How do you use your rain barrel?

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Water’s on my mind, as the rains seem to be drying up for the summer (kinda early, don’t you think?). Plus, there have been a couple of times recently when I used a whole bunch of water that I wouldn’t normally have used.

One was to fill (and then boil) my big canner, for processing the strawberry preserves I made. I don’t know how many gallons it holds, but let’s put it this way: I fill that bad boy in the bathtub because to do it in the sink would take a good eight or 10 minutes. I’m planning to dip my watering can in there and spread that now-cooled water around to the houseplants.

Another was to fill our wading pool. I know, I know! But it wasn’t just my daughter who had fun in there; she had two friends with her, so the ratio of water usage to baby joy was pretty reasonable. And again, I’ll use the water to quench our garden–I would have been watering with the hose anyway.

Here’s the confessional, readers: We don’t have a rain barrel. Not to say we won’t someday have one, but that emblem of the eco-household has so far failed to grace our estate. We’ve set up makeshift ones with garbage cans before, but they fill up in no time when a big rain happens, and we don’t have a good system for distributing the water after that.

I’d like to know how other folks manage their rain barrels. What happens when you can’t use up all the stored water before the next rain? Does the barrel just start overflowing or is there a way to divert the extra water? And how do you remove the water–by dipping a container, or by some clever gravity-fed plumbing?

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