Archive for March, 2009

How to Make a Rain Barrel

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

With all the watering I do around our yard during the spring and summer months, I thought I’d take a greener approach and use a rain barrel. I’m hoping it will help augment the quantity of water we use during these seasons. With all the reading I’ve done on it, I understand that it’ll also benefit our plant life (they like the natural rain water a lot more than the chlorinated tap water).

You can go out and buy them nowadays but what fun is that when you can build one yourself! Spending a few hours this afternoon yielded pretty decent results. Here’s what I did…

First, get yourself a food grade 50 – 60 gal drum, barrel, or equivalent container. The markings on this thing show that it once heald apple cider concentrate. I got it from my pops who used it a number of years ago to make wine, but just had it sitting in his garage. Score another green one for me for keeping it out of the landfill it would’ve eventually been tossed into.

I’m using a 4″ atrium grate as a way to keep large debris from getting into the barrel. Trace an outline of the open end onto the barrel and cut it out with a jigsaw.

Later on, I’ll add some stocking material around the grate to keep the smaller particles of dirt from getting down in there as well keep the mosquitoes away.

You then need to cut an overflow hole near the top of the barrel (in my case it’s the bottom of the barrel because I’m using it upside down… I’ll explain in a bit…). When rain collects in the barrel and fills up, which supposedly won’t take much when collected from the roof, the excess water has to go somewhere – enter the overflow drain.

The hole I cut was a about an inch and 3/8 to accommodate another fitting. Here I’m using a hose barb that will eventually connect to section of drainage hose (these types of hoses and fittings are usually found in sump pump applications). I threaded the fitting into the hole and used some teflon thread sealer to help. With the plumbing work I’ve done in the past I’ve found that the sealant is a bit more reliable than the teflon tape. It’s a bit messier going on, but does the job.

The next thing to do is flip over the barrel and attach your valve connection. I got lucky here because the top of the barrel (which will be the bottom when it’s done) had two bungs already in it, with one of them being the exact size I needed for the brass fitting I wanted to use.

Again using plenty of thread sealer, I got the initial fitting and 90 degree elbow in place.

From there it’s just a matter of connecting up the rest of your pieces. This happened to be my arrangement, based on the handful of parts I could find at the store and how far out from the barrel I wanted the valve to be. The valve hose bibb will accept a standard 3/4″ female hose connection if I choose to eventually hook one up. It’s a bit disorienting, but in this shot the valve is upside down.

At this point you’re ready to set the barrel in the position it’s going to be. We have a perfect spot at one back corner of our house, right next to the garden. You’ll want to set the barrel up on blocks so that you have enough height to either connect your hose or stick a watering can under there. I also used a hanger strap to secure the barrel to the house. At 60 gallons this thing will weigh upwards of 500 lbs when its full. You don’t want that tipping over.

I didn’t take too many more step-by-step pictures after this so the best I can do is number a few things in the following photo for reference. 1) I cut a 2.5 foot section of the downspout off. I have to get a cover for the bottom section that’s left there, but the reason I’m keeping it in place is so that come winter I can take the flexible downspout extension that’s connected to the top portion of the downspout (2) and re-route the water back down its original path (1). The flexible extension wraps around the corner of the house and connects to a PVC downspout adapter (3) which fits nicely into the atrium grate. Finally, I connected a section of drainage hose to the hose barb (4) sticking out the top side of the barrel and used a clamp to secure it.

Keeping the drain hose tight against the lower section of the downspout with zip ties, it leads down to an already existing discharge pipe I have hooked up for our sump pump. I cut into this pipe and added a wye fitting so the overflow has someplace to go.

I finished the project late in the evening so I didn’t get a chance to test it out. We’re supposed to get rain early tomorrow morning so I’ll find out soon enough if all my fittings are tight and sealed up enough.

The completed rain barrel… it’s not pretty to look at, but some fresh paint will take care of that.

Here are a few of the references I used for the design and construction of this thing:

Seeds for this year

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Earlier this week, the girls and I planted the first of our seeds for this year’s vegetable garden. I’ve got them in my studio under a flourescent light, just like last year.

I picked up a bunch of these peat pots to try out. I also decided to stagger the planting a bit more this year. This first batch includes Roma tomatoes (2yr old seeds and I’m not sure they’ll germinate), cucumbers, banana peppers, watermelon, and lettuce. I’ll probably do some more tomato plants in the next batch and this year my wife wants me to try red bell peppers so those will be included as well. We’ve already got some onion and garlic growing in the beds.

Acckk!! The Avalanche needs some love!

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

Took the truck into the dealer on Friday. All winter long I’ve been hearing a sort of grinding noise coming from somewhere underneath the truck (sort of sounds like the rear diff) and it’s progressively gotten worse and worse. The tech and I took it for a drive around the lot and he heard it right away, but said it was the driver’s side wheel hub. Ok, no prob… fix away.

I call them around 3:30pm because I haven’t heard anything back yet and the guy tells me, “We were just talking about you.” Whenever the dealer says that to you on the phone it can’t be good. He said the techs had the truck up on the lift and “heard noises coming from all over the place”.

The rear wheel backing plates, which seemingly don’t really do anything, were completely rotted away and were one source of noise. They need to be replaced. Another sort of rattling noise is coming from the rear wheels… this time it’s the left rear parking brake. The lining had seperated from the shoe. Replace that. Oh, and your pads are really low so they’ll need to be replaced and the rotors resurfaced. And finally… we come back to the rear differential. Needs an overhaul. Case and axle bearings were shot. The axle shafts definitely show wear, but an axle bearing repair kit can be installed to elliminate having to replace the axle – oh thanks. Heck, while it’s up on the lift you guys might as well flush the tranny for me and refill her with some new fluid.

Grand total: $2,309.16