Monday, March 31, 2014

Up To My Elbows in Angles

I was never very good at geometry.  The only reason I passed high school geometry was because the varsity baseball coach was also the geometry teacher.  Since I had to have a minimum of a C in every class to stay on the team, I got a C in geometry.  I have no idea how. I don't think I passed one test.  You know, like, isosceles this, you oblique, obtuse thingy.

Fortunately, my mind's eye can usually see the dimension in it's full glory without having to figure out the square root of its hypotenuse.  It's also a good thing I don't have to sine or cosine when I'm hyphenating an apostrophe.  I wouldn't have the foggiest notion of what I was doing.

So, I was down watering the orchard the other day a couple months ago before the rains came.  Why was I watering my 4 tree orchard in the middle of January?  Well, because we hadn't had any rain in these here parts for a while.  So I did some drought research and learned that fruit trees should get a minimum of 5 gallons of water per week per inch of trunk.  Since it really hadn't rained for a while, they were all getting a minute's worth of water.

I was going to add a few more fruit trees to the orchard this year, however, I decided not to until we get some sustained water from the sky.  Eventually I'd like to have about 16-18 semi-dwarf fruit trees, a variety of course!  And semi-dwarf so I don't have to climb an 80 foot ladder just to eat a peach.  I'm not getting any younger you know.

Right now I have 2 peach trees, 1 Santa Rosa plum and 1 Honey Crisp apple.  I'd like to add a couple more apple, a couple cherry, an apricot, a pear, a pomegranate and who knows where from there.  Since we get snow at our 2200 foot elevation generally a couple times a year, citrus doesn't work so well unless you can greenhouse them.  Olives do well, I may plant a couple of them.  We'll see.  I've got plenty of room.

Here's our two peach trees below, you can just make out the January blossoms.  The Perez peach, so named for the good friend that gave it to us, is the one in the background.  Last year it bore fruit, a half dozen sumptuous, delicious white peaches.  Lots of blooms were danced upon by bees this year, and so far we haven't had a freeze since they blossomed.  Hopefully we'll have a bit larger bounty this year.  We've got a couple established fruit trees by the house that haven't bore fruit since we've been here.  In the last 3 years as soon as they blossomed snow came and froze the giblets.  It's been a warmer Late Winter Early Spring this year.

Oh yeah, in case you haven't noticed, all our fruit trees are encased with a 6 foot high fence.  Until they get a bit taller.  If they weren't encased the dang deer would reduce them to rubble in a heartbeat.  You can read more about our deer problems here at Bambi Can Eat My Drawers.

It was upon this mid January watering that I noticed the hose spigot near the propane tank at the bottom of the property was leaking.  Dang!  We can't tolerate a water leak anywhere.  We're on a well, and we're dropping a gallon of water an hour to no where for no reason?  With an impending drought?  This is a friggin emergency.

I have had some irrigation thoughts for this area for a while and decided, if I was going in, I was going in all the way.  I had most of the materials, you have to when you live in the country, but headed into town for a few more just in case.  I loaded up on PVC fittings from Restore, a recycling place, and then went to a local hardware store for a couple more specific items.

When I returned, I got all my tools and all the materials together and trucked on down to the lower 40.  Besides fixing the leak, I wanted the leaking hose bib attached to a post.  I have another hose bib up near the parking area that is simple PVC rising, like this, and a strong tug on the hose broke it right off one morning.  Then I had 15 foot geyser and a frantic chase to figure out where the nearest shut-off might be.  Turned out that one I had to turn off at the well.  Dang.  I had to shut off the entire house.  Everything.  Everywhere.  And then I did not have the needed PVC fitting, so I picked up several when I went to the store.  Just in case there's a next time.

Seems that when they punched in the new well some years back they made a couple outlets directly off the main line coming up to the house.  So if something goes south on that line I've got to shut it down at the well.  On the other side of the property, I've got one shut off that only affects outside water and does not effect the house.  That is fabulous when there is an upcoming freeze.  I can turn off most of the exterior water outlets at one location.

So if I am securing the bib to a post, I'm gonna need a post, which would also require a hole, a short 4x4 and some concrete.  But then, before I even went there, I decided to install a shut-off valve at the bottom of the hill.  That way the rest of the line, and there are about a half dozen other branches off that line, can remain active whenever I might have to work on the irrigation in the orchard.

First I shut off the water at the top of the hill.  Then I dug around the existing bib, which is located next to the propane tank, about 250 feet downhill from the house.  That was one thing the previous owner idiot boy did that was good.  He had the propane tank located down near the road, which not only makes it safer for the house but keeps those heavy propane tankers off most of our Lombard Street drive.  He did a few good improvements, maybe 4 or 5.  And about 4 or 500 WTF'S.

After digging for a minute or two, I carefully uncovered the end of the line and the 90 degree elbow swinging up to the attached bib.
I removed the bib for reuse, dug the hole for the post, and then dug back a little on the existing line to allow room for the shut-off valve.  Then I got my PVC snippers in and cut the line.  By the way, the notorious,  hard foothill clay slices like butter when wet.  Remember the bib had been leaking?

Once that was done, I slathered PVC cement on one of the female ends of the valve and put it on the line.
Now I had a shut-off valve at the bottom of the hill.  Boom.
Next was a little 45 degree action so the line would run right next to the post and also meet up with the trenching across the lower gravel drive. Eye-ball to angle.  Scalene that, baby.
Next I put the round housing unit over the valve for protection, just in case.  There was a lot of activity going on.  It also made for a nice radius.  Or ulna.  With a diameter in between. 

Then I added a "T", a 3 foot rise and a 10 foot section horizontally so I wouldn't get any dirt in the end.  Oh, yeah, I also popped in the post to size it all up.  That would be my own ambiguous theorem. 

Once everything looked OK, I mixed up some concrete, filled the hole, leveled the post and called it a day.
The next day, after the concrete had dried, I came back to play.  Once I had attached the riser and bib to the post, I discovered I had a bit of an elevation thing going on in the trenches.  PVC will bend, but it's got to be a gentle curve.  What I had going on was too extreme and was going to require some mumbo jumbo.  Some angularity.  You know, geometry.  First I had to cut the 10 foot section right where the drop began.
And then I mumbo'd and jumbo'd with a couple of 45's.  Kind of like doing a hypotenuse trapezoid or a hexigonal diagonoid.  You know, it almost sounds like I'm making this up. 
And then I ran the line through the trench I had scratched across the drive, ending just on the opposite side of the cedar wall you'll be introduced to shortly.  I  glued an end cap on the line, covered the trench and called it a day.
Here's the finished part of that project for the then moment-
I quickly discovered it was a pain in the patoot trying to turn on the water with that valve when it was up against the post, so I cut off the post with my trusty hand saw and this is the final result after a coat of brown paint. 
Another good thing the previous owner homeboy moron did was start a partial line of cedar trees that run parallel to the main road and act like a bit of a hedge of privacy for the front of the house.

Unfortunately, due to some oaks impinging on their territory, there are several bald spots along this hedge.  I picked up a few volunteer starts, like 30 or so from a friend's place a couple years ago.  I promptly potted them and have expanded their pot size a couple times.  Since the ground had been saturated with about 18 inches of rain in the last month in a half I figured it was time to set a few free.  Fifteen of them made it into the ground to fill in the vacancies.  Once established, they should grow a foot or two each year.
And since the ground had been so saturated and was so soft, I decided to dig the trenches to complete the orchard irrigation.   

And so I dug, as straight as I conceivably could, without running a line.  And since the ground was so soft, I decided to dig the holes and put in the posts for the two hose bibs on either side of the orchard I had envisioned somehow somewhere.  I got lost in a pure excavating frenzy.  Have shovel, will dig. 
It all seemed more or less straight when I was digging, but it ended up not quite being the straightest of lines. It's kinda how I operate tho.  With just a wee bit of a soft edge.  It almost looks like the line is smiling towards the west.  Or maybe it can be a mustache.  Who cares?  It's all covered now anyway.   
And then I left it all for the day to let the concrete dry.  Actually, I think it was another week or so before I got down to run the lines.

FIRST, I turned off the water at my newly installed valve, not the top of the hill.  And then I had to locate the capped end I had buried so many weeks back.  Fortunately, I stacked a couple rocks a the location and it was a snap to find.

Then it was snip, let the line drain (since this was it's lowest point),"T" time and run the line to each side.  (The above supply line was left somewhere near the middle of the orchard.) 
I made sure there was enough line at each post.
I had to do MORE geometry at each end due to elevation changes, but it all went acutely well.
Once everything was attached I tested the line and fixed 2 leaks.  Then I retested the line and let the water stay on for 5 minutes.  Everything held.  I tossed a little dirt on the line and added a little brown paint on the risers. 
By this time, most all of the muscles in my body were aching.  I had been doing physical hard stuff for two days straight and this old body was barking.  Usually I try to space out the hard stuff, but every once in a while days collide.  My back, my shoulders, my thighs and Steve, my ankle, were howling.

Hobbling along, I gathered all my tools and equipment, tossed them in the truck and drove back up to the house.  With every fiber aching, I shuffled around and put the stuff away (every thing has a place and every place has a thing-one of my rules to live by), shuffled into the garage, sat down and freed Ed and Steve, my ankles, from their very safe housing units.  Or boots.  I suppose most folks refer to them things as boots.

I shuffled inside, popped about 18 Ibu's, showered and sang Babaloo.  It felt good to be square again.

Animal Update

The kittens have taken a shine to scampering outdoors first thing in the morning.  It's usually still a wee bit dark, and it usually happens when I open the front door to empty the wood stove ashes and get some kindling.  We're still lighting fires here in the morning to take the chill off.  Actually, today will be a day long fire, it is raining as I write. With possible snow tonight at the 2500 foot elevation level. 

Once the fire is started and the coffee is dripping, I usually yawn and wake up.  Then I'll pour some coffee, clean out the cat box and toss that and the recycle out the utility door for future deportation to the garbage depot.  When it's light outside.

One morning a couple days ago I was a little delinquent with the recycle and it was light by the time I opened the utility door.  And there. laid out ever so neatly, was a dead little bird.  A present from one of our little girl kittens to be sure.  I have witnessed them attacking a lot of bugs, and now one of our feathered friends has made their list.  The first, but certainly not the last.  Now if I could only train them to attack deer.

It would be nice if they could restrict their hunting prowess to our four legged furry little rodent friends, but unfortunately that would not be the case.  I fear a fair amount of feathers will fly during their lifetime(s).

Our intrepid hunter Tom Cat caught birds all the time.  Ate 'em too.  Ate everything except the beak and legs.  Then he'd burp feathers, just like Sylvester.  I'm kidding about the feather burping part.  But not about the beak and legs. 

 I also pity any lizards around here this summer and for the summers to come.  Those that do live will certainly be tail less, which is probably better than being clueless.  And they don't shake their tail that much anyway, I don't think lizards listen to very exciting music.

They probably listen to really insipid stuff, like that Pina Colada Song.

OK, if you listened to that then you certainly can't let that be the last tune to twirl about your cranium.  Try this relatively new one out from Toad the Wet Sprocket.  The kitties both really like this song and listen to it all the time while they're tearing up the living room.