Sunday, November 10, 2013

Cabin Life: The Rain Barrel

First SnowThe snow is falling quickly and quietly outside.  I have a nice fire and a glass of bourbon to keep me warm and dry though, so all is right with my little world.

I love the first real snow fall of the year.  Everything looks so clean and neat, and the world is quiet.  The birds aren’t making any noise, the few deer that took off running when I let Pico out hardly made a sound, and tree limbs are hanging low, heavy with fresh wet snow.

This is isn’t the first snow of the year, but it’s the first one that might stick and be around for a little while.  Every night before now that I’ve had a fire, I didn’t worry about keeping it going all night.  The new stove cranks out heat, especially when it’s loaded with the dead elm that my friend dropped off for me.  In fact, tonight will the first night that I’ve had a fire where I won’t be going to sleep with a few windows open.

It was gray and cold all day, but above freezing.  It rained and misted and was foul, but then the snow finally started to fall.  We’ve all known that winter was coming, so there is no surprise here, but hoping for a nice easy winter like the one two years ago may be asking for too much.  The skier in me wants to see the snow fly, but the off-grid, no plow-guy-lined-up me wanted a nice easy winter.  With all the rain we’ve been getting though, it was only a matter of time until it turned into snow.  So be it.

After letting the chickens out yesterday morning, I went to wash my hands.  That’s become my morning ritual, mainly because the chickens are kind of gross.  I mean, they poop a lot, and there’s no way of taking care of them without getting some on my hands.

The big white rain barrel I’ve kept all summer has been great for this, and I even took to leaving a bar of home-made soap out on the rock next to the barrel.  Then the soap started to disappear.  I don’t know what was taking it or why, but I still have quite a few bars left to get me through for a while.

The problem yesterday wasn’t a lack of soap though.  I brought some out with me to use right away, but when I tried to turn the handle on the barrel, it didn’t move.  The water wasn’t frozen solid, but the handle and nozzle were.  I had to bring my soap back inside and wash up.  Not that big a deal, you might think, but to me this means a lot.

First, my wash water is gone for the winter.  I’m back to using my precious drinking water to wash, and to give water to the chickens.  No more getting all nasty and just washing up outside.  Now I have to somehow pre-wash my hands so that my drinking water jug doesn’t get contaminated.  I have a feeling that I’ll be melting a lot of snow on the stove this year.

The other thing that I’ll miss about the rain barrel is the feeling of back up and security.  This was not water that I would drink, but coming off the metal porch roof, it was fine enough for the chickens, cats and Pico.  It would also have been fine for washing dishes if it really came down to it as well.

Now, it’s not that I’ll be hurting for water, there are a few places where I can fill my jug, so I’m not losing any sleep over the loss of the rain barrel.  But it was a stark reminder of the comforts of summer, and the lack of ease of winter.

 

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Justin A Levine

Having grown up in the southern Adirondacks, Justin has always been at home in the mountains of New York. After graduating from Paul Smiths College, he began his career in the environmental field working for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. After a brief five year detour to Florida, Justin returned to the Adirondacks to live off the grid in a small cabin with no running water or electricity.

Justin continues to work and play in the outdoors, and maintains a blog about living off grid, hiking, and being outside in the Adirondacks called Middle of the Trail.







5 Responses

  1. Bill Ott says:

    I read every one of your posts at least once. If I leave my woman, it will be because of you. What kind of beer do you like, anyway?
    B Ott

  2. Mary Misek m misek says:

    Mice love soap so they probably took it!

  3. John Jongen says:

    My 55-gallon recycled plastic rain-barrel has served us well for 23 seasons here in western NY on the Erie Canal. Before the first hard frost it must be emptied or the ice will tear it apart. Instead of wasting the water I fill all of the water containers to provide water for the non-hardy potted plants during the winter months. Then I fill five-gallon buckets to overwinter a few of the water hyacinths from the pond. It is the seasonal water dance without which the garden venue would be a different place.

  4. chuck samul says:

    Rain barrels rock! given that 1,000 sq ft of roof will yield 600+ gallons from a one inch rain event, they are a valuable resource and cheap and easy to care for – but for heavens sake get the water out of them in cold season. john jongen is correct – failure to do so is a gamble at destruction.
    justin – have you considered an indoor cistern – assuming you have a basement or other conditioned space to put it?

  5. marjie says:

    Just discovered your blog and am fascinated with how you are adapting w/out electricity.