Our little lake cove has eight houses, and we're the only ones who live here full time. The rest come in from Houston, El Paso, and Austin, on weekends and holidays. We all share a well. It's not much of a well, really, sunk shallow, built on the cheap, without a water holding tank. The decision to build a well on the cheap was made long before we moved out here and we didn't realize how much this was going to effect our lives. Most of the time, it's just fine, but when the weekend people come, they bring guests. Lots of guests. Who are heavy water users, not used to water conservation.
This weekend, with the cove packed with weekenders and their guests, the water situation came to a head. We had hardly any water pressure, and the well pump was really struggling to keep up. While we worried and tried to conserve, our sometime-neighbors stewed over my use of water to irrigate our little patch of garden.
The truth of it is, I have no rights to irrigate with our well water. The well belongs to our neighborhood, and my annual dues pay for household water, and specifically exclude any outside watering. The truth of it also is, if we were watering a patch of lawn or some ornamentals, no one would blink -- they all do it. But this neighborhood has always been uncomfortable with my veggie garden. They feel it brings down property values. It's just too...rural.
So I have some choices now. We could sink our own well, and do it right this time. Nothing in our neighborhood bylaws precludes us from doing this. But I don't want to. Another well would stress our already-drought-stressed water tables, and possibly further deplete the neighborhood's water situation.
We have been planning to build a water collection system for the garden, drawing and re-drawing plans for a barn, from which we'd collect the water. Rainwater catchement is the perfect solution for our area, where we get plenty of water in the winter, and often in the spring too. But that's going to take some time -- a lot of time. And I need an immediate solution.
So here are my choices to get through the next few months, until the rainy season, and until we build a water catchment system:
1. Buy a water tank for the garden now and have a commercial bulk water supplier fill it. Use this water to get through the next few months.
2. Abandon the garden until we build a water catchment system.
There is also a third option that I'm trying to think through. Our house perches on a steep hillside overlooking the lake. To get to the lake we have a wooden stairway, in three flights of about fifty stairs each. At each flight, there's a landing, and along each landing is a naturally terraced strip of land. The second terrace might be a suitable place for a garden.
When I think about having a lovely, secret garden, away from dissaproving stares, I get pretty excited. I'd love to just make the tension go away. But I need to think this through logically -- building a brand new garden is a lot of work. So here are the advantages and disadvantages to each site:
Advantages to the Existing Garden:
- Open field with plenty of sunshine.
- Reasonably good soil.
- Garden beds already constructed.
- Plenty of room to add more garden beds, orchards, or even to have animals like chickens or goats.
Disadvantages to the Existing Garden
- In full view of my neighbors. They drive by frowning and muttering and I hate that it makes them so unhappy. I also hesitate to do other things that I know would drive them crazy, like have big piles of compost, dirt, and manure. Or get chickens. Or try making biochar.
- No trees for windbreak, which is very rough on young plants.
- Far enough from the house that I can't see what's going on -- like a deer or raccoon invasion.
- Open field make it less pretty, and more simply utilitarian, despite my efforts to plant vines on the fence and flowers in the beds.
- No easy water source.
- Will be very expensive to build a water collection system here. Since it's uphill and across a private road from our house, we need to build a barn for water collection. The barn will have to be approved by the neighborhood architectural committee.
Advantages to the New Garden Spot
- Very pretty place to garden, with a view of the lake, across the cove to unspoiled land.
- Shade trees nearby.
- Trees provide a windbreak.
- Will be very easy to create a waterwise irrigation system. I can hook up to our existing lake-water pump, and/or build a simple, gravity-fed rainwater system, fed by the house above.
- It's private, with no possibility that the neighbors will be disturbed by it (unless they sit on my dock below and stare up at us with binoculars.) I'd be more experimental without their frowning stares.
- The land is very rocky. I'd need to either bring in new soil or try to find a way to move the soil from my existing beds.
- It's located two levels down from my house. Every trip to the garden means descending two flights of outdoor stairs. It's impossible to get a tiller down there and pretty difficult to move soil, manure, etc.
- It's slightly smaller than my existing garden.
- I'd need to build a new fence.