Perfect Fall Weather

The days in SW Michigan have been outstanding this week. It’s been warm and sunny with low humidity and cool nights for easy sleeping. This has been the “keep the windows open” kind of weather. To me that is the perfect fall week weather-wise. The dogwoods leaves are turning red, the apples are falling and we are rounding the corner on another summer growing season.

Yesterday we finally got the forth, and final, water containment tote connected. The hold-up was a piece of plumbing that was not available in the stores. After weeks of stopping into Menard’s every Monday (our one in-town day), Gene finally found a way to “jury rig” another piece to work. Now when the fall rains begin later on this month all four totes will be collecting rain water. Getting this tote hooked up is a good thing too because we have been doing quite a bit of shrub, vine and perennial transplanting (and watering) of late.

4 275 gallon totes

Less wasted water off of our pole barn roof and more available to use.

Gene made a change in the input downspout on this batch of totes. Instead of using the flexible piece as his did on the first set-up, he choose this time to use a rigid downspout input pipe.

Rigid hose

We are testing the rigid input pipe on the two new 275 water totes.

Gene made this decision because 1) He felt the rigid pipe was easier to install and 2) He hopes it will have less clogging issues.

Flexible input hose

The flexible hose from the first two totes. You can see the difference.

If you follow this blog you know how I feel about animals; chicken, dog, horses…just love them all. And you know about my passion to feed healthy food and herbs to all of my critters. Today I found this wonderful chart created by the


Today I also did a very through clean out/washout of the refrigerator. Chores like that tend to get away from me during the busy summer months and it sure feels good to have that big task complete.

I also baked a wonderful Amish chicken with all the fixin’s; carrots, onions, cabbage, tomatoes and sweet potatoes. We ate this meal for lunch and will enjoy a chicken salad in a homemade pita bread next time followed by homemade chicken, vegetable, brown rice soup. Fall food for sure!

I don’t say this often enough and for that I am remiss. I am so glad you chose to open this email. I hope I tell you enough that it means a lot to me.  I realize that there are so many blog writers offering newsletters each week.  Thank you for joining me here for a few minutes each week.

Small House homesteader, Donna

Dismantling the Water Totes

We drained and dismantled the two, 275 gallon water containment totes today. The winter freeze up is coming and it is time.

Double tanks water

The water totes sit on logs that we picked up for free along side of the roadway. This height allows me to place a 5-gallon white bucket under the faucet for a bucket full of water.

Even though we are blessed to live in the Great Lakes State and are blessed with a lot of fresh water in our county, many parts of the US are facing severe water restrictions. My heart goes out to them.

Brown downspout and brown tub

The water flows off of the pole barn roof and into the totes via a hose-way.

We are fortunate to have two wells on our homestead. Both were here when we bought this property There is one well for the house and one for the in the ground swimming pool (which has not been used since the big flooding in 2008-2012.)With the flow of a pump, both offer us sweet accessible water and yet, we are always very water conscious.

Gene tube best

Gene is disconnecting the water hose.

When remodeling we have chosen low flow shower heads and low flow sink faucets. We considered the low flow toilet options but our plumber told us not too as well as on a well pump system and there is apparently trouble with that combination. 

White pipe with faucet

Plastic PVC pipe with a turn on/turn off switch.

Anytime the water is flowing out of the sink or a faucet there is another receptacle nearby to catch the overflow. That overflow is used in cooking, rinsing out dishes, put on house plants, used for animal drinking water and so on.

I never take potable drinking water for granted. And, even though our water table is high right now, I am always conscious of being responsible with this precious natural resource. Water conservation is now a natural part of our everyday living.  After fourteen years, I don’t think much about it anymore, I just do it naturally.

Clover snowball and bin USE

The galvanized water trough in our vegetable garden is handy for containing water and for on the spot watering.

I also keep multiple 5-gallon buckets out under the metal pole barn roof to capture the natural run-off of water from a rain storm. That rainwater is then poured into planters, under trees and shrubs in the garden. Or if the rain has watered the plants, then this water is poured into the animal tank in the vegetable garden and used on the vegetable as needed.

Last year we bought and connected two 275 gallon water tanks to the back of our pole barn to capture the flowing water that cascades off the top of our pole barn roof. These totes were filled two and half times last growing season. All of that water was used to water either our vegetable garden or the freshly planted evergreens we planted over the past two years to create a bit of screening and privacy between our home and the busy roadway in front of us. No electricity needed.

I have never lived in an area where water was scarce but I read about the Western states and beyond, and I think and I react accordingly. I feel a strong responsibility to use our resources wisely…all of them…

Small House Homesteader, Donna



Small House Water Totes – One Year Later

Those of you who have been following my old blog; Small House Under a Big Sky http:/ may remember reading about our installation of two 275 gallon water totes to capture rainwater off of our metal pole barn roof.

Double tanks water

The water totes sit on repurposed 8″ X 8″ logs we picked up along side of the roadway with a “free” sign on them. This height gives me the ability to slide a 5-gallon white plastic buckets under the spigot for water.

I’ve been reading about the water shortages in the Western part of the US and find myself feeling compassionate and very sad for the growers and ranchers caught up in this situation. My thinking at the time that we bought and connected this system was that a water shortage due to climate change was just a matter of time – and I definitely want to be prepared.Brown downspout and brown tub

Gene connecting the downspout, flexible hose to the tote. This is how the water flows from the pole barn roof into the tote.

I was most interested in setting this system up for several reasons…

  • I’m not a doomsday prepper, I do believe that climate change is going to alter the amount of water we naturally get through rainfall and that safe drinking water is going to not only become scarce….but become the wealth of the future.
  • I am philosophically opposed to companies like Nestels’ taking the ground water for free and selling it back to us for a cost. I believe that potable water is a basic human right.
  • With a big garden and animals, I want to be prepared for possible droughts.
  • Water is such a precious commodity to me that seeing all that water pouring off our barn roof and going into the ground around the barn seems like a waste of resources to me.
  • Water conservation is a worthwhile and positive effort, for us and for out community.

White pipe with faucet

A close up of the hard PVC pipe and metal hose end and spigot. This allows us to connect a hose or to open up to fill a bucket.

We completed our first season using this tote system and here is what we learned.

  • Check the tote system every few weeks to monitor what’s happening. Things can go wrong quickly.
  • Check your gutter periodically. Ours clogged once and we lost about 3” of rain that day.
  • 275 gallon of water is dispensed faster than you can believe.
  • We haven’t been able to find an appropriately sized pump so we are using gravity feed through a garden hose for drip and it is working out fine.
  • The totes empty quickly, in only a few hours.

We had a wet summer in Michigan this year with plentiful rainfall and our totes surprisingly filled up twice this gardening season. The first usage was for our vegetable garden and the second time we emptied both tanks was to water-in two, six foot white pines trees we planted this fall.

East pines USE

This hose is connected to the water tote system and uses gravity feed to drain its water.

It was a worthwhile experiment, and expense and one that I think worked out well for us. I’m glad we spent the $100.00 to purchase the two tanks and the various part for our system. We saved a lot of electricity this season (which will happen again next yearn as well) but even more, we made good use of a precious commodity that we would otherwise be losing to the ground – potable water.

If you want more information on rainwater catchment and grey water harvesting there is an e-book that can be purchased. This book is available from is the premier resource on water sustainability systems. You can take advantage of the incredible discount on this $25 e-book
during this week only.

Want some more information on what’s inside? Let’s take a look.

One method of rainwater harvesting that you can use is the cistern. Cisterns are for heavy-duty water catchment. They are similar to rain barrels, but are designed for much larger scale use. Cisterns can either be store-bought or DIY systems. If you do-it-yourself, one extremely important idea to keep in mind is:

Since cisterns hold large volumes of water it is extremely important that what you are building is strong enough to hold without failing.

The destructive potential of water should not be underestimated when building a cistern! Even modest amounts of water have the ability to cause great harm to your property.

Most cisterns are designed to collect rainwater for outdoor use. Rainwater should not be used as potable water!

These are just two important suggestions on cisterns from the Rainwater Catchment and Greywater Harvesting e-book. For a more detailed look into how to build one and things to avoid, check out this offer!

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at greywater. And if you have not done so already, please add us to your list of contacts.

Thank you for doing your part for a better future.


Small House Homestead Donna