Q&A: Jake Hudson of the Fort Loudoun Lake Association

A zone manager with the Fort Loudoun Lake Association, Hudson will teach a rain barrel workshop June 23 at New Harvest Center at 10 a.m.

Is the workshop to learn about rain barrels, or learn how to make one?

We do both, and you're still in at 10 a.m. and out by noon. First they get an overview of why rain barrels are important and useful. The second part is taking them through with a recycled barrel, drilling holes, explaining the purpose of the flexi-spout, how to attach it to the gutter, and the purpose of the strainer that goes in on the end of the flexi-spout. You create a closed system from your gutter downspout into the barrel, and you don't leave for mosquitoes to get in. If you had an open barrel, you'd have a potential mosquito breeding ground.

Where do you get barrels to recycle?

A person donates them to us, but their only requirement is that we don't identify them; they don't wish to be pestered. They're food-grade barrels that have never had any chemicals or anything harmful in them, and we wash them at a car wash before the class.

So everyone leaves with a rain barrel?

It's called a "make it and take it" rain barrel workshop. The class size is limited to the first 40 rain barrels reserved at $35 each. You can buy more than one.

Is there anything amazing about rain barrels?

Amazing, no. They've been around forever, and an average rainfall will fill your rain barrel in Knoxville if you have a normal-size house.

How many gallons?

Fifty-five. We've had people with roofs so big it took two or three to gather rain from one event.

What can you use the water for?

Watering is the main use: gardens, herb gardens, and plants near your home. When you install it you should elevate it on at least a couple of cinder blocks so you can slip a bucket underneath its spigot. You can also install a hose to the spigot and use it to water anything lower than the barrel—it's a gravity system, of course.

Any other uses?

You wouldn't want to drink the water; it's been on the roof and it isn't the cleanest. My mother always used it to wash her hair, because the water is so soft. We've had people use it for swimming pools and ponds.

Where'd you learn to make them?

Parci Gibson, she worked here and her mother had a commercial rain barrel. She and I stood in a Lowe's plumbing section and figured out how to make them.

If people can't do this class, how could they get rain barrels?

We will have one more—we haven't scheduled it yet, so if they're still interested, they should check the website. We planned on three but each time people wanted more barrels than we had so we'll plan another.

It doesn't matter if it gets too cold?

We had one with an open top on our porch we used to store bare-root trees. It froze and had two inches of ice, and it didn't hurt it at all.

Are commercial barrels worth the cost?

They do run about two or three times more than these workshop barrels. But if that's your best option, I say yes, if you are going to use it, not just let it sit, it's worth the price

For more information or to sign up for the workshop: fllake.org