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Does making your own rain barrel save you money? Part 2

Like most projects the rain barrel is taking way longer than expected, not because its difficult, but unplanned things keep cropping up. First slow down is finding time when Lee and I are both home and feel like working on it, which is not often. We started the first, most critical part, installing hose spigot. Since the barrel we have has no opening over 3 inches, we couldn’t insert spigot in bottom because we couldn’t reach inside and thread washer and nut on back of spigot. With out these there would be nothing holding it in the barrel, even though I saw some instructions that had you doing just that. So I came up with this idea, take the twist out plug in top, drill that out to, put spigot in that, then screw that back in, seal, flip the barrel over so that’s on the bottom now, and cut intake hole in what is now the top. So first thing we needed is a 7/8 hole saw to drill out a 1/2 inch hole, I know that sounds wrong but you have to measure the outside of the spigot to get right hole size. Here’s the plug and the bit we borrowed, we thought it was to expensive to buy for the one time use.

Drilling hole was the one part that made me nervous, get that wrong and we are done, but it went smoothly. Then I cut two washers to fit tightly over threads of spigot using the sheets of rubber. I assembled it from ‘outside’ in this order: Spigot, thread tape, washer, sealant, plug, sealant, washer, locking nut. The sealant we used was Goop for plumbing.












There was a second plug in the barrel which we also put plumber tape on, screwed back in tightly, and the coated seam with sealant. Here’s where the second slow down happened, you had to give the glue 24 hours to dry! Bah, we were just getting somewhere! Nope, have to leave it for now. We put some water in it before we sealed it up so we could see if it would leak, then came back to it the next day only to find it leaked like crazy from the second plug. I had been worried about the spigot, but that seemed fine, no leaks. So nothing to do but hit the leaky plug with a pile more sealant and wait another day. Next day, still leaks! More sealant! So now we have maybe 40 minutes of actual work and about 4 days of waiting to get a seal to finish up. Plan today was if it finally stopped leaking we could finish up with cutting hole in top for intake and overflow and set it up under downspout. We get all our tools out and tip the barrel over to test, and find that since we have over a inch of sealant in the center of the plug it hasn’t cured in the middle, its pushing out the soft inside in a bubble. Clearly this will need much longer to cure, so we have to wait a couple more days to do the rest. I really can’t believe this is taking this long! I never intended it to be a 3 part post, but can’t be helped, hope you tune in for the finale. So suspenseful, tune in next week and find out if our heros are able to pull it off or if they fail!

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Are traditional colleges on their way out?

Indiana University Auditorium, Bloomington. So...

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We’ve all heard it, “You have to have a college degree to get anywhere”. Over the last few decades it has become an assumption that every young person that can is going to go to college. It is seen as a tragic thing if parents cant save enough to provide tuition for all of their children.  Adults who didn’t go to college, no matter what their age, are often convinced that they need to go back to school and get that degree. We seem to think you can’t be a fully developed, intelligent, employable person with out it. Is this true, or are we just traveling along a rut with out thinking.

Here’s some of the questions that have been creeping into my mind. If everyone has a college degree, isn’t it now the same as a high school diploma in that most employers don’t care where you went to school, and the major is not critical, you just  have some sort of degree? Then it follows that you don’t need to travel to another state to go to some expensive or prestigious school, any degree will do. The other question I’d like to raise is do you need a degree at all for the career you are interested in? Sure if you are wanting to become a doctor or lawyer you won’t be able to get by without one. But what if you want to become a chef, a fashion designer, or electrician? Yes there are degrees and classes for those jobs, but I know plenty of people who didn’t get any college training at all who have made a career out of them. My point is there are many good jobs out there that you can learn to do in non traditional ways, and you can work your way into with out spending tens of thousands of dollars on a degree.  I think in this harsh economy people need to start thinking out side the box, they need to start asking what are you getting for your money when you pay for college.

Last month we were visiting an old friend who works for Indiana University in Bloomington Indiana. He says that tuition has gone up 300% in the last 5 years, and this increase has cut out the average middle class students who used to enroll leaving only the rich kids. He also noticed that the college is just now catching on to the fact that they need to teach solid skills that are needed to get jobs.  I know my experience in IU was that scholarly knowledge was great, you can learn anything you want there, but none of the teaching was geared to how you get a job, make a living, and keeping up with the changes in the job market. Maybe this was because I was an art student, maybe the business students got that, but shouldn’t all college programs have some sort of plan to help their students succeed in the real world? Especially since our world is now changing so rapidly that its unlikely you will stay at the same job for any real length of time. How angry will you be when the degree you payed dearly for is obsolete?

So here’s what I think is going to happen. I think traditional universities are going to price them selves out of the reach for everyone but the rich. I think online learning and technical schools will be the places that people turn to.  Online learning is already shaking things up. I’ve been hearing a lot lately about the Kahn Academy, thousands of Youtube videos which teach all sorts of subjects. Salman Kahn started making videos to tutor his relatives in math and found out it not only worked better than live lectures, others where watching them and clamoring for more. Now investors like Bill Gates and Goggle are funding him, and grade school classrooms are using the videos to develop exciting new ways of teaching. He’s even thinking of starting a private school, one that does away with grade levels and just teaches as much as possible, in more real world subjects like accounting, law, and finance.

The Kahn Academy is just one of the exciting online learning schools, we live in an age of information, anything you want to learn is online somewhere. Why are we acting like the brick and mortar Universities hold the only key to knowledge?  It is now very feasible to educate yourself in a wide variety of fields.  Sure you wont get to go to any beer bashes and there are no cute coeds  next door, but wouldn’t saving 30 to 50 thousands dollars (or more!) go a long way to getting where you want to be in this world?

Just a few of the online learning platforms to check out

Learn how everyday items work,

Share, revise, and remix ‘Knowledge chunks’ at

University lessons on your iphone, itunes 

Computer science from Google, Google Code U 

Art classes from MOMA, 

PBS classes,

125,000 lessons from Youtube EDU,


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Does making your own rain barrel save you money?

All summer long I’ve been wanting to get a rain barrel, but the ready made ones I’ve seen average around $100 so I’ve been hoping to build my own. We lucked out and had someone give us a large barrel, up until then I was planing to buy a big heavy trash can to use. Here’s what the barrel looks like, there are two plastic plugs that screw into the holes that are not in picture.

The down side is we don’t know what was in it, I’ve heard you need food barrels to make sure you don’t get any weird chemicals. I am going to chance it and just try to wash it out real good.

Next I’ve been watching videos on Youtube about how to make one, there are lots of them but it gets a little confusing because everyone does it a little differently. Here’s where we run into our first problems. Since there is no one way to design your barrel, there is not specific set of parts, in fact just about every video I watched used different parts. Add to that vague descriptions of what those parts were, and vague descriptions of how they are constructing the barrel I quickly see we will have to wing this a bit. Well really more that a bit. That’s no problem for me, I am used to not knowing what I am doing, but my husband Lee doesn’t like to start a big project that way. He’s convinced that even if we get the barrel built it’s not going to work as a way to water the garden. Specifically a hose attached to the bottom will not have enough pressure to get water to my plant beds. I am going with the assumption that since rain barrels are getting so popular the must work, a silly assumption I know but since its what I want to believe that’s what I am going with. Since he believes it wont work he’s assuming we’ll waste our time and money and then it will be a ugly lawn ornament. So no surprise this difference in philosophy lead to a lot of friction when we went to Home Depot and tried to design it while picking thru parts available. Fortunately there was a very helpful co worker at the Depot, he really helped me narrow down options (though PLEASE don’t assume you can go to a store NOT knowing what you want and the sales person will be able to figure it out for you! That really pissed the sales person off!), made suggestions, and walked me around to find the parts. I may have been irritated that Lee was being so negative and difficult, but he did point out some areas where my design plans were really fantasy and would not work at all. Like how is the hose spigot held into the barrel? The videos gloss over that. So we spent a long time going back and forth in the Depot, arguing. And the cost was adding up. By the time we left we had spent about $50 and still didn’t get all we needed, the hole saw bits were too expensive for a one time use so we were hoping to find someone to borrow it from, and we needed a jig saw to cut hole for inflow (the design we ended up with had us flipping the barrel over and drilling holes in the plugs for the hose spigot, you’ll see why later).  Of course we had no idea if our design would work, we might build it and be out the $50. Made me wonder if just coughing up the $100 wouldn’t have been a better idea. Time+aggravation+cost of materials=$100? Maybe. My motto, failure is always an option. I don’t mind the time being wasted, but really don’t want to waste the money, and I don’t think we can try to build it then if it doesn’t work return the parts. Well some of them maybe.

Well since I am too stubborn to stop now, onward and upward! Since others are so vague on what parts they used I will try to be more specific. Here’s a pic of what we got at the Depot.

Part of the problem is these parts don’t have names on them and I don’t know what they are used for normally, but I;ll do my best.

Flex a Spout from the gutter section (for routing the water from gutter to barrel) $9

Rubber sheet for cutting out gaskets (for sealing both inside and outside of the hose valve, this was the Depot guys suggestion not sure I couldn’t have found a gasket some where else) $5

Amazing Goop sealant (for sealing any hole/valves, this is also a suggestion from Depot guy)$4

5 inch PVC fitting, sorry don’t know what this is called, its narrower on bottom and has threads, we’ll be using it to funnel the water into the barrel from gutter tubing $6

1/2 inch hose big valve (for water to come out of barrel into hose)$6

5 inch hose clamp (to clamp screen over PVC funnel so debris and bugs don’t get into barrel)$2

1o ft of  1 inch flexible plastic tube for overflow, sorry no name on this either, got it in pluming section $8

Items we already had

Barrel, screen, drill, concrete blocks for base

Items we borrowed

7/8 hole saw to cut hole for valve and over flow

jig saw to cut 4 inch hole for inflow of water

Nut to screw onto hose valve inside barrel to hold it in place

Whew! This is a long post, and we haven’t even got to how to build it yet! Well we were so worn out by getting all this stuff we didn’t get to any actual construction. But we will, and when we do I will fill you in on the design details, how we put it together, and if it works!

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Ikea trash art project: Day 23

Crunch time. The deadline for entry into the Pop Revolution show is saturday 8/27 and I have yet to finish the sculpture. Had some great inspirations a couple nights ago and spent the day implementing them. Continuing on the theme of piercing or passing through surfaces, I drilled and carved holes and glued varying heights of little black tubes to suggest some sort of weird growth of things coming out of the base. Then I carved tiny notches in the base and threaded plastic strapping through it to create a dynamic line traveling across and through the base, up the leg, and weaving through the grids. The strap was bright green, the only bit in the piece not neutral, and I am hoping this gives extra omph to its line. So I am thinking this part might be done, I try to dust all the cat hair and sawdust off to get a better look at it and see what I think. Still having terrible time getting good pics of it, I need totally blank white background and have no way to do that. Suddenly I think I should forget sending a photo in for entry, I have to find way to take the piece there so they can judge it in person. That means figuring out transportation. Also I had brainstorm of another component which would make this really cool. I want to make a flat, square frame, about 4 or 5 ft, and wrap it in shrink wrap and hang it from ceiling behind one side of piece. In my mind this creates a frame, much like a window, which give the sculpture some drama, and alternates between being a backdrop behind, or window you see piece thru depending on where you are. But to do this I have to hang it from ceiling, will the gallery go for that? So I go to their website to get their number and I see that the show has been POSTPONED TILL APRIL! NOOOOOO! I can’t believe this! I can’t keep this thing in my living room till april! I call the gallery, and yes one week before the entry deadline they suddenly decided to cancel, no idea why. So now I have to try to shake down the venues in town I know and see if I can find some other place to show this thing. Anyone want to adopt a trash sculpture?

In the mean time I am having more stability issues, the central pole is teetering again and I have no idea what to do about that. The local papers which said they wanted to do story about this have not called, and I am getting none of the press I had so hoped for. Have to say after all the work this is really getting me down. Hope something changes soon. In the mean time here’s some more pics from all sides, best I could do in the space I had, doesn’t really do it justice. Still planing on having stop motion video of the build, that’s Lee’s baby, will share it when its done.





Ikea trash art project

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Ikea trash art project: Day 19

Man this has been a really rough week for me.  After a long weekend of late shifts at work I finally had monday off, but had one of my terrible headaches so figured I’d put off art till my next day off, thursday. Then tuesday I was given a wrong prescription and had to go to Urgent Care to get something to stop the serial vomiting. Wednesday I came down with a bad head cold, probably caught from a co-worker and my weakened condition, and missed another day of work. But it gets even better. Since I was worried I might be even sicker thursday, I tried to do some work on the art project and gave my self a second degree burn from hot glue. So now I was down one hand too. Whatever gods I offended, I am heartily repentant! I managed to overcome my new fear of the hot glue gun thursday and glue a few pieces together, so I have only worked about 40 minutes on the piece this week. The only good news is at the end of last week I figured out how to get the supports to stand up so the piece is upright finally. Still feel pretty bad today so I am not going to type any more, just leave you with a shot of the cardboard pieces that were the cause of my nasty burn and an overall shot of where the pieces is at so far. One more week till the deadline for entry, think I can make it still.


Gonna have to find a better way to photograph this, it looks terrible with all this background stuff!

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