Saturday, November 19, 2011

Ready for rainwater harvesting!

Here’s a special shout out to our volunteers who are mostly unseen on this blog, which usually focuses on our Saturday volunteer days. Led by Kat of the SF Green Schoolyard Alliance’s Tap the Sky program ( and with rain barrels donated by SF Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), they began installation of our rainwater catchment system on Wednesday. Thanks to Tree for sending these action-packed photos of this memorable workshop! Rainwater system components: barrels, spigots to access water, overflow pipe, screen lid to attach to downspout, screens on all vents Kat watches Byron measure out trough Lining up rain barrels on stable, flat area snuggled up to toolshed wall Kat & Tree figure out how to set-up catchment systems using rooftops of toolshed & office
Rick & Byron install gutter to capture rainwater runoff from office roof

Putting parts together First flush diverter keeps dirty water out--carrying away most of the dust, pollen & other contaminants that settle on rooftops & collect in gutters--to ensure that we harvest only the cleanest rainwater for our edibles! Byron admires fitRain barrel size considerations:
1 inch of rain on 1000 sq ft roof collects 600 gallons of rainwater
SF averages 21 inches of rain per year (in rainy months, then drought-like from May to October)
Do the math: (1000 x .6) x 21 = 12,600 gallons/year can be collected on 1000 sq ft roof!
Installing piping to connect spigotsMaintenance
Clean gutters regularly
Check screens to make sure that they are securely in place
Flush system with vinegar/water solution once a year, before rainy season begins
Check connection points
Make sure that users are familiar with system

“It was a dark and stormy night”

Today I arrived at The Free Farm much later after running errands like getting laundry done during the break between rains. Since I missed Wednesday’s workshop, I was happy to see Kat, Tree and volunteers continuing installation of the catchment system for our office. Here are some photos taken today with overcast skies above.

Stanley & Sophie with new volunteers
John explains daisy-chained catchment system Kat & Rick set-up catchment system for office roof Tree smiles when I compliment his SF Beekeepers Association cap :-)Stanley donated this handy, foldable table to The Free Farm

In the beginning . . .

Rainwater harvesting was used throughout ancient times, but this tradition shifted when technologies to access, pump and transport secondary water sources (groundwater and surface water) were introduced 150 years ago. Instead of valuing rainwater collection, rain came to be viewed as a source of flooding that needed to be drained away through gutters and downspouts. Water expert Peter Gleick raised the specter of “peak water” at

After experiencing the scarcity of water during years of drought, it has become necessary to conserve water by returning to our traditions. California spends 20% of its energy budget on transporting water so capturing rainwater where it falls saves money. In particular, SFPUC ( has done extensive public outreach, including rain barrel give-aways, with the goal of capturing storm water before it reaches the sewer system.

Rainwater is best for growing plants

Precious rainwater is our primary source of fresh water, one of the purest sources of water (untreated with chlorine and fluoride). Rain is a natural fertilizer, containing sulfur (helps form plant amino acids), beneficial microorganisms and mineral nutrients collected from dust in air (for plant growth) and nitrogen (helps green plants). Rain’s low salt content is a superior water source for plants because soils with high salt concentrations inhibit plant growth by reducing the ability to take up water and conduct photosynthesis. Last but not least, rainwater comes to us free!

Reminder: The Free Farm will be closed next Saturday, November 26. We look forward to having you join us next month!

Public Service Announcements:

Now: Falls prevention and Chronic Disease Self-Management Programs (CDSMP)
Each year, 1 in 3 Americans aged 65+ falls, costing over $28 billion and causing about 20,000 deaths. Many of these falls can be prevented.
Chronic diseases account for 75% of our nation's health care costs, yet only 1% of health care dollars are spent on public efforts to improve health.
By providing seniors with tools to improve self-care, the CDSMP is a low-cost, evidence-based piece of the solution in the fight against rising health costs. CDSMP is a proven program that helps older adults with chronic conditions stay healthy and independent. Funding cuts will make it significantly harder for people in need to access these cost-effective and valuable healthy aging programs.
The Senate Appropriations Committee recommended that falls prevention and CDSMP each receive $10 million next year. The House did not include this recommendation. We are very concerned that the House-Senate compromise, which is being negotiated now, may not include this important funding for vulnerable seniors.
There is a great deal of pressure to reduce federal funding for programs like these, and unless key members of Congress hear from their constituents that these programs are important, the programs are in great jeopardy of being de-funded.
To take action on this issue, click on the link below:
For more information about FREE CDSMP workshops in SF, see

Fri., Nov. 25, 2011 Buy Nothing Day!
Canadian Adbusters, which brought Americans the Occupy Wall Street campaign (, reminds us to Buy Nothing on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Instead, plant a garden! Breathe deeply and meditate: “the fruitage of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control . . . for whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap . . . let us work what is good toward all” (Galatians 5:22; 6:7, 10)

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