SFJ

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: Book Reviews

Art of Working Horses Hunter Review

Art of Working Horses – A Review

by:
from issue:

Over 40 years Lynn Miller has written a whole library of valuable and indispensable books about the craft of working horses. He has helped beginners acquire the basics of harnessing and working around horses, and has led those further along to focus on the specific demands of plowing, mowing, haying and related subjects. But, in a fitting culmination, his latest book, The Art of Working Horses, raises its sights and openly ponders secrets at the heart of the work that may over time elevate it to an art.

How To Prune a Formal Hedge

How To Prune A Formal Hedge

This guide to hedge-trimming comes from The Pruning Answer Book by Lewis Hill and Penelope O’Sullivan. Q: What’s the correct way to shear a formal hedge? A: The amount of shearing depends upon the specific plant and whether the hedge is formal or informal. You’ll need to trim an informal hedge only once or twice a year, although more vigorous growers, such as privet and ninebark, may need additional clippings.

McCormick Deering/International No 7 vs no 9

McCormick Deering/International: No. 7 versus No. 9

McCormick Deering/International’s first enclosed gear model was the No. 7, an extremely successful and highly popular mower of excellent design.

Honoring Our Teachers

Honoring Our Teachers

by:
from issue:

I believe that there exist many great practicing teachers, some of who deliberately set out to become one and others who may have never graduated from college but are none-the-less excellent and capable teachers. I would hazard a guess that many readers of Small Farmer’s Journal know more than one teacher who falls within this latter category. My grandfather, and artist and author Eric Sloane, were two such teachers.

Plowing with the Single Horse

Plowing with the Single Horse

All other aspects being equal, the primary difference in plowing, comfortably, with a single horse is that the animal walks on unplowed ground immediately adjacent to the previous furrow, rather than in the furrow. This will cause the point of draft at the shoulder to be somewhat higher and will dictate hitching longer and/or higher than with the animal walking down 5 to 8 inches lower in the furrow.

Haying With Horses

Haying With Horses

If the reader is considering the construction of a barn we encourage you to give more than passing thought to allowing the structure of the gable to be open enough to accommodate the hanging of a trolley track. It is difficult or impossible to retrofit a truss-built barn, which may have many supports crisscrossing the inside gable, to receive hay jags. At least allowing for the option in a new construction design will leave the option for loose hay systems in the future.

"Work Horse Handbook, 2nd Edition" by Lynn Miller

Draft Collars and How To Size Them

It is difficult to accurately measure a horse’s neck without fitting. In other words, there are so many variables involved in the shape and size of a horse’s neck that the only accurate and easy way to size the neck is to use several collars and put them on one at a time until fitting is found.

Wheel Hoe

The Wheel Hoe: A Tool For Shallow Tillage

When we bought this little farm I soon realized I needed a wheel hoe. The size of the horse and tractor dictated space wasting wide rows in crop production and, to some degree, so does my two wheeled tractor.

Laying Out Fields for Plowing

Laying Out Fields for Plowing

There are four general plans, or methods of plowing fields. These are: (1) to plow from one side of a field to the other; (2) to plow around the field; (3) to plow a field in lands; and (4) to start the plowing in the center of the field.

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.

McCormick-Deering No 7 Mower Manual in English & French

McCormick-Deering No. 7 Mower Manual in English & French

Instructions for Setting Up and Operating the McCORMICK-DEERING No. 7 VERTICAL LIFT TWO-HORSE MOWERS — Instructions pour le Montage et le Fonctionnement des FAUCHEUSES A DEUX CHEVAUX McCORMICK-DEERING No. 7 À RELEVAGE VERTICAL

An Introduction To Grasslands Farming

From Dusty Shelves: A World War II era article on grassland farming.

Old Man Farming

Spinning Ladders

You die off by passing away. You live on by passing on. I want to pass the culture of my life on slowly, over the ripening time of my best years.

Apples of North America

Freedom has been called the ugly duckling of disease-resistant apple varieties. But that shouldn’t detract from its many merits. These include the freedom from apple-scab infection for which it was named, a high rate of productivity, and an ability to serve as a good pollinator for its more attractive sibling, Liberty.

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.

Book Review Butchering

Two New Butchering Volumes

Danforth’s BUTCHERING is an unqualified MASTERPIECE! One which actually gives me hope for the furtherance of human kind and the ripening of good farming everywhere because, in no small part, of this young author’s sensitive comprehension of the modern disconnect with food, feeding ourselves, and farming.

Dont Eat the Seed Corn

Don’t Eat the Seed Corn: Strategies & Prospects for Human Survival

by:
from issue:

Gary Paul Nabhan’s book “WHERE OUR FOOD COMES FROM: Retracing Nikolay Vavilov’s Quest to End Famine” (Island Press, 2009) is a weighty tome, freighted with implications. But as befits its subject it is also portable and travels well, a deft exploration of two trips around the world, that of the author following in the footsteps of a long-gone mentor he never met, the Russian pioneer botanist and geneticist Nikolay Vavilov (1887-1943).

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