Ditch Digging in Indian Summer

What a November! As the week started I was sitting on the porch in my shirt sleeves enjoying a cup of coffee and starting to write this post….wearing sun glasses!

Our forman......Leah

Luke starts digging

This last week of remarkable weather allowed me to finish up one of my Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) projects. These projects provide cost sharing incentives to farmers to help sustain agricultural productivity and environmental quality, reduce soil erosion, improve water quality, and increase wildlife habitat. One of the programs, that touch on many of these areas is livestock grazing. We (NRCS and I) finished developing and writing a grazing plan for Under Orion Farm early this spring.
As part of that plan, I wanted to install a water line down to a lower pasture for year ’round livestock watering. It could also provide water to the Dancing Carrot Greenhouses. This project would require us to dig a four foot deep ditch, 400′ long, laying down 1″ black water pipe (the heavy 160 psi stuff) with two frost free hydrants and a shut-off valve.  I was fortunate, my friend Luke owed me some machinery time. He showed up with a big backhoe and started digging.

Tapping into the mail waterline

We hit a few snags. We found the existing waterline by digging through it (glad I had

Shane Operating The Shovel

turned the water off first). This line comes from a spring about a half a mile away, up on a hill in my woods. We also “found” the buried phone line (repaired it) and the power line (missed it) to the barn.

I had some good help with this job. We laid pipe down the entire length of the ditch, but finding the old pipe reminded us we needed a shutoff system for this new line. Luke had a good idea for a homemade shut off; we added a gated water valve inline then a PVC pipe up to the surface and asked Aaron to hammer out a tool on his forge to use in shutting off the valve. The picture below shows the tool he made. We also needed someone to help with the shoveling since my bad shoulder left us one shoveler down. Shane stepped in to help with that work.

Aaron's shutoff tool, and a valve assembly

Aaron has been working for me a couple of days a week while I recover from surgery. He is off to a “Wilderness First Responder” course in NH this month. During the winter he will be traveling around Europe apprenticing with master blacksmiths. Shane (of Dancing Carrot Farm) is always my friend in need. We had a good opportunity to work in weather like summer and the manpower to take advantage of it. Thanks to all of you!

We also put down (expensive $20.00/ sheet) 3″ 2×4″ panels of blue board insulation over the pipe under the driveway to help prevent freezing. It worked! No leaks! The ditch was backfilled and seeded and is all set to fill watering tanks and easy irrigation for the greenhouses.

I have applied for more NRCS programs next year, including a water runoff plan for the barn, continuation of the grazing plan (more fencing and water tubs), wild apple tree release and pruning, and invasive plant eradication. Fingers crossed that they come through!

This section of ditch runs from the barn to the greenhouses

Backhoe bucket sure beats a shovel

Grass seed and seeder


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