I'm very excited to tell you all about this.
I've always wanted a rain barrel. I've seen plans to build them (read my previous posting on my favorite magazines) but they were a bit complex for my engineering-starved brain. I've seen ads to buy them but they were very cost-prohibitive.
Imagine my excitement when I saw an ad last month that our local Soil and Water Conservation District was going to be offering them pre-made for $20 to city residents. I was overjoyed. Yes, it takes little to please me.
Our rain barrel arrived a few weeks ago and Nate installed it last weekend, just in time for our big rainfall. It's awesome. It is made from a recycled food-quality plastic barrel with a secured lid on top that has a hole with permanent screening to keep mosquitoes from laying eggs and also to keep leaves and other debris out. It has two overflow areas and a spigot with an on/off switch to which a hose can be connected.
Nate had to saw a portion of our downspout off.
The kids think it's great and Evan seems to think it's fun to turn it on and off. We'll have to install a hose to it soon so he quits wasting the water. The rainwater is intended to water our garden this spring and summer.
Here's a bit more about how rain barrels work at wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainwater_tank .