Ok, quiz time. What do the following three things have in common?
- The Sahara Desert
- Our corn fields
- My mouth when I watch a Ryan Gosling movie
That’s right, my friends, all of these items are very dry.
Much to the Dairy Man’s relief, this post will not be about Ry-guy-McHotpants. Perhaps another time. For today, we’re going to focus on the corn.
With the exception of a brief, violent thunderstorm that sent our terrified puppy under the coffee table, the past few weeks in Michigan have been bone dry and oppressively hot. Our grass is brown and our corn is thirsty.
But fortunately for this year, a few of our newly-acquired fields came with some new toys: center pivot irrigators.
Up until this point, my only experience with these spindly metallic creatures was through a car window. They are both idyllically American and inexplicably alien. If a spider and a caterpillar had a baby, it would look like this. Center pivots also give free car washes if placed too close to the road.
This is the first year we’ve used center pivots to water our leafy green stuff. We’re using them because they came with the fields, but they also provide the extra water that the sandy soil needs to spawn healthy corn.
Naturally I had to experience the man-made phenoms for myself. So, one night the family (furry members included) took a drive.
The Dairy Man even found time to conduct some business while I took pictures of the machinery. Modern farming, I tell ya.
A center pivot irrigation system uses overhead sprinklers to water the crops. The machinery is made up of several segments of pipe joined together and supported by trusses mounted on wheeled towers.
In addition to their function, the towers also make excellent climbing trees.
The whole business is fed water from the central pivot point.
Water flows through the segments of pipes to the drop hoses (aka sprinklers) and the apparatus rotates in a circular pattern through the field around the pivot point.
There’s even an “end gun” sprinkler firing off at the very end of the center pivot, just to get that last 75 feet of corn.
It’s all very complicated.
Conceptually, a center pivot isn’t that different from a lawn sprinkler. Not that I would know from personal experience. I kill plants. I hate yard work and fear dirt and bugs. I’m what the Dairy Man kindly refers to as an “indoor kid.” Last summer, he and I spent an entire day landscaping around our house and most of the plants have since died. Whoops. A certain farm wife forgot to water … and weed.
But if you are the kind of person who actually remembers to turn the sprinkler on for your poor baby plants, you’ll understand our irrigator.
The Dairy Man runs the center pivots at dusk to avoid any unnecessary evaporation during the hot parts of the day. If all goes well, the irrigation system will provide a half inch of water every 24 hours. This is accomplished over the course of 1-2 days per pivot.
Michigan corn can typically survive on rain alone, but the center pivots give our sandy fields an extra boost.
And even a green-pants-wearing farm wife can get excited about new toys.