On Wednesday night, I made my first rain barrel for our future homestead and garden!

I got four decent photos before my camera battery died.  But I’ll be painting our barrel in the coming year and taking photos of it’s progress into it’s new home once we’ve built the earthbag house and started a new garden.  How exciting to be building towards this dream, no matter what!  Every week brings something new to Ripples, whether it’s a full-length mirror for our handmade bathroom, an old stool to be decoupaged with animal photos (more on that later!) or from this week, a rain barrel!  Next week might even contain a bathroom sink, we’ll see :)

Ozark Natural Foods was terrific for putting on this workshop!  Many thanks to Heather, Lisa, Jeff, and Stewart, and my apologies if I’ve spelled your names wrong here but I am so grateful to all of you especially for helping us get the rain barrel stored and transported since we don’t own a vehicle.

The hands-on aspect was great, and there was always someone nearby to help me.  Cost was $15 per barrel, and registration was required.  My adopted barrel got its second life after initially storing vinegar, which was useful in keeping it rather clean inside. It’s a white barrel, which isn’t preferred by non-artists because sunlight gets through the white ones more than the blue ones, creating more opportunity for algae growth, but not for artists who, like me, are going to really enjoy painting it to reduce algae growth!  I’ve joined the ranks of Artists Against Algae :)

Rain Barrel Presentation, UA Extension Center

The workshop began with a brief lecture and facts about water sequestration, with a presentation by Trish and Katie from the Agriculture Extension office at the University of Arkansas.  They know their stuff!  My rain barrel can hold just 55 gallons (seems like a lot, doesn’t it?) but 1 inch of rainfall on your average roof can accumulate as much as 600 gallons!  That’s why it’s important to have overflow spouts on rain barrels, and to think about what we might use the captured water to do – like water a garden, water animals, keep a landscape green, etc.

 Putting the Barrel Before the House

Cutting the tops off the barrels.

Next, it was time to start drilling holes into our barrels, and cutting the tops off, cleaning out the insides, installing the hardware (spout, overflow, etc) and stapling on a screen to the top to prevent mosquitoes, leaf litter and other debris from falling into the captured water.  Rain barrels should have the screens removed twice a year for cleaning out the inside of the barrel with a water hose and scrub brush.  Note to those with high sensitivity to sound: please bring earplugs when you make your barrel, because the high-pitched drilling noise is loud enough to block thought.  Lucky for my workshop class, Trish and Jeff did the drilling for us!  Thanks guys!

Jeff: Where do you want the overflow hole drilled based on the position of the rain barrel next to your house?

Me: Well, we haven’t built the house yet, so we’ll just build it to fit the barrel :)

My hands were freezing after washing out the inside of my barrel, and I scrapped some skin off a finger, but the whole experience was amazing because WE HAVE A RAIN BARREL NOW!  I’ve wanted one for years but for various reasons (no car, lost nerve, etc) hadn’t joined the huge movement of water capturers until this week.  Since Arkansas is prone to summer droughts, it’s good to store water and use it when rainfall is scarce.  You can attach a hose to your rain barrel to run it along the landscape, or to irrigate your vegetable garden.

Drilling holes into the barrel’s sides.

Drilling holes.

In winter, some people still use their rain barrels to capture water; however, caution should be taken not to allow the barrels to get full to their maximum capacity, because when water freezes, it expands, and this could split the plastic barrel!  Most people turn over their barrels and store them during the winter months.  For me, this winter I’ll be painting mine on a beautiful sunny day sometime soon!  We may not use our rain barrel for Ripples’ work until next year or later, depending on when we build our earthbag home and begin hosting free community workshops.  It’s going to take time and resources to set this up, but until then, we know our rain barrel is ready to go!  And of course, there’s pride in making something yourself rather than purchasing it.  Give rain barrel making a try and sign up for the next workshop!

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