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DIY Rain Barrel Project

By MK Martin

A steady, driving rain has been pummelling our newly patched roof since yesterday. Unlike the despondent scowls usually illustrated on human faces when faced with a deluge, mine radiates and looks around for ways to get outside.

More than the chemicals released, creating that pleasing petrichor of recent, nature type memes; more than the softening of an icy Canadian earth, so worms and things can awaken and get to it; more than just moisture, spring rain is akin to the rising of the sun in the morning: something your bones can rely on, something that brings a big heaving sigh of relief to your cells, where you didn’t realize you were holding your breath.

Sure, the aftermath of too-wet soil, flooded basements, and continuously damp wardrobe can be listed as major downsides; peeling mud off of everything can be tedious. But there is a purification in the first, flooding rains. It drives away your troubles, but also the salt, sand and skunk attacks of late winter, which tend to hang around the house. It washes away your stagnant snow molds, refreshes your lawn, and invites new wildlife out to investigate the territory.

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This time can be crucial in water conservation. Getting your rain barrel up now, in monsoon season, means “free” water for any possible early hot days, or sudden drought. If your garden is in a community lot, or you aren’t near an eaves trough, you can make your own rain barrel from a plain, plastic garbage can with a domed lid.

Items you will need:

  • 20-Gallon plastic garbage bin, with domed lid
  • Small hole saw bit for your drill (approach your local hardware store to ask about these, sometimes you can rent equipment) *this will give you a clean drainage hole, but feel free to improvise and let us know what you discover!
  • Valve spigot with bulkhead fitting
  • Teflon tape, to affix the spigot

Drill 5, large drainage holes in the centre of the lid, plus an overflow hole about two inches down on the main receptacle. Use waterproof duct tape to affix a piece of mosquito netting over the holes on the convex side: cut this into a square about one inch larger than the drilled holes so you have plenty of spare netting to secure. This cuts down on debris, but also mosquitoes!

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Drill another hole at the base of the can, for the spigot. Place the inside part the bulkhead on the inside, outside on the outside, and use a wrench to tightly thread it into place. Use teflon tape on the spigot grooves to make sure it’s water tight, and wrench into place.

Place the lid upside-down onto the barrel so that rainwater will collect inside it and drain downwards. Use waterproof duct tape to seal the lid, or drill small holes in the lid and can and secure the two together with electrical wire.

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Your rain barrel has to be at least one foot off the ground. You can build a stand from pallet wood, or purchased beams, or use milk crates secured together, or even paint an old chair in a garden theme, and fasten a barrel onto it with strong cord. It all depends on your time, and budget.

Images by Dan Bruell, Adam Rice, and J Bolles via Flickr Creative Commons. 

 

Water is Life.

By Catherine Winter

The average human body is comprised of nearly 70 percent water. Women are a bit more watery than men are, and children’s bodies have a higher percentage than those belonging to adults, but ultimately, we really are made of water. Without drinking water, we’d die of dehydration in 3-4 days, and just about all life on this planet—from insects to elephants—needs this glorious wet stuff to survive.

It’s precisely for that fact that so many of us strive so hard to protect clean water sources: without them, most of the life on our planet would cease to exist.

Anyone who has ever tended a plant knows that water is of the utmost importance when cultivating green life. (Yes, even air plants need to be spritzed on occasion.) Plants can wilt and die after just a day without being watered, especially at the height of summertime, and those luscious fruits and vegetables we are love are heavy and juicy because of their high water content.

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Did you know that the water within us also connects us with pretty much all the living beings who came before us? In his book The Sacred Balance, author, scientist, and environmental activist David Suzuki shares a story about the voyage of a single molecule:

“Suppose we were to follow a single molecule of water vented from an active volcano on a Hawaiian island. We’ll call this molecule Aqua. Liberated with a mix of other gases from deep within the planet, Aqua is blown skyward, buffeted by convection forces and atmospheric winds that are constantly blowing across the planet. Eventually, Aqua finds itself streaming east from the islands, 10km above the ocean, moving along a ribbon of moisture that is like a great atmospheric river.

Reaching the coast of North America, Aqua moves inland until it encounters the upthrust of the Rocky Mountains. The cloud Aqua is in begins to cool, condense, and finally liquefy, and the water molecule falls towards the land as part of a drop of rain. On striking Earth, Aqua slithers into the soil, pulled by the forces of gravity, moving erratically around grains of sand that loom like miniature planets.

As Aqua sinks into the soil, it encounters a slender rootlet of a tree, which slurps Aqua up into its xylem tissue, drawing the molecule by capillary action up through the trunk into the branches, and eventually Aqua ends up in one of the seeds in a pinecone. A bird pecks at the cone, dislodging and swallowing the seed containing Aqua. As the bird flies south on its annual migration, it absorbs Aqua into its bloodstream.

Resting in a tropical rain forest in Central America, the bird is preyed upon by a mosquito. Aqua is sucked into the mosquito’s gut, and as the blood-laden insect drops close to a creek, it’s snapped up by a fish, which incorporates Aqua into its muscle tissue. An aboriginal fisher spears the fish and triumphantly carries it, and Aqua, home for a meal. And so it goes, the endless, eventful peregrination of every molecule of water.”

…kind of amazing to think about, isn’t it? Now, consider that you have an average of about 4, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 water molecules in your body. Each and every one of those has gone through a journey similar to Aqua’s… which means that inside you right now are molecules that likely sloshed around inside people like Shakespeare, Genghis Khan, Beethoven, Julius Caesar, Buddha, Marie Antoinette. The molecules within you have passed through dinosaurs, eagles, and ancient trees. Every one of those lives depended on the water molecules that now make up our own bodies right now, connecting all life on this planet inextricably.

How’s that for the oneness of all living things on Earth?

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Today, March 22nd, is world water day.

Let’s make a vow together: every time we, or water our plants or take a drink (or offer one to our animal companions), let’s take a moment to appreciate just how important water is to all life. Let’s respect it more, appreciate it more, be more proactive about protecting our natural clean water resources, and more generous about sharing what we have with those who need it.

For additional information about clean water initiatives and how you can get involved, check out: