It’s difficult not to be dreaming about water during this record-breaking summer in Oklahoma. Rain has been practically non-existent and there hasn’t been a single day this July below 100 for the high. The grass is brittle, the garden (not to mention the dog) is panting, the ground is cracking and even well-established trees are drooping with the heat and lack of water.
Which makes the fact that just this past spring my partner, Kel and I, finally installed a rain-water collection barrel, ironic. We’d talked about it a few times over the preceding 3 and half years – years with plentiful rainfall – but as with many of our projects, it got pushed aside for other seemingly more pressing things. The rain barrel now sits empty – dry as a bone. But it’s good to know it’s there when and if the rains return to this part of the state.
When I say it was a fairly simple project to complete, I mean that it was a lot of work for Kel, but not so much for me. I like to think of myself as the idea and encouragement person. He’s the hands-on person. The first thing we had to do to get our contraption up and running was to install gutters on one side of our work shed. We’d seen rain gushing off of the roof so many times that we knew we’d get a good amount of water off of it. Kel did the math and it turns out that collecting half of the rain run-off from our shed – a 20’ x 25’ building – would yield approximately 125 gallons of water (calculating that we’d lose about 20%) during a storm that dropped approximately 1” (figure this amount by putting up a rain gauge) – and again, that’s just for the half of the roof we guttered. If your math skills, like mine, are stuck somewhere in the third grade, you can find a good rain collection calculator here:http://www.csgnetwork.com/rwcollectioncalc.html. 125 gallons was enough to have us eyeing the house (already guttered) as well as the other big rain run-off roof: our 60’ x 40’ barn – but those projects will remain on the “to do” part of the list for a little while yet.
After we installed gutters on the shed (which also put an end to the battering the flowers alongside the wall were taking each time it rained), we hauled out from the barn one of four 275-gallon containers we bought locally through craigslist. These containers can be found all over Oklahoma (and probably elsewhere) and go pretty cheap if you keep your eyes open and are willing to bargain. Ours had been filled with mineral oil – so the water we collect will be safe on plants, but of course, we wouldn’t drink from it. Once the container was in place – elevated with some wooden pallets we’d inherited from the previous owners of our ranch – it was ready for a hose to be attached to the spigot. The hose and coupler are a bit out of the ordinary, but easily obtained online or through a farm supply company.
Now all we need is a long, soaking rain to refresh the pastures, the flowers, vegetables and trees – and to fill up that thirsty rain barrel for the next dry spell.