garden nerd

purple peppers

I am, among other things, a garden nerd. I wear this sash proudly. There was no kindergarten offered in the rural area where I grew up, so before first grade, I learned to read seed catalogs, and I practiced basic penmanship while filling out extra seed order forms. The catalogs would begin to arrive after Christmas, when the desert landscape was still gray and dormant. If I was bored with our limited black-and-white television viewing selections, I would curl up before bed and methodically plan which flower and vegetable varieties were best for my imaginary, grown-up garden. Every year I still celebrate the arrival of the seed catalogs.

Gardening depends on water, and in my part of the world, most of this water is “fossil water”, stored millions of years ago in invisible ghost aquifers, often hundreds of feet below the ground. Everyone should have to see a well being drilled. The effort, uncertainty, and equipment are impressive and intimidating. As the well is drilled, once the water starts coming in, the drill rig must periodically clean the mud and sludge out of the bore hole. The muddy discharge results in a soothing mud wallow for children looking for outdoor fun in 115 degree heat. Sometimes shelves of solid rock frustrate the heaviest and sharpest of drill bits. When I was a kid, the only remedy for that situation was a case of dynamite. I kid you not. Back in the days before the crazy, mean shenanigans of the last few decades, dynamite was not so hard to get hold of, especially when well-drillers, miners, and the like could not do their jobs without it. A new well was an occasion for excitement and speculation for miles around. Everyone wondered if the property owner would actually end up with a functional well or just a dry hole. Worse still, the fossil water could be left over from an ancient sea, rather than a freshwater lake. A salt-water well is worse than no well in the desert. Unless you want to run a salt farm.

There has been an active salt brine operation in Glendale, Arizona since 1969. The was purchased by Morton Salt in 1985. There is a huge underground deposit of solid, crystalline salt in this location west of Phoenix. The Luke Salt Deposit is said to contain over 15 cubic miles of salt, possibly 10,000 miles deep, but no one has yet drilled to its bottom, so this remains an educated geological guess. Active brine wells reach about 3,600 feet. Water is injected into the two wells through dual-chambered casing, where it dissolves the salt and is then pumped back out. The brine is dehydrated in large, open earthen drying basins. Heavy equipment is used to periodically turn the semi-dry salt crystals. This is not food-grade salt, but is used for industrial purposes. For those who are interested, the mine, located on the north-east corner of Dysart and Glendale roads, is open to the public, call ahead for tour information. The the mildly curious can eyeball the mine from the passenger seat of a car driving north on Dysart.

A monsoon storm broke our 81 day streak of rainless days, the fourth longest on record. Rain was predicted for yesterday afternoon, and at some time after 9:00 p.m., I grew tired of waiting and watered the tender veggies, including my pet Hubbard squash. The rain arrived well after midnight. I told you I was a nerd.


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