Seventy Cents A Gallon

June 18, 2010

After getting many responses to the rainbarrel conundrum, and then checking the Water Reclamation website to purchase two ready made barrels and discovering they have DOUBLED the price (yes! DOUBLED from $25 last year to $50 this year), we decided to build our own. Gracious – such ambition! But by keeping this simple and using the connected containers only as “dipping” storage – no taps, just take the lid off to fill up a bucket or watering can – we were able to do it easily and cost effectively.

Since Dominic was assigned the task of fixing the water spigot in the garage, he came along with us to Menards. First, we hit the garden center, where the rain barrels were $60 each for 50 gallons. And honestly, they were ugly. Square, squat, they looked more like one of those storage bins you strap to the top of a car. No THANK you.

We picked up three 32 gallon garbage cans then went to the plumbing department. The woman was very helpful and showed us the right size of connector to use, found the correct diameter and flexibility of hose and told us to get the metal straps to tighten hose to connector. She also recommended just buying a handle for the garage spigot ($4.99) instead of a whole spigot, pipe, etc. ($22.99) because just a handle often solves the problem. Back to garden to see about options in hose connections (we like to be sure). I found the hose connectors I need for the regular garden hose, so I grabbed a few of those and we decided that our plumbing options were for the best.

Meanwhile, Dominic had been swinging on the lawn furniture and exploring the power tools, a dangerous place for him to be. When we met up again, he was carrying a hammer that he said we REALLY needed, as it was ergonomic and the head is 75% larger and many other details too overwhelming to mention. It was on clearance, so we got it. $14.91 of pure joy in Dominic’s eyes.

So for $68, we have an additional 96 gallons of water storage as opposed to $120 plus tax for 100 gallons. Gotta love that.

We got home and Tony started dinner while I started drilling and Dominic started shoveling all the dead branches and firepit ashes out of the spot where the cans would be placed. I put holes in both sides of one of the cans, very close to the top. Holes in just one side of the other two cans, and a hole in the top of just one lid. I inserted all the connectors and dragged everything over to the Neither Here Nor There side of the house (you didn’t think these were going in the back garden, did you? Tony did. Seriously?  A row of black garbage cans in my beautiful garden?? Sometimes the mind boggles.)

I tweaked the ground, shoveling it so it was even and smooth. Then I started gathering bricks. The barrels have to be placed in a descension so the water flows from the master barrel (with spigot) into the next, and so on. It’s done with gravity and we have to help that along. The last barrel sits flat on the ground. The second barrel sits on two levels of bricks, the third on three levels and the fourth, that existing master  barrel, now sit on four levels of bricks. Getting the master barrel high enough took quite some time, as the barrel itself is considerably taller than the new cans, but the overflow hose wouldn’t sit at the right angle unless the barrel was way up in the air – which meant I moved it on and off several times while continuing to build up the base, getting the right height. I also had to trim back that gutter another 8″ or so.

The connectors all leaked of course, so Tony found the blue pipe dope (seriously dope, as you could get a major high if you breathed too much of the fumes in) and I swabbed and filled and waited for it to dry and then swabbed and filled and waited again and again. There is no leaking now and I have fewer brain cells. The lids all went on, with the overflow hose from the master barrel inserted into the hole in the lid of the second barrel. They really don’t look that ugly, and they are already partially covered by plantings. All in all, a very successful project, done in record time!

Storms again this weekend, but now we’re ready!

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