It seems that we in Queensborough are having yet another summer when one wonders if it is ever going to rain again.
The lawns are fried to a crisp, the vegetables and flowers in garden beds are looking haggard, and people are worrying about how long their wells will hold out. It’s been weeks since we had a decent rain, and most days throughout those weeks the temperatures have been close to or above – sometimes well above – 30C. (For my American readers, that’s high 80s/low 90s Fahrenheit.)
This does not do much for my peace of mind. Every now and again you hear urban types blithering on about what a great summer we’re having. Yeah, great for them, because it’s all about lounging on the dock and splashing in the lake when they get to their cottages. To those of us who live in the country, however, regular rainfall is critical – for our crops, our wells and our quality of life generally. Having yet another drought so soon after the Great Droughts of 2012 (which I told you about here) and of 2016 (the story of which is here) – well, this is getting scary.
Here’s a brief aural respite, however. Seeing as how we’re dealing with our third drought in six years, I thought I’d try to cheer up my fellow sufferers. I recorded this audio clip on the Manse porch the evening the magical sound of rain finally came again, after many weeks of drought, in 2016. It was Saturday, Aug. 13. I think you’ll agree it sounds wonderful.
All right, back to my tale. One thing these repeated droughts have brought squarely to my attention is the importance of rain barrels. Now, if you had told me back in the days when I was an urbanite, living in Montreal, that before too long I would be the owner of three rain barrels, with hopes for more to come, I would have thought you were nuts. When we bought the Manse and saw the extremely low-tech rain barrel that was parked on a back step, I toyed with getting rid of it as an eyesore.
That would have been a really stupid move, and fortunately, I didn’t make it. Low-tech as it is – just a big plastic barrel, no top, no bug and leaf screen, no spigots for emptying out the water – that rain barrel has done wonderful service through these recent droughts in providing water for the Manse’s gardens and hanging baskets. I submerge my watering can in its contents, fill it to the brim, and the herbs, tomato plants, perennials and geraniums get a lovely drink of just-the-right-temperature rainwater. And because I’m recycling what comes from the sky, not a drop has to come out of the well.
This realization about the usefulness of rain barrels prompted me to get a second one a while back when the local conservation authority had them on sale. This barrel was considerably fancier than the one that came with the Manse: it had a top, a net to prevent debris getting into the water, and a spigot so you could get the water out easily or attach a hose.
However, in the way we set it up, Raymond and I showed our naïveté when it comes to rain barrels. We parked it beside another back step on a raised platform – that second part we got right – but it didn’t dawn on us that a covered rain barrel with just a smallish (maybe five inches in diameter) net-covered hole in the top is not going to collect very much rainwater. What had we not figured out? Well (as I’m sure most of you have figured out), the rain barrel is supposed to be set up under the downspout of an eavestrough, so the rainwater that would otherwise cascade down onto the ground would instead be directed right into that hole in the barrel’s cover. Doh!
Because we had a pretty wet summer last year, this non-functional setup wasn’t an issue. The lawns and gardens were green, and lots of rainwater collected in our low-tech barrel. But with this year’s drought, and with the amount of water in our old rain barrel dwindling to practically nothing, I became mildly obsessed with setting up the new rain barrel properly. I had been twigged to the way it should be done by noting a setup at The Unconventional Moose, a fabulous gift shop that’s just a bit to the southeast of Queensborough on Highway 7 near Actinolite. Here’s what caught my attention there one recent day:
“Aha!” said I to myself. “That’s how we need to do it! With the eavestrough downspout running right to it!”
But not only did I want the setup rectified; I wanted more rain barrels.
Why? Well, the more rain barrels you have, the more rain you can collect, obviously. But also, the flow from the Manse’s various downspouts – there are six in total – has for years been making a mess of the sections of lawn they spill into. And to boot, that surplus water was going to waste. In the photo at the top of this post, you can see how messed-up the lawn at the northeast corner of the house looks thanks to downspout water – this soon to be rectified, of course, by the installation of the gorgeous new rain barrel you see in that photo.
My first thought, in considering investing in still more rain barrels, was how nice it would be to have real wooden ones. I spotted these beauties at a restaurant in Huntsville, Ont., last month, and was quite inspired:
But a fair bit of research on my part determined that wooden rain barrels are well-nigh impossible to acquire in Canada. (If any reader has a source, I am still looking.)
So what do you do when you can’t find the perfect rain barrel? You check out what the usual retail suspects have to offer. On Canadian Tire’s website I found the one you see at the top of this post, and before many more days had passed, it was in my possession. And thanks to some fine installation work from a smart and talented young man from Queensborough, Tyler Walker, both the brand-new rain barrel and Rain Barrel No. 2 are now properly set up and ready to do their thing.
Now all we need is some rain.