Sunday, April 01, 2018

Hose Quality

Weather: Sun angles continue their vernal progression. Instead of coming into my eyes in the morning, the rays are coming in the back of the house under the 12' porch roof in the afternoon. When they stopped bothering me at my desk, the rochea stopped blooming on the eastern porch, and the moss rose began putting out rose-colored flowers.

It was a cold, dry winter. Apparently, the lack of snow meant whatever moisture fell drained immediately into Santa Cruz lake. As a result, the acequias are opening early this year to relieve the dam. The managers hope the water will last until July, and with some rain, into August. Farmers, of course, are asking their mayordomos if its safe to plant this year. [1]

Last rain: 3/27. Week’s low: 23 degrees F. Week’s high: 74 degrees F.

What’s blooming in the area: Apricots, peaches, pear, Bradford pear, purple leaf plum, forsythia, crane’s bill, dandelion. Male cottonwood dropping seed clusters.

What’s reviving: Flowering crab apple, Siberian elms, cheese at post office, violets, Jupiter’s beard, pink evening primrose, oriental poppy, broom snakeweed, needle grass. Among the roses, Betty Prior, Doctor Huey, Dorothy Perkins, Jeannne Lajoie, and Olympiad have new leaves.

Animal sightings: Sidewalk ants are back. A rabbit has been feeding on native plants; it left droppings on the cement block path I had cleared the day before. Bees appeared with the peach flowers; they weren’t out for the apricots. Saw a gecko scrambling over leaves under the peach yesterday.

I uncovered a worm when I was planting raspberries. I’m not sure if worms are common in grasslands, so I took that as a sign the place I was planting would be nurturing.

Tasks: Nurseries love to ship their plants as early as possible. Last Sunday I had to plant some bare root raspberries. The first problem was the other plants in the area where they were going hadn’t broken ground yet, so I didn’t know where they could go. The second challenge was the area was in the shade, and the soaker hose had ice in its lines, so I couldn’t get water into the ground. I fell back on my usual trick when I need a lot of water in a single place. I ran the rotary sprinkler that has a limited spray area. The ice in the lines apparently caused pressure problems or flow irregularities that then overwhelmed the frost free hydrant. Because of the hydrant problem, I didn’t actually get the raspberries into the ground until Thursday.

Weekly update: Since the election of Ronald Regan as president, the use of inflation as a negative measure of the economy has led manufactures to maintain prices by lowering costs, first by transferring production to third-world countries, and then in reducing quality. Even so, routine garden hoses that used to cost about four dollars are going for eighteen this year.

The first obvious change they made was substituting plastic for metal fittings. The problem wasn’t simply that the plastic would break when I tried to attach it to another hose. The worse problem came when I had attached a plastic end to a metal coupling and later needed to remove it. The two materials expand and contract at different rates, and the plastic would often destroy the metal part. Then, I had to replace not one, but two hoses, or a hose and a valve.

This year I noticed more of the hoses for sale had metal parts, but last year most were plastic. That’s because the manufacturers have found a new way to lower costs. They’ve change the chemistry of the "rubber."

Hoses always kink. It seems to be in their DNA. To get them to work, you have to press your thumb down hard on the edge to force an opening. Well, that became impossible for me last year, and still is.

A few years ago, I noticed hoses kinked as soon as I took off the packaging and unwound them. Thursday, when I needed to run water, no water flowed, even though the hoses had worked on Sunday. When I tried to straighten them, they cracked and started spurting. When I checked records I started keeping last year, I discovered I had purchased those particular hoses last May and June. They were supposedly different brands. 

About the time I started having more problems with kinking hoses, I noticed stores were marketing ones that wouldn’t kink for a higher price. When I looked closely, these weren’t like the previous ones. They were heavier, which made them much harder for me to use. The weight came out of the inner diameter, so they let less water through.

Like so many other things, they had replaced a usable object with one that was clumsier and called it an improvement.

Notes on photographs:
1. Purple leaf plum from a distance, 31 March 2018.

2. Area where I’ve been clearing dead alfalfa stems and removing invaders like the snakeweed on the right. The block path is covered with alfalfa seeds, and dirt deposited by the wind. 30 March 2018.

3. A Y valve that was destroyed by a plastic fitting. There should be outside threads on both ends, but the one was removed and the ball valve it enclosed fell into obscurity.

4. Hose that had multiple kinks on Thursday.

5. Close up of one of the kinks. The break in the skin doesn’t cause the leak; the break has to be in the protected interior black hose. In this case, the kink would not straighten to let water through.

End notes:

1. Amanda Martinez. "Acequia Water Released Early." Rio Grande Sun 61:1,3:29 March 2018. Another reservoir problem is silt continues to accumulate in the bottom and decreases its capacity.

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