Well, after a pretty nice Memorial Weekend, but one with no rain once again, and the promise, up here in the frigid Northland, or having temperatures next Saturday reaching 104 degrees (in the first week of June), I decided that perhaps it was time to turn the sprinkler system on.
For years and years as we lived in parsonages, it normally meant that we were perhaps the only house on the street that did not have an automatic sprinkler system. No – I spent a great deal of my summers either watching our lawn go from a beautiful deep green to a dull gray as the sun burnt it up or forced it to go dormant – like I said, either that, or doing what I called “chasing the hose” as I tried to use the old fashioned sprinklers to at least get the grass a bit wet. Following my dad’s famous and notable method of watering the lawn, we had a small spinning sprinkler, a soaker hose, and of course the big oscillating sprinkler which is where we kids would run and jump and sit on and get as soaking wet as we could. The trouble with manual sprinklers is that, well, they aren’t automatic. They don’t come on at 5am and quietly sound like it’s raining from the ground up, going from one zone to another with near complete coverage. Nope – not us. Plus, to water a normal sized lawn meant that you had to make a commitment for most of the day, checking every hour and moving the hose and the sprinkler to the next location, always being very careful not to water the street or the sidewalk. It really took a graduate course in geometry to position the things just right on the grass, all the while getting in two or three pretty significant showers as the sprinkler with a mind of its own would attack you from behind as you were moving out of the way.
My dream was always to have an underground sprinkler system that would take care of all my watering needs for the entire summer. When we moved into our current home, sure enough, there was a system with the controller sitting on the inside wall of the garage. However, the controller was put in when the house was built in 1996, which meant it was put into use almost before people had emails. The monster itself was pure mechanical, with dials and ratchets and timers that sounded like the ones you would set on top of the stove to let you know when the macaroni was cooked. On top of that, it was not very reliable, especially if something got in the way somewhere and it wouldn’t advance to the next zone. Also, the idea of “set it and forget it” was foreign – there was really no way to put the thing on a reliable timer for days of the week or such. It worked, but with all the accuracy of a coal-fired computer…
Finally, two years ago, I bit the bullet and negotiated the purchase and installation of a brand new, top of technology electronic digital controller. By negotiation, of course, I mean that they told me how much it would cost, and I paid it. Being so top of the line, it even could be controlled by my smart phone, meaning (supposedly) that if I were, say, taking a trip to Dallas or Hawaii, and decided while I was there that I wanted to run the sprinkler system that day – in my own home – I could just pull up the application, tap a couple of buttons and my grass would turn a lovely shade of wet green.
Of course, that was the concept – the sales pitch, as it were. When the sprinkler guy installed the thing, he set the zones to each water for four minutes, and then move on to the next zone. Four minutes. Think about how well your lawn gets watered when it rains for an entire four minutes some afternoon. One of my former parishioners was a professor in Agronomy, and long ago he convinced me of three things: don’t mow your lawn so it looks like a putting green, don’t pick up your grass clippings and make sure that when you water an area, you do so for at least a half hour to an hour at a time. The grass never needs to get cut that short, and the clippings make great mulch to feed and care for the grass that is there, and in our soil up here, which is actually a prehistoric lake bed, if you just sprinkle the surface, it will never soak in to the roots.
So – no problem – this is my sprinkler system, all paid for, so I could just adjust the timer to the proper length, right? Now, I’m not a rocket scientist, but even I could figure that if you wanted to sell a sprinkler controller that ran off of someone’s phone, that you would include, on the thing you pulled up on the program, an on/off switch, and a way to easily set the length of time you wanted each zone to run, or just push one button to let you set them all at the same time, and then go on your way. Not a chance. I punched every electronic button you could punch. I pulled up the “help” screen, and wrote down all the instructions on how to do what I had hoped to do, including the 8 steps needed to do what I wanted to do with one button. Still not a chance.
Finally, and unfortunately, I happened to push the right sequence of buttons, and got the system to run. I say unfortunately, because I don’t know what I did – none of my mashing on the little screen made any sense whatsoever, and somehow, like they say, if you put a room full of monkeys in front of typewriters with infinite time, one of them will eventually write a Shakespearean play. I felt like one of the monkeys, who happened to accidentally push the right button and having no idea what I had done, It worked! After the better part of an hour, or two zones worth of watering, old zone 1 started its work. But you see, I have nine zones, and it meant that I had to, at least every half hour, pull up the application and check to make sure it was actually running. On top of that, since I no longer have faith in the thing, I also had to go from one side of the house to the other, visually ensuring that indeed, it was raining from the ground up.
I’m not quite to the point of wanting to haul out the hoses and the sprinkler, that I still own, for some reason, but it is a bit maddening, to be sure. Of course, all of this is what I understand to be “first world problems.” I mean, I don’t have to walk two miles with a pail to fill it with water from the closest well, so that my family has at least a pail of water to use, or I needed to lead our family’s cow to the water and then back again, so it doesn’t die of dehydration, especially when it gets to be 104 degrees. No – my technology, which I’m sure costs way more than the family cow, doesn’t work the way I want it to. Poor baby. Today I pray for those who have so far less than others in this world, and who rejoice simply over the gift of a drink of clean water.
Happy June. Like gratefully, even if sometimes it brings with it some hair-pulling…
Word for the day: judder. Pronounced simply JUDD-er. It’s not an often occurrence, but today’s word actually arises out of the English language, more specifically, British – sounds like it, doesn’t it? To judder (you can’t “judder” something, except yourself) is to vibrate violently. Usually it involves a machine, or even better, a car, when perhaps it comes to a stop at a light, and begins to shake and rattle and roll – it’s just juddering, is all – just to let you know something is really wrong under the hood. Always a fun experience…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.