Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Save on Water, Money and Time - How To Transform Your Sprinkler System to Drip Today

As water becomes more precious and our lives get busier, it’s becoming increasingly important to have an efficient irrigation system. Many gardeners and growers are converting their sprinkler systems to drip irrigation because it is more precise, efficient, and easier to maintain. In fact, drip systems are known to use up to 70% less water than the sprinkler systems we’re all used to dealing with. Drip systems are also incredibly diverse in their ability to water any terrain, from gardens around your home to hillsides, vineyards,orchards, or row crops.

Beyond the initial investment, converting your water-guzzling sprinklers into a drip irrigation system is a no-brainer. Your plants will be healthier. Weeds will be fewer. And your water bills will be lower. The amount of money saved will pay you back for the expense of buying a starter drip kit the first season. Follow this step-by-step guide to attain the most seamless means for trading up. You’ll end up saving time, water, and money.

Outline Your Plan of Attack

The first step to converting your sprinkler setup into a drip system is to take an audit of your current layout and space. Where is your main water source? What’s your system’s water pressure? How many sprinklers do you have and how are they laid out? As soon as you have a clear grasp on what your plan looks like, you can grab all of the parts you’ll need in an easy to assemble kit. The best way to do this is to purchase one of our pre-made kits.

Get the Pressure Regulation and Filtration Right

The recommended working pressure of drip irrigation systems is often lower than your actual water pressure. If this is so, you will need a pressure regulator to control (reduce) incoming water pressure. Install the regulator near the start of your system, ideally right after your control valve or faucet.

Drip emitters have small orifices and pathways that can clog. To prevent this from occurring, you should install a filter. If the water is relatively clean (e.g. city water or a clean well) you can simply install a screen washer or tee filter on each riser. If you are dealing with something more like a live body of water (pond, river, or creek) or runoff you will want to install a larger heavy duty filter on the main supply line.

Install Your Drip System

Turn Off Your Water Supply

As many gardeners have learned the hard way, it’s a best practice to start each project by turning your irrigation system off at the main valve of your water supply. Neglecting to do so may cause flooding and a little something we like to call #IrrigationFail.

Drip Line

It’s possible to install the mainline of your drip irrigation system either underground or above ground, although it’s more difficult to spot leaks if tubing is below ground. We recommend mulching over the tubing, because it looks better, lasts longer, prevents people from tripping, protects the tubing from environmental hazards, and increases the overall lifespan of your system. You will probably find covering the mainline to be aesthetically pleasing too.

Cap Off Old Sprinklers

After your drip irrigation system is installed, seal off unneeded sprinkler heads with a threaded cap.

Update Your Watering Practices

Congratulations. Your drip irrigation system is almost complete. Now it’s time to start reaping the rewards. Go ahead and update that watering schedule to take into account the fact that your plants will sip water much more effectively than before.

Use a bluetooth timer like the one explained in the video above to increase efficiency and water your new system automatically.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Bokashi Fermentation: The Practice That Will Finally Change The Naysayers’ Minds on Composting

Trump, The Dallas Cowboys, Miracle Whip, composting. These topics tend to bring people into fits of polarized passion, but Bokashi fermentation may very well change the cynics’ views on composting. The process is faster, simpler and more predictable than traditional composting. Here are the reasons you should choose Bokashi fermentation for composting and how to get started.

Bokashi is a Japanese term that means “fermented organic matter.” Bokashi fermentation is the process of turning food scraps and kitchen waste into compost. The anaerobic process, in its most basic form, is all about fermenting organic matter in an acidic environment so it can be quickly assimilated into the soil again. Usually anaerobic composting has negative by-products, but Bokashi is a closed bucket system that allows composters to reap the benefits without the negative side effects.

For example, the process all occurs in a system so there are no insect or rodent issues, no putrid odors, and minimal (if any) greenhouse gasses produced. Bokashi is also beneficial because you can add all types of food waste including meat, cheese, dairy and bread. Unlike traditional composting, you don’t have to worry about mixing greens and browns in any specific ratio. Perhaps best of all, it’s affordable and the entire process takes weeks instead of months.

Getting Started with Bokashi - The Complete How To Guide

Bokashi is one of the most affordable composting systems. To get started, order one or two of our Bokashi composting kits. As you will see from the process below, after a Bokashi bucket is full, it must sit for two or so weeks while the fermentation process is occurring. Two buckets makes it possible to add food scraps and kitchen waste to a bucket while the other is fermenting.

To get started, sprinkle a layer of the included Bio Blend™ Bokashi Mix on the bottom of the bucket. Then add chopped food scraps and kitchen waste on top, remembering to add a thin coat of Bio Blend™ Bokashi Mix on top of the waste before sealing the container. Because Bokashi is an anaerobic process, it’s best to keep the bucket free from oxygen. To minimize exposure to oxygen some people recommend packing the previous day’s waste down with a plate. Also, be sure not to mix up the previous day’s waste as this will create oxygen pockets.

When the bucket is full, seal it tightly and place it out of direct sunlight. During the fermentation process a liquid fertilizer concentrate will form. This liquid contains beneficial nutrients and microbes that can be used as a fertilizer. Draw the liquid off with the bucket spigot every three to four days to keep the environment in the Bokashi bucket optimized for fermentation. Then dilute the fertilizer concentrate (25:1 for soil applications and 50:1 for foliar applications) and use it within a couple days.

After two to four weeks the fermentation process in the Bokashi bucket will be complete. Take the remaining solids out of the bucket and bury them in the soil or place them in a traditional composting pile. After the decomposition process is complete you have a rich, dark compost that can be used as a soil amendment in your garden.

Share Your Compost Adventures

Do you use Bokashi fermentation? If so, tell us what you think. We’d love to hear your insights, as well as tips you have for others just starting the process for the first time.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Smart Irrigation Month and the Garden Bloggers That Inspire Us All To Do Better

Smart Irrigation Month sneaks up on us every July, and with the fireworks, scorching summer heat and #smartselfies, we’re reminded to take a beat to think about what’s really important. Irrigation has been around for hundreds of years and as technology advances and our world changes, it’s on us to be conscientious of how we approach irrigation. Each and every one of us can get smarter, but at the end of the day it takes an entire community to create a movement. That’s why this year, in honor of Smart Irrigation Month, we’ve taken the time to recognize some of the smartest garden bloggers we know. These are the people who are already saving water, gardening smarter, and thinking about sustainability. Check them out and let us know if there’s anyone who inspires you to be smarter as well.

Shawna Coronado

Why We Love It: Shawna shows us that one person can make a difference for the world.
What It’s About: Shawna dropped her office job in exchange for a life full of happiness, health and intention. Now she shares her tips for wellness and sustainable living on her blog. Get on board and learn about everything from drip irrigation for elevated garden beds to perennials and organic pest control.

The Real Gardener

Why We Love It: Most garden blogs will tell you what to do, but The Real Gardener also tells you why so you can apply your knowledge smarter.
What It’s About: Cristina da Silva, the voice behind The Real Gardener, has decades of extensive gardening knowledge in her bucket caddy. She started gardening professionally 30 years ago and does a great job of sharing an information in an approachable way. She shares tips for saving water, talks about healthy soil, and writes enough great book recommendations to require at least one new line item in your budget. Read through the entire blog and want more? You can also find Cristina on Twitter at the #groundchat tweetup every Friday.

Pass the Pistil

Why We Love It: Pass the Pistil is a no-nonsense blog about cultivating your garden and your soul.
What It’s About: Pass the Pistil’s Emily Murphy is a dedicated gardener who knows how to get to the root of everything. Her planting tips are useful, matter of fact and beautifully presented, but she doesn’t stop there. Emily also travels often and writes a lot about how gardening can inspire us to see the world in a bigger, greater way.

Garden Matter

Why We Love It: Garden Matter reminds us to slow down and tend to our environment, loved ones, and ourselves.
What It’s About: “There’s something about growing, creating and giving, that for me, is incredibly satisfying and fulfilling,” writes Patti about her blog. Garden Matter combines gardening with crafts, cooking and decorating, resulting in a website that flourishes with ideas and instructionals for home and garden related projects. Follow through with the projects on Patti’s blog and you’ll have everything from fruit tea to floral water -- all the makings for a more peaceful and complete home.

Garden Therapy

Why We Love It: Garden Therapy is a home sanctuary for those of us who know how healing it is to grow plants.
What It’s About: Gardening rescued Garden Therapy’s founder, Stephanie, from a debilitating illness. Now she shares her passion and experience with anyone who wants to dig in and DIY with therapeutic projects from the garden. You’ll love Stephanie’s inviting and thoughtful approach to writing. Not only does she take care to make projects accessible to gardeners of all skill levels, she also shares tips for saving water and caring about this Earth that houses us all.

Garden Design Magazine

Why We Love It: When it comes to dreaming about the future of your home garden and outdoor spaces, Garden Design Magazine is the ultimate in aspirational.
What It’s About: Planning your outdoor space or just constantly improving? Garden Design Magazine is the authority for all things gardening. Check out their awesome collection of design ideas, dig deep into their encyclopedic information on plants, and add travel destinations to your list with their incredibly enticing destination imagery.

Savvy Gardening

Why We Love It: From edibles to bugs, Savvy Gardening could very well be the most clever guides for sustainable gardening.
What It’s About: The authors behind Savvy Gardening are smart. They share an incredible amount of knowledge, from beneficial insects to how to cultivate a garden you can eat from. If it were the apocalypse and we suddenly had to grow our own food we would want an internet connection so we could refer to Savvy Gardening. Their tips and tricks would feed us, and their approachable writing style would remind us to stay lighthearted, friendly, approachable, but also serious in our pursuit of gardening.

The Redneck Rosarian

Why We Love It: The Redneck Rosarian reminds us the garden is a place of peace and elegance.
What It’s About: Chris VanCleave, aka The Redneck Rosarian, is a full-time Alabama-based banker with a knack for making a garden radiate. His blog is chock-full of useful tips, interesting stories and history, and knock-you-over stunning images of Chris’ roses. If you’re looking for inspiration for the garden, The Redneck Rosarian is a perfect place to start. Chris is a gentleman of true elegance. He responds to most of the comments on his blog (and there are a lot), but if you can’t get enough of him you can also join him on Twitter for #rosechat.

Share Your Favorite Blogs

Did we miss any of your favorite garden bloggers? Is there someone who inspires you to grow a smarter, most sustainable garden? Let us know in the comments so we can add to them to our reading list.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Smart Irrigation Tips for Gardeners and Growers

From drought-prone California to record-setting temperatures in Australia, we are quickly learning there's very little in this world that's more precious than water. It’s the essence of life, and Smart Irrigation Month reminds us it is our job to manage water intelligently.

Smart irrigation practices have been the foundation of DripWorks since we started shipping out of a makeshift basement warehouse 25 years ago. Although water itself is abundant, the ground water and surface water that serves us municipally and industrially makes up less than 1 percent of the Earth's water. The most accessible and economical freshwater sources have already been developed, especially in water-scarce areas. As demand grows and climates change, new solutions are more critical than ever. In honor of Smart Irrigation Month, we’re sharing some of our best water-saving tips for gardeners and growers. Introduce these tips and you’ll save both water and money.

Plant the Right Plants For Your Environment

According to the EPA, the average American family uses 320 gallons of water per day. 30% to 60% of that water is dedicated to cultivating lawns and landscapes, with as much of 50% of that water being wasted due to factors caused by poor irrigation practices.

Some communities are introducing policies to curb outdoor water use, but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice beauty. Some homeowners are trading in their finely manicured, water-guzzling front lawns for plants that require less water. Check out eartheasy and Google the term “xeriscape” for ideas on how to make decisions on plants that save up to 75% of water, and require less maintenance.

As you design your landscape, group plants by water usage and reduce evaporation by adding a layer of mulch over bare ground between plantings and rows.

Set Yourself Up For Success

Growers are recognizing the opportunity to lower their water bills and save water. As a result, micro sprinklers and drip irrigation now account for 38% of all farmed acres. Join the progressive leaders and get irrigation right from the start. If you need some help getting started, check out our Gallery of Plans and kits.

Get Your Watering Schedule Right

Fortunately for us, the industry is emerging with an increasing number of technological answers to our perpetual water problems. Timers are one of the most convenient ways to save water, money and time.

Consider investing in an electronic (AC) or battery (DC) timer that has a rain sensor port that can suspend the timer's program when rain is imminent. Once you have a timer, check them once per month to adjust frequency or length of time. Experiment with less frequent watering for a longer duration and be sure to water early or late to avoid wasting water due to evaporation.

Inspect Your Irrigation System Regularly

No matter what we do, environmental conditions make our irrigation systems vulnerable to leaks, breaks or other issues. Make sure you’re not the victim of a water gushing irrigation fail by inspecting your irrigation system regularly. Keep tabs on your water bill and do a visual check regularly to ensure you are staying efficient.

Tap Into Your Community

As more communities realize the importance of water, many places are offering rebates to residents who remove lawns, purchase smart controllers and make other decisions to upgrade to more efficient irrigation systems.

Many local water districts are also chipping in by providing drought information and water saving tips. Look into your local community for tips and support for getting the most out of every precious drop of water.

What Water Wise Decisions Will You Make During Smart Irrigation Month?

Are you putting any of these tips into practice as the summer heat peaks this July? Or maybe you have new ideas or recommendations for other gardeners and growers? We’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Tips for Gardeners and Growers: Irrigation Tips for Clay Soil, Sandy Soil and Loam

As kids we learned that soil is made up of weathered rock particles, but as gardeners and growers we quickly discover that the way sand, silt and clay combines defines a lot about our gardens. Each soil type handles water differently, which means we have to be precise about how we promote healthy plant growth. Smart growers use specific drip emitters and sprayers to emit water precisely and effectively. Take a quick look at our guide for irrigating based on soil type before you go digging around in your garden.

Heavy Clay Soil

Heavy clay soil holds water tightly and can often be rich in nutrients. Water is absorbed slowly and moisture spreads out laterally, but when heavy soil dries out it can be especially prone to cracking. Roots can have a hard time getting through this soil type. We recommend low flow emitters in heavy clay soil environments. These give the water time to soak in and spread out in a nice wide pattern. Try to amend clay soil with compost and other organic matter.

For individual plants, use emitters with a low ½ gallon per hour rating such as the Woodpecker PC emitter, the Woodpecker JR emitter, or the Pinch Drip emitter.

If you’re dealing with row crops, get your hands on the low flow AquaTraxx drip tape or Emitter Tubing for maximum results.

Sandy Light Textured Soil

In sandy soil, water travels vertically, straight down. As a result, it may be necessary to water sandy soil more often. To uniformly moisten sandy soil, use higher flow emitters like the Wooodpecker 2 or 5 gallon per hour emitter with closer emitter spacing.

When growing row crops on a commercial scale, Aqua Traxx drip tape with close together 8” or 4” spacing works well. Irrigate longer for even better results.

In flower beds, adjustable sprayers like the Spectrum and the Micro Jets will completely cover the soil surface and can be tailored to the size of the planting area. The non-adjustable Mini Jet sprayers are quick and easy to install and can help creeping groundcovers and ornamental gardens stay uniformly moist.

Medium Textured Loam Soil

Do you have amended soil that has been improved over the years? Do you have soil that’s loamy, rich and just right for a majority of bedding plants? Emitter Tubing or Soaker Dripline with 6” or 9” spacing between emitters are an excellent choice because they distribute water evenly across the entire length of the tubing.

For closely planted flower beds, rock gardens, or ground cover the Ein Dor mini sprinklers are excellent. They give even coverage for a 5’-13’ diameter area. Punching in individual pressure compensating emitters near each plant also produces excellent results without promoting weeds.

A Quick Note: Watering Schedule Based On Soil Type

Watering schedules are one of the best ways to save water, money and produce a bountiful garden. Consider investing in a battery timer and electronic controller that will you allow to precisely regulate a watering schedule.

When it comes to sandy soil, we recommend often but with shorter programs. For clay soil we recommend less frequent but slow watering as clay holds water for a long time. The resulting water (aka money) savings will pay for the timer and irrigation system within the first few seasons.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Down and Dirty Guide to Irrigation – What Equipment To Purchase and When To Use It

There are “Dummies” guides to almost every pursuit a person could take up, but what happens when you want to plant a new crop or start a garden from scratch? First of all, you’ll need get water to the garden. The prospect of purchasing the right equipment for your irrigation needs can be difficult, even overwhelming. Today I’m going to deliver a quick guide to help you figure out exactly what irrigation equipment you need and when to use it.

After 25 years in the drip irrigation business and more than 40 more years gardening, I have been fortunate to experiment with most every product we carry. I’m about to eliminate that “how do I make sure I’m getting this right” anxiety and give you the information you need to ensure that your landscaping, crop, or garden is a success.

Which Product to Use? “Keep It Simple, Stupid” Works!

Some of my favorite products include the Shrubbler on a stake, Soaker Dripline, the Ein Dor Mini-Sprinklers, Aqua-Traxx drip tape, and Emitter Tubing. Getting familiar with these products will help you to become a plant-whispering virtuoso.

When To Use Everything On My Must Know List

The Shrubbler - Has a Wide Watering Pattern for Roses & Tomatoes

If you want to grow a healthy crop of tomato plants that produces abundantly, the Shrubbler is the best choice. The adjustable Shrubbler’s wide watering pattern will build a big root system. As the tomato plants start to flower, the Shrubbler cap can be turned down to decrease the amount of water provided, signaling the plant to produce lots of juicy and tasty tomatoes. It’s a survival thing!

Roses love being watered by a Shrubbler too as they like water delivered below the leaves. This helps keep the roses free of disease, maximizing their health. The low and wide watering pattern produced by the Shrubbler gives your roses plenty of water. I add the EZ-Flo Fertilizer Injector to my system for delivery of fertilizer as the drip system is running. Roses and tomatoes are heavy feeders.

Watch the Shrubbler in action below and order your own Rose and Shrub Kit.

Soaker Dripline – Great for Raised Vegetable and Perennial Beds

Everyone at DripWorks loves Soaker Dripline. This ¼ inch tubing with factory inserted emitters spaced every 6”, 9”, or 12’ is very versatile, easy to set up, and inexpensive. We use soaker dripline in our raised vegetable and perennial beds, around ornamental shrubs in the landscape,  in low water pressure situations, and in the Smart Pots.

I have Soaker Dripline in my ornamental beds at home because it easily adapts to the curved edges of the landscape. On the ground, simply attach your Soaker Dripline to the mainline with a transfer barb and run it wherever you want.

If you want a quick way to get started, take a look at the kits Garden Bed Kits or Deck Garden Kits. They are, undoubtedly, your shortest path to garden victory. And here’s a video to get you watering right with Soaker Dripline.

The Ein Dor Mini Sprinkler – Low Flat Spray Pattern is Perfect Flower Gardens, Landscape, and in Greenhouses

I love the way these mini sprinklers work and never seem to clog. Using them at home has enabled me to have showpiece gardens year after year. The Ein Dor Mini-Sprinkler is perfect for flower gardens because it covers a wide, 7’ to 15’ diameter with a low, flat spray pattern. It’s a beautiful thing to behold!

If you have a greenhouse, Ein Dors can be used for overhead watering (hung upside down) to give off an even distribution of spray. Run the tubing along rafters or girders with our support clamps or attach the tubing to a wire with trellis hangers and run it from one end of the greenhouse to the other.

Check out the video below and order some Ein Dor Mini-Sprinklers to get going on your showpiece garden today.

Aqua Traxx Drip Tape – Uniform Water Distribution  Great for Row Crops and Long, Raised Beds

Aqua Traxx is perfect for row crops and long raised beds. It provides uniform distribution of water over very long distances.  Aqua Traxx is affordable, durable, and clog resistant. A big plus:  It’s inexpensive. 

When covered, Aqua Traxx typically lasts up to seven years. Put it above ground and it lasts 2 – 5 years. It’s also great for low-pressure systems.

Want some inspiration? Visit our Gallery of Plans online to see a few sample layouts and watch our video about the Aqua Traxx Drip Tape Row Crop Kit and order some drip tape kits here.

Emitter Tubing - A Go-To Solution for Big Plantings

Emitter Tubing is Dripworks most versatile product for larger plantings. This product has pressure-compensating emitters that are factory installed inside the tubing. This means that the flow will be the same out of every emitter, regardless of very long runs of tubing or elevation changes. This feature also eliminates any issues with animals or people knocking off an emitter. It is perfect for hilly terrain, long fence line plantings, landscapes, or multiple plantings such as orchards.

Watch our Emitter Tubing video below for a deeper look.

Now it’s Your Turn – Tell Us What You Think

Are you having a good experience with the products on my go-to list? Or maybe you have a favorite product of your own. Share your experience with Dripworks products in the comments section.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Forward Thinking Irrigation in The Sacred Valley of the Incas

A Trip to the Origins of Agriculture

Leon at Tipon Farming Terraces, Peru
This past March, my wife Nancy and I had the good fortune of spending 23 days in Peru and Ecuador. We hiked Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley leading to it, sifted through the Amazon basin, and explored the Galapagos Islands where Charles Darwin came up with the theory of evolution and natural selection in the 1830’s. My wife and I covered many miles and took many flights. Our tour group returned home with pictures and memories, as well as a newfound sense of respect for the ancient art of irrigation.

For all of the time we spend innovating the way we water our crops, it’s amazing to see how irrigation has both evolved and stayed the same in Peru. All of us irrigation buffs will be taken by the fact that the farming methods of contemporary Peruvian culture are very similar to what the ancient Incas did in the 1400's.

The Andean territory where the Incas lived is considered one of the eight centers from around the world where agriculture originated. The Incas native to Peru compensated for the steep terrain in the Andes by constructing terraces that overcame problems of water supply, soil erosion, and unstable climate.

Terraced Farming Area - Tipon Farming Terraces, Peru
In the rough terrain of the Andes my wife and I saw mountains terraced from top to bottom, but that wasn’t their only achievement. In a little more than 100 years (from about 1400-1532), the Inca Empire ruled more than 12 million people from 100 different cultures, consolidating its rule over thousands of square miles in Peru and Ecuador using a superb highway system. These intermittently paved roads were up to 24 feet wide, with tunnels, bridges, and stepped pathways cut into existing rock. This technology was very sophisticated, very exacting and its construction methods are still a mystery as there were no written records. It ran atop the spine of the Andes and down into the valleys for 3,450 miles from the Colombia-Ecuador border to central Chile.

We saw terraces along the entire stretch through the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu through towns with exotic names like Urubamba an Ollantaytambo, and Aguas Caliente. The bottom layers of these terraces were filled with different strata of crushed rock and small river rock. These stones provide drainage and also filters water to the terraces below. The farmers were also able to take advantage of microclimates by situating crops so they received optimal sunlight and temperature. The Incan terraces follow the form of the hillsides and the mountains and are supported with beautiful, precisely stacked stonewalls. The Incas considered these stonewalls utilitarian but we saw them as awe-inspiring.

After the plants produced their mature seed, the Incas harvested a portion of each crop to ensure the success of the next planting season. Some seed was often given to the local chiefs from neighboring communities in exchange for loyalty. Food was life, seed was sacred, and a variety of crops meant security.

Scroll down to see more great images at the very bottom of this page


Growing with the Land

Farmer's Market in Aguas Caliente near Machu Piccu
The main crops of Peru are potatoes, quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wa), cotton, cocoa, corn, fava beans and barley. On our trip we had potatoes at every meal for 23 days. In Peru there are between 3,000 and 4,000 distinct varieties of potatoes varying in size, color, and taste according to where they were grown. The elevation range where they are grown varies from sea level to about 14,000 feet. As Peru is near the equator, farming goes on year round. There are wet and dry seasons, but not much variation in temperature.

The Amazon basin is a rainforest but large areas in southern Peru are desert, and then there are huge elevation differentials so crop varieties change from region to region. This reality has been the norm for the last thousand years. Mono cropping is unheard of, with small farms and gardens near every home the rule. Recently the government of Peru said "no" to the cultivation of genetically modified foods to protect this rich diversity that has sustained the many civilizations of Peru for millennia. The people of Peru and its government know that GM seed would greatly reduce the biological diversity that has always been its hallmark. They feel that GMO crops would contaminate traditional farms that grow by traditional, time tested, and organic methods. Peru is the first country in the Americas to ban GMOs.

Leon Harvesting Potatoes in Peru
Quinoa (the leading crop in acres planted) is an extremely valued valued grain because of the high protein it provides. Potatoes in every size, shape, and color imaginable were tasty, interesting, and are a staple of the Peruvian diet. Huge fava beans, very large starchy kernels of high altitude corn, and even lupine beans grown on two-foot tall gorgeous deep blue flowers native to Peru, added to this unique culinary experience. Fortunately for us, we burned thousands of calories every day as we hiked the Andes mountain trails and the smaller towns of the Sacred Valley leading to Machu Picchu at high altitudes. We also walked the high altitude (11,000 feet) traditional city of Cusco and crowded coastal capital city of Lima, Peru (population 11,000,000). After that we hiked the historic mountain capital of Ecuador, Quito, which sits 9,350 feet above sea level.  In all, we were between 8,000 feet and 12,500 feet for two weeks.

I highly recommend visiting this part of the world. Traveling was safe with just enough comfort and plenty of exercise. The culture is truly fascinating, the sites extraordinary, and the history worth investigating. The people were very sweet and helpful. The huge stone structures in their magnitude and beauty will leave you with some real sense of wonder.

Scroll down to see more great images at the very bottom of this page

Part II:  The Beginning and the End of Our Trip: Not Exactly Farming

When we’re working in irrigation it’s easy to get caught up in the day to day routines. But trips like this, if we let them take us away, are life changing. We spent the first six days of our trip in the Amazon basin, the headwaters of the Amazon River. These tributaries of the Amazon emanate in the high mountains of Peru and Ecuador. The rivers start in the highest mountains of the Andes, giving them an incredible amount of force. The water was opaque brown because it carried so much silt, and so we never went swimming.

The jungle walks, boating on the longest river in the world, and visiting local villages and learning about their cultures made this experience enriching. The end of our journey in the Galapagos Islands was equally stimulating. The Pacific Ocean was clear, warm, and inviting. We found comfort living in a trimaran for a week and then challenged ourselves trekking the exotic and rocky (volcanic) landscape and going face to face with a treasure trove of unique species of animals.

The Amazon Basin

We started our trip in the hot, steaming jungle by the Amazon River. Our challenge was living with the humidity and the mosquitos. It took a few days to get acclimatized for most of our small group, and then a few days to recognize whose hiking abilities in our group matched up with our own. There were many opportunities to shoot startlingly beautiful, chance-of-a-lifetime pictures of birds, creatures such as sloths, and see an amazing variety of trees and vines. Hiking at night through the jungle, we saw caiman (small alligators) and huge, I mean HUGE lotus flowers that spanned four feet across. In the day, we motored in small boats (called pangas) to an eddy off to the side of the Amazon. There, we fished for, caught, and later ate piranhas. On another day our guide took us to a tributary where the pink dolphins (Amazon River dolphins, Inia geoffrensia) lived in an estuary.  We only saw them breach for a split second in an OMG moment. Nearby, there were grey dolphins in greater numbers. Those were eye-opening experiences.

The Galapagos

Blue Footed Boobies
Located 600 miles off the west coast of Ecuador, this was a unique experience for us as we lived on a large trimaran boat for five days off the coasts of three of the islands in this chain. The Galapagos are an archipelago of volcanic islands located in the Pacific Ocean 600 miles off the coast of Peru on both sides of the equator.  First, we hiked to a refuge where the largest land tortoises in the world lived in their native habitat. These reptiles can live for more than 100 years, grow to 800 pounds, and are five to six feet long and four feet wide. They are an astounding site to behold. Their relative, the sea turtle, are just as big as we found out during one of the daily snorkeling trips when Nancy and I swam alongside one mesmerizingly beautiful and graceful gliding turtle for a full two minutes. This was all in 80-degree water surrounded by beautiful fish. On land our hikes took us to see very picturesque indigenous seabirds called boobies and large and colorful iguanas. The unbelievably bright blue footed booby are most visible and recognizable as they fish close to shore, the red footed booby that has brown plumage, and the Nazca booby with the whitest white plumage in the natural world were all easily recognizable (duh!). The iguanas came in many hues too and were very large and prehistoric looking and not afraid of humans. It was an amateur photographer’s dream come true.

- Leon Springer
Dripworks Owner 

A special thanks to our tour company Overseas Adventure Travel!

Giant Tortoises in the Galapagos
Blue Footed Boobie
Cusco Peru

Irises in Cusco Peru
Farmer's Market in Aguas Caliente near Machu Piccu

Iguana in the Galapagos
Nancy at Tipon Terraces in Peru

Leon at Tipon Terraces in Peru

Gravity Spring Fed Irrigation System in Tipon, Peru
Terraces in Machu Piccu

Leon and Nancy at Machu Piccu

Farming Terraces at Machu Piccu

More Terraces at Machu Piccu

Thatched Covered Structure at Machu Piccu

Leon and Nancy at Machu Piccu
Nazka Boobies
Blue Footed Boobies

Iguanas on the Beach in the Galapagos

Sunset in the Galapagos

Giant Iguana in the Galapagos

Clustered Iguanas in the Galapagos

Blue Footed Boobie

Sunset in the Galapagos

Scene from the Trimaran

Iguana on the Beach in the Galapagos

Leon and Nancy at the Equator - Latitude 0
Nancy's Catch

Catch of the Day:  Piranha for Dinner

Amazonian Avocado!!!

Cute Amazonian Children

Nancy with her New Amazonian Friends

Catamaran in the Galapagos