Prior to installing my rain barrel, rainy days went unappreciated. As a kid, rain meant I couldn’t run around in the yard. As an adult it meant I had to schlep my umbrella, get my shoes wet, and likely spend the day with frizzy hair.
Luckily for me and my joy of simple pleasures, I was home the first time it rained after installing the barrel. I jumped out of bed, tossed on my rain coat and rubber boots (not a good look with pajamas) and stood in the yard grinning as it filled higher and higher. As it began overflowing after only 20 minutes of rain, I exclaimed “Wow! I need a second one! And a third one!” I can only hope the neighbors got as much enjoyment out of watching me standing in the rain staring at the 55 gallon white barrel as I got out of the idea of all the water I could save when watering my plants. And in fact, they proved to not only be entertained by me, but also by the idea of saving their own water. After about a year of watching me as the guinea pig, and asking many questions about “that big white thing,” rain barrels started popping up in my neighbors’ yards, too. Some got them from the GreenFest workshops, others from the Soil Conservation District, and one even from the local chain hardware store.
Rain barrels help a small amount with stormwater runoff, reducing the amount of rain that runs across your grass collecting pet waste and fertilizers and into the nearest stream. Mostly they serve the wonderful purpose of conserving treated and not-free tap water. Trust me, your plants will thank you for not giving them doses of treated drinking water and allowing them to soak up natural rain on the driest days. Think of all the things that do not require pre-treated tap water: washing the car, watering the lawn, watering plants and flowers, power washing the deck and house. None of these involve ingesting the water and most of them will be hit with rain a few minutes after being cleaned or watered anyway. Next time you grab the hose, think about the effort and cost of treatment that made the water safe for you to drink and if it’s really needed for your task. Hopefully most times you can turn to your rain barrel instead.
Now, where to get these fabulous rain barrels that will lead you outside in a downpour in awe and make your neighbors jealous…
Howard County received 55 gallon white barrels from Dreyers Grand Ice Cream (a plant resides within the County) and is able to give them to residents free of charge. Yes, FREE. Sadly, they do not come filled with ice cream, however. So, we have a local source for the barrels, which means the carbon footprint of your rain barrel is pretty low, and we send you with a parts list to your local hardware store (again supporting the small, local business) where they can help you gather all the parts you need to assemble the fully functioning rain barrel for around only $25. That’s probably about the amount, if not less than, you would pay for all your outdoor water needs in only one year if you continued using tap water instead.
Rain barrel workshops will be held at GreenFest on April 14th. A limited number of free barrels and parts kits are available to the public that day (pre-registration required), but all are welcome to attend the workshop which will help you if you get your barrel later in the season and assemble it at home. Starting in a few months, barrels, instructions and parts lists are available for pickup at the Alpha Ridge Landfill the first and third Saturdays of each month at the gazebo near the entrance. Master Gardeners will be there to answer questions and demonstrate the simple assembly and installation steps. Residents receiving barrels pledge to use the barrel for at least two years.
Hopefully soon you’ll become the proud new owner of a rain barrel and never again find yourself standing in a downpour singing “rain, rain go away, come again some other day.”