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.