Water and The Farm

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By Jeff Main of Good Humus Farm, courtesy of Capay Valley Farm Shop

Sometimes, we come to a moment that is so scary that all we can do is stop, sit down and eat ice cream. The mind is numb, really numb, and it feels like the best protection because we really don’t want to come out of that numbness. Coming out of the numbness means opening up to the full impact of the situation and we are way too frail for that. Sometimes it is a single event that is so potentially catastrophic that it shakes the core of our sense of well-being and connectedness. Sometimes a resource that is so important as to be irreplaceable is removed so quickly that life itself seems changed. So when the pump motor that supplies every drop of water to the farm stopped turning last Thursday night, our lives immediately felt a lot different. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, that can convey the sense of impending doom that a California farm feels when its water supply is cut off.

We care take this piece of land, but we cannot make water. We have participated in the creation of an oasis on the land that absolutely depends on the constant turning of a piece of machinery 250’ underground to keep it alive. What has been created here is not naturally sustained and as a consequence, it is vulnerable to the slightest disturbance in the delicate balance of the man-made environment. Left without the prospect of water anywhere on the farm for an unknown period of time, we went from the relative peace of another week of farming to the potential for losses mounting day by day, and in the case of the greenhouse, hour by hour.

We talk to the school classes about the treasure of water on our farm and what it would look like in the middle of the summer without water, but it is a distant vision, a story to tell children, until it happens. Imagine turning on the tap and only getting air coming out. Imagine dishes stacking up, unwashed. Imagine birds and pets gathering about the drips that come from leaky water faucets and not finding them. Imagine no showers or baths, no sprinklers or spitters or drip tape sending droplets of clear water into every corner of the farm. Imagine a table set with the bounty of the harvest from our farm in the middle of a long summer without water. Not much there. And the terrible knowledge that what we depend on to order our lives is gone. This is the kind of visioning that kept us awake most of the night Thursday night, and started the phones ringing in the pump replacement companies on Friday morning.

Today, on Monday afternoon, thanks to efforts of the irrigation service and repair people, a new motor and pump hang in the water below our feet. We have made a good series of decisions, have facilitated their speedy work through accommodation of their needs, and have been rewarded with the speedy, professional replacement the means to access to our most basic need. Over the next few weeks, we will hopefully, slowly, recover our normal view of water as that constantly available, indispensable, totally to be taken for granted gift from the earth... Sometime, just to be sure, I will turn on my tap just to make sure its running.


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