On our property, we are both blessed and cursed with an abundance of water. It literally seeps up out of the ground year round in various places all over our hill. This carries a couple advantages from a rural living perspective.
First of all, our well only needs to be about 6 ft. deep and is positioned high enough up our hill that its bottom is actually higher than the roof of our house. This means we have good water pressure even if the power goes out and our water supply never runs low even though we share the well with another household.
Next, it means irrigation of gardens is a fairly easy problem to solve. In our case, we simply had to dig two big holes in the ground and they became irrigation ponds in no time. It turns out that just at the base of our hill is a clay deposit. So, it was just a matter of hiring a large excavator for a couple days to clear two 8 foot deep depressions in the clay. A few days and one heavy rainstorm later they were full to overflowing. Oops – had to call back the excavator to add extra culverts for drainage. Not only do these ponds provide a convenient source of irrigation for our greenhouse and yard, they are a handy resevoir for firefighters in the event of a home or brush fire. They also provide wonderful habitat for a variety of wildlife just outside our windows. It’s our own private wetland.
We are very lucky. One thing we didn’t know when we purchased the property is that just on the other side of our road – just 100 metres closer to the river – there is NO water near the surface. Properties there need drilled wells 30 ft. or more and still experience water shortages. It seems curious to us that we can have so much surface water on a hillside while houses closer to the river have to dig so deep. The water must take a dive under rock just as it reaches our house. We remarkably also have a relatively dry basement.
Of course, this blessing can also be a curse, particularly when it comes to planting the hillside. The springs are migratory. Frost heave and settling causes them to relocate on a regular basis. This means an area that is well drained and ideal for planting one year, might be a bog the next. For plants like lavender that can’t stand wet feet, this isn’t an acceptable situation. In addition, heavy rains, on top of snow, on top of ground with a high water table can cause spontaneous creeks to form and existing creeks to change course, washing out prepared fields.
Right now, we’re comfortable planting our lavender in a couple of spots. But, it’s pretty clear that in the future, we will need to lay drainage tile strategically in the hill to manage the flow of all this water regardless where it comes from or in what quantities. Another project for the list!
Still, we are very grateful. Having an abundance of fresh, clean, safe water direct from the ground without any treatment necessary is a luxury on this planet. I am reminded of this every time I taste tap water that I get in city restaurants and it has a flavour. Also, both Gord and I have lived in places where human pressure on limited fresh water supply has resulted in water rationing, boil water advisories, or water that routinely has a noticeable color in the tub. We are very fortunate to live on our seeping hill.