Tag Archives: rain barrel

Raised Rain Garden + Rain Barrels

23 Jul

My bosses let me do crazy things (and sometimes encourage me and/or help)…and I’m dragging 10 teenagers with me.  I love designing water systems – so I designed this (somewhat) and my boss constructed it over our break.

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It gathers rain from two downspouts that originally hadn’t been attached to anything into a single catchment and then into a pair of rain barrels that my kids painted.

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The water from the barrels flows down a hose that irrigates the split bed (i’d designed it a single height, but my boss got creative when he built it).   There’s an overflow in the side for drainage and two standing drains in case water pools up too much.   My kids studied rain gardens and chose the plants (and we went to Weston Nurseries in MA to get a tour and pick them out).

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Obviously – we have some kinks to work out – WHOA – and the hose doesn’t appear to be flowing into the low bed – I thought the pressure would be enough, but it’s not pushing up and over….but that’s it so far!

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A Week Post Nadir and Still No Downward Motion – Some Other Random Updates

19 Jul

So it’s been a week since I nadired the hive (a little longer, actually) and the girls are still firmly ensconced in their top box and a half.  I’m getting worried that they’re not going to have enough to over-winter on.  I really want to take the half box off – what was the feeder is now a rank mess of dead ants, fermenting sugar – I can’t lift it off to dump it out because the comb in the half box is all built onto the bottom of it… so I keep trying to mop it out and add more water every time I go out there to thin down the fermenting sugar junk.  Unfortunately, it’s also splitting open on the side (which they’re taking as an opportunity to make an upper entrance) — but because of that, the feeder only holds a tiny bit of water and somehow also never seems to totally dry out.  I want to leave the top off and let it evaporate, but I think the ladies would dislike that course of action.

I did try to lift it off when I was just out there…but when I lift it up it’s just comb comb comb….I broke one lifitng it and felt badly about it and put it back down.

Upper left you can see the split/entrance they’re making.  Luckily it’s below the level of the feeder “floor” so they aren’t getting into where the water sort of is.  The other three shots are just a few angles on what you can see when I try to pry the feeder off.

The full version of my favorite part of that grouping – some gorgeous comb and a bunch of capped honey – yay!


This is the rain barrel from the tutorial sitting in place – the tube coming in from the left is overflow from the third floor barrel and the tube leaving just below it goes into the gutter for right now.  We got a big storm today (finally!) and the top barrel filled up and if I leaned way out the window I could see the overflow tube pumping it out into this barrel.  I don’t know what the status of this barrel is, won’t until next weekend – which is also the next time I can see the bees…but it seemed like it was working.

This is the water going into the top floor barrel.  When it was super pouring, the water was shooting out over the top of the barrel – but I think it was pretty full at that point anyway.  Previous barrels that I’ve made have had the pipe go straight down into the barrel – it’s a little more finnicky but you get ALL of the water.  Which, it seems, might not be necessary.

This is the last barrel currently planned – I need to get a good drill bit and put a bajillion holes in the top of it as well as some screen to filter out the junk.  I’m super excited about the hand-pump part – suddenly we can do dishes and fill watering cans outside.  I just need to figure out what to do with the waste water.  I’ll probably put a 5 gallon bucket under there and then just take the greywater and dump it in the flower garden.
Speaking of the garden, there are tiny bits of food happening:

Tomatillo flower, green Believe it Or Not tomato, and a baby pickling cuke!

Also, I’m a sucker for plants in need – I found these lemon-boy tomatoes all mashed up and bedragled (but fruiting already) on a clearance rack– took them home, planted them next to the huge mama tomatoes that I’ve had in for months, pruned ’em up and made sure they got plenty of water – it’s only been since Saturday and these girls are ripening right up!  A little TLC turned them right around!  I have hopes that once these early fruit come off, they’ll do a little growing and maybe give me another set.

DIY Rain Barrel Tutorial

6 Jul

I promised a rain barrel tutorial (like the one on the fire escape but not blocking the egress in my last post) for a friend, so here it is!

Stuff you’ll need:

*Plastic Barrel with lid – food safe…they come in 5 , 15, and 30 gallon sizes.  I’ve done these with trash cans, but I’m not super sure of the food-safe-ness of them, and they’re a lot flimsier than food shipping barrels and tended to break more easily.

*Drill – cordless preferred, but not required.

*1″ spade bit that fits said drill.

*silicone caulk labeled for outdoor use – I’ll put a picture of mine down below

*fittings – definitely a spigot, possibly a hose attachment — 3/4″ and 5/8″ fittings both fit in the holes that 1″ bits make.

*some washers that fit over the base of your fitting (3/4″ in my case)

*a bushing that fits over your fittings

*some plumber’s tape (this is semi-optional – it’s my first time using it and I think it’s a good idea, but I’m not totally sure if it’s crucial yet)

*a hunk of window screen that fits over the top of your barrel

*scissors or garden shears

I got this barrel on craigslist for $12 – it’s foodsafe (there’s a symbol on the bottom of a fork and a spoon, if you’re checking – but the person you’re getting it from should know both if the barrel is foodsafe and what it was used for).  This one was used for peppers, apparently.  This type holds 30 gallons and has the added bonus of being a sort of neat shape (not fully round and tapered top and bottom).  I chose plastic because it’s lightweight and easy to work with – no special tools needed!

The first thing I like to do is punch holes in the lid.  I’m using a 1″ spade bit for all of the holes – you could make the top drain holes a different size than the holes in the main body of the barrel, but I don’t really see the point.  Look, that’s me!  Drilling! Punch holes all over the lid.  Get fancy!  Or not!  Make it look like swiss cheese!  Sorry for not wearing eye-protection, mom!

Lay the barrel on its side and punch a hole toward the bottom.  The lower it is, the higher off the ground you’ll have to put it so that you can fit your watering can under it…the higher that it is, the more water you have to have in order to access your water.  It’s a conundrum.  I always eyeball it.  On these, I like to put it just below the start of the barrel’s taper.  Turn the barrel to the side and put another hole up near the top – this is your overflow, so don’t go too low with it.

When you’re done poking holes, your barrel should look like this.  At this point, I’d go ahead and dump any plastic shavings from the barrel into the trash.

These are my plumbing items all lined up.   You don’t need a fancy spigot, unless you’re me…in which case…you need a fancy spigot.  The plumber’s tape looks like medical tape but has no stick to it…and then there’s the washer and the bushing.  We went right to left on that, in case you were wondering. 🙂

When all assembled, they’ll look like this… but with a barrel in the middle.

Next, wrap plumber’s tape around the threads of the spigot once or twice.

Then goop on the caulk.  Goopy!

This is the caulk I’m using.  I recommend knowing what you want instead of going to the hardware store and asking the guy to help you find some caulk…and then spending the entire conversation over-pronouncing the word caulk so as not to fuel some weird porno fantasy he may or may not already be having about you. 😉  The key to the caulk is not shrinking or cracking, being rated for outdoor use, and being silicone.  I also like the not molding part.

The great part about the 1″ hole is that it’s snug enough to a 3/4″ fitting that it actually allows it to screw in (rather than just pushing through).  I feel pleased about that.  This is what the outside looks like after you’ve screwed the fitting in (caulk and all)…reached waaaaaaaaay down into the barrel and added a washer or two (enough to make the bushing screw tightly on and press the washers to the barrels in one, tight mush)…smoothed the inside caulk and possibly added a little more to make it seal up tightly and then smoothed the outside caulk to a tidy-ish seam.

If you have short arms like me, this part may involve having a friend steady the barrel while you wriggle into it to place your fittings.  It’s hilarious to watch but sort of annoying to do.  No photographs, please.

If you want to put a hose attachment on your barrel, it’s the same procedure except easier because you don’t have to crawl into the barrel.  I was going to put one on, but can’t find it.  It’s nice to do while you have the caulk out….but you can always add it later.

Next, lay some window screen over the opening of the barrel.  Precision is not terribly important to this step.  Mostly just make sure it covers the opening and overlaps on all sides.

Mash the lid on and trim the screen.  This is way easier than it looks.

……aaaand done.  Probably about a 30 minute total project.

I know you’re now dying to test it out, but the hardest part of the project yet remains…waiting for the caulk to cure.  I always give it 24 hours.  You could probably wait 12 (which I think is what the container says), but I don’t like to risk it.

Happy Rain Water Harvesting!

July Garden Tour

5 Jul

Part of the reason that I keep bees is for the pollination situation in my garden – I’ve only lived here a year (almost) and have really just begun to make this place into the mini-homestead that I want it to become – but, like anything, it’s one day at a time.  I think I want to try to do a monthly garden tour to show what’s going on here.

To start – the front…I’m not taking a picture of the whole front because part of it is an insane, tangled jungle that I haven’t really begun to work on yet…but up against the foundation is this:

From left to right, there’s the tip of a trellis that you can’t really see which has a clematis I bought last year at a dead looking perennials sale that came back this year and *just* bloomed, purple!  Then there’s a blueberry bush, another clematis, a blueberry bush, another clematis, and a blueberry bush.  If you’re following the progression, I’m obviously missing a clematis.  On the to-do list!  I’m hoping for another dead perennial, but it’s a Ville de Lyon and the other two are Jackmanii, so I think I should probably get another Ville de Lyon.  The middle two were a wedding gift from Eve, hi Eve!  Also the blueberries are from Monadnock Berry Farm in NH.  It’s a super awesome place and I totally recommend both their plants and their PYO berries.  Yumtastic.

This is the ripest of the blueberry bushes – they seem pretty happy there!

I also put a pea teepee to each side of that bed.  I found them amusing.  I didn’t pay as much attention to them as I ought to have, probably.  But there are some pods on there.  Yay peas!

This is the side fence..I was hoping for a little faster bramble action, I put these in in late Fall – these are raspberries and blackberries from Monadnock Berry Farm.  The hope was that they’d swallow up the fence, keep the crackheads from getting any ideas (not the brown house…but to the right…grr), and make food.  All of this is a little slow going.  I’m worried that they’re not super happy.  The soil isn’t great but it’s full sun and they’re brambles.  They’ll get mulch and compost in the fall and we’ll see what next year brings, I guess.

Blackberry action!

We also have a raised bed, it’s technically on our neighbor’s yard – but I’m paying rent on that plot in the promise of food….so far promises are enough, but I’m hoping to be able to deliver on that promise bountifully.

This is the raised bed (and surrounding container items).

The rims out front (listen, this is the ghetto) have tomato plants in them…and some marigolds.  Aforementioned neighbor likes marigolds so I put some in for her.  Next year I’ll have heirloom ones that actually do what marigolds are supposed to do, but until then…they make her happy and are pretty.

The big vine-thing is in the cucurbita family, but that’s all I can tell you – it was a volunteer and the soil came from a gardening non-profit…so um.  Your guess is about as good as mine.  It seems bent on taking over before it even begins to let the flowers open.  I think it might be a zucchini, mostly because of its general enormity…but I know Ashley (hi, Ashley!) really wants it to be a pumpkin.

The recycling bin is full of red onions, I’m growing them from sets, which I’ve never done before and put them in late…so it may be October before we have onions.

Before I knew quite how insane that vine was going to get, I put in some brussels sprouts…which hopefully aren’t too mad about this whole thing.

This is the other end…bush cucumbers that are flowering, an eggplant, kale, tiny cabbage seedlings for the winter, some beets and some leeks. The buckets down this end have tomatoes in the outer ones and tomatillo in the middle…and carrots tucked in around them.  I normally start as much as I can from seed, but the wedding put me a bunch behind this year, so I bought the plants from a guy on craigslist who does all heirlooms.  He’s really cool and I might check in with him again next year, depending on how my seed-starting goes.  He had a lot of cool varieties – we got a lemon boy, a black cherry, a pink ox-heart, a zebra, and some normal looking Italian variety that I can’t recall the name of.  The black cherry is the only one I can remember which it is and it’s flowering right now.  This is exciting!

I have some black currants in the back…in a bed I haven’t really worked on much.  They’re not super happy…there…they’re shade tolerant but I think they’re too close to either the forsythia or the maple.  The larger one is fruiting a little, but I think still…they have to move.

I just moved all of my strawberries into here….they were not very excited about the transplant, but I’m hoping that they get themselves worked in here enough that I can stand the pallet up and mount it on a wall.  If I can get it to work, I’ll fill the rest in.

This is a perennial bed that Susan and I are working on….it’s probably the part of the garden that changes the most right now.  It’s actually changed since this pic was taken two days ago, and the other end which wasn’t doing much has new stuff too..but for now – bee balm, mountain sage, the lilac, and some sedum.  There’s liatris in there (aka gayfeather, har) that’s just opening now.  We’re just trying to fill it in with whatever we find cheap or on sale…the beauty of perennials.  I got a bunch of stuff (actually including that bee balm) from a craigslist ad.  The rest is a bit random.  It used to be ALL SEDUM and it made me mad, so last year I ripped it all out.  I’m looking forward to it being more cohesive – but for now, it’ll incubate things for other spots.

I forgot to take a picture of the container area on the patio.  There are a bunch of herbs and this asparagus plant that I took pity on lat week and bought.  It’s doing pretty well, actually.  There are also two cranberry bushes that I just put into this area…not photographed…they need to a adjust a bit anyway.  You can see them in August.

It’s also my sun-tea making area.  This is my current (oh god, this is about to be a pun) favorite iced tea – it’s black / black currant from Harney and Sons.  I went to their website to review it the other day and discovered that they make an iced tea version that I’m sort of pining for.

Up on the third floor fire escape, but not blocking egress, I promise.  Is the first part of my half finished rain barrel system.  This is the top barrel that will eventually catch the gutter from the top roof (as soon as M reroutes the gutter!)  The tube coming out drops down a floor to the second floor roof….

I’m still working on tube-placement for the drip-lines – but this is the corn field.  There are two pallets with corn and squashes in them.  A third pallet will join them on Sunday, when I’ll also try to mess with the lines a bit more.  Corn!  Squashes!  There’s a lot of sprouted corn that you can’t see yet….but it’s there!  And when I decide to add fertilizer, I can just dump it into the rain barrel and use it that way – no need for a fancy fertilizer injector.  Yeah!  Oh also, bee hive.

The overflow line from the third floor barrel will drop down to a second floor barrel and the overflow from that will pop into the second floor gutter which will drop down into a first floor rain barrel with a hand pump (that I just got on ebay) and then I we’ll have about 100 gallons of possible water storage as well as lots of water for the garden!  Yay for natural resources!

And this is from the 4th of July – coconut cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and home-grown blueberries, CSA beets (thanks Debra!) with garden mint and basil, my first attempt at my Great-Grandmother’s potato salad- rave reviews! Also, we played several heated rounds of croquet with a set that was made for us as a wedding gift….and no one hit their ball into the garden. 🙂

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