Here comes the rain: Barrels, clotheslines, firing up the furnace, and chocolate zucchini bread

Rain barrels, sort of hooked up

Rain barrels, sort of hooked up

Summer in Seattle is short and can end abruptly.  In the last week, we’ve gone from days in the 80s to barely hitting 60, with lots of rain to boot. The change in weather has impact on many aspects of our greener living plans.

First, the positive.  It sure is easy for us to collect and store rain water. As you can see in the photo, we’re diverting the rain water off our greenhouse roof into our rain barrel.  With just one day of rain, the first barrel is pretty full. We’ve ordered an additional six rain barrels, which will bring the total to 10.  It won’t be hard to fill them all up.  As you can also see in the photo, the barrels are not yet connected.  This is one of the many items on our fall to do list.

With the onset of rain, our outdoor clothesline is out of commission.  During the warmer weather, we had been doing a great job of using the clothesline.  I’d say we dried about 50% of our laundry on the line each week since putting the line up. This percentage will likely come down with the end of summer, though I did buy an indoor clothes rack from Ikea.  I can’t do as much on the rack as I did on the line, but maybe I’ll be able to do two out of six loads on the rack. We’ve also been doing many more cold wash cycles, to reduce usage of our hot water heater.  Laundry day has historically been our worst electricity usage day of the week, and our efforts have helped us smooth out our usage spikes, but we haven’t made much significant progress in bringing the overall electricity numbers down.  As you can see here, we have a slight year over year drop, but with all the changes we’ve been making in how we use electricity, I had been hoping to see more.  The only thing that makes me not feel terrible about our slow progress last month is that we spent half of the month home on vacation, which means we had a whole lot more days in the house than during a typical month, and we always use more electricity when we are home.

September electricity bill

September electricity bill

With the colder weather, we recently turned the furnace back on.  For me, 62 degrees in the house is just too cold.  We’ve programmed the thermostat to be 68 degrees when we are home, 60 degrees when we are away, and 62 when we are asleep.  We’ll play around with the numbers and schedule to see if we can reasonably bring furnace usage down a bit more.  So far, I’ve resisted turning the thermometer up to 72 and have found that the more time I spend outside gardening, the more 68 feels nice and cozy when I come back indoors.

Even though the weather has changed, I’m continuing on with my fall gardening.  I replanted, in the rain today, the first of the three lettuce boxes I have in rotation.  I cut and come again harvested the first box for nearly two months and recently found that the latest batch of lettuce was starting to have a bitter taste.  I’m definitely becoming spoiled when it comes to having perfect lettuce.  I pulled out the old lettuce, threw it in the chicken coop, and then replanted with an heirloom lettuce cutting mix. The second of the three lettuce boxes is ready for harvesting, so the timing for the replant was just about right on.

Chocolate zucchini bread

Chocolate zucchini bread

And finally, colder weather allows for more indoor projects, like baking.  Like many other gardeners this time of year, I have too many zucchini.  I only have two plants, but even two plants produces more than we can deal with.  Next year, I will only plant one zucchini plant.  I did find a good chocolate zucchini bread recipe.  If you’ve got some extra zucchini on hand, give this one a try. Chocolate makes everything better . . .


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6 Responses to Here comes the rain: Barrels, clotheslines, firing up the furnace, and chocolate zucchini bread

  1. Susy says:

    Love the rain barrels. Mr Chiots and I installed 7-55gal barrels this year, we made our own system with old corn syrup barrel (we got them for $10 each), then we hooked them all together with PVC and added a spigot. Mr Chiots even built them up on a 4 ft platform for water pressure, and we now have storage underneath.

    I know how you feel about the electric. We’ve been on the same pursuit. Ours has gone down a bit, and with increased rates we’re not paying any more that we used to. But we still have work to do on this front. If only I can get Mr Chiots to unplug all those speakers & chargers. We don’t do that bad since we both work from home full-time.

    Keep up the good work! Looks like you’re doing your part to live more sustainably. Did I mention I LOVE your greenhouse. I would love one someday.

  2. Hi Susy,

    I wanted to do the elevated rain barrel system as well, but my husband preferred to keep them on the ground. I was talking with someone about the challenge of getting the water out, and they suggested putting a small pump in the last barrel. Maybe we’ll give that a try.

    I hear you on the speakers and chargers. I think one of our big problems is how many things we have constantly hooked up that, while not officially on, continue to draw electricity. For example, we have a Media Center PC that is programmed to record various TV shows. Even when off, it remains a little bit on. We also have a home server set up that is always on, as well as various things like an electric stove with a digital interface and clock that always use a bit of electricity as well. I was hoping that making big changes in habits would have a bigger effect and that these smaller constant draws woudn’t be a big issue. I’m thinking that’s not going to be the case and we’ll have to take another look at everything that is plugged in.


  3. Dan says:

    That zucchini bread looks amazing, I will have to try it. I planted zucchini this year with some of my compost, thinned them and ended up with pumpkins. It appears I had some pumpkin seeds in the composter. I guess next year I will have to pay better attention 🙂

    I have added your link to my blog list over at

  4. Thanks for the link Dan! I took a look at your site and was intrigued by all the pickling you’ve been doing. I am hoping to grow enough cukes next year to give pickling a try and bread and butter pickles are my favorite.

  5. Dan says:

    It was fun doing all the pickling this year. Unfortunately I don’t have enough room to grown enough cucumbers to pickle so I had to purchase them. That combined with the fact that once my 6 or so vines produced a few cucumbers they were on the dinner plate, they are so good to eat fresh!

    Found your blog through Sinfonian’s blog when he commented about your greenhouse. Very nice greenhouse by the way, I would love to have one some day.

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