Not so much the steampunk rain barrel, it’s the rain barrel itself that is the affordable luxury. Free water for your yard, your houseplants, cleaning and/or your iron with no chlorine. In fact, in some places, like the City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, you can get the rain barrel itself installed free of charge. They’ll come by your house, bring the rain barrel, drill into your downspout and hook everything up. Takes about fifteen minutes, but the only problem is the rain barrel is blue plastic and it doesn’t quite blend into the green, brown and gray garden setting.
Of course, you can paint them – faux wood barrels and flower scenes are especially popular. They look much better, but still look like painted plastic barrels. For our century old, Edwardian house, I imagined a top of the line rain barrel back in 1915 would be made of brass, to match the copper gutters and downspouts. The upside-down, sawed in half oak barrel makes a good stand to add a little water pressure.
Once I got out the Rustoleum Antique Brass spray can, though, I got a little carried away. Some PVC pipe and fittings from Home Depot, real brass spigots to replace the plastic ones, bike gears and some random decorative objects and I was done – for now. Every old copper tank needs a gauge, so the barrel made a good place to mount the outdoor thermometer and humidity gauge. Here’s the general idea of what it’s supposed to look like:
It’s still a work in progress (for example, might need some stronger glue for some of the pieces), and if you get tired of the old timey brass look, you can always paint over it. The only problem has been the lack of rain here over the last couple of months. I’m looking forward to catching some actual rain soon.