"Well, the first year we irrigated we had corn. We did it all with our own help – my brother was younger than I, and me and Dad. And we made the ditches. He made the ditches first. I think the first years he had a plank wedge that he would hitch behind the tractor and dig through the ground, which would then spread the dirt up [and form the ditch walls]. He soon developed a metal one that did a better job. It would dig deeper and throw the dirt up better.
   "The thing we didn't do that we should have done – we should have not had any vegetation growing where we made the ditch because when the ditch, when the berms dried out, the vegetation in the berms would whither and leave a space. The water would come along and start seeping. It would seep wherever there'd been a cornstalk or wherever there'd been a big ragweed or whatever was in there. And it would start seeping, it would increase and soon it would wash away. And it was very difficult to stop something like that because where it washed away there was mud. How do you rebuild a berm with wet mud when the water keeps running out? That was a real problem the first years. Then, we got to the place where we'd disc it first, or clear out the vegetation, and then make the ditch. That was a big improvement.
   "The work that came with irrigating with the ditch was burying the plaster lathes. Another thing, they talked about flues from steam engines that they bought to making [irrigation tubes]. Before that Dad bought old farm wells. I don't know if he bought them; they were probably given to him. But he'd pull the pipe out of the old farm wells, cut them into lengths, maybe 36 inches, [or] 48 inches. And then we'd bury them instead of plaster lathes. They would not rot like the plaster lathes did. But, they were so heavy because there was so much encrusted rust in 'em. We couldn't carry more than three or so. And we had to carry some of them a quarter of a mile. So, we'd carry three out and go back and get some more. We didn't ever put a road through the field. We just had that ditch, and we walked and walked and walked. To carry out and dig in pipe and bury it, and put in the next one and put in the next one. And it was a long tedious work for young kids."

Diena Schmidt – Gravity Irrigation Systems


Other Excerpts from Diena Schmidt's Interview:

Conscientiouis Objectors
Sugar Rationing
The Refrigerator Replaces the Cave
The Hard Work of Irrigation
Diena's Dad John Thieszen
Fighting Army Bugs without Insecticide