Irrigation Irritation

Zucchini and tomatoes grow in a hoop house
Prickly zucchini leaves are located too close to the water line header.

Written by Peter

Picking up the irrigation equipment order was a journey full of holes. Early in the day, I lost precious time trying to locate a local irrigation salesman who’s business has yet to embrace modern standards of advertising, especially when it comes to LOCATION. From the third parking lot deep in Old Order Mennonite Country, at least I finally found him on the phone.

He drawled, “Aww–you’ve come all that way, and now you’re actually pretty close to us. I’d like to meet you, but I have a family reunion and I have to leave now or be late.”

Ironically, that made two of us. I zoomed away towards the store where my order waited, passing many places I’d loved to have stopped if the time thief hadn’t stolen my savings. I arrived at the store with just enough time. It was a good thing the order was pre-packed, because it was expensive and took many lines of typing to put into the computer.

An elderly salesman gathered my order, and added a few new items I’d chosen. Sheepishly, he then informed me, “Uh oh–I think I just accidentally deleted the order.”

Not funny. I tried to think sympathetic thoughts, while he re-entered the entire order, line by line, with the speed of someone who’s first language did not require typing. Upon purchase, I whisked the boxes to the car and ignored the first rule of parcel pick-up: check your order. Upon returning home many hours and hundreds of kilometers later, I realized he’d accidentally double-billed me on one item. That would prove to be easy to remedy; at least I had everything I ordered.

Everything except the irrigation kit! During the initial phone order, I’d included numerous non-essential items and add-ons to customize the kit to our needs. But I never added the actual kit order number. So there was no kit inside the boxes I picked up.

Nevertheless outside, temperatures were climbing, plants were drooping, and watering by hand was still the only lifeblood of the tomatoes.

"Jaune flamme" tomato ripens from yellow to orange
“Jaune flamme” tomato ripens from yellow to orange

While I searched for a Plan B or C, I discovered that the kit I’d ordered was suspiciously flimsy. Apparently, many irrigation supplies become worn or faulty after just a couple of seasons of use. That seemed like a poor use of fossil and economic energy. I discovered another kit which was more expensive but much more robust. Nestled amongst quantities of supplies vast enough to equip nation-states, a company from the nation-state of Quebec had a kit sturdy enough and small enough to fit us just right.

“When can you ship it?” I asked the secretary in my best French-accented English.

“It’s our slow season, so we can ship it tomorrow,” she replied.

“Perfect,” I thought, remembering good food experiences we had enjoyed in Quebec last summer.

On D(elivery) Day, I tried to minimize the risks. I called Purolator to confirm that the driver knew how to find us. The secretary kindly and carefully took my directions and entered them into her computer.

Even when the Purolator truck whizzed by my driveway, I did not panic. After all, my driveway was a left-hand turn on the opposite side of the road; delivery companies tend to be anal about that sort of thing. I decided to be anal about that sort of thing, too, and followed the truck down the hill and into the neighbouring Cape Croker community.

I offered, “You were probably going to drop off my package on the way back. Did you get the directions from the secretary?” I asked.

“Nah. I was going to deliver to you afterwards from the back way,” the driver answered.

“You can’t get to my place from the back way–that’s what I insisted to the secretary and why I left a message.”

“Oh,” he responded with eyebrows arched. “Then I’m glad you caught up to me. I wouldn’t have found you. Here’s your package.”

I chose to be thankful rather than frustrated. Finally, after a lot of labour, I had a system of labour-saving technology in my possession.

Or most of a system in my possession. The big company had left some important small parts in their warehouse back in the nation-state. Days later, the Purolator driver appeared in my driveway.

“It’s a good thing you found me the other day,” he blurted, “I didn’t get very far on the back way before I remembered what you said.”

Portofino summer squash grows with irrigation in the hoop house
Portofino summer squash in the hoop house benefit from a steady supply of water.

I didn’t get very far installing the system the next day. “Were my efforts to irrigate cursed?” I wondered. It took  me an entire morning to connect a spigot from the outside of my shed to my water line. In the afternoon, all the time was spent at the other end, the greenhouse end. We realized how ideal it would have been to place the lines and connections earlier in the season, before the greenhouse resembled a sauna, before lines had to be snaked around dainty basils and peppers, and before serrated squash leaves scratched you as you lay on your belly, attaching lines for their liquid gold next to their fragile golden flowers. But it was a golden moment when, finally, I turned on the tap and water droplets dribbled out, from main line, to header line, to  row lines, to holes, to beds, to soil, to roots.

Irrigation timer programs four automatic waterings daily
This timer allows us to program up to four automatic waterings per day. What a time saver!