Thursday, August 21, 2008


Early Saturday morning I woke up to the sound of heavy rain. Maude was up too, scurrying around in a worry. I got up and went into the front room, where I laid down on the couch and held her. Harold joined us, and Gracie, too. Then Koho. It was quite a canine crowd, plus cat.

Around 5 AM I got up to check on my rain barrels. I had taken them out of commission earlier in the summer, just to see if they were the source of all the pesky mosquitoes. The mosquitoes still came around whenever we got rain, but not as heavily, so I thought I'd try to make the bug screens that they came with a little more bug-proof. (BTW, I always use mosquito dunks, but they don't seem to help much.) The lids has always been very loose-fitting, and I've been suspicious that the screens themselves weren't that effective. So I taped plastic across the top and weighted them down with small bricks. We'll see how it goes.

Anyway, I went out to check on how they were collecting, since it was apparent that we were getting a LOT of rain. Sure enough, I had left the drain valves open on the overflow barrel, and so lost some water there.

On my other, homemade barrel, I was having trouble, too. Seems that, yet again, the gutter had filled with trash from the pecan tree and water was backing up under the eaves and coming down inside the utility room. I waited until it seemed like the lightning was slowing down, then quick-like-a-bunny climbed up on the roof and cleaned it out. Probably not the smartest thing to do...

That dang gutter has been doing this since practically the day we installed it. The guy who put them in was able to put screens on the others, but for some reason couldn't figure out a way to put a screen on this one, since there weren't any shingles under which to slip one edge. Disgusted with how many times I'd had water raining down inside the utility room (not to mention how much of it was not going in the collection tank), I decided to fix it once and for all. Here is my solution.

Not too bad, but we'll have to see how it handles the leaf tonnage in a couple of months.

Er, the astute reader might have noticed that that is a metal roof I was standing on in the middle of a thunderstorm. Don't try this at home, kids.

I also installed a little tube thingy to which I can attach a hose to handle overflow in heavy rains. Since it only takes about 10 minutes to fill the tank in a good thunderstorm, overflow needs to be directed away from the house and out into the yard, where it can do some good. Here is the tube thingy:

The rain barrels collect a total of 200 gallons, which sounds like a lot, but it isn't really. I mean, it's not like you can just hook up a hose and deep-water all the flower beds more than a couple of times from that. Instead, what I'm using them for this year is to water in transplants, as in the case of this Apache plume (Fallugia paradoxa), which I moved from a spot where it wasn't getting enough sun. A little dab each morning seems to go a long way:

I also use it to water my pitiful climbing rose once in a while (peeking out here on the right in this picture)...

Otherwise, the rest of the garden is more or less on its own. It has to make do with whatever rain we're gonna get in a season. The results from Saturday's rain are already starting to show:

The rain gauge said 2.5 inches. I said, Wow.

I had been wondering what to do with the bare spot below the utility room window, but after messing around with the rain barrels to prep them for collecting, I got to thinking about how much I admire the hardy, utilitarian look of my homemade tank. So now I'm thinking that instead of putting in yet another planting bed (perhaps something like a kitchen garden in a raised bed), I may just put in a bank of tanks, for a total of three. This is the spot I'm talking about. If you do some mental squinting, maybe you can see how lovely all that rainwater collecting would look...

Let me know what you think. Planting bed? Or bank of tanks? Or some combo of the two?

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