A lesson in verse about sprinkler head maintenance

In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.”
~ Baba Dioum, Coordinator General for the Conference of West and Central African Ministers of Agriculture

Baba Dioum, a Senegalese forestry engineer, spoke these words as he presented a paper in 1968 at a general assembly meeting of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.  His quote was included at the bottom of an email I

Baba Dioum

received from David Searcy, Conservation Coordinator for the Medford Water Commission, in response to my article about cleaning out sprinkler heads. David provided important information about conserving water as we water our gardens and lawns, and I want to share it with you. Here’s what David wrote:

“I appreciate your columns in the Sunday Mail Tribune. The August 26th edition especially was interesting to me because of what I do. Quick background: 6 years at the Medford Water Commission (MWC) and 40 years a part of the landscape (original) Green Industry, teaching for about 30 of those years.

"Parade of Perennials" - one of several Rogue Valley gardens featured on the Medford Water Commission's website.

I wanted to point out to you some resources available to Rogue Valley residents, not mentioned in your article. Both the City of Ashland (COA) and Medford Water Commission offer Free Sprinkler Evaluations for their customers. We both offer Sample Lawn Watering Schedules based on 20 years of historical Evapotranspiration, (which are applicable for all areas in the southern Rogue Valley) and an up to date lawn watering Infloline to help schedule sprinkler timers. (COA 541-552-2057, MWC 541-774-2460) Additionally, both of our websites have Water Wise landscape portals with hundreds of pictures of homes in our area for landscaping ideas and tips. On the MWC site we have a number of brochures such as Landscaping to Save Water, Water Efficient Plants for the Rogue Valley and a Homeowners Guide to Landscaping Irrigation and Design, to name a few, along with videos and links to other water wise websites.”

Thanks so much, David!


David’s email and Baba Dioum’s message about conservation got me thinking about didactic poetry, a style of verse that contains a clear lesson for readers. Some famous examples of didactic poetry are Virgil’s Georgics, John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Alexander Pope’s An Essay on Man. Religious poems have often been didactic, such as John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress (also referred to as an allegory), and school curricula have incorporated didactic poems to help students remember information. One example is the classic, anonymous poem that teaches the days of the month:


Thirty days hath September,
April, June, and November;
February has twenty-eight alone.
All the rest have thirty-one,
Excepting leap-year—that’s the time
When February’s days are twenty-nine.

Here’s another didactic poem by Jane Taylor (1783-1824), who also wrote the words to “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” In this poem, Jane instructs us to be as humble as a violet:

Down in a green and shady bed
A modest violet grew;
Its stalk was bent, it hung its head,
As if to hide from view.

And yet it was a lovely flower,
No colours bright and fair;
It might have graced a rosy bower,
Instead of hiding there.

Yet there it was content to bloom,
In modest tints arrayed;
And there diffused its sweet perfume,
Within the silent shade.

Then let me to the valley go,
This pretty flower to see;
That I may also learn to grow
In sweet humility.

There is no shortage of didactic poetry about water cycles and water conservation. I like this simple poem written by English poet P.A. Ropes that teaches readers how to water plants:

A Watering Rhyme

Early in the morning,
Or the evening hour,
Are the times to water
Every kind of flower.

Watering at noonday,
When the sun is high,
Doesn’t help the flowers,
Only makes them die.

Also, when you water,
Water at the roots;
Flowers keep their mouths where
We should wear our boots.

Soak the earth around them,
Then through all the heat
The flowers will have water
For their thirsty ‘feet’!

Adopting P.A. Ropes’ rhythm of A (6 syllables)/B (5 syllables)/C (6 syllables)/B (5 syllables), here is a didactic poem I wrote about cleaning out sprinkler heads:

A Clogged Head

Strolling through my garden,
Something was amiss;
Flowers were drooping,
They shouldn’t look like this!

I inspected further,
It didn’t take long
To find a clogged sprinkler;
That’s what had gone wrong.

To clean the spray head, I
Shut the water off,

My happily watered flowers!

Then unscrewed the nozzle,
And with a tug so soft

Lifted out the filter
And cleared the debris
That clogged all the holes, it
Was easy to see.

I soaked the nozzle in
A pail of warm wat’r,
Cleaned the spray head with
A piece of stiff wire.

The filter was replaced,
The nozzle screwed tight,
Turned the system on
To check if all was right.

The spray’s nice and even,
“Thanks!” my flowers cheered;
“Please clean the sprinkler heads
In spring ev’ry year!”

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