Monday, May 04, 2009

Rain Water

When we moved into this house back in 2003, there were many things about it that struck me as curious. Remember, both Ken and I had spent most of our adult lives living in cities and had to make a kind of adjustment to our new country life. Well, we live in the country, but ours is not really a country life; we're not farming or raising animals or anything like that.

The rain barrel at the bottom of the downspout.

I found all manner of tools and things in our garage and garden shed left by the previous owner. I had no idea what most of them were for, or why one needed them. I even found a scythe, of all things. Over time, I've come to learn about most of what I found, and even use some of it. Much of it was old and broken or on the verge of breaking, so out it went, but I kept the stuff that looked to be in good shape. I even kept the scythe.

One item that I thought was kind of interesting was this molded fiberglass rain barrel sitting under a downspout on one corner of the house. It has holes drilled on one side, top and bottom, through which bits of garden hose are inserted. The one at the bottom drains out the water and was capped, the one at the top is for overflow. There were also two large plastic barrels similarly rigged up to one of the downspouts on the garden shed out back.

All the barrels were full of water when we moved in. They were also full of mosquito larvae, decaying leaves, and the bloated bodies of drowned lizards. Since we moved in during a heat wave, with little or no rain at all that summer, it didn't take us long to empty the barrels to water plants and, afterward, we pretty much forgot about them.

The connection between the barrel (green) and garden (yellow) hoses.

I disconnected the barrels out by the shed, and I left the drain hose uncapped on the barrel by the house so that no water would actually collect in it. And I left it like this for the years since (I lost the cap). But just the other day I re-thought this whole thing. Now that we are connected to the town sewer system, our water rates have increased tremendously to pay for sewage treatment and such, and it seems a shame not to take advantage of rain water for the garden.

Among the stuff I saved from the garden shed was a collection of hose connectors. In France, garden hoses are sold bare. That is, there are no permanent connectors attached to them as in the US. The ends of the hoses are just cut off. But, every hardware store has a whole selection of every kind of connector you can imagine, and gardeners use them to connect lengths of hose together and to connect hoses to spigots, sprayers, sprinklers, etc.

So, I figured, I could use those "snap-to"connectors that were still in good working order to connect my garden hose to the rain barrel when it's full of water and use that water in the garden. I swear, my mind is like a steel trap. One that's been rusted shut, mostly. You see, the previous owner had already rigged all of this up, but I had dismantled it. Partly because it was old and in very bad shape. Partly because the previous owner was a bricoleur and rigged things up in funny ways. And partly because, with my city eyes, I didn't quite get it.

So I hooked it up this past week and it works. Pretty much. The garden is just slightly lower in elevation than the rain barrel, so the flow rate isn't all that high. But still, it's free water, and it's much more ecological than using treated water on the garden. Oh, I'll still have to water with the expensive stuff (at least it's not Perrier), but I can supplement with rain water and that will help.

Now I've become the bricoleur. Ah, tradition.


  1. My sister and B-i-L live in an area of Australia where you are not allowed to water your garden unless you are using rainwater (they wish!) or grey water. They use homemade system that looks a bit clumsy, but works really well. They found that gravity just didn't provide enough of a feed from the water collection barrel, so they bought a little submersible electric pump with a pipe and a hose fitting at the top. It is fantastically successful and means that they can water their garden whenever they wash their clothes. They use an old stocking to filter the water so the pump doesn't clog and the pump has an automatic cut out when the water level drops below submerging it. If they don't use the water within 24 hours they have to tip it down the drain because it develops a pong. I'm hoping to rig up something similar in Preuilly.

  2. You'll find plenty of similar rain barrels around left-leaning, liberal, green, tree-hugging Portland.

  3. I think this is brilliant. I would love to have a rain barrel because rain water is so much better for the jardin than tap water. Anyway I think "rigging" things up is the country way (unless of course you really know what you're doing) and after all the point is getting the job done to suit you. Even if you wanted to spend the money on "the expensive stuff" this is much better for the plants. Congratulations on thinking country!

  4. Here in The Land of No Summer Rain (and my personal disinterest in plumbing gray water), I can't quite figure out how we'd use a rain barrel.

    In the winter, we don't need it (plenty of rain, usually), and in the summer, one June watering would empty it, with no chance of refill until December. Am I missing something?

    I'm afraid what we really need is a big cistern. The verification word is vessel!

  5. I wish we had something like this.
    There are certain states here that BAN collecting rain water as it is water that does not go into the general supply

  6. Just to say that we loved the rhubarb tarte and tartelettes. The diet was forgotten and both recipes were delicious! Your idea of putting strawberry and rhubarb
    together was inspired! Many thanks, Angela.

  7. susan, we don't have a gray water recovery system, but before we were connected to the town sewers, all our gray water went out into the vineyard and down, eventually, to the Cher river.

    lewis, I had no doubt! ;)

    linda, we're doing our little bit.

    chris, we do get rain during the summer, but the collected rain is good for when it doesn't rain quite enough, or in between storms.

    evol, now I'm gonna have to google that...

    spo, that's strange! It's actually only re-directed if you use in on your garden. It'll get back into the general supply eventually.

    angela, oh, I'm glad you enjoyed them!

  8. Walt, thanks for dropping by the Lantern Show today, even if you did introduce yourself proper-like after the first visit...that's ok, I almost always pardon people who are kind enough to leave comments... your rhubarb pie and tarts look, hmm, divine ? My Mom used to make strawberry rhubarb pie, I can still taste it... We've been meaning to look into one of those water barrels, just haven't gotten around to it... but it's a great idea, thanks for reminding me, am putting it on the list for this summer...

  9. owen, and thanks for coming by here. Good luck with the rain barrel!

  10. And I agree with you
    I'm sure I would find
    It very strange
    To se a raccoon
    In a zoo
    In a cage...

  11. At least it is being used and not just flushed away. Perhaps you could rig up a few more.


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