Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Water, water everywhere

We seem to be settling into something of a routine that gives me some time to sit here and write.  As a matter of principle, I try not to make promises about the future, but I can say that maybe, just maybe, I'll have time to do a little bit more of this now.  I actually fulfilled an ambition of over a year this morning and went out for a good walk.  I am shamefully out of shape--my legs feel like lead weights now and my heart rate was elevated to true exercise mode in a matter of mere minutes once I set out, but I know these signs of rust will polish away with a little practice.

One year ago today we were in the midst of clearing the property.  We'd get here in the cool of the early morning and suit up against chiggers:  long pants tucked into our socks, long sleeved shirts, a do-rag for me to keep the sweat pouring off my head out of my eyes, and clouds of Deep Woods Off.  It was sheer, unadulterated drudgery, but it didn't last long--we could only work until about noon every day before it got too hot, and our progress in those few hours a day was dramatically visible. 

Now, the land is still cleared and my job is to water it.  We finally had what we now call our mud flats--the 2 acres or so of land that was cleared to make the septic field in the front, as well as the two side yards and the back--seeded for grass.  It's Bermuda grass, the kind that wants to grow here because it loves the heat (the soil temperature must be at least 80F--26C--before Bermuda seed will germinate) and it needs to be wet.  So my job these days, while Steve makes sense of his sanctum sanctorum, the garage, is to water. 

When the house was built, Gary, the builder, made sure the plumber put standpipe hydrants at various strategic locations around the yard.  Now we know why.  I water area by area from 6 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon, an hour at a time, using three 100-foot hoses stretched to various spots in the yard.  The seed really needs to be saturated, and, in case you haven't heard, we're in the midst of a prolonged heat wave.  It's a dry heat, which means the water that lands on places unprotected by any shade, including the vast expanse of septic field where there can be no trees, evaporates quickly.  We had a couple of days last week of heavy rain, and that gave everything a jump start.  So far, I've been able to keep the ground moist enough to actually look wet, and the work is beginning to pay off.  Our yard looks like the beard of a 13-year-old boy.  That is to say, spotty. Here is what the back looks like as of today:

It's actually a little better than the front, which has long, narrow stripes of green surrounded by dirt containing various amounts of moisture.  This is the three-week point.  There are times when we despair of ever getting rid of the dirt and mud, but I strive for faith that these doubts, too, will pass, just as all the others have.  A few months ago, when we first moved in and a lawn was still imaginary, a neighbor told us we should just get some sod.  They had put down seed, and they'd never do it again.  "It was so much work!"  she said, and I simply couldn't understand what she was talking about.  How much work can there be to turning on a hose and letting it run for an hour? Now I get it.  You become obsessed with maintaining an even level of moisture all around.  You're governed by the clock, going out to re-position sprinklers every hour.  Sometimes the sprinklers get clogged with mud, and a simple operation that should take a few minutes stretches to half an hour or more, as you turn on the hydrant, maybe 100 feet away from the sprinkler, and discover that the sprinkler has become clogged.  You turn off the water, walk the hundred feet to the sprinkler, unscrew it from the hose, walk back to the hydrant, turn the water on to clean off the sprinkler and force the clog out, screw the sprinkler back on the hose, put it back in the place you want it 100 feet distant, walk back to the hydrant, turn it on, and hope for the best.  You've spent at least a good 20 minutes at this.  And then there are the times the only way to move the sprinkler to the next area is to walk over the dirt you've just watered, which has become shoe-sucking mud.  Perhaps reading all that is as monotonous as actually doing the work?  Good, I've shown you what it feels like!  But the photo above makes it all worthwhile.  Pretty soon we'll have a lawn.

There are those who would probably love to point out that all this effort to create a "lawn," an artificial meadow, is unnatural, a colossal waste of a precious natural resource--water--and that we are polluting the very creek whose vista we so enjoy with the fertilizer needed to make this artificial meadow green.  Carry the argument far enough and you'll have stopped us even from building the house:  we should never have had those trees cut down, nor removed that natural thicket of green just to create a view.  All I can say in response is, "I know, I know, your arguments are unassailable, and I don't care."  I invite the environmentally sensitive among you to pitch a tent in the woods somewhere and be one with nature.  Me, I'll take my greensward, my lovely, flat, green meadow, shimmering in the Carolina sun.


Zoey and Me said...

I keep thinking about your water bill or are you on well water? Maybe electric then. If you were here in Florida it would cost you plenty. My every other day keeping my lawn nice went from $44 when we moved in 10 years ago to $256 today. Yuk! I am now with the "pitch the tent" people. But all in all, it sounds like you're having fun.

Ralph said...

It's city water, Z&M, and we're expecting a relatively high bill while we get the grass going. But I say "relative" because a month of normal use is only running us about $25 here--water is cheap. I think eventually we will invest in a well.

王雅筑 said...


Perovskia said...

Heh, as long as it doesn't create Buyers Remorse. I can't wait to see a picture when it's lush and full.

Is that a little boardwalk/bridge? How cute. And what do you have growing there, to the far right?

Ralph said...

"Lush and full" seems like a mirage at this point, Perovskia, but I know it'll fill in eventually. That's the waterfront you're looking at on the right (the water is just out of sight. The back of the house gives on a creek. The "bridge" is the beginning of the dock and those plants are cattails.

Lonely Rivers said...

I think your lawn will be lovely and when it all grows, will you then be mowing it? Regularly? It all seems like so much work!!

Speaking of trees cut down - In our neigborhood a serious patch of old trees were cut down to make way for four "green" homesteads built by a somewhat newly famous environmentally concious contractor. The result has been displaced birds - robins and others who are flying blindly into houses and windows, flickers franticly destroying siding in houses that replaced their trees.
The people who buy these very expensive homes will use the sun for heat, and save and recycle the rainwater. They will intentionally live their lives saving the environment. Ya gotta live somewhere..birds gotta fly.

Ralph said...

Somehow mowing it seems like the least of the jobs around here, LR, what with the sot down mower and all. I've always liked cutting the grass--instant gratification.

The "green house" scenario you describe illustrated the dilemma perfectly. The thing about the birds is, they'll find other places nearby to live. They have here, anyway. When we sit on the deck we are in a wonderland of birds. If we're careful, we can peacefully co-exist. (Not that there's anything much green about our house except its incipient lawn, which is coming at the expense of thousands upon thousands of gallons of water. Mea culpa!)