Maybe one day I will even draw up a detailed schematic…

Paths for all purposes

Talking about the paths at Dreamland, I’m not sure how this happened. When the kids and I laid out the paths at Dreamland, I remember using the measuring tape to make sure the paths were wide enough for the big mulch cart and the ride-on mower, two tools we regularly use. Mind you, I vaguely remember a big dispute about who may lay out which paths in front of who’s secret garden entrance… (Oh yes, we have a couple of secret little hideouts at Dreamland!) Well it is exactly in front of one those entrances that the path is way too narrow – not even the cart, which is 20cm narrower than the ride-on, could pass through there. In a few other places, the paths were also way too narrow for either.

Some of the too narrow paths

I think initially we thought we would maintain those particular paths with the manual mower, which in retrospect was a crazy idea – we just don’t have the manpower, even with the help of some young gentleman who loves pushing the mower around.

So the paths had to be widened. This started off with the usual branch collecting drive through town, which said young gentleman normally enjoys. It was a grey drizzly day, so he got a hot chocolate at the drive-through as well…

SFix - fetching loot

I did the actual path widening the following day. This entailed loosening the edging branches, removing the home-made pegs, removing the mulch, relocating some dirt, relaying the irrigation pipes, re-pegging, matching the new edging, re-fastening the edging branches and then replacing the mulch. A good ¾ day’s work.

Some of the widened paths

Now we still need to top-up the clover and tall fescue grass on those open sections.

However, I’m happy with the outcome – now you can just squeeze through on the ride-on. Any cowboy style driving and you’ll knock the pegs out of the ground, break the irrigation uprights, crack or dislodge the edging branches, or all of the above. So it will be a long while before a certain young gentleman will get his chance to manoeuvre the ride-on through Dreamland’s meandering paths!

But I will remember that path widening day for a long time – it was a hot sunny day, really great to be outdoors – but it was uncharacteristically moggy and the grass was damp with millions of mosquitoes about. I literally got eaten alive and with my mosquito allergy I was suffering for a week or too after with tens of itching swollen infected lumps. I also got what I guess must have been a spider’s bite, because it was swollen up like a tennis ball, lasted much longer than the mozzie bites and I’ve been feeling so miserable, I’ve even skipped a surf session or two. Dear little price to pay for not measuring the paths properly the first time.

You live and learn!

Anyway, it’s all good by now (scratch, scratch…) and we’re ready for the next project.

About (207 Articles)
My name is Martin Rennhackkamp, I now live happily in Lara, Victoria, Australia with my wife, two children and two dogs. My interests, apart from the obvious Organic, Biodynamic and Permaculture Gardening and Farming, include sustainable living, surfing, horse-riding, a wide variety of music, dancing, nature, birds, reading, Christianity and a few other things which I never get to...

7 Comments on And the little fix

  1. As you say Martin …We all live and learn.. 🙂

  2. I have an allergic reaction to mosquito bites, too, and the one spider bite I’ve had was quite nasty – definitely not the best bits about gardening/working the land. However, a good job done. I’m forever having to redo stuff – it just isn’t possible to see everything before it’s in place!

  3. It’s a bit ilke an iceberg isn’t it? The part of the job that you see is only part of the story of changing something.

  4. janesmudgeegarden // October 16, 2018 at 6:42 am // Reply

    I think it’s always so satisfying to get jobs like that done. Interesting names for your garden areas, I wonder why you chose them? I would like to see a map of your place as it’s quite difficult to understand how it fits together. I was bitten by something, presumably a spider, but I didn’t feel the bite at all and there was no evidence of it either. I was wearing jeans and Blundstones at the time. My leg swelled up in a very disturbing manner and itched for days. Very strange.

    • Jane the spiders in this part of the world are horrific, and everywhere! A lot of them live in the ground. I didn’t feel my spider bite at the time either – same experience as yours.
      I should really draw updated maps of Homeland and especially of Dreamland. One day if it buckets down for two days in a row… (that would be bliss, it’s so dry this year! Two days, because I need to catch up on “admin” on the first…) There is a bit of a story of the two properties here: but it’s very high level. One day I’ll do it!

  5. Irrigation at the farm is still a sore subject for me. It was never automated. I try not to say anything because I do not often operate it. However, when others want to go away for even a day, I must operate it, which involves changing valves in the middle of the night! It is just wrong on so many levels!

    • I get that totally Tony! On the Dreamland property we are only semi-automated as the original owners still rent from us (so we have to relay the water from our side of the fence). And I made the mistake of putting the valves on the sectors that I run often – hence I have to remember to change them before the next day – instead of on the trees, which we only run once a week… But that was all due to much bigger demand than I initially expected. Without the valves, the pressure is just too low. So it’s not quite midnight changes, like yours, but if I forget, it turns into that!

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