The New Home Economics


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Another rain barrel

We added a third rain barrel to our collection this week.  It’s a really gorgeous one: a reclaimed oak wine barrel from Barrel Depot.  They offered our neighborhood group a modest discount, so I decided to take them up on it.  Now our two uglier plastic ones will be in the back of the house and the oak one will adorn the front:

I like that this one is made with better components than our plastic ones — the cheap hose attachments on our plastic ones are already falling apart.  The only challenges with it were: 1) it is extremely heavy, 2) we needed to find our own screen for the top, and 3) there was a 2″ hole in the middle which Adam had to cut a piece of oak and plug (visible in picture).

We got lucky on the screen issue.  Right there in the sandbox was an old sieve which just happened to fit the hole perfectly:

Perfect.  Now we just need some rain.


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A few things

Well, the Master Gardener core course is keeping me insanely busy. I haven’t had nearly as much time as I’d like to work on the blog, so I’m going to condense a few things into one post:

Solar Shingles
Here’s a product from Dow Chemical.  Interesting… shingles embedded with photovoltaic cells that can be installed the same way asphalt shingles are currently installed.  Of course they are insanely expensive, and one other problem that I’ve always had with solar panels is they are made with some pretty toxic materials and therefore hard to dispose of at the end of their lifecycle.  Still, I can’t help but fantasize about being able to afford these next time we have to roof our house.

Yards to Gardens
A friend sent me a link to this brand new project, currently only in Minneapolis (and it looks from the map like it’s centered in the Powderhorn Neighborhood).  Have a yard that you don’t really use and would like a garden?  Like to garden but don’t have a yard?  This service matches gardeners and potential garden spots.

Barrel Depot
I’m adding a third rain barrel to my collection this spring.  We’re getting one of these beautiful oak recycled wine barrels from Barrel Depot, a Minnesota company.  I think we’ll put this one in the front since it is so much prettier than our plastic ones.

Cyclopath
I can’t remember where I heard about this new website, but it is really cool!  You type in your starting point and your destination point and it helps you find the best bike route.  It’s currently only available in the 7-county Twin Cities metro area.  I typed in my work address, and it gave me an option I hadn’t really considered before: taking 18th Ave. all the way up to the Greenway, then the Greenway across the new bike bridge over Hiawatha, then the Hiawatha trail into downtown.  It’s only 1/4 mile further than the route I take now, and it would be paved bike path for half the distance.  I’m going to try it.


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Another rain barrel platform option

A little over a month ago, we installed a new rain barrel on the SW corner of our house.  We’ve had one on the SE corner for a few years, but we had never gotten around to building a platform for it.  Adam was doing some backyard cleanup today and decided to make a platform out of some old cedar 4×4’s that have been laying around for years.  The design is slightly different than the one we built in August:

rainbarrel1It’s much more free-form.  Adam cut 12 22-inch long pieces and stacked them as you see here.

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There are four landscaping bricks underneath the bottom two pieces of wood.  He made sure the stack was very level and sturdy before setting the rain barrel on it:

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Rain barrels are so much nicer to use when they are raised up like this.  They can power soaker hoses, and it’s also just a lot easier to get every last precious drop of water out of them, even if you’re just filling watering cans.


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How to install a rain barrel

We got a second rain barrel Saturday morning at a special discounted sale for Hennepin County residents (got our first one two years ago at a similar event).  Eventually I would like to have about 8 of them, but with my budget, I’ll have to build up slowly.  Here’s how we installed it:

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First of all, Adam built a little platform out of some scrap lumber.  It is not necessary to raise your barrel off the ground like this, but it sure makes it nicer to use.  You get much better water pressure.  If you want to use your rain barrel with soaker hoses, a platform is a must.

rainbarrel2The platform from a different angle (it’s next to my tomato jungle).

rainbarrel3Next, saw off your downspout approximately 9 inches above where the top of your rainbarrel will be.  Adam held a piece of plywood behind it so he wouldn’t damage our siding with his saw.  This is why I married him.  That never would have occurred to me.

rainbarrel4If there is a bracket holding your downspout to the side of the house, remove it and move it up.

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Attach the curved bottom piece to your downspout.  Adam had to drill out a couple of rivets in order to get it in there.

rainbarrel7Assemble your barrel.  This will vary of course depending on what you get.  Here I’m adding the overflow thinger to the back of the barrel.

rainbarrel8YAY!  Rain barrel installation complete.  Took less than 30 minutes.  OK, that doesn’t include the time it took Adam to build the platform, which he reports was about another 30 minutes.  He’s a skilled carpenter though.

I’m so jazzed about this.  Now I can use this to water my garden and get a two-for-one every time it rains.  I got super lucky too because it rained really hard last night and now we have two barrels full of water, all ready to go!