Back in the day, I loved to read. I read on the couch. I read in the car. And in the summer, I read... out on the driveway... in the rain! We had kid-sized folding lawn chairs, and I'd take one of those, umbrella in hand, book tucked under my arm, and park myself. It was inconvenient to hold both book and umbrella, so I devised a way to tie the umbrella to the chair back. That problem solved, I relaxed into the stories on the pages, and the concrete-warmed water running over and under my bare feet (blissfully unaware of the complications caused by warm stormwater runoff).
Some fifteen or twenty years later, Mr. Truffula and I bought our own house. [It also has a driveway, though I haven't read any books out there in the rain. :-) ] To help me collect water for the then-fledgling garden, I got four rain barrels.
We sited the barrels, and did the best we could to set up their water flow. Mr. Truffula wielded the hacksaw to cut off the downspouts. We then attached an extender to feed water into the barrels... checked the forecast. Now, I could hardly wait until the next drops fell!
The rain came soon enough, and out I went. Holding the umbrella while needing both hands to adjust hoses and barrels was no easier than it had been to juggle my book. I alternately cast the umbrella aside and did a sort of umbrella handle tuck between my ear and shoulder, like you would do with a phone. I quickly learned that rain barrel tweaks coincide with downpours, since that is when your hook-up failures become (painfully) obvious.
What I didn't know then was how I'd also learn to (re)love rain in the forecast. It's not "bad" weather (except when I'm in the midst of my public transportation commute!); it supplies my plants with precious drinks of water. Each rainfall helps to recharge my 200-gallon supply.
Lugging the water around in 5-gallon buckets underscores its value. The buckets are heavy. I aim carefully for the root zones. Any spills, mis-pours, or runoff mean more trips back and forth. They also mean that some of the stored supply is wasted. That's not a big issue when it rains frequently enough. In stretches of drought, it has gotten dicey. I'm loath to use drinking water out in the yard. To avoid emptying the barrels completely, I start rationing water long before public water restrictions kick in. When the barrel bottoms come into sight, shower water gets pressed into service.
I'm also more in tune with the seasons. Before the winter freeze sets in, the barrels need to be emptied. Ideally, I accomplish that task before the water gets really, really cold. I'm grateful for that when it splashes onto my hands and pants. And, when the likelihood of a barrel freeze passes, it's time to connect everything back up to start collecting for the next growing season.
What unexpected lessons have you learned from your garden watering?