Easy, do-it-yourself rain barrels

Don’t tell my mother but I made a compost pile on the northwest side of the house.

Also, don’t tell her my resolution for saving money on her water bill because she’s not going to like it any more than the secret compost pile.

See, my mother is not much of a gardener; she’s not much into landscaping either. Sure she likes pretty flowers and a few ornaments in her lawn but overall, just not her thing. Which is perplexing when she goes out and buys the most pathetic looking plants I’ve ever seen at some local garden store that never fails to remind me of Linus’ little Christmas tree in the seasonal Peanut’s cartoon.

She brings them home, thin stalks struggling to keep tired heads aloft and for about a week she manages to faithfully water them.

I estimate about a week because the quarterly water bill tends to come round about this time of the year and she decides that the 30 or so dollars of Linus’ flowers she bought are just going to have to fend for themselves.

Have I mentioned how much I love my mother?

So there those pathetic little plants pant in the summer sun through the month of June and, if they are troopers, crisply manage through July. Sadly, by August, they are nothing but razor sharp tan stalks sticking out of the ground.

Year after year I find myself feeling sorry for those pathetic little plants but this year, I plan to make a difference. Obviously I can’t sneak outside and water the plants without Mom knowing, either by the sound of the outside spigot turning or the eventually arrival of the water bill with a typed message at the bottom stating that it was her eldest child who caused the extra 50 dollars to be added to the bill.

I’ve a plan in place and that is to build my mother a rain barrel and it won’t be pretty.

One reason it won’t be pretty is that I do not have much beyond pocket lint for such an endeavor. So those hundred dollar plus rain barrels with snazzy gadgets and whatnots are simply out of the question. But from experience, trial and error, I can tell you that a rain barrel, or two or three, does not need to be an expensive investment, so long as you are not worried about aesthetics.

A few years back I started to dabble in the DIY rain barrel making process by first using plastic garbage cans bought at the local hardware store.

Using a drill, rubber sealant, some washers and a copper nozzle I managed to make two rain barrels, cutting off squares in the lid tops for the downspouts. And yes, I chiseled my way through the steel of the downspouts on my very own much to my ex-husband’s dismay I’m sure since the deluge of rain we’ve had this past spring. (Insert evil laugh)

However, the one thing I quickly learned about using plastic garbage cans for water storage, they simply are not made to hold water. The sides bulged and eventually began to split and no amount of emptying the water into rinsed and cleaned plastic milk jugs was fast enough.

Eventually both split to the point of being unusable and I was back to the drawing board.

That’s when a neighbor and I started to converse on our attempts at saving water and she mentioned another neighbor using discarded water softeners for rain barrels.

Thus the two of us started scrounging about the small town I lived in at the time, on the hunt during trash days for a water softener. As luck would have it, a local business had one or two carted off to the side of the building about every other week and from there I snatched one.

I mean acquired one.

Again I drilled a hole a few inches from the bottom, using plastic sealant, a plastic nozzle this time rather than copper and washers.

I then drilled a hole in the lid for the already mutilated downspout (Something I don’t recommend doing on your own) and presto, I had the best and cheapest rain barrel in town.

By the time I’d bought the nozzle, sealant and washers, I’d spent less than 10 bucks.

It’s just too bad we suffered through a drought that summer and it wasn’t until early fall that I was able to see my handiwork truly at, well, work. The water softener held up to my do-it-yourself drilling and sealant and I was able to collect gallon upon gallon of fresh and free rain water for use in my late season garden.

Thus I’m scouting about for a discarded water softener once again to tuck into a corner of the house, next to the compost pile I’ve discreetly created.

However, the chicken I’ve got secured in the garden shed may prove to be a little more difficult to hide.

• Bethany J. Royer is a reporter for the Piqua Daily Call and wanna-be urban homesteader. She blogs prolifically at motherofthemunchkins.blogspot.com and can be reached at bethanyroyer@yahoo.com.

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