Some weeks it doesn’t pay to get out of bed. It has been one step forward and two steps back here at the home place. Not all bad but just a lot of aggravation.
I’ve lived here for over a year and a half but my learning curve is still bothersome. There are several “systems” that are new to me — things I never encountered before that are major components of how things work. I had no idea of what an “evaporative cooler” was or how radiant heat worked when I moved here. I never had a well or a septic tank before.
I grew up in a place that got around 40 inches of rain each year and no one had a need for a sprinkler or irrigation system. Here, we get about 8 inches of rain and it is common to have some sort of irrigation system. I’m the fourth owner of the place and the first owner, way back in the late 1990s, installed an expensive sprinkler system. They had horses and were hoping to grow grass out of the sandy soil and sagebrush. Twenty years later I come along and try to figure out what they had installed. My neighbor says the system hasn’t worked in ten years….or at least was not used for that long. The original owners left in a huff when the city told them that they not only could not install lights around their horse corral for night riding but they were not allowed to keep horses on the property over night in the first place. Seems like they didn’t check the zoning rules before they built the house and brought in the horses….or figured they could bluff their way through. It didn’t work.
So, here I come. I figured out how to turn the sprinkler system on but only one sprinkler worked and it sprayed water on the gas meter. That made no sense to me. I would periodically go and fiddle with the system controls and ponder why it didn’t work. My neighbor said I should have a manifold somewhere. Manifold? I searched the yard and found nothing other than what I figured was the access to the well and pump. Finally I got the system working just by resetting the controls and starting from scratch. This was just dumb luck because there is no manual or instructions to speak of and no map telling me where the sprinklers were. Suddenly I had things popping out of the bare ground and squirting water around the front yard. the little drip spigot by my fig tree started bubbling water. I suddenly saw potential. Maybe I could get the fig tree to do something!!! Maybe I could get the yard to have some living plants other than sage and saltbush!!!
I was happily planning out the future. I bought a few plants. I discovered a second sprinkler system that is a manual sort of thing connected by a hose to the well hydrant. I raked and cleaned up the yard and removed the dead debris. I planted a red osier Dogwood over by the driveway. I planted some blazing star bulbs and planted some native wildflower seeds. I turned on the hose/hydrant system to provide some water for my new plantings.
Nest morning I realized I forgot to turn off the hose/hydrant system. That was not good but I should be more careful. Live and learn. “Don’t get distracted and finish what you start” should be my motto.
I noticed that the goldfish pond was low so I turned on the hose and added some water to the pond. It was down about six inches and it’s a big pond so it takes a while to add the water. I went inside to get another cup of coffee. About midnight I remembered that the pond had been filling. YIKES. I ran outside and turned off the water. Happily, the fish were still there. The pond was quite large and the fish were swimming places where they had never been before but that was okay. They were having a great time. My pump and filter system was under water…not good. I pulled out a couple buckets of water but realized I’d be at it all night if I was going to use a bucket. I went to bed.
Next morning I figured out how to drain the water using a large funnel and a hose at the waterfall where the pump returned the water to the pond. It took most of the day to get the water level back down to where it belonged.
Meanwhile, every day I was doing more raking and planting and the sprinkler and drip system seemed to be fine. Then one morning I noticed that two sprinklers were running at 9 AM when they should be off. Why is that? Apparently they had been on all night because there was a lot of wet mud and puddles of water. I tried to turn them off with the controls…nothing happened. I reset the controls back to zero….nothing happened. I unplugged the controls….nothing happened. Hmmm. I have rogue sprinklers. Since I have no manual or instructions, I went to the trusty Internet. There were lots of pictures of sprinkler systems and manifolds. I figured I needed to go out and take things in hand and turn off the water access to the whole system. Inside the manifold box there should be a valve that cuts off the water. I went out and got into the only box I could find and it didn’t look anything like what the pictures showed on the Internet….but there was a valve with a handle that did look like what they were showing in the manifold pictures. With some difficulty and some WD-40, I managed to get the old valve turned and the sprinklers died down to a dribble. Ah…success! Things were looking up. I called the local sprinkler company emergency service number (this was a Sunday) and they said I probably got it fixed temporarily and they could send a repair guy next week. Great.
A couple hours later I realized there was no water coming into the house. The valve turned off the flow of water from the well. So I was back out in the yard and re-opening the valve and the sprinklers came back on but only at a low trickle.
There has to be a sprinkler manifold box somewhere. I got my rake and started scraping away some old brush and — Surprise! – there was another box under an old sage bush. The box hadn’t seen daylight in years. So…I opened it up and recognized what I had seen earlier on the Internet…except there was no shut-off valve. Of course….why would I think that there would be a shut-off valve? There was water inside the box…not good. I took a couple pictures of the box with my phone and jumped in the car and drove to the sprinkler store….which was open by that time.
“Yep…that’s a manifold box and you have water in it.” he said.
“Yeah…where is the shut-off valve?” I asked. “I have sprinklers going and can’t turn them off.”
“Did we install it?”
“I have no idea….it’s twenty years old…probably not.”
So we were not really getting anywhere. He wanted to be sure he wasn’t to blame — CYA. Finally we took the picture on my phone over to the spare parts bin and found something that looked like what was inside the manifold box. He showed me how to turn off each sprinkler valve until I found the right one.
Okidoke. Maybe this will work. When I got home my daughter had arrived so I enlisted her help in my battle against the rogue sprinklers.
“Tell me when they go off” I shouted. I started fiddling with the sprinkler valves inside the box. Almost immediately I heard screaming. She was drenched. She didn’t know which way to run. That is probably the last time I’ll get much help from her…
But…we got the sprinklers turned off, eventually.
As a payback for her help I took her for a short hike up in the foothills. She has been wanting to find out how to find the trailheads and parking areas to access the trail system. It was cool and windy but we had a nice short walk. We had a nice dinner and I think she almost forgot about getting wet.
Here are a few pictures of the foothills trails. It is spring and things are starting to bloom. Maybe next week will be better. The sprinkler guy shows up on Friday.