Barrels be Gone!

Remember when I posted here about the eye sore created by rainwater barrels, and then here about wanting to create a planter out of an old wooden pallet? Well this weekend we killed two birds with one stone by repurposing a pallet to hide two functional, yet frightful barrels. (For the record, I LOVE collecting rainwater and know the barrels–which combined hold more than 200 gallons of water–are a great, Great, GREAT thing to have, I just don’t love looking at them.)  I am wildly pleased by the end result.

I put Handyman Heath to work yet again to help me construct this fun creation that will hide our barrels and enable us put to good use a bit of the garbage we’ve been hoarding since the move. The entire project was actually pretty easy to put together.

It started with a pallet…

From there we used wood scraps leftover from other projects (like the fence and chicken coop) to create enclosed boxes within the pallet to harbor the plant life. After 30 minutes of drilling and sawing, the boxes were complete and ready for step 2–lining.

We lined the interior with leftover chicken wire (for extra support) and landscape fabric. Usually landscape fabric is used as a weed blocker, but in this case it serves a different function–helping the roots to breathe by allowing water and air to pass through more easily. This way, even in close quarters, the plants can get the aeration/ventilation they require. It’s sort of like the flowers are tenants in a ritzy but terribly small high-rise studio apartment. Sure there isn’t a lot of room to move around and the neighbors are obnoxiously close, but the central air is superb and the views are to die for.

Once the wire and fabric were in place, the fun part (gardening) could start. This is where I get to step in. Heath’s the master of carpentry, I am the master or color coordination. I know, I know…If we’re stranded on an island, my skill set is clearly the more useful and preferred one. Matching your coconut bra to your coral earrings > Building a shelter.

I’m happy the rain barrels are installed and doing their thing, but I’m even happier I don’t have to look at them. Hooray for Handyman Heath and resourceful garden makeovers.


Crushing on rain gardens

Remember when I posted here about the reappearing swimming pool that obnoxiously pops up in our backyard after a heavy downpour?  I haven’t been able to stop obsessing over it. Love the rain, love the house, HATE the watery mess.

The backyard becomes completely unusable…even for the dogs, and there isn’t much the dogs shy away from (Stella will jump through a solid glass window but won’t get involved with a stagnant muddy puddle…true story). It’s soggy and slushy and it takes more than a day or so for all that water to evaporate or run off the property and get out of our hair. It’s not a great situation for entertaining, for gardening or even living. Even with the new gutters and recently installed rain water barrels (EXCITING), the yard still manages to fall victim to water runoff due to a sloping property and funky drainage. Me thinks the solution lies in rain gardens.

I like rain gardens because they provide a designated space for water runoff that can double as a beautiful plant and wildlife habitat. By absorbing the water rather than allowing it to run off the property, they help prevent erosion and flooding and and can improve the overall quality of water in nearby streams, ponds or lakes. Once again, another solution for the doodle house that serves two purposes: helping the planet and directly helping me. I love it when that happens.

The other neat part: Rain gardens can be pretty cool looking. Check out some of what I found online.

Rain Garden from Chris Francis Landscapes

Rain garden project at Randolph College

Example of a rain garden from Virginia Department of ForestryRain garden courtesy of emmitsburg.net

Rain garden idea from Stewardship Partners

The Red Clay Valley Association encourages its residences to make rain gardens in small backyard depressions like this one.

Minnesota Public Radio did a neat feature on how to install backyard rain gardens, like this one, for its listeners.

Rain garden from Dayton Bioretention

My fingers are crossed that rain gardens will be the solution for us. Besides helping out with the mud situation,  they allow for a fair amount of flexibility in what you plant so long as you go native, and they require minimal maintenance…two things I’m all for. We’ve also got the right set up according to the experts.

  • Located in a depression…check!
  • Selected location is at least 10 feet from the house…check!
  • In an area with ample sun…check!
  • Not in an area where water already puddles…D’oh! I’m a little confused by this suggestion. If you’re suppose to install the garden in a flat or depressed area, wouldn’t that (according to the laws of gravity) be an area that regularly puddles? Help me out on this one.

There’s clearly more research to be done on the subject before we start moving earth, but thus far rain gardens appear to be a very attractive option for deflecting Lake Robinson.


Bring it, Rain.

Rainwater collecting is a good idea for 242835345234 reasons. I’m going to list two of them.

ONE: If you haven’t spent any time in Austin, you should know it doesn’t rain here in the summer. At all. At least not in the past two years. It gets so dry that the city must sometimes authorize water restrictions that are so harsh, restaurants have to stop serving water to customers unless requested. I’m not joking. It’s a real thing. So collecting precious rainwater while we have it is sort of like drilling for oil. It’s a valuable commodity that will soon be gone forever (or at least it feels like it during the middle of August).

TWO: After a big rain our yard is transformed into a swimming pool. It’s not as fun as it sounds because puddles = mud, and mud + labradoodles = disgusting carpet mess. So, it’s in our best interest to keep as much of that water off the ground and into buckets as possible.

In the end, all that water goes back to nourish the plants and the earth, helping us to be a little more sustainable and do our part to save the planet.

Sounds pretty good except for the part where most rain harvesting barrels are ugly as [expletive]. Don’t believe me? See for yourself.

Not. Cool. We have four of these puppies that, once the gutters are installed, will have to live in some very prominent places in our backyard. Egh. At least if they were being ugly in the front yard, all of our neighbors could see how awesome and planet friendly we are.

“Oh look, those rain barrels aren’t very attractive but look at that young couple doing their part to help the earth. I want to be just like them…so earth conscious and attractive and thin!”

I am clearly taking liberties here, but the point is, the barrels are in the back yard, they are numerous, they are large and they are not good to look at. So, of course, I’ve been scouring the web to find some solutions.

OPTION ONE: Paint it.
I’ve seen a few folks adorn their barrels with picturesque scenes of the countryside or  bright and charming flowers. It’s a big step up from white plastic construction site we’ve got going now.

It’s a pretty great alternative, but the problem is that I’m no artist, whatsoever. So if I tried my hand at painting the barrel, I imagine it would end up looking something like this.

That’s a rain barrel. It says, “I Heart Rain.”  This is not an improvement over the current situation, so I think we will pass on option one.

OPTION TWO: Put a plant on it.
This is the not-so-distant cousin of Portlandia’s “Put a Bird On It” campaign, but it make a little more sense. The barrels are in the back yard, there are plants there already, why not throw one, or two, or ten on top of (or around) the barrels?

Ok. Option Two, you’re still in the cards, but surely there are other things to consider as well.

OPTION THREE: Use a whiskey barrel.
It’s a cute idea, whiskey barrels are rustic and vintage-looking. That totally fits in with our little hipster masterplan. Maybe a whiskey barrel could work.

I really REALLY love this idea, but Heath already purchased four rain barrels that did not at one point hold whiskey, and I’m pretty sure it’s counter productive to the whole “earth friendly” thing to throw out perfectly good rain barrels because they weren’t “cute” enough. Option three, I hate to see you go, but you just won’t work for us.

OPTION FOUR: Build around it.
As usual, Instructables had some neat ideas for using lattice to surround a water barrel set up that seem fairly doable.

And I saw some really neat ideas from Living Rainwater Tanks that I think we could emulate, and I do know a pretty handy fellow who could make it happen.

In the end I think it will be a combination of Option Two and Four that go down, a decorative structure of sorts, combined with a little greenery.

Yes, I think that will work nicely. I can’t wait to reveal the before and after photos…