Rain Barrel 101 | Front Porch | Indy Week

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Rain Barrel 101

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After weeks of strategizing about making a rain barrel, my buddy and I got serious. Several factors influenced us—most noticeably that the drought had not abated, and the forecast showed a hint of a morning shower the next day. Also nudging us on was the powerful fact that 1 inch of rainfall from a 1,000-square-foot roof can produce 625 gallons of water. Finally, the rain barrels offered at area establishments cost $70-$90, outside of our budgets.

So, last Sunday we made a trip to the home improvement store for materials. This store was on the mark: A prominent display showcased a rain barrel constructed onsite, providing visual instruction for what you need and how to do it. After agonizing over the size and sturdiness of our container, we ended up at the self-checkout with the following: a 32-gallon Rubbermaid trash can with lid for $13.98, a 1/2-inch hose bibb for $4.53, and a PVC bushing for $1.05. Our pockets welcomed the low $19.56 cost.

Back in my buddy's garage, it was assembly time. Now, I categorize myself as a not-too-mechanically-inclined left-hander who has to recite "lefty loosy, righty tighty" every time I hold a tool. Not so for my left-handed buddy; her childhood farm days left her adept at making and fixing any and everything. I wasn't really concerned about how we would drill a hole in the can, although I had pondered about what tool one would use. She carefully brought out a small ancient-looking box with the words "Craftsman circular cutter" barely visible. She said it was one of her daddy's tools from 40 years ago. The cutter reminded me of a drawing compass that you manually adjust for the circumference of the desired circle. With this cutter, you set the circle size and then insert the base bit into a drill and cut away.

Having marked the location for the hose bibb/bushing, we turned the garbage can on its side for the cutting. My buddy held the drill in place and I was getting ready to tighten my grip on the can when I heard zzzz for about half a second and it was done. It was over in a flash, no time to blink, no time to think. I was left speechless at the quickness and perfection of the cut. I think my buddy was equally surprised, as she had never used the cutter before. We stood there in awe. The remaining assembly was a snap. Screw the hose bibb into the inner PVC bushing, insert through the hole and then attach the outer bushing. The fit was so tight no washer was needed. The water test revealed no leaks.

I brought my rain barrel home and placed it under the spot where water gushes off the roof. It is set up on a stack of bricks for added height, with two bricks in the bottom for stability. A soaker hose is attached and a watering can is waiting for fill up.

The only thing missing is rain water. We can't buy that.

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