Thursday, June 11, 2009

Rainbarrels a go-go, or When did DC become the new Seattle?

Last week I got the good news from the county: we had been approved for our rain barrel rebate. Wahoo! I headed straight for the hardware store, bought my lovely 75 gallon barrel. As the helpful guy from the store helped lift it into the back of my minivan I did a happy dance in the parking lot, right there between the mulch bags and the abandoned grocery carts. The hardware guy laughed.

Then the rain started. I mean really, just continued. We’ve had inches and inches and the ground is saturated. All day I drove around, getting the kids from school, going shopping for stuff with them… watching as the water poured down and down all around. Each tricky turn on those rainy slick streets was marked by the thunk of the barrel, rolling around back there behind us, mocking us with its empty uselessness.

This is our second barrel. I made the first one at a Montgomery County Rainscapes workshop two years ago, using the recycled industrial barrel from a cola company, and basic hardware supplies.

You get addicted to these things, for sure. Once you see all that lovely FREE water in the barrel, once you use it to water your shrubs and trees, you want more, you see every gutter as a missed opportunity. It gets to you. You begin to calculate overflow capacity, and find yourself discussing cisterns with serious consideration. You find regular hose water annoying and wasteful. Everytime you turn on the outdoor spigot you grimace at the loss.

Watching all that rain fall last week, knowing I could be collecting it if only I could put the new barrel up.... it was driving me mad.

Then finally the rain stopped. I rolled the big empty barrel out of the van, up the hill, and into the garden. I cut the gutter’s downspout, repositioned the outlet, and hooked her up. Within less than an hour, the rain had started again. I stood outside and watched the water gush out, like Jeb from the beginning of the old Beverly Hillbillies tv show, watching that oil rise out of the ground. Black gold, that is... Texas Tea...

Except for me it is rainwater. And instead of shooting it with a shotgun while hunting in the hills like he did, I used a hack saw.

Still, the dollar signs of saving danced in front of my eyes. And the idea that I'm helping Sligo Creek, the Anacostia and the Chesapeake Bay made me really happy.

This morning, after yet another storm, we awoke to find our garden gauge held an inch and half of water. Running to the barrels in our PJs, my kids and I found them both full. Yikes! Thank goodness for those overflow pipes.

Now, what do I do with all the water since the ground is already soaked, I wonder. Do I risk it, wait and see if we get more rain today, or let the water out around the trees and watch as they grow several feet in front of my eyes?????

And when will this torrential rain stop? When did DC become the new Seattle?

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