Reduce, Reuse...

Recycle--rain water that is. I have been wanting to add a rain barrel to our yard for several summers now. To my city dwelling friends who ask "What exactly is a rain barrel?" My simple answer it that its basically just a way to collect rain water from your own roof and gutter, store it and then use it when you need it for a variety of purposes around the yard-keeping your flowers or veggies soaked, filling bird baths or garden ponds or even washing cars (or your Carolina dog:)

My dad made a rain barrel last summer and it seemed pretty simple (once you find the barrel). I am certainly not the "greenest" girl on the block, but my theory is that it's the little things, or in this case a big thing using a very large repurposed pickle barrel.

My Carolina husband jumped on board and after a few hours wandering the aisles at Lowe's for all of he supplies he was ready to go. So here is how he did it.

1. Most of the needed supplies are easily found at your local hardware store. We picked up:

-(2) 1/2 inch outdoor faucet or spout (ours was supposed to be for a gas boiler)

-(2) 1/2 inch rubber washers

-(2) 1/2 inch gold sockets


-roll of screen (to fix a window or screen door)

-6 foot garden hose

-Then there is the barrel. We reused a pickle barrel that my dad picked up for us in eastern Carolina, but I really think any sturdy plastic trash can or large bucket or drum would do. Just make sure it has a tight lid.

2. Once you get everything home its time to find the drill and get started. You will have better luck with an electical drill as opposed to cordless. Locate where you want your spouts to be and then begin drilling. Be sure the drill bit that you use will make a large enough hole to thread the spout through the barrel, but small enough that it's a tight fit. We added two spouts-one close to the bottom of the barrel for the traditional drain/watering can fill and one spout about half way up the side of the barrel to attach a soaker hose.

You may want some help keeping the barrel steady while you drill or you can sit on it.

3. With the holes drilled, start threading the spout through the front of the barrel. After you get the spout through the hole, secure the spout from inside if the barrel (you are going to have to crawl in) with the rubber washer and gold socket. We added a little caulk on the barrel side of the rubber washer for extra seal.

Screw the spout and the socket together as tight as you can (you may need pliers), but make sure the spout ends up still facing down to the ground.

4. Use the screen to create a mesh sieve for the lid of your barrel. This will let water into the barrel, while keeping leaves and sticks out. Our pickle barrel already had a nice pre-cut opening so all we had to do was screw the outside of the lid back over the screen. Depending on the barrel you find, you may need to cut an opening then secure the mesh.

5. Now you are almost done. You have a barrel, it just needs to be put in place. You will need to find a spot under a gutter spout. The whole point of the barrel is to harness the water collection power of your roof and gutters. Using a jig saw or utility knife cut your gutter downspout to the the height of the top of your barrel. Re-attach the bottom gutter elbow to the downspout to direct the rain water from the downspout right into the rain barrel.

You can set it in place right on the ground or on brick or blocks for extra steadiness or height. Some folks add an overflow hole at the top of the barrel to direct the overflow if the water fills more than the barrel can hold. We also added a 6 foot garden hose onto the bottom spout to make it a bit eaiser to fill up a watering can.

There you have it.  Now all you need it a 55 gallon rain storm to fill it up.

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