Rainwater harvesting

Rainwater harvesting

This is our rainwater harvesting system. It’s instrumental in keeping our garden irrigated.

We obtained two food-grade olive barrels (free!). I drilled a 1″ hole toward the bottom of the vertical side of the one on thre deck and another 1″ hole toward the top of the vertical wall. I installed a brass spigot in the bottom hole and a fitting with a 1″ I.D. tubing in the top hole.

Then I drilled two holes in opposite sides of the upper portion of the bottom barrel. The other end of the tubing with a fitting on that end plugged into one hole and serves as an automatic overflow from the upper barrel into the lower barrel. An inexpensive plastic spigot fitted into the other hole and serves as an overflow valve for the lower barrel.

Faye stapled window screen to the inside of the screw-on rings to serve as mosquito barriers. I had to do a little cutting on the downspout so the upper barrel would fit underneath. Then we put them in place.

Betweeen the two barrels we can store about 100 gallons (375 liters) of rainwater. Our various water jugs – repurposed laundry detergent, water, and vinegar jugs – add another 8 gallons’ capacity. For the past three years this has been more than enough to keep our garden, potted houseplants, and some specimen plants irrigated, and we have never run out of water. Our financial layout for the whole setup has been around $40.

We do not irrigate our lawn, either with harvested water or city water. While we like the look and feel of turfgrass we are gradually decreasing the amount of lawn. We are a little different from many people in that we do not see the point in watering and fertilizing something that you then mow, that you water and mow, that you water and mow, that you fertilize and water and mow . . .

We expanded the garden this year and this may test our water storage capacity. Only 13mm of rain has fallen since May 16. After the (probably overly) prodigious watering I did while Faye worked we have around 50 gallons between the two barrels.

It’s a bit of a fiddle to carry water to the garden. We are looking at adding eavestroughs to the shed which would empty into one or two barrels inside the garden area, shortening the carry.

Creeping Charlie

I mowed the lawn this evening. Mowing the lawn is a little like vacuuming the house. For me, vacuuming (aka Dysoning) is almost a Zen non-activity in the sense of not requiring a great deal of active, interactive thought. Move such floor-based obstacles as dog beds, water bowl, and so forth out of the way and away I go into my own thought-bubble.

Mowing the yard is similar in that sense. Move the lyre on which the hummingbird feeder hangs, the wagon holding the potted pepper plants, disarm canine land mines, and away you go. Since we have a corded electric lawn mower I have to flip, step over, what have you, to keep from running over the cord but that’s almost mental background noise. Away into my thought-bubble. Tonight I though about Creeping Charlie.

Our yard has an enormous amount of Creeping Charlie. For those of you unfamiliar with it here are a few links.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glechoma_hederacea

http://www.ediblewildfood.com/creeping-charlie.aspx

http://www.gardenontario.org/site.php/beller/news/online/2047

The general consensus seems to be that it’s an invasive, undesirable weed. We don’t object to it. Its’ growth habit is low, requiring less mowing to keep down than turfgrass. Other than mowing it’s zero maintenance – no watering, fertilizer, weeding, mowing.

And that’s a thing about turfgrass that seems very silly. In order to have a good looking, well tended turfgrass lawn the custom is to water and fertilize, which promotes growth. Vertical growth. But vertical growth beyond a certain extent – a few inches – is undesirable, perhaps illegal in some communities. So you have to mow it. But then, to keep the turf green and lush, you water it. Fertilize it. (An aside – we have not watered our lawn since the spring of 2010, nor fertilized since summer 2012.) It grows. Vertically. You have to mow it. Repeat throughout the growing season. Frequently, homeowners’ yards are largely, even exclusively, dedicated to this process, requiring inputs of time, money, additives. I wonder what people would conclude if they did a cost analysis of input versus output.

While I do like the look and feel of a well tended turf lawn it seems to be environmentally unfriendly, resource-wasteful. I once heard on CBC a gardener’s opinion that Kentucky bluegrass is an undesirable, invasive species that deserved to be eradicated from Ontario lawns.

I realize that Creeping Charlie is an import and therefore not ideal. Yet it needs no fertilizer, no water, less mowing than turfgrass, it can be consumed by humans, it’s not known to be toxic to dogs or cats though it seems to be so to cattle and horses. I like the look and the feel underfoot, the minimal input required compared to turfgrass. I doubt our neighbours like it.

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