Wednesday, April 12, 2023

We Possess Sprinklers

I noticed one of our clumps of decorative grass by our front walk was looking a little brownish the other day (read: completely dead-looking), and realized I hadn’t turned on the sprinkler system yet.

Spring has sprung, but I had been lulled into a state of non-sprinklering by the winter we just had here in Northern California, which can only be described as a six-month monsoon with slight pauses for drizzle.

So yesterday I flipped the sprinkler controls in the garage to “on,” and this morning they ran for the first time this year. About an hour after they were supposed to have been finished, I was out on the driveway and noticed the three sprinklers on the small lawn to the right of the driveway were still on and sending quite a bit of water down the street to the storm drain.

It was odd that they hadn’t shut off when they were supposed to, but what made it even more odd was the fact that they are tied in with about half the sprinklers across the driveway on the main lawn, and those were off. So one of my sprinkler valves came on but failed to turn off, but some of its sprinklers were off and some were on.

If you know anything at all about sprinkler valves and piping, you know that what I just described is impossible, without demonic sprinkler possession being in play.

I went to all five valves and turned them on and off manually. That did not solve the problem.

I went to the sprinkler controller in the garage and turned it off. They kept running. That should also be impossible.

OK, maybe the sprinkler controller has shorted internally, I thought to myself. So, I actually disconnected each and every valve control wire from their terminals. There was no longer any possible way the valve could be signaled to be on.

The sprinklers kept running.

It was at this point that I got down on my knees in my garage and prayed for God to exorcise the evil irrigation demon that had possessed my home. I prayed hard, because I had other things to do with my morning than battle the Demon of Irritrol, but the good Lord did not stop the raging waters.

He did, however, provide me with some clarity. As I prayed for the sake of my water bill and protection from the rath of the California Eternal Drought Coalition Forces, it finally occurred to me that if half the sprinklers on one valve weren’t on, then those sprinklers weren’t on that valve. The system is wired to appear and operate as if the sprinklers on both sides of the driveway are on one valve, but they couldn’t possibly be, demonic possession or not. Water just doesn’t work that way.

So somewhere underground, that control wire from terminal 2 is connected to another control wire that goes to another valve that controls my three rogue sprinklers, and at some point during the monsoon months, that valve got corroded enough that it no longer shuts off automatically.


But where could that mystery valve be, you ask? It’s buried underground in the backyard in a valve box that was abandoned years ago when we put the pool in. I thought the valves in that box only controlled the backyard lawn sprinklers that were dug up by the pool excavator. I was obviously mistaken. At least one of them is pigtail-wired off Valve Number 2 to run three sprinklers next to my driveway that don’t shut off anymore.

Demonic possession officially ruled out. Thank you, Jesus?

So, after shutting off the water to the whole system to stop the flooding, I wrote myself a note to spend Saturday on an exploratory digging expedition.

It was my wife’s idea to have kids and buy a house. I wanted to live on a boat. Boats never have sprinkler issues, because you don’t need a pool.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen


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