For two years we have not irrigated during the summer on Hof Batie. During 2018 we did put our pipe out in anticipation of a typical Nebraska summer. However, timely rains throughout the traditional irrigation season meant we never turned on a well. The pivots ran, but only long enough to put on fertilizer.

Last year, you know, the Year of the Floods? Well, no irrigation again and that time we didn’t even lay out pipe. The last time that happened was in 1993 when an abnormally wet year meant only a couple of fields had pipe – and that was before pivots on our place.

So in comes 2020, and typical of this pandemic year, nothing is going according to schedule. Two years of not irrigating have yielded all kinds of surprises. Mice had chewed through wires on two irrigation motors, requiring all kinds of repairs.

The neighbor’s cattle had rubbed a control box off of a ditch pump so we had to call and get a control panel replaced. Then one of the pivots decided to get a mind of its own, and what should have been a 14-hour trip around to put on fertilizer turned into a five-day ordeal. It would run for a few hours, then stop. But Hubby never got any alerts on his cell phone, as is normally the case.

One day it decided to go in reverse and then stop. When we went to start it again it ran for a short bit and then stopped. After a few more repeats and visits by the repairman it was decided a recent lightning strike had fried a portion of the controller and so that was replaced.

Although we didn’t find any rattlesnakes this year (they love to hibernate under the pipe piles) we did find plenty of mice nests. It is also not uncommon to scare up a skunk or opossum hiding in a pile of pipe. While we didn’t find the actual varmints this year, we did find a skunk’s nest. Unfortunately we didn’t find it until it had plugged a T-intersection that required stopping the water, pulling the pipe on both sides and digging the nest out.

We assembled a pipe crew that included two middle school boys, Hubby, our full-time employee and daughter Juliana. Most days Grandma (me) got to stay in the house with Dorne, although we joined the crew one day when we used two pipe trailers to get four loads out before the heat of the day arrived.

Again the two-year lapse in use meant there were countless gaskets and gates that needed to be replaced, and some pipe was loaded with a 24-month accumulation of dirt and dust.

Hubby spent his Fourth of July welding patches on a pump pipe whose exact age is unknown. Hence there is plenty of rust, and holes in a pipe leading to the irrigation pipe are not welcome.

Six patched holes later I have decided we are not going to limp through another year that would surely lead to patches on patches. The pump pipe will be rebuilt this winter by a local machine shop and will be a smart investment in both my and the husband’s well-being.

As I write, it has been a typical Monday morning in July. We were to receive ditch water this morning off of our main canal, but when Hubby called the ditch rider, he couldn’t turn us on because the canal has a leak.

He called the pivot guys because an end gun wouldn’t turn on at one pivot. Then we called a mechanic to come out because a spark plug twisted off on a motor and we are waiting for an electrician on another well.

Of course with heat in the 90s and high humidity for our area, we have to move five sections of pipe that were laid out in the wrong place through a corn field for 20 feet in six-foot tall corn.

Ah yes, welcome to irritation, I mean irrigation season.

Barb Bierman Batie can be reached at editorial@midwestmessenger.com.  

Barb is a freelance journalist who grew up near Battle Creek, Nebraska, and now farms row crops with her Platte Valley Farmer, Don Batie, northeast of Lexington. She can be reached at editorial@midwestmessenger.com.