Thursday, July 29, 2010

Simple Lives Thursday #3 How to Install a Rain Barrel, and Quick CSA/Garden Update

Greetings, happy Thursday!  (It's quickly becoming my favorite day of the week!)
Today I'd like to share my most recent CSA share and then I'd like to tell you about how to simply install a rain barrel, and finally I'll show you just a few updates from the garden.
If you're not already familiar with the idea of rain barrels, read below!
First, the share! 
This week, ZJ Farms sent us home with herbs, kale, chard as always, some little yellow potatoes, lots of garlic, two summer squashes, a bell pepper, a yellow onion, and an oddly conical head of cabbage.  I'd like to try to store some of this cabbage downstairs under the steps.  Anybody have luck with a root cellar?

Learn all about rain barrels and how to install one after the jump!

This, my friends, is a rain barrel.  You may recognize it from its previous life as a pickle barrel, before it had a spout installed.  

The idea behind rain barrels is this: our gutters and downspouts collect and direct water during rain.  Rather than letting all this water simply wash away, rain barrels allow us to collect some of the water and save it for later.  Then, instead of using fresh tap water to water gardens, we can use rain water instead.  

Why is this so important?
  • According to the EPA, rain barrels can save families around 1,500 gallons of water over the summer.  
  • Rain water creates runoff, and using a rain barrel prevents some of that.
  • Also, rain water is 100% untreated, which reduces the chlorine and other chemicals going into our food supply. 
  • You can buy a rain barrel from lots of places online or around your city (I found mine at a farm store) or you can make you own.  Be sure to check your city and state government and extension offices, as they often subsidize rain barrels.

What to look for:
  • capacity. Mine is 50 gallons, and I wouldn't have bought less.
  • a large collection mouth with a screen.  The large mouth assures all water gets directed into the barrel, and the screen keeps animals and mosquitoes out.
  • a spigot.  This is a must have.  You can install one easily if your barrel doesn't have one.  It makes it significantly easier to use the water because gravity is on your side and pushes all the water through the spigot either directly into your container or through an attached hose, either normal or drip.
  • If possible, find a barrel with an overflow opening at the top.  (Mine does not have this, but I think we'll install one.)  This allows overflow to be directed to another barrel or a hose.  
  • cost.  We spent $43 on this barrel and it's on the simpler side of things.  You might spend $40-100, but not more than that.  Again, check for subsidized barrels around your area.

Once you've got your barrel ready, installation is a cinch.  

1)  Choose the downspout you want to use.  We picked one slightly up on a hill and close to the garden.

2)  Build a small platform.  Again this helps make the barrel easier to access and lets gravity help you.  We used old bricks from the garage and two shelves from an old particle board bookshelf.  It raised it around 10 inches.

3)  Mount the rain barrel on the base and be sure it's mostly and even and feels solid.  Mark a spot above the barrel, depending on how long the extender you're using is.  We used a flexible spout like this one from Lowe's.    

4)  Saw!

5)  Install your spout.  This extender was really useful because it was easy to attach and direct toward the top of the barrel.  We decided later to add duct tape around the opening to be certain that water pressure doesn't pull the spout off the downspout in heavy rain.

6)  Put the barrel under the spout and direct the water as well as you can into the barrel.

I hope you'll consider putting in a rain barrel because it's cheap and easy, and its benefits are well worth the effort.
Here's what's going on in the garden.  We have lots of fruits popping up on the tomato plants.  A couple came to full ripeness a couple days ago but tragically had blossom rot, a result of too little calcium in the soil.  We've been amending and hope that the problem works itself out.  Because I'll cry if I don't get to eat these.

The tomatillos have lots of flowers and we are so excited to see how these grow since it's our first time.

We've got some birds in the birdhouse, and I think they just might be hummingbirds.    

We've also been finding a lot of these around: the shed shell of a cicada.  Creepy.

Until next week, please link up your posts about simple living!


momgateway said...

Your tips are so helpful...

Raven said...

I have wanted to look into rain barrrels for awhile, but I thought they would be much more expensive and difficult. Now I'll have to get more serious about checking that out. Thanks for the tips!

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