Harvesting Rainwater

I like to think of what we do here as harvesting rainwater and sunlight.  The sun and rain grow the grass, which feeds the animals, who make the manure, that fertilizes the gardens, which nourish us.  It’s a beautiful natural cycle.

Our part is to mind the animals, tend the gardens, and harvest what they produce.  We’re more than just passive beneficiaries of the cycle–but we do little of the work that is most important.

It all begins with sunshine and rain.  Without either of them, there would be no grass, no farm animals, no gardens and no farmers.

We can reliably count on the sun to rise and shine.  It may be obscured by clouds at times, but even then it is doing its job.

The rain is less reliable.  Unlike the sun, it doesn’t come every day, nor would we want it to.  If we get too much or too little rain the gardens suffer.  And there is always the risk of flooding and drought.  There is just an inherent element of uncertainty about the rain that has been making farmers nervous since the dawn of agriculture.

When we first began growing vegetables here I intended to rely on the rain to give the gardens all the water they’d need.  I don’t remember ever irrigating a garden when I was growing up so I didn’t see any reason to worry about a water source at the gardens.

I soon realized the foolishness of that way of thinking.  After seeing the effects of the summer dry spells, we put in water lines to the gardens to allow us to irrigate when necessary.  But we came to learn how inefficient overhead irrigation is.  Most of the water is wasted.

So now we have a drip irrigation system on our wishlist that will enable us to deliver water directly to the roots of the plants that need it.  No more wasting water and no more watering weeds.

I suppose if we make that happen I’ll have to start saying that we harvest sunlight, rainwater and groundwater.

19 comments on “Harvesting Rainwater

  1. Buffy says:

    I agree drip is the way to go, but we haven’t don’t it yet. Maybe next Summer.

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  2. Joanna says:

    I read another blog called “Throwback at Trapper Creek” which mentions dryland gardening a lot. I understand it takes more room, but the way she organises her garden is to have crops that can’t survive without irrigation nearest the house and those that can survive with careful management without water over the summer further away.

    This is the link to that blog and in particular the blog where she goes into detail about dryland gardening
    http://matronofhusbandry.wordpress.com/2014/09/20/dryland-garden-fall-cover-crops-and-in-situ-root-storage/
    Although she doesn’t go in for commercial gardening now, but she used to and she still has three adults, a milk cow and chickens to keep in feed for the full year.

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    • Bill says:

      That’s impressive. I’m a sometimes reader of that blog and it is excellent. I’m resolving to look in on it more often. There are some great ways to conserve water and avoid or minimize irrigation. I’m kind of late to the permaculture party but it’s something I know I need to learn to understand better.

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  3. shoreacres says:

    Sometimes, I amuse myself by thinking back to my first days as a varnisher, and pondering all I’ve learned over twenty-four years. Thank goodness we can learn and adjust!

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  4. bobraxton says:

    even on a lot in suburbia I delight (three decades) in our huge composting and other brush pile – all that goes grows on this perhaps 0.3 of one acre – amazing – trees.

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  5. Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    A most excellent goal Bill. Congratulations!
    Funnily enough, I’ve also just been writing about farming and rain – amongst other things weather-related – on another Most Excellent Blog here: http://mostlybrightideas.wordpress.com/2014/09/29/a-cool-look-at-global-warming-part-2

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  6. EllaDee says:

    While not having anything more than a house garden, we are very attached to our rainwater tanks as the sole provider of water to our house, and the sun for warmth (& maybe one day some power… I’m ambivalent about solar panels/industry). Better to look what is hand and its efficient use.

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    • Bill says:

      Good for you all. It’s an area we need to improve on. We tend to take our water for granted here. I saw a demo of a solar heated outdoor shower this summer. Very simple and effective.

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  7. avwalters says:

    In Two Rock, I was a tenant. There was no way I was going to invest in costly drip irrigation as a tenant. But it was California, and we did have water issues, so I planted a bucket garden. (Planted into nursery buckets with holes drilled in the bottoms.) The top of the bucket was the watering reservoir.) It saved water, minimized weeds, discouraged gophers and made for a productive and lovely garden.

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    • Bill says:

      Nice. I have a neighbor who buries 5 gallon buckets in his garden with holes drilled in the side. He puts water into the bucket so it can seep out and water his plants from below. He grows great stuff that way. Luckily we had little need for irrigation this year but I’m determined to come up with a more sensible way to do it for the times when we do.

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  8. rhondajean says:

    Hi Bill. I wonder how you store your harvested rainwater. Do you have dams and have you set up swales? We don’t farm but we do reply on our backyard crops to provide organic produce for our table. We installed water tanks here – we have a bit over 15000 litres of storage capacity and in 17 years have run out of water twice. We do have town water too but never use that for anything other than for cooking, drinking and cleaning. All our outside chores use tank water.

    And as to the delivery of the water to the plants, my favoured method is standing there with the hose. I love watering the plants and find it a great way to clear the mind and relax. On your much larger crops, I think drip irrigation would be ideal.

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    • Bill says:

      We don’t store it. We’re blessed here with plenty of water so no need for dams or swales, although they would be good to have. We have two wells on the property that supply the water and we have spigots at several spots around the farm that we use for watering. The plan we’re working on for next year will include pumping water from our spring-fed pond to a drip irrigation system.

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