Posts Tagged ‘rain barrels’

Greetings groovy gardeners!

We have big ideas for the new garden space behind the computer science building (6050 University Ave.)! Some of these ideas include mushroom logs hanging from trees, a solar panel for the shed (YEAH!), a green roof, a greenhouse, a slew of rainwater barrels, and lots of raised beds.

We also want your input! Let us know what you think about the new design (way to go Rob!!), and if you have any concerns or comments. The retaining wall must stay (please keep in mind we have the university administration to contend with), but we are still open to suggestions at this point otherwise.

So far we planted 2 fruit trees (stella cherry and macintosh apple). The cold frames sadly had to be removed after they had served their purpose, but we have a clean slate to work with now (and we are getting a real-live greenhouse for next year!!).

We are hoping to start construction of the shed in August with Community Forest International (http://forestsinternational.org/).

Warm Fuzzies,



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The second half tonne of water is in place!

On Saturday, Geoff Tanner met me at the garden with a bike trailer load of wood, a rough tote, some strawberries and chocolate. It was raining but we started to work in the strawbale shed by opening the shutters. By the time we did our planning and first cuts, the rain had let up.

We made a wooden stand to host the rainbarrels out of scavenged wood and nails that is light, strong and multifunctional. The building part took the longest. I hit my thumb hard enough that it is cresented purple still, and learned some great building tricks.

Geoff was keen to do the rainbarrels for as cheap as we could. I encouraged him, knowing it would be great to demonstrate a cheap well-functioning version of water-catchement system. At first, Geoff bought a few things at the hardware store, but when comparing them to the prices of comparable gear available from the boating shops, he sourced mainly from the Binnacle, (yauchting equiptment and accessories ltd. 15 Purcells Cove Road, binnacle.com).


To interconnect three barrels using hardware stone gear would total around $50. To interconnect three barrels using boating gear costs us around $40. Now $12 of this could be saved by scavenging hose clamps (from washing machines, for example), making it closer to $30).
Some thoughts on the whole thing:

When we interconnected the first three barrels, I was thinking that we could use them to make compost tea. For this reason, large plumbing is better as it is less likely to get clogged, and it would be ideal to be able to easily switch out the barrels. The problem with the idea of making compost tea in our rainbarrels is that good compost tea is made (in about 24 hours) by an aerobic process, meaning with air. If there is anywhere to plug in an extension cord, or a little solar panel, we could plug in an aquarium pump for areation. Otherwise, our other option is to stir out brew, – which frankly is my first choice: a 24 hour compost tea making party! combine it with a barndance- but stirring the three barrels as presently situated would be awkward. It would be much better to make compost tea in an area where we could form a circle around it.

I was also thinking we could drown our weeds (as a permaculture teacher of mine did this: he would drown his seedy weeds for 3-4 days, then compost them, and he bragged of good finished compost in 6 weeks in the summer) in onion sacs to accelerate our compost. But that site is too under-control to produce enough big, seedy weeds to drown!

In conclusion, I think the burly interconnection system is overkill for our site at this time, but I do think it is a great demonstration of a highly functional water catchement system for the community to observe, and it hold possibilities for future on-site usages.

(Maybe we could still plant some cattails and reeds in the them to clean the water while it waits).

May these systems be useful in the future, and may these two systems show a spectrum of interconnection methods, from the cheap-and-easy to a heavier gauge and easier maintenance. May it inspires more great water catchment systems.

If you have built one, or know anyone who has, and have any comments to add, please do. If your are now inspired to build your own then please do drop in a note too.

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On Saturday we created a water collection system that will hold a half -tonne of rainwater. (All we need now is the rain.)


So I knew that a garden needs water, and a good rain collection system would be a much loved resource in future. I got a hold of some perfect barrels by putting as WANTED: rain barrels posting up on hrm_freecycle. They were delivered by Steven Spinney of Acadia Seaplants, with a lovely note. They are big, blue, 200L, and had held Certified Organic seaweed fertilizer. There is downspout that comes down into the garden, making temporary puddles in the garden after a heavy rain.

One of the first folks to a garden workparty was Derek, and upon further inquiry, he is a plumbing apprentice. Naturally, I asked him about interconnecting rainbarrels. I know how important they are, and roughly how I saw them going together, but I do not really know the technicalities . In the emails and on the blog we invited input and suggestions, but none came. Derek asked some of the boys at work, we chatted about strategies, and he went out to the plumbing supply shop his company frequents and bought the gear we needed.

When we talked on Friday night, he sounded a bit nervous about having spent a bit more than we were aiming for, but he wanted to get it bought that day, and went with the system that he would do if it was his. He went with the system that he felt would not get clogged, was easy to switch barrels out (to clean them or whatever), and using the least amount of expensive fittings.

On Saturday morning, shortly after I had arrived with two bails of hay that I towed in one of the collective bike trailers (hella heavy, but really rewarding to tow through traffic), Derek showed up with all the gear. The one key part that I had overlooked was the necessary reciprocating saw needed to get into the barrel. I know no one in town, and apparently there are no tool rental places nearby (like there are in Vancouver)… and then Lance and Veronica showed up! Lance rolled in with a couple of brilliant ideas right off the get go, such as cutting the top in a semi-circle and attaching it with little hinges to form a lid. And then he went home to get the rest of the tools we needed.

At this point, my heart flickered with satisfaction. With generosity, resourcefulness, and collaboration as the fabric of our projects, surely there is grace.

In the meantime, Dalhousie biology prof whose articles I have read in Canadian Organic Growers, Dave Patriquin, came by the garden to share a conversation I greatly enjoyed.

Lance brought in the tools we needed, Derek went a grabbed a length of pipe, and the interconnection began. Two others came by to check it out, and both commented that they were disappointed to see that it looked was made from expensive materials as they were looking for more low-cost solutions.

For the interconnection of the next three barrels we extend the invitation for input as how to best do this. One guy who showed up, Geoff, is reported to be the genius of great low-cost solutions, so I am inviting him to guide the next three.

David Baldwin, the apple guy!, checked the scene out as we were starting, then left to do his other errands, and returned. He had suggested to check out boating shops for fittings, and went by a boat shop to see if his suggestion was valid. The Binnacle (card at the garden) is where he went, and came back with an appropriate garden-hose diameter fitting for $3.95. Prices range, but apparently there are some really interesting fittings there. And interestingly, when David looked at Derek’s receipt, he was surprised at the how comparable the prices were.

Another suggestion was Lee Valley, I had totally forgotten about them, but I bet they do have some moderately priced appropriate gear. Freecycle is of course another great place to look. And where else folks? Where would you or did you get your gear?

I am thrilled with the system that we set up this weekend. I believe it was and will be worth every penny. I think it represents the more ‘ideal’ system, especially for brewing herbal fertilizers in. And I think it will be really easy to maintain, last a while, and could be added to in future. I am stoked by the interactions that went on, (although I am working on being a better hostess).

A copy of the receipt is available if you want it. And, if you have input about putting together a tight system on the super cheap, then tell us your secrets, and hopefully Geoff will help lead us there.

For the next three we need to build some sort of stand for the next three barrels to get them a few feet off the ground so that we can fill watering cans and even run a short hose. We have some wood. Any building or design volunteers? Come on with your suggestions now, rather than laughing at the not-as-good-as-it-could-be design that may result otherwise!

Ah yes, and sweet thanks to the sweet one who brought gifts of nettle, yarrow, and plantain to the garden. What lovely allies to bring in. Thank you .

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Ah, rain.

The EAT YER WEEDS! session with Savayda Jarone was postponed due to the delicious deluge.  We have re-scheduled for next Thursday, July 12,  same time –6:30pm, same place.  And I repeat, do come out;  this knowledge set is some of the most paradigm-shifting, re-connecting, and empowering wisdom attainable in two free hours.

Saturday July 7.  Our plumber friend has come through, mined the mines of his plumbing co-workers, and is going to purchase the goods to interconnect our rainbarrels.  Young plumbers gaining skills in low-tech, rain-harvesting strategies: it warms my heart.  And we are next.  Assuming it is not a total deluge, Saturday morning around 11am let’s interconnect our donated rainbarrels to gather these sweet rains.

And, on Saturday, lets build a big, phat, sheet-compost for our squash plants.  Second to knowing our medicinal weeds, this is one of the most useful, energy efficient, light-living skills we can know.

The following Saturday, July 14, perhaps we should do Intro to Permaculture.  I will have to bust my bootie to get this together, but it is the last of my free Saturdays, so let’s do it.

What is Permaculture?  Check out the good ol’ Wikipedia definition;  the collection of Permaculture videos on YouTube, put together by  Permaculture Activist; and this month’s New Internationalist is titled ‘Edible Earth:  In search of Permaculture’.

While I am not a certified teacher of Permaculture, I do have my design certificate through Linnaea Ecological Garden Program, which is an 8 month intensive taught by some of the first Permaculture teachers in north america.

The next free Saturday for me is August 11, and on that day, together with the EAC, we have organized a solar dehydrator building workshop.   A solar dehydrator is a box the size of a small fridge, on stilts, with drying racks, that collects solar warmth, creating a convection current to dehydrate fruits, seeds, greens, and herbs.  Dehydrating is the most energy effecient, and ancient, way of preserving food.  It is also the best of way of preserving food while retaining the nutritional integrity of the food.  Solar dehydrators are great for sun-dried tomatoes, dried fuits, tea herbs, and for safely saving seed.  The more dehydrators in the city, the better.

To build the dehydrators, here is a list of materials to scavenge:

  • Wood : 2X4 or 2X2 lumber (scrap is fine, but pieces at least six feet long), boards or plywood to cover the box
  • Glass: old windows or panes of glass
  • Steel: metal duct (to make a chimney), sheet metal for the sun absorber plate
    nails and screws

At the workshop we will have a dehydrator to reburbish, giving us an idea of what we are aiming to build and lessons learned from experience.  I am going to collect the gear to make myself one, and you can gather the gear for yourself to make your own there using the tools, or just come by and watch.

In the meantime:

  • June 28, Herbalist Association of Nova Scotia, annual Herb fair on McNabbs Island.
  • August 4.  Evolve!  Weeds and wild walks out there, and dancing energy into mama.
  • August 10.  Intro to Permaculture at Red Fox Farm, for Heliotrust.

Still in the works:

  • Start a Nursery:  its your duty to biodiversity.  workshop
  • Micmac medicinal plants with Laurie Lacey
  • The sweet sacred, with Little Grandmother
  • fence beautification
  • gathering native plants to create a woodland garden

Oh yes, and do check the HUGG wiki (Halifax Urban Gardeners Group) for some other great opportunities to get involved with urban agriculture.  Of note, there is a brainstorming session on July 18 at the EAC, 7 pm, for the creation of a garden freecycle site and new community garden.

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Well, the beds are planted, the fence is up, some paths are mulched, the bulletin boards are up, our rainbarrels have arrived, and the university is engaged.

The garden has seen some lovely help in the last week, and is looking well loved for the efforts. Thanks to the transplant donations from Ted Hutton and Alex Denicola (beloved organic market farmers) and the help of the super-fun folks who have been coming out Thursdays and Saturdays, the beds are planted with brazilian snow peas, scarlet runner beans, lettuce, chard, carrots, cherry and beefstake tomatos, celery and celeriac, leeks, radishes, basil, cabbage, parsley, onions, broccoli, and chick peas. With the warm weather, things are really starting to gro.

In an effort to make the site look adorable and loved, we mulched some of the pathways with newpaper and sawdust, which also keeps the weeds down, adds some organic matter to the soil, and clearly denotes the walking areas.

The beds are all mulched with straw, thanks to Kim Thompson and Kyla whom left it there last year. If there was only one key to ecological gardening, it would be mulch. Mulch mulch mulch! It protects the soil from getting rock-hard and crusty, it protects and feeds the soil flora and fauna, it helps the soil retain moisture, and it builds soil rather than see it erode. In nature the soil is always covered with leaf ‘litter’ or plant cover; exposed soil is wounded soil. So our beds -even our pots- are mulched, giving the garden a cozy feel. (For more great info see Ruth Stout’s book, How to Have a Green Thumb Without an Aching Back).

Riverview Herbs donated a flat of herbs to us this week. The sweet folk gave us arnica, rue, angelica, lovage, hardy sweet marjoram, mother of thyme, betony, lavender, lime mint, and roman chamomile. The herbs are planted up in a sweet new bed made of glass bricks that wraps around the signpost and in a coupld other lucky spots around the garden. Having perrenials in the garden helps to give it a much more stable feel. Huge thanks to Riverview for being generous and appreciative of the value of collective gardens.

And our rainbarrels were delivered on Friday by Steve Spinney and Steve Trim of Acadia Seaplant, accompanied by a sweet note saying how much joy it brought to see our effort. Four huge rainbarrels delivered, free of charge, complete with traces of organic nutrients, and sent with a blessing.

The next step for the rainbarrels is putting them together. Earlier in the season a great guy who is a plumbing apprentice came through the garden. He said he would be interested in figuring what we need to connect three barrels together and put in a tap we could connect a garden hose to. I am hoping to hear back from his this week, and to connect the barrels together on Saturday. If you have any knowledge in this realm, have done it before, or have any gear you could donate to the mission, please email garden@nspirg.org. It would be great to have a discusion around the best methods, tips and tricks. And if you want to learn these skills for yourself come on by Saturday around 11am. (I will post an update friday afternoon to say if we are on for this project or not: hopefully someone of knowledge gets back to me so that I can make sure we have all the gear and tools we need to).

If you hear rainbarrels and are not interested, you think they are irrelevant to you, perhaps pause for a moment and think about water. Drinking water, washing your face, rinsing your lettuce… now remember what happens when the power goes out. Yup, there goes the water. As Alex says, “Doom is certain, gloom is optional”.

And, the university is wishing further engagement with the site. This is coming in a few forms: facilities management is organizing and paying for soil tests to be done on the site to find out is the soil is contaminated. While this means we cannot dig into the soil or eat anything grown directly in earth (but things in the raised beds are fine) until the soil tests come back negative, I think this a wonderful opportunity to dialogue about the future of urban agriculture. If the soil tests do come back indicating contaminated soils then we have an opportunity to learn about which vegetables uptake which contaminants, if those toxins are passed on to the animals who eat them, and methods of bioremediation. My perspective is that urban agriculture is going to become more and more popular in the near future, more out of necessity than fashion perhaps. Food will be grown in yards and balconies all over the city, and not all of us with have the priviledge of uncontaminated soils. With the resources and fine minds of Dalhousie University we have an opportunity to build a body of local knowledge on how to safely create and urban food supply.

If you have any comments, ideas, suggestions, or energy around any of this, know this is your garden and website too. Write a post, go hang out in the garden, share these ideas, come to the garden Thursday or Saturday…

The time of the lone wolf is over. Let what we do now not be in struggle or in the name of chore, but done in a sacred manner of celebration. “Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility”. Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

A stitch in time saves nine.

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