The Pacific Northwest is defined by our relationship with water; we have two seasons—cool and wet and warm and dry. Settlement is along rivers and our summers are cooled by the sea breeze that sweeps inward in the late afternoons. During wet winters, we may not see the sun or moon for months, but we enjoy hunkering down under the sheltering clouds, walking home in the misty dark. Then, one day, somewhere between Memorial Day and the Forth of July, the rains stop. The clouds break. The sun comes out and stays out until the fall equinox storms move in late in September. The change in weather marks a significant shift in water use and distribution in our house. Let’s just say not much leaves the property during the dry season.
The shift happened this weekend. After a nice rain, a dramatic midnight thunderstorm, and a power outage at school (hope springs eternal for being sent home early…) early in the week, the clouds parted. Saturday morning, I went downstairs to find the dish pan and scoured it out to catch all of the sink water. Then I rummaged through the stack of five gallon buckets for the short, wide one with the decent handle to transport the dish water to the various wine barrels holding fruit trees and bushes around the house. Finally, I made the watering chart and placed the pink flamingo magnet on the kiwi vines.
That evening, after a warm day at the Mother Earth News Fair, we set up the outdoor shower. Mark attached the hose to the basement sink; it was an easy task because we had already threaded the hose through the unused drier vent last summer. Meanwhile, I found the towels, soap, and shampoo, and cleaned out the tub. Leaves swept out quickly, then I scrubbed it down with an old cloth and flushed the system onto the ground, right where the bunny had dug a burrow. After our first shower washed out the tub, I hitched up the hose to redirect the water into the flowerbeds. From now on, we shower outside.
When we come back from vacation in two weeks, I will hitch up the laundry system. We have a 55 gallon drum in the basement which catches three loads of laundry water. When it is full, after a week’s worth of washing, I hook up the same pump and move the water out to the flowerbeds that the shower does not reach. Tuesday mornings, as the clothes dry and the barrel drains, are unusually humid times.
Because we cannot water the vegetable gardens with greywater, I also spent some time messing around with garden hoses. One side of the garden is on an irrigation line that allows me to shut off the water to each bed separately, which is very handy as the summer winds down or a soaker hose springs a leak. This week, I replaced an ancient sweat hose and mended a few leaks, then covered all of the lines with straw mulch. The other side of the garden is one strung together system—old soaker hoses cut in half and attached to pieces of garden hose— which is fine for this year, as the entire three beds is planted t in potatoes and will all need to be shut off at the same time. When we rebuild those beds, we will replace the one long hose with the same system of hoses and valves that works so well on the other side. Once the whole system is mulched in, it works quite well, keeping water right where I want it. I know I have succeeded when the grass dries out between the beds.
Summer, the dry season, has begun. We are all collectively worried about the lack of snowpack in our mountains and the impact of the warm dry spring on our fruit crops. Here, we save whatever water we can, hauling it out to return to the earth.
check out http://21ststreeturbanhomestead.blogspot.com/ for more on gardening and living in the Pacific Northwest.