Q. Dear Twig: What's a rain barrel? What's it for?
A. It's a barrel. For holding rain. That's all I know.
OK, not true. I know more than that. I also know this: You can make your own rain barrel. You can make it out of a big plastic trash can. Or a steel, plastic or wooden barrel. Maybe add a spigot near the bottom.
You put it under a downspout on your house (sometimes using a special spout that shuts when the barrel gets full). Rain runs off your roof, down the downspout and into the barrel.
Result? Free water! (Good for your garden!) Lower water bills! (Leaving, in theory, more money for your allowance!) Less storm runoff in your neighborhood sewers! (Good for the lakes and rivers around you!)
Find tons of DIY plans (plus rain-barrel makers and sellers) on the Internet.
And come to Ohio State's Scarlet, Gray and Green Fair in Wooster Apri1 22 (1-7 p.m., free). A fun demo at it will show how to make, yep, a rain barrel!
P.S. Learn more about the Scarlet, Gray and Green Fair at http://www.wcsen.org/wcsggf/.
Notes: A small sample barrel o' rain-barrel links: http://www.geaugaswcd.com/rain_barrel_art.htm (Geauga County, Ohio; check out the rain-barrel art!); http://www.duluthstreams.org/citizen/rainbarrel.html (Duluth, Minn., Streams project); http://www.phillywater.org/Tacony-Frankford/Rain%20Barrel%20Project%20Web/Build%20Your%20Own/BuildRainBarrel.htm (newspaper article with plans and pics); http://dnr.metrokc.gov/wlr/pi/pdf/covington-rain-barrels.pdf (Covington, Wash., Water District); and http://whatcom.wsu.edu/ag/compost/pdfs/rainbarrels.pdf (Washington State University).
"Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick," published by The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences — specifically, by the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) and Ohio State University Extension, the research and outreach arms, respectively, of the College — is a weekly column for children about science, nature, farming and the environment. It's written at a 4th-grade reading level. For details, to ask Twig a question, and/or to receive the column free by mail or e-mail, contact Kurt Knebusch, CommTech, OSU/OARDC,1680 Madison Ave., Wooster, OH 44691, firstname.lastname@example.org, (330) 263-3776. Online at http://extension.osu.edu/~news/archive.php?series=science.