Taking Advantage of the Rain

We get a lot of rain in Florida. It’s known as the sunshine state but this is kind of a misnomer. In the summer (the “rainy season”) it rains almost every day for a half hour in the afternoon, and in the winter (the “dry season”) it rains about every three or four days when a cold front blows through. With all of this rain it would seem like the plants would be just fine on their own, but there’s some nuance to the weather that led me to install some rain barrels to the downspouts on my house.

First of all, I live pretty close to the coast, which means that the sea breeze can keep the summer storms just inland. It can go weeks in the summer without raining at my property, while every afternoon I can look west and see huge thunderstorms. So it’s good to have a free source of water for all of my plants in case the thunderstorms don’t make their way over to me for a few days.

Additionally, since the rain comes down so hard so quickly, the water management organizations in Florida actually encourage people to get rain barrels because it reduces stress on the storm drain systems. Always nice when the local government is on board.

So I have one system with a 165 gallon capacity in the back which is hooked up to a pump and a hose, but I recently put in a smaller system closer to the house for filling up watering jugs. This is just a 55-gallon drum that the city gives out to property owners for free, which is already equipped with a spout, a screen on the top (to keep debris and mosquitoes out) and an overflow hookup. I have a small section of roof with its own gutter, so this small system is perfect for this spot.

First, I had to grade the area a little bit and limit erosion. There was a little slope leading down to the only crawlspace access point so I found some concrete blocks in a neighbor’s garbage and used them to build a little retaining wall. Some other concrete blocks serve as the platform for the rain barrel itself.

When I bought this house there was a hot water heater tank in this spot in its own little house. It was horribly constructed and took up way too much space, so I pulled it out and put in a tankless hot water heater. That freed up some space for the rain barrel and, as a bonus, I can take hot showers of unlimited length now.

Rain barrels are a great way to get water for plants or for whatever you need (although it’s not good to drink it without proper preparation) and they can help your local ecosystem too! I plan to add a few more and do a more thorough how-to in the future based on my other solar-powered pressurized rainwater system.

Hurricane Erika – Update

After maybe briefly making hurricane status (and causing a lot of panic in Florida) Hurricane Erika disappeared after tracking a little too far west and hitting mountains in Hispaniola and Cuba. We did get a bunch of rain and wind (and I got to surf on my new Meyerhoffer board!) but luckily I didn’t have to test out my new storm shutters on my old house.

I did get a chance to participate in the hurricane panic, though. I went to the grocery store to get 10 gallon jugs of water about six days before the projected landfall. (Recommendations say each person needs about 1-2 gallons of water a day. Don’t forget you have to flush the toilet too!) The grocery store was cleaned out, as everyone stocked up on bread and milk. It reminded me a little bit of growing up in the Carolinas when a snow storm was forecasted. We’d maybe get an inch of snow and everyone would panic and storm the grocery store (pun intended). The hurricane threat in Florida is a little more real than the snow threat in the Carolinas, though.

I also went to Home Depot to help a friend of mine buy plywood about four days before the projected landfall. He’s been renovating a house from scratch, and getting hurricane shutters (justifiably) wasn’t on the top of his to-do list until recently. I think we bought 22 sheets of plywood, but we had to wait in line to get them.

Probably the worst thing that happened to me this weekend was sitting on the side of the road for 45 minutes because my surfing friend locked his key in the car after we got out of the ocean. Oh well! At least we only live a mile or so from the beach. No harm done!

Hurricane season isn’t quite over yet, thought, so we’re not quite out of the woods for the year. Due to the El Nino we’re having, however, we’re not forecast to get very many storms this year. Good for my house, bad for my surfing! But each time we get a scare, it’s a good reminder that we could lose anything at any time. Even if we’re not in Florida during hurricane season.

Photo: Tropical Storm Erika’s actual track, showing a path over some substantial mountains, then turning into a tropical depression, then a tropical wave, then a brief rainstorm. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.