About a month ago I bought our first rain barrel for $50 from someone who had only used it twice, a heavy duty vinyl model that holds 100 gallons of water. (A rain barrel, in case any one isn’t familiar with the term, is a large barrel that is set up to harvest the rain water runoff from your home’s gutters.) I got it with the intent to be more self sufficient with garden’s water needs. It’s a shame to pay to water the garden when I can use the rain that falls for free! This model collapses and can be stored compactly in the winter months, which I liked. It’s also easily accessible to my darling toddler sons, one of whom turned it on this morning without us seeing him, and totally drained out all 100 gallons of water. At least it wasn’t water we had to pay for.
A couple of weeks ago, I bought three more rain barrels, this time the standard 55 gallon size. They’re recycled drums made of heavy duty plastic, much better for a family with active kids since they wouldn’t be easily damaged. I think I’ll resell the vinyl rain barrel before one of my children figures out how to make a hole in it. I bought them from someone who made them himself. They were $50 each but I asked for a discount since I was getting three, so I paid $125 for all of them. I researched how to make rain barrels quite a while ago because I wanted to make one, so I know it’s not a hard thing to do. But while theoretically we could have made some ourselves, I knew that there was no way that the barrels would get done in a timely way because we had just started the patio project. I also knew (since I’ve been looking for months for cheap barrels to make my own rain barrels and every single time the $10 ones were sold before I could get them) that I’d have to pay $25 for the barrel, and after buying the parts, I’d hardly come out more cheaply than buying them ready made. My time and labor is worth the $5 or less I would have saved, don’t you think?
I’d like to connect at least two of them, so when one is full the water is automatically diverted into the next one. My ds10 connected a garden hose to the spigot at the bottom of it so we can water directly from the barrel, but it seems that hose has a blockage so I have to attach a different hose.
We got a little rain last week and it filled a six of one barrel. Then we got a good rain, and it was incredible to watch how quickly the barrel filled up! Since we don’t yet have the barrels connected to receive the overflow, we manually redirected the flexible downspout over the empty barrel. It’s amazing to note the difference between that one, which is receiving the directed run off from the gutter, and the one next to it, that only collected the rain that fell directly. The one that wasn’t hooked up got only a few cups of water in it after a good sized rain, while we easily could have filled all three barrels in the same amount of time.
It might not seem so frugal to buy rain barrels, since we pay about $160 every three months for our total water usage, and it will take a lot of collected water until we break even. But that’s how a lot of money saving things are – you have to make the initial investment and it can take some time until you start to see the payoff. If you look at the short term, it seems like a waste of money, but I look at it as a long term investment; since watering the garden would take a lot of water on a regular basis (and it’s something I plan to have each summer), I’m happy to have a way to cut the costs.