In the fine month of May, amongst all the planting and weeding, we vegetable farmers spend a surprising amount of tine watering. Many of our transplants are still in pots, waiting for the magical June-first-post-frost planting date. In March and April, watering can be a pleasant, contemplative experience, with all the little plants in all their little plots. But in May, there's hundreds of plants, still in pots, and they don't want to be in pots anymore. They are bursting out of their pots, slurping up all available nutrients and moisture, and thus they need a substantial watering every day.
For all our years together, my fellow farmer and I have used a greenhouse watering system we've cobbled together ourselves. First there is a 100 gallon drum, a former Coca-Cola barrel (since Coca-Cola is practically a food grade substance!), filled with water from our well. The barrel filling process involves three hoses, threaded through the pile of junk in front of the barn, and catching on every possible protrusion: the various plow shares, broken wire netting, pipes, old carts, etc., all waiting to be sold or fixed or recycled. At least one of the hoses is sure to have a repaired spot, which, after catching on something, pulls apart, thus spraying water all over a farmer who prefers to stay dry.
Then it's shut off the water, stick the hose back together, turn on the water, trip over the junk, thread the hose more carefully through the junk, edge the hose under a gap in the baseboards of the greenhouse, and put the hose in the barrel. Sometimes the hose stays in the barrel. Sometimes the hose flips out, causing a flood in the greenhouse pathways, which a farmer would also prefer to stay dry, so she doesn't get her feet wet.
Now the barrel is filled, and the water is warmed by the sun (or the greenhouse's propane heater, when there is no sunshine) so as not to shock our plants. Then we plug in the submersible pump (ingenious! our favorite part of the lousy system!) which is connected to yet another hose, which we drag around the greenhouse to water both the transplants in pots on the tables, and the tomatoes that are already planted in the greenhouse beds.
Drag is the operative word here, because it is very, very bad for a farmer to crush a thriving transplant in a pot or a thriving tomato plant in the bed with a dragging hose. Thus we have an elaborate maze of concrete blocks, stakes, and digging forks anchored at the ends of the tables and beds to protect the plants. Mostly this works. Sometimes it doesn't. Inevitably the hose gets caught in the maze, requiring many trips back and forth in the greenhouse. Sometimes a farmer gets wet too, from all this hose fiddling, and that is also very, very bad.
Periodically, along our farming way, my fellow and I would visit and ogle and covet the greenhouse watering systems of other farmers. “Look at that,” we'd say, watching as a hose whizzed by on a cable and the smiling farmer quickly, efficiently, and painlessly watered the greenhouse.
“That probably cost five hundred dollars,” one of us would say gloomily.
“A thousand dollars,” said the other. “There's no way we can afford that.”
But, for once, we were blissfully wrong about fancy-farm-things prices.
“You won't believe this,” my fellow says one day, coming to untangle the hose for me as I water and grumble in the greenhouse. I muster up an interested look for his news.
“I looked up the whizzing hose on a cable in a catalog. It's only 150 dollars!”
“No!” I say.
“Yes!” he says. “We can find 150 dollars somewhere!”
“Maybe we can!” My thrifty farmer nature is momentarily overcome by the idea of a wonderful whizzing hose.
And we do! We order the hose, right away! It comes in the mail! Our fine CSA member who barters for carpentry work installs it! We test it out! It works perfectly, magnificently, whizzingly! Holy moly! We dance around the greenhouse, hollering in glee!
“Wow,” I say, “The great thing about having cruddy stuff and lousy systems is that we are so ecstatic when something better comes along! Maybe we should keep using our cruddy stuff even longer!”
“Wow!' says my fellow farmer. “You're crazy! I might have to squirt you with this whizzing hose!'
“Don't you dare!” I say, and we holler and laugh our way all the way down our quickly, efficiently, and painlessly watered greenhouse.
Originally published in the Monadnock Shopper News, May 11-17, 2016