Monday, February 18, 2008

Rain Barrel

My mom's birthday was last month, and my dad and I got her a rain barrel. But we didn't have time to convert it from plain barrel to rain barrel until this weekend. Rain barrels are a great way to save water and money. You just capture some of the rain that falls on your roof and use it to water your plants. One inch of rain on 1,000 square feet of roof can produce 620 gallons of water that you can use for free!

It was a beautiful day on Saturday. The redbud tree in my parents' front yard is starting to bloom. I can't believe it's spring already!

My mom loves orchids. I counted over 300 in and around her greenhouse a few months ago. She brings the ones that are blooming into the kitchen. They're really beautiful.

Now--to the rain barrel!

My dad and I got a large plastic barrel from the local feed-and-seed. It wasn't expensive, and it had held only food (Greek peppers from, oddly enough, Turkey). The latter is important because you wouldn't want to irrigate your plants with water that had been held in a container that once held chemicals of some kind.

This is before we made any modifications. It looks like the downspout is going into the top of the barrel but it's not--it's just resting on top. We placed the barrel in a corner right by the kitchen and utility room where a lot of rain comes off the roof, and it's on concrete blocks to keep it level. The front yard is basically just driveway, so rain quickly forms puddles. The rain barrel should help keep pools to a minimum.

Here's the top.

And this is the inside. It smelled strongly of, well, Greek peppers from Turkey. We didn't scrub it out, though, because, hey, Greek peppers from Turkey are vegetables, and this water would be used for vegetables, so no harm there, right? I hope that's right.

We followed the plans Alachua County's consumer horticulture agent, Wendy Wilber, had sent me. Wendy is very, very good at what she does. But my dad doesn't really "follow directions," so I think ours looks a little different from the barrels people build in her rain barrel workshop.

Regardless, my dad had seemingly acquired all the necessary parts. This is the part of the faucet that goes inside the barrel.

And this is the faucet connected to the inside part, a sort of test run for when we attached it to the barrel. The silver washer is supposed to keep the water from leaking out.

Pop drilled the hole for the faucet. We wanted it pretty close to the bottom of the barrel to make sure all the water was accessible, but far enough off the ground that a bucket could easily fit under it (for watering with).

He wants me to show the bit he had attached to the drill.

We attached the faucet. I leaned inside the barrel and screwed it in while he held the spigot steady on the outside.

We have a fine-mesh screen to keep mosquito larvae and detritus from entering the rain barrel.

The next step was to connect the downspout with the barrel. Pop sighted the hole rather casually. (He drew a rectangle slightly larger than the downspout with his keys or something in the moisture that had accumulated there.)

After drilling a hole in the square to get things started, he sawed the rest of the square out.

There were some technical difficulties...the saw got bent. The parental didn't like that and tried to bang it back into alignment.

Eventually the task was finished and we fitted the downspout into the perfect-sized hole.

Then we created an overflow valve. This is for when the rain barrel gets full. One heavy rain, and it could fill up pretty quickly. (We'll probably end up making more barrels for the rest of the house.) The overflow valve is on a different side than the faucet, so that one can place a bucket under there to catch any overflow if desired without getting in the way of the spigot.

And this is the final product! You can see the overflow valve on the upper left of the barrel (by the hand). Overall, it took less than a half-hour to do, cost under $30, and was a fairly simple and straightforward operation.

Plus, it made my mom happy.


Mary Beth said...

Am wanting to add a rain barrel this summer so i LOVED your step-by-step of the process. Good information!

Kim said...

Nice step-by-step instructions. Thanks for sharing!

Erin said...

Hello I just found your blog, nice to find a fellow Gainesvillean and plant lover. Nice tutorial. My rain barrel is just a five gallon bucket under the corner of the roof that I uncover when it rains (my garden is very small), yours is much better.

she said...

this is so weird- first of all, i want a rain barrel now, great idea, and now i know how- but the weird thing is that when i was reading this blog the memory of the smell of your parents house came flooding back - i think i've pinpointed what it is- coffee and quiche. i really love that house. and the smell that emanates from it.

Nathaniel said...

Great post, SS - maybe the best I've seen yet. I love the photo of Pop banging the saw.

sarah said...

I'm so glad the step-by-step worked! I've never done that before, and I feel like my photos were kinda weak.

alex216 said...

I love it! Very creative!That's actually really cool.


Sharon said...

How is the rain barrel serving you for the last four years? I hope you were able to properly maintain the barrel because it can be damaged over time. The barrel’s cleanliness and protection from different elements is a priority. You must use non-toxic materials, such as vinegar, to avoid contaminating the water. Keeping the screen free from algae, mosquito, and other debris is also important to keep your harvested water clean.

Sharon Strock