Some mornings I reflect on what would seem to be innocuous matters, but which are not. The ordinary proves often to be the most humbling and thus, in the ordinary is often found the profound.
In our former home, the sprinkler system was not, shall we say, up to par. Of course, we weren’t wise enough to know that when we had it installed, but wisdom emerged over the years after many repairs, mysterious problems resolved, and tests of personal character – as in the choice between cursing aloud or merely under one’s breath – were faced and occasionally passed.
There are many lessons to be learned from this, one of which is to spend the time and money to do things right. Another is to consider creative options, such as living grassless. Still another is to study how to fix them.
I, of course, knew and know next to nothing about fixing sprinklers, or the Vader-like tubing that goes with them.
Sprinklers are cagey systems, I find. They are almost impossible to get just right. The minute you think you have it, you find the driveway is being watered more than the grass. Change the direction of that particular sprinkler head and after a few days whole patches of lawn have become witheringly brown. This balancing act is an intractable problem that is only truly resolved after the water is turned off in the fall.
One of the pleasures of working through this Gordian knot is the beer-drinking ritual. My friend and neighbor Louie taught me this and it will ever be a part of the family tradition. It goes like this. Fix one sprinkler problem. Turn on the sprinkler cycle to see if the problem is solved. As the system goes through its cycle, crack a beer open and stroll about making sure the water is hitting the right places. Finish the beer. If there is still a problem, fix it. Turn on cycle. Crack a beer. Complete inspection. Continue until problems are fixed or all beer has been consumed.
When we moved to our current house, the homeowners association gave us specific times of the day to sprinkle. Ours seems to always be at night, so I don’t actually see the actual watering anymore unless there is a problem to be resolved. But in our former home, I used to love to watch the lawn receive its morning nourishment. Observing this life-giving process seems so simple, but it’s more complex, perhaps even magical, than that. Some notes – only slightly edited, as you’ll see – I’ve made in my journal along the way, from my observations and experiences, often undertaken with my friend and fishing buddy Louie (he is a saint, you know…) with sprinklers…
The sprays go over each other as they rotate. Long streams of water are crisscrossing, battling, slowly along, drops of water on the pavement and house beyond the desired spot. It’s impossible to set right requires magic and becoming soaked. The “mysterious sprinkler heads”.
Water bubbling up from the ground makes my heart race – bap, bap, bap, bap, bap…faster. The mystery of the underground. Even after you open the wound with your shovel, delicately trying not to hit another artery, you can’t find the source of the break.
Why can’t sprinkling systems have monitoring systems like cardiologists have?
Bubble, bubble toil and trouble. On my knees, digging with my hands- this is not what I signed up for!
The sound of water hitting leaves is percussive. The sound of water intermittently hitting a tree, then rolling over grass, like soft rain. Mysterious sprinkling, mysterious sprinkler systems.
Digging with shovel. The shovel pierces the earth and a second push and a piece of grass-covered dirt is up and out. Soon a small scoop clears the way toward black PVC and finally hands wheedle the muddy mess up and the problem is exposed. An elbow connection is loose. A sprinkler head is leaking. A root has disrupted the pipe so a clamp is replaced and tightened – cranked – with the screwdriver, or a drill if the angles aren’t too odd. White (electrical?) tape goes round and round the threads of the part. Water is turned on to check the connection. If water leaks more investigation takes place, more repairs. All the while hands become caked with mud, water sprays hither and yon and clothes are soaked, shoes.
Same in life [as with a crummy sprinkler system]. Poor foundation means a lifetime of fixing problems.
Sprinklers with best intentions pound against my front bay windows. Splash on the concrete driveway and sidewalk, wash my car, leaving dirty, dried drops all over the right side.
Yard lights. After paying our handyman to cover part of our yard with heavy black plastics and rocks a couple of years ago, I pushed yard light stakes through in several places, thus destroying the buffer. Weeds and grass commence! [Nice job MK….]
Louie and I spent hours Friday and Sunday working on sprinklers. First installing a timer. Then much frustrating time working on “Zone 4” which did not work. Very frustrating and expensive all around. The timer I had had, which broke, could not be replaced with a similar part. So I had to buy, then we had to figure out how to jury rig to install it. The gray box, now, is more rectangular, and my new paint job now had a little rectangle that needs to be painted too.
The seamless gutters were put up Friday. [The guy] did it himself – quite the expert. First measured then his wonderful machine took flat aluminum and made gutters out of it. Pretty “whippy” as my Dad might have said.
Louie and I painted the screws and spent hours trying to figure out the “evil” zone 4. Twisting colored wires, sticking them in some box that not even [the store] could figure out. Putting in a new solenoid. Turns out – after much experimentation – to be the box. but not until after the black box was moved and a piece of the manifold was broken, dirt was dug. Shoveled, removed and moved back.
At 6:00ish this morning, reading in the library my window is thump, thumping with water. I realize- again – my sprinklers are not adjusted correctly and remember that they also douse my car in the driveway each morning. The idea of adjusting them now makes me smile, for it has become a bit of a joke to me – I know I will never get it right for even when I figure out the mechanics of the sprinkler (and each seems independently created by God) no small task, by getting one area of the lawn right I slight another. Alas.
So many learning experiences from sprinklers. The most important one I learned?
Hire someone to do it for you.
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