DIY Rain Barrel

Tutorial courtesy of Hey!Tanks LA:

Reduce your water bill and help the envi­ron­ment in a weekend

Look­ing for a great week­end project for the entire fam­ily? Mak­ing your own rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing bar­rel is an inex­pen­sive, safe and reli­able start to get a rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing sys­tem in place.


  1. 55gal. plas­tic food barrel
  2. 3/4” spigot
  3. 1/2” hose
  4. screen
  5. 6” diam­e­ter plas­tic flowerpot
  6. 1/2” hose barb
  7. 90′ 1/2” hose barb


  1. marker
  2. tin snips
  3. 5/8” & 7/8” pad­dle bit
  4. jig saw
  5. drill
  6. mea­sur­ing tape
  7. wrench
  8. 1/2” & 3/4” tap


Turn flower pot upside down and set it on top of the bar­rel. Place the pot equal dis­tance between the two white caps and approx­i­mately 1/3 over the seam line. With a Sharpie, trace around the flowerpot.

With the cir­cle you just traced as a guide, draw another cir­cle inside the first. Make it about 1/4” smaller; this will be your pattern.

Cut out the smaller cir­cle with a jig saw or hand saw. To get this started, you can drill the ini­tial hole with a pad­dle bit.

With snips or heavy-duty scis­sors, cut a square piece of wire mesh to approx­i­mately the size of the bot­tom of the pot. Fold the cor­ners and place the mesh at the bot­tom of the flow­er­pot. Make sure not to leave any open spaces or gaps. Next, fill about 1/3rd of the pot with 3/4” gravel. This “fil­ter” will set in the hole you made in the bar­rel top.


Water weighs about eight pounds a gal­lon (A full 55 gal­lon bar­rel will weigh over 400 pounds!). It’s impor­tant to set the bar­rel level upon a hard sur­face. In most cases, dirt will turn into sink­ing mud when it gets wet. Build­ing a “sand­box” out of treated lum­ber (reclaimed is prefer­able and often locally avail­able) is a good way to rem­edy this. Fill the box with aggre­gate, gravel, or some other hard mate­r­ial that doesn’t absorb water. Besides keep­ing the bar­rel from sink­ing or tip­ping, the sand­box raises your water supply.


Draw a mark on the front of the bar­rel, 4” from the bot­tom. Do this in the cen­ter, on the side where the large, top hole, over­laps the least. This is where the spigot will go. With your mark­ing as a guide, drill a hole with a 7/8” pad­dle bit.

Tap the hole with a ¾” tap. It is impor­tant to only give this-only a few turns, once it catches. Also, try to make your “tap” as straight as pos­si­ble. It’s best to lay the bar­rel hor­i­zon­tally, while drilling and tapping.

Screw the spigot into the hole you just tapped. Use a large wrench to tighten. Tighten until the spigot is snug. When you notice the out­side o ring begin to “squish”- Stop!


With a 5/8” pad­dle bit, drill a hole about 2” from the top of the bar­rel and fol­low with a 1/2” tap. Screw the 1/2” hose barb into the hole. Slip a few feet of hose onto the barb.


If you wish to “daisy chain” your bar­rel, choose a spot approx­i­mately the same height as the spigot and drill a hole with a 5/8 pad­dle bit, fol­lowed by a 1/2” tap. Screw in a 1/2” hose barb and con­nect appro­pri­ate size hose length (gar­den hose and poly tub­ing for drip irri­ga­tion work well). If needed, you can plug this con­nec­tor with an end cap.


There are many options here. Use your knowl­edge, intu­ition, and skills. Try to chal­lenge your­self to use as few resources as pos­si­ble and re-use mate­ri­als where you can. Often the sim­plest sys­tem works the best. Like my musi­cian friend says: “play with what you got”


There are many great rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing resources on the web. Amer­i­can Rain­wa­ter Catch­ment Asso­ci­a­tion and TreeP­eo­ple TreeP­eo­ple are good places to start.

You can call us toll free 1(877) 648‑2657 to order the do-it-yourself-kit.

I’m SO making one of these for my mom when she moves into a house (hopefully) this spring. With California and the rest of the Southwest in a 1000-year drought, it makes no sense why ANY homeowner or home-renter wouldn’t have one or three of these in their yard.

Remember victory gardens? We need to get a head-start on some “victory reservoirs” before we start hurting any more than we currently do.

Authentic Sharing

An interesting op ed piece from The New Inquiry:


“Sharing economy,” of course, is a gratingly inappropriate terms to describe a business approach that entails precisely the opposite, that renders the social field an arena for microentrepreneurship and nothing else. Yet the vestiges of “sharing” rhetoric clings to such companies as Airbnb and a host of smaller startups that purport to build “trust” and “community” among strangers by getting them to be more efficient and render effective customer service to one another. What more could you ask of a friend?

By bringing a commercial ethos to bear on exchanges that were once outside the market, the civilizing process that is often attributed to the “bourgeois virtues” of capitalism — with successful economic exchange building the only form of social trust necessary — gets to spread itself over all possible human relationships. The only real community is a marketplace in which everyone has a fair shot to compete.

The freedom of anonymous commercial exchange amid a “community” of well-connected but essentially atomized strangers well-disciplined by the market to behave conventionally and sycophantically is not the sort of community the sharing companies tend to crow about in their advertising. The rhetoric of the sharing economy’s trade group, Peers, is instead saturated with testimonials of communal uplift and ethical invigoration. In an essay about the cult-like methods of sharing-economy indoctrination, Mike Bulajewski cites many, many examples of the companies’ blather about community and the ornamental techniques they encourage among users to sustain the illusion. (Fist-bump your driver! Neato!) He notes that “What’s crucial to realize is that proponents of “sharing” are reinventing our understanding of economic relations between individuals so that they no longer imply individualism, greed or self-interest” — i.e., the bourgeois virtues, which make for atomized “metropolitan” people whose freedom (such as it is) is protected in the form of anonymity and equal treatment in the marketplace. “Instead,” Bulajewski writes, “we’re led to believe that commerce conducted on their platforms is ultimately about generosity, helpfulness, community-building, and love.”

Is this rhetoric fooling anyone? Marketing professors Giana M. Eckhardt and Fleura Bardhi suggest that it is bad for their business. In an article for the Harvard Business Review they recount their research that found that consumers don’t care about “building community” through using services like Airbnb and Lyft; they actually just want cheaper services and less hassle. They want consumerist “freedom,” not ethical entanglements. The platforms are popular because they actually diminish social interaction while letting users take advantage of small-time service providers who are often in precarious conditions and have little bargaining leverage. You “trust” the sharing-platform brand while you exploit the random person offering a ride or an apartment (or whatever) without having to negotiate with them face to face.

When “sharing” is market-mediated — when a company is an intermediary between consumers who don’t know each other — it is no longer sharing at all. Rather, consumers are paying to access someone else’s goods or services for a particular period of time. It is an economic exchange, and consumers are after utilitarian, rather than social, value.

That seems almost self-evident. The sharing-economy companies are not a way to temper capitalism (and its tendency to generate selfish individualists); they just allow it to function more expediently. The sharing economy degrades “social value,” defined here as the interpersonal interactions that aren’t governed by market incentives and economistic rationality, in favor or expanding the “utilitarian value” of consumption efficiency, more stuff consumed by more individuals (generating more profit). Utilitarian value is impeded by the need to deal with other humans, who can be unpredictable or have irrational demands.

Eckhardt and Bardhi propose “access economy” as an alternative term to sharing economy. One might presume “access” refers to the way consumers can pay brokering companies for access to new pools of labor and rental opportunities. Think “shakedown economy” or “bribe economy.” Middlemen like Uber who (like an organized-crime racket) achieve scale and can aggressively bypass the law can put themselves in a prime position to collect tolls from people seeking necessary services and the workers who hope to provide them.

But Eckhardt and Bardhi want to use the term to differentiate renting from owning. People are content to buy access to goods rather than to acquire them as property. Viewing the sharing economy from that angle, though, you can almost see why some are beguiled by its communitarian rhetoric. The sharing economy’s labor practices are abhorrent, but we might overlook all that if we think instead of how it liberates us from being overinvested in the meaning of our stuff. Leaving behind consumerist identity presumably could open the space for identity based in “community” (though it would be more accurate to say an identity based on caste, and what services you render).

Renting is very bad for marketers (it’s not “best practices,” the marketing professors note), because people don’t invest any of their identity into brands they merely rent. They don’t commit to them, don’t risk their self-concept on them. “When consumers are able to access a wide variety of brands at any given moment, like driving a BMW one day and a Toyota Prius the next day, they don’t necessarily feel that one brand is more ‘them’ than another, and they do not connect to the brands in the same closely-binding, identity building fashion.” So what marketers want consumers to want is ownership, which puts their identity in play in a more high-stakes way and gives advertisers something to sink their teeth into. Whether or not consumers actually want to own so many things is a different question. Marketers must insist that they know what consumers want (that’s their rationale for their job); the benefits consumers supposedly reap according to marketers are actually just the ideological tenets of marketing.

This helps bring into focus what a true sharing economy — one that discouraged ownership while imposing reciprocal human interaction — might accomplish. Marketers approve of “brand communities” that let isolated people ”share identity building practices with like-minded others,” but little else. That is, in such communities they can “share” without sharing. They can “share” by buying products for themselves.

But with more widely distributed rental opportunities, identity anchored in what one owns can potentially be disrupted. As Eckhardt and Bardhi  write:

When consumers are able to access a wide variety of brands at any given moment, like driving a BMW one day and a Toyota Prius the next day, they don’t necessarily feel that one brand is more “them” than another, and they do not connect to the brands in the same closely-binding, identity building fashion. They would rather sample a variety of identities which they can discard when they want.

If not for the burden of ownership, then, consumers would conceivably try on and discard the identities implied by products without much thought or sense of risk. They would forgo the “brand community” for a more fluid sense of identity. Perhaps they would anchor their identity in something other than products while enjoying the chance to play around with personae, by borrowing and not owning the signifying resonances of products.

Perhaps that alternate anchor for the self could be precisely the sort of “social value” human interaction that exceeds the predictable, programmable exchanges dictated by the market, and its rational and predictable incentives. This is the sort of interaction that people call “authentic.” (Or we could do away with anchors for the self altogether and go postauthentic — have identity only in the process of “discarding” it.)

Companies like Lyft and Airbnb do nothing to facilitate that sort of interaction; indeed they thrive by doing the opposite. (Authenticity marketing, incidentally, does the same thing; it precludes the possibility of authenticity by co-opting it.) They subsume more types of interaction and exchange to market structures, which then they mask by handling all the money for the parties involved. This affords users the chance to pretend to themselves that the exchange has stemmed from some “meaningful” rather than debased and inauthentic commercial connection, all while keeping a safe distance from the other party.

Sharing companies use their advertising to build a sort of anti-brand-community brand community.  Both sharing companies and brand communities mediate social relations and make them seem less risky. Actual community is full of friction and unresolvable competing agendas; sharing apps’ main function is to eradicate friction and render all parties’ agenda uniform: let’s make a deal. They are popular because they do what brand communities do: They allow people to extract value from strangers without the hassle of having to dealing with them as more than amiable robots.

When sharing companies celebrate the idea of community, they mean brand community. And if they appropriate rhetoric about breaking down the attachment to owning goods as a means of signifying identity and inclusion, it’s certainly not because they care about abolishing personal property, or pride in it. It’s because they are trying to sell their brand as an alternative to the bother of actually having to come up with a real alternative to product-based personal identity. They just let us substitute apps and platforms in for the role material goods played. They cater to the same customer desire of being able to access “community” as a consumer good.

The perhaps ineluctable problem is that belonging to communities is hard. It is inefficient. It does not scale. It doesn’t respond predictably to incentives. It takes more work the more you feel you belong. It requires material sacrifice and compromise. It requires a faith in other people that exceeds their commercial reliability. It entails caring about people for no reason, with no promise of gain. In short, being a part of community is a total hassle but totally mandatory (like aging and dying), so that makes us susceptible to deceptive promises that claim to make it easy or avoidable, that claim to uniquely exempt us. That is the ruse of the “sharing economy”—the illusion it crates that everyone is willing to share with you, but all you have to do is download an app.

Meanwhile, the sharing economy’s vision of everyone entrepreneurializing every aspect of their lives promotes an identity grounded in the work one can manage to win for oneself, in the scheming and self-promoting posture of someone always begging for a job. If its vision of the economy comes true, no one would have the luxury to do little sharing-economy tasks on the side but would instead have to do them to survive. And there would be no safety net because there would be no political solidarity to generate it, and many of its functions will have been offloaded to sharing-economy platforms. The result would be less a community of equals exchanging favors than a Hobbesan war of all against all, with the sharing-company Leviathans furnishing the battlefield and washing their hands of the casualties.

Remember the 5th R here: reclaim. Reclaim your community and your relationships from the grip of commodification.

I’m Removing “Sustainability” from My Vocabulary

I’ve seen a few criticisms of the word and concept floating around recently, but this is the passage that’s officially made me put the term to rest:

Then there’s this idea of sustainability. What exactly does sustainable even mean?

In breaking down the word “sustainability” to try to flesh out what it really entails, Toby Hemenway’s lecture How Permaculture Can Save Humanity and The Planet, but not Civilization, illuminates the conversation. What he posits is that sustainability is, in fact, a bit of a misnomer. It’s not really something that relates to a healthy ecology, but rather survival amidst destruction. For example, so-called sustainable logging may not directly affect the logging of other forests outside of designated sustainable logging coup, but it doesn’t help heal any of the destruction that has been, will be, and is currently waged on these forests. So Hemenway places sustainability as a halfway point between what he refers to as degenerative and regenerative practice. The former relates to actions that facilitate the degradation of ecosystems (i.e. everything the dominant culture does), whilst the latter facilitates ecosystem healing (i.e. everything the dominant culture doesn’t do). It’s an interesting point, and in fact helps break down the façade that claims that this buzzword, sustainability, is helping to save the planet. It’s greenwashing again, trying to excuse our destructive lifestyles. So in permaculture, regenerative practice attempts to mimic natural ecological functions that help repair the different types of damage that have been inflicted by civilisation. The message is clear; ceasing civilisation’s damage to the earth and being “sustainable,” will not save the earth. Until you find me a solar panel that doesn’t require mining, the damage is still being done.

From Uncivilizing Permaculture: An Anti-Civilization And Anti-Colonial Critique Of “Sustainable Agriculture”

Realized that I haven’t written an intro post for permaculture yet. I’ll do that soon.

#4Liters Post-Game

It’s been almost a week since my last day of the challenge, and I’m still thinking about what doing it meant, if anything. I don’t think I’ve technically “completed” the challenge yet, because I haven’t uploaded a photo and video yet, but I just don’t really know what to feature. I still have my bottle and jug, I could probably show off the amount of water they hold– it’s one thing to read “1 liter”, it’s another thing to actually see what that means.

But in the end, I think I can say I really just learned one thing from all this:

Living in water poverty is easy when you’re not also living in financial poverty.

That’s about all there is to the whole thing. Support water sovereignty, fight poverty, destroy capitalism.

Have I changed any habits? A few, I think… I’m getting into the habit of only using running water from the shower head to wash my hair, keeping the drain closed so that I can do everything else–shave, especially–with the water gathered in the tub. I’ve also stopped using my old pans, instead using the cast iron Lodge one exclusively. No washing necessary!

Other than that, there’s not much else I can do to use less water. I’m using practically nothing compared to most other people already, been doing it for months, and see no reason I’d need to stop.

What can you do to use less water? What can you do to raise awareness about water poverty?

#4Liters Days 4-6

I think I was expecting more from this.

I was expecting it to be hard, grueling, time-consuming. But it’s not. I can only make my day-to-day life so inconvenient, you know? No matter what I do, the faucets will be there to refill my gallon jug in the morning. The water that comes out of the tap will be impeccably clean– I won’t have to worry about it killing me.

I was already doing my laundry by hand, what’s cutting down the water usage? The big leap of not using the machine to get my clothes clean has already been made. I’ve already begun rediscovering low-tech and manual alternatives to many conveniences of the western world and integrating them into my life. Is that what messes most people up when they do the 4 Liters challenge?

For me this has been learning on two diametrically opposed fronts (or rather, two sides of the same coin): 1. that I will never be able to replicate the life of someone living in water poverty on the other side of the globe, and that they need real water sovereignty NOW, and 2. still, we here in the affluent West can, and ought to, do so many things to waste less. Humans have an impeccable ability to adapt to doing without. Have you ever heard someone talk about not “knowing” that they were poor growing up, but were happy anyways? We all have that in us.

What would it look like infrastructurally if we were to start finding wasted water as abhorrent as we find animal abuse? What would our kitchens and bathrooms look like in that world? What would our sunscreen be made out of? What would our cars run on?

Getting my fellow Westerners to waste less water has absolutely no bearing on water poverty in developing nations, has no bearing on corporate waste, the waste of big ag, or the enclosing of the water commons around the world by exploitative capitalist scum. But maybe not just raising awareness about the preciousness of water, but calling for the development of a mindful relationship with the water in our lives, the building of a foundation of a praxis, can help to turn our actions outward. And maybe, eventually, we’ll start making demands.

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Video: Food industry “funding effect”

Originally posted on Vox Populi:

The “funding effect” refers to the uncanny resemblance between the scientific researchers conclusions and the desired outcome of the underwriters of the research.

The story behind the first U.S. dietary recommendations report explains why to this day the decades of science supporting a more plant-based diet have yet to translate into public policy.

View original

#4Liters Day 3

Not much to report here. Didn’t shower today, didn’t cook today, but I did accidentally leave the skillet out with crud on it so now I’ve got to use extra water to clean it. If only I’d taken my own advice and wiped it down right after eating!

Once again I’m left with an extra 2+ liters of water, though, which will come in handy when I scrub down tomorrow.

Started to wonder today why, exactly, this whole thing felt so easy. It shouldn’t feel easy. It shouldn’t feel relatively stress-free. People in Burkina Faso just barely eke out a living on a gallon of water per person per day and here I am, going about my first world business, wondering why…

…oh right, it’s because I’m in the first world, dur.

I don’t have to set aside a half liter of water to make bread. Or a whole liter to make a pot of rice. Or nervously part with some for my goat so she can give me milk. I have a (relatively) climate-controlled environment that allows me to be in my home without getting hot and losing precious moisture. I have potable–potable! water! wonder of wonders!–coming out of every faucet in the house, clean so that I don’t have to live with diarrhea or something worse that makes dehydration all the easier to achieve. I don’t have to spend hours of my day going to go get the water.

Tomatoes use tons of water; beets too. And by eating them when, say, my father treats me to dinner at a vegan restaurant, I get that moisture. And for every bite I take of juicy fruit or vegetable, that’s one less sip of water I need to drink later. I have simply outsourced my water acquisition, cheating in a way that I could never set straight.

The challenge was always a farce– I knew it was. But now I’m beginning to understand how much of a farce it is. And still, I will continue to play at water poverty. For some reason, I have to keep trying.

#4Liters Day 2

I have a phone again! So here’s a few pictures this time.

Today I woke up and took my pills: one supplement and one Rx. For a couple of years now I’ve been taking Black Cohosh every day to alleviate night sweats. For some reason, the BC didn’t seem to work for me last night and I wound up with sweats anyway, which was probably the reason for me waking up so dehydrated. Which, while taking the challenge (or actually being water-poor), is not a situation you want to be in. It’s like Les Stroud says:

You sweat, you die.

So I wake up with cotton mouth and a headache because I’d wrung myself out like a sponge all night. Like at that episode of Spongebob. You know, this one:

Anyways, not a great start to my day, is what I figured. Fortunately for me, that was not the case! In fact, I managed to make pretty good use of my water for the day even though I’m currently cutting it very close as I get ready for bed here.

First thing I did was water my beets– they’re in full sun, now, and have to be watered more than last month. Next up was a bit of laundry and a bath.

So above is my 5 gallon Home Depot bucket and my set of “nesting plastic tote bin things”. I have no idea what to call them because the plastic is floppy enough to bring the handles together and carry like a tote bag, but it also holds its shape. There are two of the tote-bins there, nested.The top one has holes drilled into the bottom to make washing clothes way super easy.

I fill up the bottom tote-bin with about 2 liters of water from the orange bucket. This is after I “bathed” and am about ready to throw the clothes in. Normally the water would be dirtier-looking than this, but I didn’t wash my hair so no soap was used except for my face.  (I rarely ever use body soap because it dries me out.)

And this is what it looked like after all my clothes had finally gotten saturated. There wasn’t actually enough water in there for the fabric to even soak up; I had to add another half liter or so. At this point, I just started agitating the laundry as best I could without being able to use my breathing hand washer. I sort of kneaded it like dough, punching down to move the water through the fibers. I wrung each one out a bit, scrubbed the undies, and did a little more agitating before wringing out each one, hanging them to dry outside, and reserving the water for later.

After this, I went downstairs for some lunch and realized that I had no almond milk to make a protein shake with. I’d been soaking almonds for a few days in the fridge at that point, so all I had to do was blend them up with… some water. Right. This was important stuff for me, though, so I sacrificed a whole 3 cups of water to make milk with.

I got a ride about then to go grab my bike from my mom’s place, who lives a few miles away, and rode the bike home in ~80F heat, sweating quite a bit by the time I got home. I drank a good bit of water after that.

Some time later in the afternoon, I went on a walk with my mom around the neighborhood near the Huntington Library, and had some more water. At that point I was sure I’d run out before the day was over, but I got lucky again. I’d gotten notified that I had a free Starbucks birthday drink to redeem, and satisfied a good amount of my daily water needs from the coffee I got. Cheating? Yes. Not going to deny it.

When I got home after running some errands, I had just enough water left (plus a little more for sipping) to make some pasta. PASTA. Granted, I used the least amount of water that I’ve ever used for boiling pasta; I had to stir a few times to keep the shells from sticking to anything and to make sure they were cooking evenly in the shallow liquid. But I pulled it off, and wound up tossing them with some random veggies and topping it all off with heaping piles of DIY vegan parmeasan (cashews, almond meal, nutritional yeast flakes, and salt in a blender).

Anyways, I’m off to bed now. Wish me luck with the sweats. :P

Today’s takeaway: Dishes don’t need cleaning quite as extensively as you think they do. Sometimes all they need is a good wipe-down. Oh, and cooking with oil guarantees a need for lots of water-based clean-up. Try to avoid cooking with oil when you don’t have much water. BUT, if you do, be sure to use a cast iron skillet– you’re not supposed to wash those anyways. Just wipe down with a damp cloth, and any remaining residue just becomes part of the “seasoning”. I’m seriously beginning to reconsider my “need” for any kind of skillet OTHER than cast iron.

#4Liters Day 1

Well, today… sucked as far as the challenge goes. I completely forgot it was Super Bowl Sunday (I could’t care less about sports–aka manly soap operas), and was therefore at someone’s house and away from my water jug for most of the afternoon.

In my defense, though, I used nary over a cup’s worth to wash my hands throughout the day, and far under-utilized my day’s allotment without legitimately cheating. However I did forget on several occasions while I was at home to stop mindlessly reaching for the faucet.

The gardener and I finally finished (more or less) the compost bin for this side of the condo complex, so now I can finally start throwing shit in there that my worms can’t handle! And I can probably give away the bokashi bin because it’s a pain in the ass for me! And I don’t eat meat anymore either! (A big selling point for bokashi composting is its ability to break down animal products.)

The upside is that I get 3 liters to put into my reserve bucket tomorrow: I only drank 1 liter of water today + 3 beers at the super bowl party.

Which is good. I have some laundry to do tomorrow.