The Daily Catch

From Food Fountain to Fire Extinguisher: The Tiny Pond That Never Stops Giving

Edras Guerra looks out over the tiny pond that is the source of water to irrigate lands — and fight fires — at Migliorelli Farm (photo by Emily Sachar).

Call it The Little Pond That Could. 

It doesn’t even have a name. Yet, this tiny body of water that irrigates acres of Red Hook farmland year after year, giving life to sacks of spinach and rucksacks of radishes, helped extinguish a nine-hour blaze at Ken Migliorelli’s barn early Friday morning.

This little gem of hydro generosity is tucked a few thousand feet into the woods off Linden Farm Lane. Fish flit beneath its surface, small lily pads float on top, and an antiquated pumping truck that ironically had an earlier life fighting fires sits at its edge.

“This baby pond never lets us down,” said Edras Guerra, Migliorelli’s irrigation specialist, who arrived at the fire scene immediately after the first crew of firefighters to help hook up the pond. “We dropped that pond really low this time, but it always comes back.”

The pond is fed from the same aquifer that runs under a good portion of Red Hook, supplying drinking water for town and village residents. It connects with the White Clay Kill, then moves to Tivoli where it moves out into the Hudson River. “If it wasn’t for the aquifer under Red Hook that feeds the pond, I couldn’t make these lands as productive as they are,” Migliorelli told The Daily Catch late Wednesday night. “My operation relies on this water source.”

Normally, the 2,000-foot-plus run of pipe that emanates from the truck makes its way through the woods and resurfaces along dirt paths that lead to the edge of Migliorelli’s fields. There, Migliorellii’s three irrigation crew members attach a motorized machine hauling a thick rubber hose that can unspool like a magnificent thread bobbin to the opposite end of the field.

A pumping truck that, ironically, used to fight fires, sits beside the pond always at the ready to extract water (photo by Emily Sachar).

At the end of that hose, which can stretch up to 1,100 feet, is a standing spray gun that sits 15 feet above the ground spewing three-quarters of an inch of water as it creeps, like a giant mechanical worm, back down the field to the motor. Then, it is positioned anew to water another patch of cropland. Six hours this chore takes, completed daily during the growing season.

Swiss chard glistened in the sun Wednesday morning as the water hits its soft curling leaves. The spritz of water from the spray head danced in the gentle breeze as it hung in the air before falling quietly and gently to the ground.

The patch of land where this task unfolded Wednesday measures 320 by 900 feet or about six acres, the gun all the while saturating the rich caramel-colored soil known statewide for its capacity to give life. Around the bend off Budds Corners, the pond was being tapped into service to irrigate another patch of ground, this one spawning radishes, French breakfast radishes, broccoli rabe, arugula, Hakurei turnips, and bok choy.

Guerra with one of the hose coils that can stretch hundreds of feet to water the fields (photo by Emily Sachar).

But last Friday morning, the pond was commandeered for another task. Supplemented by some 400,000 gallons of water hauled from Mill Pond down the road, under the direction of the Tivoli Volunteer Fire Department, the pond became the principal source to replenish firefighters’ water supply.

Over the course of nine hours, the ponds offered more than 960,000 gallons of water: 16 trucks, each refilled 20 times, 3,000 gallons at a clip, according to Carly Migliorelli Stafford, Ken’s daughter and the director of retail operations. She procured her stats from experts at the scene.

By Tuesday afternoon, with only Saturday’s rain to assist, the pond had largely replenished. “It seems to know how much we need it,” Guerra said.

He then bid a gentle farewell, off to water Migliorelli’s corn fields just north of the village. Another pond keeps those fields watered. But that’s a story for another day.

From the pump truck, 2,000 feet of pipe runs through the woods and out along Migliorelli’s farmlands (photo by Emily Sachar).

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