Now that irrigating season is almost over, we will be able to take the time to do more intensive repair work on the pipe and ditches. Although my husband usually does an annual ditch cleanout in the spring with the backhoe, we added some ditch this year, so there has been extra work getting everything properly dug out and flowing to ensure we can get everything watered. We have a main ditch that comes from the spring. Originally it was an open ditch along a hillside, but it has been modernized to the point of using heavy duty plastic pipe, some rigid and some flexible. The main ditch is subject to the depredations of at least one bear, who likes to use the pipe as a highway, and occasionally breaks a chunk of pipe. The flexible pipe runs through the pasture, which means the horses and cows can step on it. And step on it they do:
When the pipe is this badly damaged, there’s no solution but to cut out the squashed chunk and replace it. We usually find out there’s a problem when we go out to irrigate and discover there’s suddenly much less water in the ditch. The first thing to do is check the animals’ usual trails, several of which run over the irrigation pipe. If the pipe in those areas doesn’t show signs of damage, we walk the pipe, sometimes all the way back to the spring. This year, we put a chunk of heavy-duty culvert in the spot where the critters are most likely to travel and ran the flexible piping through it.
Mending the pipe involves couplers, specialty tape and occasionally a whole new section of pipe. When we can, we just apply tape over the holes. One of us picks up the pipe while the other wraps tape in overlapping sections back and forth until the leaks are well covered. Although the water from the spring is gravity-fed, it still has considerable pressure, and even a small leak can be quickly widened from the force of the water.
If a new section of pipe is necessary, we cut out the old section and put the pieces together with couplers, which we then tape.
While we’re doing this work, we of course have considerable assistance from those responsible, who are sure that Mom and Dad must have some goodies and want to supervise the process just to make sure we do it right.