062214 fh garden RaevisFair Haven resident Jim Raevis demonstrates his spider-like irrigation system in the community garden. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)


062214 FH garden Raevis By far the strangest thing to sprout at the Fair Haven Community Garden this season is a plot-spanning, Rube Goldbergesque contraption that resembles a spider.

It’s an irrigation system built by Jim and Chris Raevis, a father-and-son team. Why?

“It is an effective way to conserve water” as they grow loofa gourds and white pumpkins, said the elder. “Oh – and a rice paddy.”

 062514 fh garden raevisChris Raevis pulling out a tiny rooted rice plant from his mini rice paddy.  (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge) 

The rice paddy – just the circumference of a barrel end – is likely to yield only about two and a half cups – “just enough for a pot of rice,” said Chris. The endeavor isn’t about producing food for the table so much as testing the limits to see what can be grown here, he said.

As for the irrigation system, cobbled together with PVC pipe and rain gutters, that’s for convenience.

“You don’t have to walk into the garden to water it, ” said Jim. “We set up the pipes and run the hose through the sluice from the gutters.

“Wherever the ground is wet, that is where we plant,” he said.

Chris said he and his father have been gardening like this since he was a little kid.

“I like to grow something different, something exotic,” he said, explaining his choice of Japanese Sticky rice this year. Last year, he tried Indian Dancing plants, but “they didn’t do so well,” he said. “A few years ago we grew cotton. That was fun.”

Birds, meanwhile, have found another purpose for the rice paddy. “They use it as a bird bath,” said Chris.

Check out our earlier articles on the Fair Haven Community Garden here, and tune in next week for more.