Friday, July 24, 2009

Laying Pipe

One of the irrigation methods used by farmers in these parts involves 20-odd foot sections of gated, 10-inch diameter PVC pipe. In the summertime, Jon and I often help our neighbor Josh put out pipe. If we are lucky, Josh comes to get us in the cool evenings and not in the heat of the day. Jon and Josh are just six months apart. Three generations of Josh's family live on our lane and so they grew up together - they will surely be lifelong friends.

For irrigation, water is diverted off of the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River and into the irrigation ditches that snake their way through the farmland. Having irrigated pasture is an expensive, but critical piece of farming out here. We are fortunate enough to have about half of our acreage irrigated and we pay dearly for it. While we don't farm our ground, we irrigate the fields to grow grass that we then lease to a rancher that runs cattle on our place. That money then pays for our shares of the irrigation ditches. Rinse and repeat, every summer and fall.

Farmers route the water into this pipe which has lots of little "gates" that they can open and close to control the flow of water. The gates are spaced on the pipe so that they flow perfectly in between the crop rows.

The pipe is heavy and takes two people to manage. First, you hook up the pipe trailer to the truck or the tractor. Then, if you are me, you get distracted by the old buildings on the farm and wander off.

This doesn't happen to Josh and Jon.

Oh right, we're loading pipe. I supervise while Josh and Jon load the pipe onto the trailer and then we pile into the vehicle and drive to the field.

If you are lucky enough to have three people working, one drives the truck while two pick the pipe off of the trailer, lay it down, and connect it like lincoln logs. The driver creeps just far enough forward so that the trailer is positioned exactly where the next pipe needs to go. It's a well-oiled machine.

It's a big help to Josh to have the extra hands for laying pipe, but to us it is just an opportunity to help out. The work isn't hard. It's a good time to socialize and it feels right to foster the sense of community we feel with our friends and neighbors.


Anonymous said...

What are they growing? I live in Florida and it doesn't look that familiar. Tabaca?

Kate said...

In the foreground are sugar beets, in the back is malt barley.