Double barrel

“Your weekend sounds like my nightmare.”

That’s what my friend Casie said once, when I was laying out my plans for a few easy home improvement projects on a spare weekend a while back.

If I told her what I’d planned to do on Memorial Day weekend, she might not have been able to sleep for a few days.

The plan? To empty the two rain barrels on one side of the house and build a more permanent — and higher, and level — structure for them to perch on. Permanent because we plan to finally gutter the roof water to the barrels rather than just catch what spills off into them. Higher to add water pressure so that the water will make it for the 30-foot run from the house to the garden up front. And level because, well, something might as well be level on the property.

Anyway, I didn’t think the project would really be all that. And this would give me the chance to use the various and sundry cinder blocks that had been gathering here and there on the property.

We used what I’m guessing was 20 gallons in the barrels giving the front lawn what will probably be its only non-rain watering of the year. (Drink up, St. Augustine, drink up.) I moved the empty barrels out of the work zone, gathered all my various cinder blocks to one place, to survey how best to use them all. I had four different sizes, as it turns out.

I hand-tilled the ground where I’d be building, stomped it down as best as I could, laid a little gravel there to stabilize the foundation, and started playing with constructing the little bunker.

We wanted the two barrels side-by-side and more than two full cinder blocks up, for appropriate pressure. (If I could get them 2 feet above ground, I’d get a little better than 2 pounds per square inch. That’s not enough pressure for a good shower, but it’s plenty to drive a hose.)

Another thing on the “want” list was a couple of protruding chambers from the cinder blocks to plant in. Might as well build in a way to make this thing pretty, right?

After a little trial and error, we ended up with something like this:

And then, with a final course of half-height blocks on top, in a basket-weave pattern:


I did have to go buy 12 more full-sized blocks to get the height we wanted. But otherwise I was able to use all existing block and material — after some quality time with the masonry chisel, knocking off mortar from blocks we reclaimed from a shed I demolished at a rental property.

We’re happy with the finished product. We may brush some buttermilk on the blocks to see if we can get a little moss to grow on them. If that doesn’t work, we’ll probably paint them.

Of course, we need to plant something either flowering or edible in the little planter capsules on the sides.

As for the barrels, we still need to install the gutters before they’ll be collecting any more water. But we’re going to hold off for a minute while I explore an option to locally source some oak barrels instead of the blue plastic. They’ll look nicer on this fairly visible side of our house, and we can use these blue ones, which were reclaimed from RC Cola — and smelled like sasparilla at first! — on the other, more secluded side of the house. If we don’t succeed in scoring oak ones, though, we’ll paint these something fun. (Here’s my vote.)

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