It’s nearly summer solstice and the season’s sleep deprivation is creeping up on me. The animals are up by 5:00 am. Now that we are in the full-on June “severe clear” heat pattern, we try to get as much done before midday as possible. Things quiet down a little in the heat and everyone gets a second wind around 5:00 pm. We getting going again and suddenly it’s after 8:00, I haven’t started dinner, the dogs are burning off energy like banshees and before I know it, it’s close to midnight. We’ll catch up on sleep come August, I guess.
Small-town living can throw some pretty strange curveballs when you least expect it. On Friday when we went to the post office to pick up our annual shipment of turkey poults, the postmistress took a phone call from the town clerk. Torrey’s culinary water system had been leaking. The mayor had been working on it, but in the mean time, the tanks were very low and our water pressure had dropped from fire hose strength to trickle. She started passing the word to quit watering outside and conserve so the tanks could refill.
The story we got when we moved here was that, a decade or more ago, Torrey used to have water outages regularly. The town invested in a bunch of infrastructure work about when we moved here, with the former mayor and maintenance man busting butt to fix leaks and meters, so we have never had a problem as long as we have lived here. But it’s a small system, brittle as infrastructure can be. The town has recently been trying to secure grants and loans to expand and upgrade the system, but when it fails, it belly flops.
It’s Fathers’ Day weekend. The town motels are full of sweaty tourists. It’s the hottest day of the year so far. The tanks do not refill, we all are using the water as fast as it flows in. Friday afternoon, they activate the Code Red system (which worked like a charm) to announce a complete shutdown overnight to allow the tanks to refill. On Saturday, the town issued a boil order and shut the water back off for twelve more hours that night. The mayor and two of the town council members were back on the mountain shoring things up. By Sunday, they arranged to bring fire trucks from around the county with non-potable water so folks could fill buckets to flush with. They’ve called a meeting at the town pavilion for Monday evening. I’m going, but I don’t really want to listen to cranky people complain at exhausted civic volunteers about why they haven’t effected a miracle.
Some people higher up on the system haven’t had water at all since Friday. Most of the restaurants are closed, losing money on food they can’t serve. The few staying open are taking heroic measures and even hauling water in. It hasn’t been so bad for us. I bought some bagged ice. Most of the time, we’ve had a trickle of water, enough to keep the animals watered. Sunday we were able to pump irrigation water into an IBC and gravity feed onto our garden. The worst is camp cooking in my own house. I’m not thinking about the fact that we have nothing in the fire hydrants. It could take a while to get back to full pressure. As the former mayor said on Saturday, the glass fills from the bottom—once the problem is fixed, we have miles of pipe to refill.
Husbandry and gardening: Like I said, on Friday, twenty-two turkey poults arrived from Porter’s Heritage Turkeys in Indiana. They came late this year — Porter’s hens didn’t start laying as early as usual. They are dang cute and fragile, as usual. Compared to baby chickens, getting turkeys to survive the first few days is much harder for us. A bird is behaving perfectly normal and an hour later is dead in the brooder. Harvey Ussery describes this in his book, Small Scale Poultry Flock too, so it’s not just us. Molasses and cider vinegar in their water can help, but usually there’s some failure to thrive that we just can’t see. Once the poults hit two weeks or so, they are essentially bullet-proof, so we just order extra birds and check on them a lot. As soon as we get can get them on the ground to eat a little dirt and in the sunshine, they will start booming.
Carson is obsessed with the turkeys, Wyatt non-plussed. Carson would spend all day circling their brooder trying to keep them in a bunch. The birds already run to him when they see him. Wyatt will lie down and watch them but that’s about it. We took the dogs to the post office when we picked them up and let each dog smell a few chicks with a firm “mine” command. The dogs still aren’t trust-worthy in that they would try to play with the birds, but they are accepted as part of the herd, not prey. The cat is ignoring them on his mouse patrols.
I pulled the Wall O’ Waters off of most everything and immediately regretted not buying another couple dozen. We accidentally set up some side-by-side comparisons of cucumbers grown with and without the extra protection that are testimonials to how well these things work. And they seem to really help cut back on the early flea beetles too. I wish I’d put them on all the brassicas as well as the more tender peppers and tomatoes. Now that we’ve had a few nights around 70 degrees and are getting into the 90s next week during the day, it’s time to put them away. They need to be rinsed off, so that task is on hold for the duration of the water shortfall.
Food, harvest and preserving: We had the first salad harvest of the season, with lots of greens in the queue. We’re still in a draw-down cycle on the freezers and pantry. But really, it’s too hot to cook. The gas grill is earning its keep.
Energy and conservation: There’s nothing like shutting off the town culinary water to see how much water you use vs how much you really need. We use 20-30 gallons a day just to change water for all the animals. A branch of the town irrigation system cuts across our property. We don’t have rights to that water, but the birds will go bathe in it sometimes. No one’s going to die of thirst.
R got some much-needed maintenance in on the orchard irrigation system as we took our water on Monday. As expected, the flow was ordered to be cut back, and probably will drop further next week, so getting the system working efficiently is important.
Other projects: We had to go over to Richfield to pick up my car after some repairs, and used the opportunity to pick up materials for upgrading our fire pit. R jumped right in and got that project banged out the afternoon we got back. It’s nice to be in the upgrade phase of creating this place, rather than just building infrastructure to solve the immediate crisis at hand. Of course, it’s way too hot to actually have a fire, but it’s where we will do our Dutch oven cooking and other outdoor cooking projects.
Community: regular volunteer stuff for the Entrada Institute.
Creativity and recreation: We took the dogs out on a Thursday morning hike at a place they can safely go off leash. Wyatt found a fairly fresh deer bone, so he thinks hiking is the best ever.
Next week: weeding and watering. Keep baby turkeys alive. Work on the final report for our USDA grant. Find a place to put the dang cidery.
Seasonal observations: The swallowtails are back and the bindweed is in full bloom. Some of the orchard grasses have bloomed and the dogs show up with their muzzles dripping with bright yellow pollen. A red-tailed hawk has been hanging around (not okay with Carson). We are hoping it will nest in the cottonwoods. The barn swallows have built another nest, this one right outside our bedroom window. Swallows start their dawn chorus about an hour before sunrise. And they never ever sleep in. Summer solstice is June 20 at 10:24 pm. I’m pretty sure I’ll be wake for it.