• By Janine Pineo •
New isn’t always better.
That crossed my mind Tuesday as I was being sprayed with rainwater gushing from the new rain barrels set up Saturday in anticipation of Monday’s big storm.
It is so much easier to spot leaks when the barrels are full.
But I get ahead of myself. Let’s backtrack a bit.
I got into using rain barrels in the late 1990s. Actually my love for them goes back to childhood and the lovely wooden barrel my grandfather had in the corner between the shed and barn. I spent many a summer afternoon dipping water out of the barrel and pouring it back in. Pine needles floated on top, and I remember looking down into the bottomless barrel and seeing me and the sky looking back.
Fast-forward about 20 years to when I got my first rain barrel. It came from Gardener’s Supply out of Vermont and cost what felt like a small fortune. It served its purpose: rainwater for the potted plants instead of well water. With a size of 75 gallons, it has been filled and emptied year in, year out.
My only complaint has ever been the hose and how it’s attached. There’s a metal zip band and a screw that is supposed to help tighten it to secure it. Needless to say, it has leaked whenever I don’t get it positioned correctly or the band tightened enough with the screw. And given the recess where the opening is located, that means I struggle to get it attached every year.
But I manage.
In 2001, I bought two more rain barrels. They looked like trash cans, but the price was right. Plus, these ones had faucets instead of a hose. What was not to love?
All went well until three summers ago when the trash-can-like barrels started to have issues with the plastic faucets. At some point, the plastic handles for turning the faucets on snapped off, as old plastic has a tendency to do when exposed to weather for nearly a decade. We managed to get by with a pair of pliers to twist the faucets on and off.
Last year brought a complete collapse of the system. The faucets wouldn’t hold water, literally. Feeling rather clever, I took one apart and managed to find hose parts at the hardware store that would fit the plastic barrel so I could attach a hose where the faucet used to be.
That would have been great had the barrels themselves not sprung a leak. Or two. Or three.
Fortunately, it was a rainy year with little need to worry about having enough water. The well wasn’t going to run dry, and the plants didn’t require much watering since nature did most of it.
Which brings me to last week.
Given the way spring has been going, I’d already started to fret about having enough water this year. But it costs a fair penny to get rain barrels. The deciding factor was simple: What was the point of spending money on plants for the pots if I can’t water them?
Plus, rain barrels do tend to last.
So I bought two barrels that resemble the first one I got all those years ago, except there have been some changes to the design. Instead of one place for a hose attachment, there are four, three being covered with caps until you want to use them.
And instead of a doohickey to attach hose to barrel, this hose has a normal end that screws on.
What was not to love?
When I got home from work Friday, there sat the two new barrels. The next morning when I went to the Post Office, newly arrived was the linking kit to connect the two barrels together to share the bounty equally.
With the forecast for rain, rain and more rain on Monday, I was out Saturday morning getting the barrels positioned, linked and ready for showtime. I also carted out the original barrel and managed to attach the old hose without too many scrapes.
They looked so pretty that I even snapped a picture of them when I was done, making sure the new ones had center stage.
As it poured all day Monday, I was gleeful, reminding myself to go check the overflowing barrels Tuesday morning.
It wasn’t quite what I had pictured when I arrived.
Water seemed to be leaking from every place a hose was attached. I gaped for a moment and then checked to see how much water was left. Each barrel was about three-quarters full. Which was when it struck me that the lovely linking hose also allowed all of the water to drain out equally, too.
I tried tightening the hoses by hand but the leaking continued apace. Racing indoors, I got the plastic caps I had removed and then I went to the shed to find the hose I bought last year to fix one of the old barrels, thinking to replace the leaking hose on at least one new barrel and save something.
I then had to unhook everything with the barrels full. And plug it up again with water gushing out.
I got rather wet.
It seems I needed pliers to tighten those hose couplings to within an inch of their lives to stop the leaking. Despite the freshet, I managed to keep the barrels about two-thirds full.
And the old barrel with the trick hose? It wasn’t quite full because it didn’t have as good a section of gutter.
But nary a leak was in sight.
First published in the Bangor Daily News on April 28, 2012.