Small Farmer's Journal

Facebook  YouTube

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT

Harvesting Rainwater

Harvesting Rainwater

Harvesting Rainwater

by Sue Browning of Arlington, VA

Collecting rainwater for use during dry months is an ancient practice that has never lost its value. Today, simple water collection systems made from recycled food barrels can mean a free source of non-potable water for plants, gardens, bird baths, and many other uses. Rainwater is ideal for all plants because it doesn’t contain dissolved minerals or added chemicals.

One inch of rain falling on a 1,000 square foot roof yields approximately 600 gallons of water. So, harvesting just a portion of this water can impact runoff while helping conserve water from other sources such as wells and rural water associations.

The rain barrel consists of:

  • A dark-colored, food-grade barrel.
  • A tight-fitting, fine-screened lid.
  • A 1-1/2” sump pump hose installed on the shoulder of the barrel. This hose will be used to overflow to the garden or “link” to additional barrels to increase the harvest.
  • A 3/4” heavy-duty brass spigot installed near the bottom to access all collected water.

Harvesting Rainwater

Level the ground where your barrel will sit and add crushed stone. Then lay landscape pavers or cinder blocks to elevate the barrel. The higher the barrel sits, the better your water pressure will be. You’ll probably want at least 18 inches of space between the bottom of the barrel and the ground so that you have room to put a bucket or watering can under the spigot to fill. Be sure to secure your barrel so that it can’t be accidentally knocked over.

Harvesting Rainwater

To use your rain barrel with a downspout, you’ll need to cut a small section out of an existing downspout and install a flexible, accordion elbow using three short machine screws. The elbow will easily extend out from the downspout to the lid of the barrel. To install the elbow you’ll need a tape measure, hacksaw and screwdriver.

But, what if you need a rain barrel where there is no downspout? No problem. Rain barrels can stand alone in field or remote garden location to help reduce the amount of water being transported. Be sure to securely anchor the barrel to the ground to prevent it from blowing away when empty.

Harvesting Rainwater

Monitor your rain barrel for overflow. If you are away from home for more than a few days, the overflow of water could damage building foundations and create other related problems.

During the winter, store the empty barrel in barn or shed, cover it, or turn upside down so it cannot collect water. A barrel can split from the pressure of ice if allowed to fill and freeze. Also, be sure to return your downspout to normal operation in winter.

Harvesting Rainwater

Whether you buy a ready-made rain barrel or construct your own, here are some very important things to keep in mind:

  • Select a rigid, dark colored plastic barrel that you KNOW is a food-grade container designed to hold liquids. Non-light emitting food-grade barrels, such as the ones used for shipping pickles or olives are UV tolerant and won’t break down in sunlight or allow algae to grow in the collected water. Steel barrels are heavy, prone to rust and may have been used to transport chemical or petroleum products. Wood barrels, while decorative, will eventually rot and leak.
  • To keep mosquitoes from breeding in standing water and prevent the spread of West Nile Virus, use a tight lid with a fine screen or steel netting on your barrel. Replace every other year or so.
  • Check all fittings periodically to make sure they are securely attached. Tight fittings will keep out debris, mosquitoes, and guard against drowning.
  • NEVER use a trash can to collect rain water. Trash cans are designed to hold dry waste only, not liquids. Filling a trash can with rain water may cause it to warp or split. More important, a trash can full of water poses a drowning hazard because the lid can easily be removed by a child or animal.
  • Your barrel must have a solid footing. A 60 gallon rain barrel weighs 500 pounds when full, so it’s very important to take the proper steps to prevent tipping.
  • Pick a barrel with threaded compression fittings that tighten without the need for sealants. Silicone and other sealants will eventually break down causing your barrel to drain.
  • Be sure that your rain barrel is in compliance with local code, if any.

Harvesting Rainwater

There are many credible sources for getting more information and obtaining supplies. Here are a few to get you started:

Accokeek Foundation – www.accokeekfoundation.org

Aquabarrel – www.aquabarrel.com

Clean Virginia Waterways – www.longwood.edu/CLEANVA/RainBarrelHome.html

Eagle Peak Containers – www.eaglepeakcontainers.com

Gardner’s Supply Company – www.gardeners.com

Rain Saver Rain Barrel – www.sprucecreekrainsaver.com

Harvesting Rainwater

Thanks to my friends at the Accokeek Foundation for the use of photographs and invaluable information on building rain barrels.

The Accokeek Foundation, founded in 1957, stewards 200 acres of Piscataway National Park in Accokeek, Maryland. It runs the National Colonial Farm, a living history museum which depicts a Maryland middle-class family farm on the eve of the American Revolution. Through the Accokeek’s heritage breed livestock and seed saving programs, nearly extinct heirloom crops and animals are preserved for future generations. The Foundation also manages a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm. The organic Ecosystem Farm emphasizes the future of agriculture as farmers learn the tools of an old/new trade and practice sustainable use of natural resources.

To calculate potential rain harvest:
A. Calculate square footage of roof area: length x width.
B. Multiply the square footage by 600.
C. Divide by 1000.
D. Multiply by inches of rainfall.

Example:
A. 25’ x 40’ roof = 1,000 square foot area
B. 1,000 x 600 = 600,000
C. 600,000 / 1,000 = 600
D. 600 x 1 inch of rain = 600 gallons

Harvesting Rainwater

Spotlight On: How-To & Plans

Posts

Driving Fence Posts By Hand

Where the soil is soft, loose, and free from stone, posts may be driven more easily and firmly than if set in holes dug for the purpose.

Horseshoeing Part 3A

Horseshoeing Part 3A

An examination should be made while the animal is at rest, and afterwards while in motion. The object of the examination is to gain accurate knowledge of the direction and movements of the limbs, of the form and character of the feet and hoofs, of the manner in which the foot reaches and leaves the ground, of the form, length, position, and wear of the shoe, and distribution of the nail-holes, in order that at the next and subsequent shoeings all ascertained peculiarities of hoof-form may be kept in mind and all discovered faults of shoeing corrected.

Soil, Vegetation, and Acidity

From Dusty Shelves: Audels Gardeners and Growers Guide teaches us about soil acidity.

Sack Sewing with Wayne Ryan

Sack Sewing with Wayne Ryan

by:
from issue:

Watching Wayne’s sure hands it was easy for me to forget that this is a 91 year old man. There was strength, economy, elegance and thrift in his every stroke.

An Efficient, Economical Barn

by:
from issue:

A well thought out, functional barn should be the center piece of any farming endeavor, horse powered or fossil fueled, that involves livestock. After building and using two previous barns during our lifetimes, I think the one we now have has achieved a level of convenience, efficiency, and economy that is worth passing on.

A Horse Powered Round Bale Unroller

A Horse Powered Round Bale Unroller

by:
from issue:

We had experimented with unrolling the bales the year before and had decided to make a device that would let us move them with the horses and then unroll them. I used square tubing to make a simple frame with two arms attached to a cross piece which connected to a tongue. Small diagonal braces made the arrangement rigid and the arms had a right angle piece of square tubing on their ends which allowed a pin to be driven into the middle of the round bale from each side.

Homemade Ground-Drive PTO Forecart

Homemade Ground-Drive PTO Forecart

by:
from issue:

As we start, consider a few things when building a pto cart. Are big drive tires necessary? Is a lot of weight needed? Imagine the cart in use. Try to see it working where you normally go and where you almost never go. Will it be safe and easy to mount or dismount? Can you access the controls of the implement conveniently? Is it easy to hook and unhook? Where is the balance point? I’m sure you will think of other details as you daydream about it.

Log Arch

Log Arch

by:
from issue:

The arch was built on a small trailer axle that I cut down to 3 feet wide and tacked back together. This was done so that I could keep the wheels parallel. I cut the middle out after construction was complete. I used heavy wall pipe from my scrounge pile for the various frame parts. It is topped off with an angle iron bar for added strength and to provide a mount for the winch and some slots for extra chains.

Multiple Hitching with One Set of Lines

Multiple Hitching with One Set of Lines

by:
from issue:

A great deal of interest has been shown the last several years in using multiple hitches in horse farming, especially in spring fieldwork. The question often asked is how to keep it simple and easy in driving and assembling the hitch as far as lines are concerned. We demonstrated our method at the Horse Progress Days at Mt. Hope, Ohio in 2003 and have been asked numerous times how we drove four, six and eight-horse hitches using only two lines.

Box Jaw Tongs & the Cow Poop Theory of Blacksmithing

Box Jaw Tongs & the Cow Poop Theory of Blacksmithing

by:
from issue:

Making a pair of tongs was a milestone for a lot of blacksmiths. In times gone past a Journeyman Smith meant just that, a smith that went upon a journey to learn more skills before taking a masters test. When the smith appeared at the door of a prospective employer, he/she would be required to demonstrate their skills. A yard stick for this was to make a pair of tongs.

Laying Out Fields For Plowing

Laying Out Fields For Plowing

from issue:

Before starting to plow a field much time can be saved if the field is first staked out in uniform width lands. Methods that leave dead furrows running down the slope should be avoided, as water may collect in them and cause serious erosion. The method of starting at the sides and plowing around and around to finish in the center of the field will, if practiced year after year, create low areas at the dead furrows.

Retrofitting a Fireplace with a Woodstove

How to Retrofit a Fireplace with a Woodstove

Because the venting requirements for a wood stove are different than for a fireplace you need to retrofit a stainless steel chimney liner. A liner provides the draft necessary to ensure that the stove will operate safely and efficiently.

Swallow

Rotation As A Means Of Blight Control

Every farmer knows that when a crop is grown on the same field year after year, it becomes inferior in quality and the yield steadily diminishes.

The Milk and Human Kindness Caring For The Pregnant Cow

The Milk and Human Kindness: Caring for the Pregnant Cow

by:
from issue:

Good cheese comes from happy milk and happy milk comes from contented cows. So for goodness sake, for the sake of goodness in our farming ways we need to keep contentment, happiness and harmony as primary principles of animal husbandry. The practical manifestations of our love and appreciation are what make a small farm. Above and beyond the significant requirements of housing, feed and water is the care of your cow’s emotional life, provide for her own fulfillment. Let her raise her calf!

Blacksmithing with Pete Cecil Building a Fire

Farm Drum #29: Blacksmithing with Pete Cecil – Building a Fire

Lynn Miller & Pete Cecil talk about Blacksmithing basics, and Pete demonstrates building a fire in the forge.

Disc Harrow Requirements

Disc Harrow Requirements

by:
from issue:

One of the most important requirements is disc blade concavity, that is, correct concavity. Further along we set forth the purposes of disc concavity. We feel it is important enough to devote the extra time and words in a discussion of the subject, because seldom is disc concavity talked about, and very few know that there is difference enough to cause good and bad work.

Planting Calendar and Other Diagrams

From Dusty Shelves: A 1943 calendar for seeding your vegetable garden.

Portable A-Frame

Portable A-Frame

by:
from issue:

These portable A-frames can be used for lots of lifting projects. Decades ago, when I was horselogging on the coast I used something similar to this to load my short logger truck. Great homemade tool.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT