Tuesday, May 10, 2011

rainstorms, rain barrels and the most hip state in america

little man takes it upon himself to keep the garlic watered

It looked like tonight was going to be the first big roof-shaker of a rainstorm.  The big puffy cumulonimbus were  coming in from the west and the sky was unnaturally yellow- then orange.  We waited a little bit to put the kids to bed, wondering if we'd have to head for the basement instead of the second floor.

But it passed quickly and quietly- now there's just a little rumbling off in the distance and the occassional pitter-pat on the window.  A good storm as storms go.  

Our new oak rain barrel is now catching the rain off of one fourth of our roof, so I went out after the storm passed to see how much it filled.  Not quite half- not a lot of rain for what the sky had looked like.

I have been wanting to get a rain barrel for many years now, and hoping for an oak one, not the blue plastic kind I see every here and there.  I know the blue plastic ones are recycled, but they were never intended to be a garden ornament.   There is no paint that can make one of those things look good.  At least in my mind.

Luckily, our neighborhood, Union Park, sponsored a rain barrel workshop last weekend and I was able to get an oak wine barrel for only $79!  About half of what I've seen them advertised for elsewhere.  A real wine barrel- complete with burgundy and black mottled crystals on the inside and the strong smell of red wine wafting out.  The barrels were truly beautiful- much more so than I had expected.  Some were from France, others from California.  Mine ended up being a Californian, although I lingered for a while by a beautiful French barrel with a gorgeous art-nouveau label burned into the header.   Ultimately, it was the spacing of the metal bands and not the label which was the deciding factor.  My Californian barrel had more space at the top and bottom for a spigot and an overflow than the French one.  Au revoir, sexy label.

our new oak rain barrel
Apparently the oak barrels have a capacity of 59 gallons- which seems like a lot to me.  As soon as it arrived (the people running the workshop were kind enough to deliver it, as I couldn't get it in the trunk of the Corolla) I built a platform for it out of Chilton limestone in order to create a bit more water pressure, then filled it with water from the hose.  It leaked a bit, as they said it would, while the staves wetted and expanded in order to hold water.  Then I turned on the tap, and voila- our own little water tower!

There wasn't really that much pressure- but it still was enough to impress me.  Less than our garden hose, but more than a trickle.  I found out that it takes a long time to empty 59 gallons of water at that level of water pressure.  I filled a few watering cans to water the new strawberries and blueberry shrub, but that didn't make much of a dent.  Then we had to go somewhere, and it rained the next morning, and the barrel was up to the top again.
So today was hot- 86F at about 5:30 when I checked.  The kids were outside and my daughter (as always) wanted to play in the pool.  I've had to say no for something like 8 months now, so I was happy to finally be able to say yes.  Knowing that it was going to rain tonight and fill the barrel anyway, I turned the tap on and let her do whatever she liked with the garden hose- something she rarely gets to do.  She filled the pool, jumping around and flailing the hose back and forth singing 'it's raining, it's raining'.  So cute.
The little guy wasn't feeling so well- just having been at the ER for a case of strep last night, so he took it easy and just sort of poked around the yard.  He was really in to watering the garlic on Sunday, and filled up a few times from the barrel (with some help) to water.  But he was really intent on it.  Nobody told him to, but he went around to each plant, giving it a little water, then moving on, not looking up, just focused on the garlic.

punkin' watering everything in sight with the rain barrel hose
 It feels so good to be outside again and not be shivering.  I fired up the grill with a mix of downed wood from the maple tree and the cottonwood and charcoal and we grilled some hot dogs tonight.  We ate a picnic dinner on the front lawn as we watched the clouds roll in and the sky turn yellow.  We packed up and came inside before it got too serious.

'so- what do i do now?'
This is completely unrelated, but a site I've never heard of before has declared Minnesota to be the hippest state, or something to that effect.  The reasons for such, include people sporting the lumberjack look, food co-ops and farmers markets, and the number of bicyclists in the Twin Cities.  All things that I love- but when did these become hip?  I guess I'm glad that they are- and that Minnesota is.  I actually love Minnesota, despite all my complaining about the winter.  But hip-- seriously?  People from NYC aspiring to look and act like Minnesotans?  That's tough to swallow.

If nothing else, I love that cycling and co-ops and farmers' markets are the new indicator of hipness.  I love that I have been around long enough to become hip by default.  And that Minnesota is the epicenter of it.

Also unrelated to rain barrels- check out the difference two months makes.  I took the first picture today- May 10th, then one below it was taken from the same point two months earlier.

I love this sort of thing.  In two more months, the yard will be completely lush and overgrown.  I'll have to take another photo then.  Somebody remind me.

May 10
March 11


  1. Based on what I see here on the online world, there seems to be a lot of people in Minnesota and surrounding that are in touch with whats actually going on in the world. As opposed to the paradigm of consumption and technotriumphalism.

    I'm in the south. Nobody is awake here, at least not in my corner of the south. Cool rain barrel by the way.

  2. Thanks luciddreams-
    Minnesota is home for me, so whether or not it was hip, I'd still want to be here. There are still sleepwalkers here, as there are everywhere.

    Interestingly, I was at a community garden meeting tonight and two of the six people there mentioned Transition Towns when it was time for them to say why they were interested in starting a community garden. That took me by surprise- and really spoke to the fact that the Transition Town movement is starting to go mainstream.

    I've only passed through South Carolina, but Asheville NC is one of the most interesting cities I've ever visited. It was like Madison Wisconsin but with nicer weather. Look closely and I imagine you can find kindred spirits almost anywhere.

  3. NIce barrel. Glad to hear the little guy is alright. I left my phone at the apartment. I've tried to email you.


  4. Both kids look so sweet. I bet they are learning gardening and will admire it when they get older. By the way, your yard looks beautiful.