Collecting rainwater has become increasingly important as the farm goes through stages of improvement, such as new roofs, gutters, and drainage systems. With unpredictable rainfall and water rationing, we are now one small step closer towards self-sufficiency.
In 2008, rainwater harvesting was introduced to me through a course at Cabrillo College called Sustainable Landscaping by Lisa McAndrews. On a field-trip to the Aptos Academy, Livestock and Land program representatives were in the auditorium to show slides and explain the concepts of harvesting rain water. The class then toured the horse facility where a rain catchment system was being installed. Each horse had a self-watering trough from water collected in the roof gutters. It was a brilliant system, but also an investment in funding, which was supported by grants through the Livestock and Land Program.
Rainwater harvesting at this level of sophistication was put into our Site Plan by Steve Butler so we can water the horses and goats, but implementation would have to take place later. For now, catching water off the chicken coop to clean their water containers is an initial experiment and a low cost solution as well as convenient.
During the summer of 2011, we started to search for the “right” look and style of a rainwater barrel. Many web sites have plastic versions with hardware, such as Rain Harvest Systems. The retail store Greenspace was charging $250 for a used wine barrel with all the hardware. None of these options were right.
Years ago, I had salvaged three wine barrels that were formerly used as stage props for theater shows at a local community college. The intention was to possibly use them to collect rain water, but not knowing if they actually could hold water, they were stored on the deck.
The obvious choice was to make our own water barrel to catch the rain off the chicken coop. The chicken coop roof gutter was installed in 2005, and it just drained into the ground. In December, 2011, the wine barrel prop was converted into a rainwater barrel.
First, the ground underneath the stand was dug out and layered with gopher wire. The barrel is gravity fed, so the distance off the ground was important. Secondly, the lid was cut open with a reciprocating saw and then measured before a hole was cut.
Metal gutter guards were attached on the top of the gutters to prevent redwood limbs and pine needs from clogging up the drainage.
Supplies were purchased from True Value Hardware in Boulder Creek where two clerks spent about half an hour brainstorming and coming up with the right hardware to try.
- ½ x 2” LWH-P STD GAL STL NIP $1.79
- ½ FIP x ¾ Hose No-Kink Bibb, green knob $9.99
- Union Washer – LASCO brands, 02-2007 W- 473 ½ “1 3/16” O.D. ¾” I.D. $1.19
At the bottom of the barrel, a ¾” hole was drilled through and the threaded steel “pipe” was glued in. On the outside, the green-handled hose bibb was screwed on with rubber and metal washers. Everything was glued together with the silicone.
The first rain of 2012 brought approximately 5” of rain in one day. It was shocking to see that in one storm, the rainwater barrel was full to the brim.
The barrel is a great addition to the garden, it looks good and is fully functional. The rustic look of the barrel fits perfectly with the vintage style of the farm.