Notes from the Field: The Sun Waters this Farm!

Anna Intern RCREC
Cleaning out the underwater collecting container at Solar Warrior Farm

by Anna Dunlap, Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center Intern

It is very good to be here at Solar Warrior Farm on the plains of South Dakota all the way from Kentucky. These past two weeks have been filled with preparing for the big planting frenzy. Thanks to the generosity of Fort Collins Nursery in Colorado, we will be planting a variety of starters this week.

There are many ways we have been preparing the garden for our planting day. The biggest way is through weeding. The soil is rich, dark and wormy. This is a good sign. Though the weeds are now growing prolifically, I do believe our veggies and flowers will grow well this season.

The other main project that needed completed before planting was setting up the solar water pump and irrigation system after the long winter. The solar water pump was installed last year with a solar panel and power inverter to provide the electricity needed to pump life giving water from the snaking creek to the garden plot. The ‘free’ water gets pumped with ‘free’ power given by the sun into a hundred gallon storage tank sitting high in the center of the garden on wooden beams. Then the water gets dripped throughout the garden 24/7 with a drip irrigation system.

water tank Solar Warrior Farm
Uma and Jamie are all smiles as they help clean out the water tank at the Farm.

Henry and Spector scratched their heads when reassembling the pump after a winter of disuse. They were successful. After getting the ‘fun’ job of hopping in the water storage container with a broom and sweeping out the nasty murky water leftover from last year’s water, we had fresh creek water beginning to fill up the container. Yeah! Afterward I got the job of puzzling together the pieces of the drip lines and adding water emitters.

solar water pump
The sun waters our Farm!

One more thing needed to be done because the container was filling all too slowly: cleaning out the underwater collecting container in the creek. This round cylinder about two feet in diameter is placed a foot under the water and is about three feet long. In the center of the cylinder is a round pipe standing upward covered by a ‘sock’ which acts as a filter. Henry thought the sock needed changed so that water could flow smoothly again. “Make sure the container is free of muck before you change the sock.” He instructs as I head to the creek with his sketch in mind. “Alright!” I call back. The path to the creek is a beaten down in the weeds due to its long use and muddy because of all the spring rains we’ve been receiving. Feeling around in the water with my feet I quickly find the container. “Hmmm.” I think, “Guess I need to hop in and figure out how deep this thing is”. I see two wondering frogs frozen in place staring at me as I was making daring strides with my Teva sandals for the bottom of the container. All I was getting was muck, which I estimated was about four or five inches deep about four feet under the water. So, while under the eye of those silly frogs, I found myself in water clear up to my shoulders trying to ‘clean’ that container with sandal and shovel.

I am learning that working here on Solar Warrior Farm requires putting myself out there and problem solving. Neighbors are far apart. Town is far. Calling an extra hand isn’t as easy as having the neighbors come over for a bit (or even calling because sometimes the phones are down). Getting a replacement part isn’t as easy as running to Lowes around the corner.

Solar Warrior Farm
Sola Warrior Farm

I look forward to working here with on Solar Warrior Farm with Henry, his family and all the lovely volunteers that will come through this upcoming season. Which brings me to my final word – all volunteers are welcome! Give John a call and set up a visit if you want to come out and also be a part of bringing organic food to the reservation. I’ll gladly hand you a hoe or some gloves for pulling weeds.

To volunteer with us please call John Motley at 970-484-3678 or email john@treeswaterpeople.org.

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treeswaterpeople

Trees, Water & People is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to developing sustainable community-based conservation solutions.

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