Getting Water The Old Fashioned Way

Stuart mentioned "it would be great to hear your views, frustrations and joys of being a nursery owner and all that entails."
Well, this morning at 6 a.m. I look out of the office and notice the sprinklers, which go on automatically at that time, are not working. So after I check the valve to make sure its on, I grab my broom and drive up the hill about a mile. That is where the water ditch that supplies our water travels. Now I am Trey the "ditch tender."

This ditch, and the one that feeds it, are old mining ditches from the gold rush era. They were originally built to transport water for the gold mining mining activities that built San Francisco, but were later used for agriculture, and still are! These ditches travel over 40 miles from the high country lakes, weaving their way

down to about a mile above the nursery, where it enters a distribution box that takes a portion of the water, and sends it down the "Garden Valley Pipe", which is a 8" metal pipe that just happens to pass right through the nursery.

What happens is debris gets caught in the wire mesh that protects the pipe from getting clogged, and you have to brush the screen to dislodge the debris and get water flowing again. Once the water is flowing it takes about half an hour for the line to fully fill and provide the pressure I need to operate the sprinklers. If the sprinklers don't start their cycle on time, they will still be running when we open, which is no good. I have six different stations that each run for a different amount of time.

I don't like to have to get up and do this, but the water is so inexpensive I can't help it. We buy what's called a "miners inch". The amount of water that flows through a one inch opening day and night from May to October. You pay a set fee, and we get all the water I could ever use. The drawback is the occasional morning trip to the ditch.

The other thing about the water that is unique is it is untreated. No chlorine. Straight from snow melt it has minerals, and I am sure some fertilizer. I haven't had to feed my plants since spring! Of course we dont't drink this water. It drops down off the hill right to the nursery providing 130 P.S.I., which is enough to operate 5 to 6 rainbirds at a time.

These ditches are a part of "old California", which will surely be gone one day. I think it's so unique, that the occasional morning trip to "tend the ditch" is well worth it.