Installing a Rain Barrel

About 4 years ago I won a big ol' rain barrel from my town in a lottery.  It says a lot about my nature that I promptly entered the lottery, promptly picked up my winnings, and promptly put the barrel in my garage to gather dust ever since.

uninstalled rain barrel

Well, it must have been the drudgery of our ultra-long, ultra-terrible winter that has really allowed me to awaken anewed this spring with a desire to DO SOMETHING.  Anything.  Including installing a rain barrel.

It turns out, this is about the easiest thing you can do.  Why did I wait so long?

So, here are the steps to installing one of these:

1.  Find a spot!  It needs to be a spot by a downspout and, if your barrel is ugly like mine, someplace tucked away.  It also helps for it to be in a useful spot.  For me, I selected a spot by the downspout behind my garage that happens to be right next to where I have put a new raised garden bed.

rain barrel location
behind garage

2. Prop it Up.  Lucky me, I had a crapload of old brick garden edging that I could use to do this.  You have to put the barrel up high (12" is recommended) in order to get the forces of gravity working on it so that the water flows out when you use it.  You'll notice from my photos that my laziness got the best of me- I only did about 8 inches.  Make sure whatever you use can stand the incredible weight of a full barrel of water.

prop up rain barrel

3.  Re-do your downspout.  There are a few ways you can do this depending on your set up.  For me, I only needed to cut off my downspout about 8-12 inches from the top of the barrel and pop on a section of flexible spout supplied with the barrel.  I had to buy a hacksaw to saw off the section and the rest was as easy as screwing the new pieces on.  Notice I did have to remove the old brace holding the spout against the wall and reattach it higher up.

cut downspout
new spout

Since I've installed it, we've had some pretty hefty rains and it is at least half full.  Since we have been getting rain, I haven't had to use it it but, when I do, it will be free water for my garden!  

This isn't that big of a deal financially here in Illinois, where water runs cheap.  If you live in a land where water is more expensive, though, it could help some.  The funny thing is that water tends to be more pricey where it is more scarce and where it is more scarce, the harder it is to fill your barrel!  There are other cheaper water conservation tips you can try like filling a bucket while you warm the water for your shower or while you wash veggies.

Rain barrels can be expensive- this same barrel is $80 at Whole Foods.  They make fancy ones for $100+ at garden centers and you can often find these for $50 if you aren't shopping at Whole Foods.  If you don't have a hacksaw, I picked one up for about $8 so no big output there.  And, just a warning, some places have weird laws about collecting rainwater because there is some idea that it belongs to the government (?!).  Not to get political or anything, but that is insane.

In any case, I love that I can reuse the water that would just go back into sewers to water my veggie garden in dry times for FREE.  And it couldn't be any easier!

Cable-Be-Gone

I mentioned in my last post that we cut cable at the end of 2013.  It has been about 5 weeks and GUESS WHAT!

Yeah, I am totally fine.  I don't miss cable or the DVR one single bit.

We were already Netflix subscribers and have Hulu Plus, too, so when we cancelled our service, we just needed to get an antenna for over the air channels.  We also got Amazon Prime which was only been semi-useful (I love their exclusive series, Betas, and they have some stuff not on Netflix) but I did get all my Christmas gifts shipped free and fast, so that was good.

The antenna we got is the Mohu Leaf.  It has been hit or miss getting channels with this thing which I'm pretty sure has to do with our location (we are right next to a major airport).  But, for the most part, we get most channels.  At this point in time, we get all the basics except Fox.  Fox inexplicably went out during the 3rd quarter of the Super Bowl but I didn't care.

Our previous cable + internet bill totalled $135/mo and we had gotten a letter in November saying the rates were going up (another $10-15ish).  We took that as a sign.  Our new rate is around $50/mo for internet only.

Annual Savings = $100/mo x 12 = $1200

One Time Expenses:

  • Mohu Leaf Antenna = $60
  • New Modem (to replace the cable company rental) = $80

Ongoing Expenses:

  • Hulu Plus = $0 (we "share" an account)
  • Netflix = $20/mo x 12 = $240/yr
  • Amazon Prime = $80/yr (rumor is that this rate is going up)- this is the only new ongoing cost

The only "con" I can think of is that I feel like I am watching more stuff now!  Now that I have to purposely select what I'm going to watch instead of mindlessly flipping or setting it to House Hunters, I am at least paying more attention when I am watching TV.  

If you've been thinking of taking the cable-free plunge, do it!  You've got nothing to lose and bunches and dollars to gain.  Hooray!

 

 

Me and 2014

Ah, a New Year.  Finally a chance to do everything I've ever meant to do!  Well, maybe I'll stick with just a few of those things.

It's bitterly cold out here in Chicagoland but inside I'm starting to plan out my year.

Home:

  • Paint the retaining wall below the railing I fixed
  • Re-Paint my front door a new color & treat/fix/paint/stain my other front door (yea, I have 2 because of the weird orientation of my house)
  • Help my husband organize and decorate his office; all the trim needs to be painted, too
  • Get my crap together- photos, memories, paperwork, accounts, computer, etc - get it all organized and backed-up
  • Plant a lot more perennials

Health:

  • Train for a spring half marathon using the Galloway Method to help my pace.  I've done two other half marathons but didn't train for them properly.
  • Train for a fall marathon????? I started doing this last year and got burned out.  I'm hoping the Galloway method helps me maintain commitment.
  • Integrate cross-training more.  I used to bike all the time.. I need to do it more; maybe add Spin during these winter months.
  • Reduce my sugar intake.  I don't ever want to live in a world without cookies but a recent major cavity and new crown has me wary of all the sugar I'm eating.  Oh yeah, and it is AWFUL for my health.

Money:

  • Set-up my first investment account - our early retirement money to get us through early retirement to when we can start withdrawing from the 401k (about 10-12 years)
  • Plan a cost effective 10th anniversary trip
  • Switch to an MVNO for our cell phones- I need to wait until closer to our contract renewal in September to lessen the early termination charge impacts with our current provider

We did make one major improvement already- we cancelled cable!  We are the proud new owners of a digital antenna.  We also have Hulu Plus, Netflix and Amazon Prime as well as a Roku, so we should be good.

 

Happy New Year, Everyone!  What do you have in store for yourself this year?