I guess I never really, truly understood the meaning of the phrase "blowing a gasket" until I spent my entire day laying irrigation pipe. I always figured the idiom aptly described the look my mom gets when my brothers and I do something uber dumb... but as I previously mentioned, after today's debacle, I do concur that a leaky irrigation pipe provides a suitable metaphor for an angry ranch mom. (Or an angry grizzly bear, but I digress.)
My brother spent a couple of months of his summer last year laying irrigation pipe for a local farmer and friend. The pipe was big, heavy and cumbersome, but based on the systems I've seen, at least it probably all laid in a strait line and hooked up in mostly the right places. When you lay pipe for a research operation, it's much, much more complicated.
The problem mostly lies in the concept of test plots. Instead of being able to string pipe and sprinklers through a large-scale field, we have to very carefully and painstakingly thread and maneuver small, cranky bits of gnarly connector pieces across 8 whopping rows of 20 different types of corn.
Now, the pipe has been lying around all winter - hopefully on a rack or in a shed, but regardless, it's had the opportunity to become rusty and cantankerous and home to all kinds of nasty vermin (snakes, mice etc.) All the pieces that seemed to work just fine last year now have to be readjusted and tweaked to fit this year's setup. That requires several tools, most importantly, a pipe wrench or two, some regular 1/2" and 1" wrenches, a flathead screwdriver, possibly some baling wire or duct tape, and the one that always seems to get the job done - the vocabulary. That's right. In order to wrangle all that awkward, unyielding metal into a operable form and fashion, you'll need an extensive word bank of colorful, convincing curses. It's also important to let that doggone pipe know exactly how you feel (communication is essential for good team work) when you smash your finger. And since we're venting our feelings, it might be beneficial to cuss the weather and the government while we're at it.
Back to the vermin thing... although I have yet to run into a slithering thing, I did find a dead mouse in one of the sprinkler heads. It was clear that the device was plugged, and thinking that it was just dirt and grime and possibly some fungus-y grass, I started digging it out. Then I found a claw. I don't eek out about too many things, but for some reason that one did me in. GROSS!
So not only is it hot out, the pipe is heavy and requires flexing and stretching to rival a yoga workout, and now that one has gone to aaaalll that work to fit it together and make it look pretty - turning on the water reveals that every one of those links and gaps in the pipe is pretty much a high pressure leak. IE... gasket blown. Putting the pipe together is easy compared to taking it apart. During construction, there is quite a bit of wiggle room and maneuverability. But once the final pipe is connected - one has created a massive metal monster that now has a life and stubborn mind of its own. Getting it apart and broken down truly requires a massive divide and conquer; one that defies the laws of physics, as two objects must now occupy the same space. Not to mention that since the water has been turned on, the field is now a sloppy, slough of a mud-hole and crawling around in it to re-tighten nuts and bolts and replace gaskets is a task worthy of every sailor-coined word in the vocabulary, and possibly a few that might have been picked up from the foreign exchange students.
So ya know... I looked epically sexy in my pigtails, mud streaks and muckboots today (<-sarcasm)