Cookie's Bliss Environment

What the Rain Barrel Taught Me About Gratitude

They say you never miss the water ’till the well runs dry.

We take water for granted here in North Carolina. On average, 45 inches of rain falls on our soggy lawns and lush gardens each year. Last year we got 55.

You have to live it to know what it’s like to run out of water.

During our twenty years in Colorado, we savored every drop of moisture because we could only expect 17 inches. In Belize, the dry season brought interminable longing until one day the sky would erupt and dump as much as 15 inches in a day. Over the next six months we would receive our year’s supply of 60 inches. After the glory of those first crazy storms wore off, we’d pull on our boots and wade around in the mud, making sure to catch as much water as we could afford to store. Big tanks aren’t cheap.A small frog pond placed by former owners on the south-east side of our house supplies us with optimal Feng Shui.

The pond liner had gotten lopsided over the years, causing water to spill off one side before filling. So I got out the pickax, dug up the stones and pavers, and carted them off. After a little more digging the liner settled and I seeded the surrounding garden with butterfly weed.

Bob took this stunning image of summer rain falling on a volunteer okra plant by slowing down the shutter speed.

Bob captured water sluicing from our back porch downspout onto the hummingbird feeder using (you guessed it) a slow shutter speed.

Using a fast shutter speed, Bob froze a drop of water falling from the downspout into the rain barrel.

Our well has never gone dry and we only dip into our rain barrel for household water when the power goes out and shuts down the well pump. Because rain is so consistently abundant here, our rain barrel only holds 55 gallons, a far cry from the enormous water storage tanks we had in Belize and the huge poly tank atop our roof in Ghana.

Water beads on our newly-varnished back porch steps.

Jordan Lake on a misty morning. The Army Corps of Engineers open the tailrace gates wide after a heavy rain, sending a torrent of water down the Haw River.

Ever-changing, yet always the same — three views of the spillway backwater at Jordan Lake.

Jordan Lake Dam flows over what used to be Clark Poe Road. When they flooded the Haw River, all kinds of infrastructure vanished to the bottom of the lake.

North Carolina’s 37,853 miles of river read like the begets in Genesis.

After roiling through the spillway trough, water continues lazily down the Haw until it meets the Deep River and together they beget the Cape Fear River.

Southeast of the dam, the Rocky River on its way towards destiny with the Deep.

The confluence at White Pines Nature Reserve

The Rocky pours into the Deep which later merges with the Haw to become the Cape Fear which dumps into the Atlantic 191 meandering miles later. I wonder if I threw a twig into the water off the dam, would it ride out to sea.

Robeson creek pulls water from west of Pittsboro into Jordan Lake, after passing through Town Lake, which was once Pittsboro’s water supply.

Camille, Elena, Ian, and Link at Robeson Creek – November, 2007

When we moved to North Carolina in November of 2007, we joined Oilseed Community off the end of Bill Thomas Road about a mile’s hike through the woods and across the creek from The Plant in Pittsboro a.k.a Chatham Beverage District.

Sometimes the only way to add a bird to the list is to hop in the car and stalk it.Our marital avian list was stuck at 399 when Bob heard there were Rusty Blackbirds at Fletcher Park in Raleigh, so we drove up and bagged our 400th bird.

Each year we head to the coast for a nice getaway with one common denominator: water.

One of several canals designed to handle water overflow.
Scuppernong River Interpretive Boardwalk

I took these in Columbia, North Carolina where we spent a few days investigating the swamp as part of our annual September getaway.

A lone tree from the boardwalk at Duck, North Carolina.

A cormorant at Southern Shores, NC.

The Atlantic, a vast ocean of many moods shows us her teeth and her dancing foam.

Sunset over the sound at Southern Shores.

Water: we yearn for it, thrive in it, drink it in, and take it for granted. Lucky for us, we have lived in places where water was scarce. Every time I dip water from our rain barrel to clean my garden clogs or water a dry plant, I am reminded of our good fortune. In the hierarchy of Things Not To Take For Granted, water ranks number one. 

By Camille Armantrout

Camille lives with her soul mate Bob in the back woods of central North Carolina where she hikes, gardens, cooks, and writes.

7 replies on “What the Rain Barrel Taught Me About Gratitude”

Fully agree! Now that we haven’t had rain in a while I’m collecting sink water to throw on the dry flower bed out front. We’re on restrictions and can only water every other day at certain times. The landscape is crispy and golden and the livestock are having to eat hay. The guilt of using water was also instilled in me from visiting Central America and living in Texas all those years. Floors me that some people don’t care or just can’t find it in themselves to conserve when needed.

Beautiful and calming to the eye. New Mexico used to get monsoons running through our backyard. Now we pray every time it snows.

I wish I could send water your way, Steph and Jane. Thanks for the comments, everyone. I’m hoping our house doesn’t float away overnight.

So right. I find myself “building up” these days on our side of the creek. Culverts are undersized. Drains are too little. Instead of messing with the grade, I’ve started building boardwalks and platforms above the ground to let the rivers run through it… Great entry.

Boardwalks are a great idea. Every swamp deserves a good boardwalk. Looks like the sun may come out for your birthday. Yee Haw!

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