The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Quick and dirty rain-barrel installation

Rain barrelAlthough we'd most like to have a rain barrel over by the composting toilet, every time I walked past our unused rain barrel, it said, "Put me up!"  Our preferred location will take a few hours to assemble, but I was confident that I could install the rain barrel on the edge of our front porch in half an hour.  That location would save me a few steps every day when I carry water to the heavy-drinking ducks, so it seemed worth the effort.  And, with one rain barrel under our belt, I figured our next installation will be even simpler.

So, what did I do to install the rain barrel?  Mark was in town when I got the water-collection bee in my bonnet, so I did it myself...and took about an hour instead of half an hour (probably because I didn't know where all of Mark's tools were). 

The first step was figuring out where to place the rain barrel.  If I'd been making one from scratch, I would have preferred to make the faucet stick out past the front of the porch rather than coming off to the side near the steps, but since the overflow pipe is on the left side of this rain barrel, the orientation shown above seemed the best.  I stuck a few scrap pieces of 2X6 under the barrel to make it easy to get a bucket out from under the faucet, then called the elevation job done.  (Yes, this is the very quick-and-dirty version of rain barrel installation.  Mark would never let that kind of jurryriggery fly.)

Gray treefrog

Channeling water into a rain barrelNow it was time to cut the downspout from the gutter.  I eyeballed the height and used a sawzall...then carefully worked around the gray treefrog who hopped out of the drain.

Next, I cut a piece of black corrugated pipe to slip over the downspout and send water into the rain barrel, but the black pipe didn't want to bend right to send water down instead of to the side.  So I added a piece of wood on the porch post (see top photo) to give the pipe the appropriate curve.  (The photo to the right shows the pipe pre-curve.)

Rain barrel filling

Literally minutes after I finished putting away Mark's tools, the sky opened up and began to fill the barrel.  It was a joy to listen to water gurgle into the barrel, although I did have to add a third piece of wood under once side when the container started to tilt to one side.  As Mark mentioned in his post, I also discovered that the faucet leaks slightly when only sealed with plumber's tape, so that problem will need to be solved at a later date.

Rain barrel on the porch

It only took a quarter of an inch of rain to fill the barrel, and just before any slipped out the overflow pipe, the storm passed us by.  I figure one rain per week would be sufficient to keep enough water in the barrel for my fowl-watering duties, saving me a few minutes every day since I'll no longer have to lug buckets from the back side of the trailer to do duck duty.  That hour of installation will trickle back into my time bank account in just a few weeks!

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Hello Mark and Anna, Love your posts!! I was wondering if you have thought about using a hose to siphon water from your rain barrels to help prevent future problems with your faucet sticking out at the bottom of the barrel. That is what I did, I didn't want to risk going thru all that work of installing the faucet then have a leak I couldn't fix. I decided to buy a 4 way pvc, I put a 4 inch pipe on each side of it, a high pressure kind of see thru hose on the end of the 4 way, the hose goes down into the barrel and a shut off valve opposite of the hose. I let the 4 way dangle above the opening of the barrel, when I need water I shut off the valve, pull the hose out of the barrel enough to get to my bucket and turn on the valve. As long as the water in the hose is below the water line in the barrel before I turn on the valve I get an automatic siphon. I love it. I hoping you two wouldn't mind taking weekly snapshots of whole garden. Its darn nice from the pictures I've seen. Thanks a lot JOHN

Comment by john Fri Jun 20 17:59:46 2014
Good start! Have you thought about IBC containers? 275 gallons in 4x4 ft footprint. It may be hard to find where you are but economical if you can. I have found food grade for less than $100; lot cheaper than new tank from Tractor Supply. You can get 55 gallon per 100 sf from 1 inch of rain. With filter and UV sanitation can also be used for potable water although you already have that covered.
Comment by Tom Sun Jun 22 05:48:59 2014

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