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Voices of Spencer Creek

Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Water

We are so set in our ways as octogenarians it would be unthinkable not to grow a garden.

By Lois Barton

Posted on Jul 3, 2003

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"Creek at Oswald West State Park" by Stephen Voss. This image gave birth to the West By's masthead graphic celebrating pure, clean water.

Our household water runs downhill from a spring which was developed eighty years ago by our predecessor on this land. In the early '50s we, and several other families, went together to buy about 350 acres of rural land, a former hardscrabble farm. We envisioned homes for several other young families just getting settled after the disruptions of World War II.

In this area of the Northwest where rain is plentiful during winter months, but seldom falls between June and October, or later, one of the first joint projects was to drill a well. We needed to know there would be an adequate water supply for multiple households.

We were fortunate in getting a well which has the capacity to run three rain bird sprinklers twenty-four hours a day seven days a week. As time passed each of the other young families moved on to careers in other communities, leaving us single ownership to acreage and access to great potential for irrigation, at least in this hill country where field crops are not generally a possibility.

The well has never been hooked up to the house. It has watered livestock and provided a green line for fire protection around all the farm buildings through the dry summers.
"Foxglove" by Stephen Voss

This has involved many hours of dragging fifty foot hoses and multiples here and there from two or three faucets which give access to lawn, garden, pasture and orchard.

We sold our place a couple of years ago to a young neighbor with an arrangement for us to stay on as renters where we have lived for about half a century. He now tends to watering the pasture and providing a supply of drinking water for his cows.

Our daughter and her husband have a home nearly half a mile from our buildings - on down a gravel road past the fields and into what was the "back pasture." They have developed a lovely garden which was featured one season on a garden tour. Their household water supply is too limited to support the garden, and for these many years they have hauled water, four or five hundred gallons at a time, depending on the size of the tank on board, from the irrigation well on this place. This activity has been almost a daily ongoing summer chore.

We are so set in our ways as octogenarians it would be unthinkable not to grow a garden. Today I brought in for dinner the first green beans of the season, plus a zucchini. There is chard, lettuce, cabbage, tender raw turnips, sugar pod peas, spinach, onions, beets and greens. Also carrots and melons growing, plus sweet corn and winter squash. In a couple of days we will have yellow crook neck squash and cucumbers. Tomatoes ripen late here where the temperature goes down to fifty degrees many nights, but they look promising.

My husband is out morning and evening resetting the hoses for precious water in our garden, yard and orchard. While I was hoeing this morning I noticed the "water wagon" loading at the well.. We have never installed a pressure tank, so when the pump is turned on, water must run somewhere or damage the pump. There are switches at the wellhead to direct the flow. Whoever uses the well must be mindful of the need to keep the flow going somewhere when the pump is running.

This includes awareness of other's use at any given time. It doesn't run our way when it is filling that water tank, so we need to adjust our settings to allow time out for the neighbor's use. Arrangements between the three parties have always been amicable, a testimony to the goodwill possible among community-minded neighbors.

My heart is full of gratitude for this happy situation when there is so much grief in the wider world. We are particularly fortunate in this situation considering the constant media reports of continuing and growing water shortages all over the world.

Copyright 2003 by Lois Barton

Writer and historian
Lois Barton
Lois Barton is an 85 year old mother of eight children. She has lived on the same rural acreage just south of Eugene, Oregon for more than 50 years. All their children learned to milk, to keep the woodboxes filled, to do their share of household and garden chores. Her first book, Spencer Butte Pioneers, was published in 1982 when her youngest started to school. Since then she wrote five other books: Daughter of the Soil, now out of print; One Woman's West; A Quaker Promise Kept; and Through My Window, autobiographical sketches, sequel to Daughter Of the Soil.

Through the years Lois has been a 4H leader, president of the neighborhood association, a precinct committee woman, election board clerk, editor of the Lane County Historian, and a life long Quaker. She spent a month in Southeast Asia in 1974 as a member of a church peace mission, after working for ten years as director of the Eugene Chapter of the World Without War Council.

Visit the Sunnyside of Spencer Butte Section in our new format for more of Lois' stories. See more of Lois Barton's articles in West By online magazine's archives:

Visit the Heron Rookery

Sauerkraut and All That

Charlotte's Overdose - Just who is Charlotte and what did she take?

The Midwife - The midnight call awoke an unusual midwife.

The Mystery of Fox Hollow - Fact and fiction meet in this story of the origins of Faith Rock.

Trees, Tame Trees and Squirrel.

Books by Lois Barton

History and stories of the peoples of the Northwest.

© Copyright 2000-2004 by West By

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