Gutter Talk


I’m baking cookies, it’s a gorgeous Saturday morning, the sun is charging the solar batteries, and the Bearded One and Tom – the Boss and the Expert respectively – work to channel our annual 140 inches of rain from the roof into the new 1550 gallon catchment tank. They’re trying to beat a fast-approaching rainstorm.


Tom calls the shots; the Bearded One approves them, or respectfully questions them. Mostly they work independently and are silent. The conversation is frequently tool-oriented. Tools were overwhelmingly the main items selected by the Bearded One for shipping over in our 4 foot cube packing box from the mainland.

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“That’s a great pair of tin snips,” Tom says, as the Bearded One cuts the pieces of gutter. The Bearded One recently told me of a drill bit extender of Tom’s that has saved the day countless times. He’s got to have one. They share each other’s ladders and saws freely, and know exactly who owns what.

They come in for a cookie break and Tom asks for a piece of paper to sketch the plan.

They’ve already got the new brown gutter installed, which will carry the rain in a Rube Goldbergesque route from the metal roof to the downspout, then flow down through PVC pipe leading across about 10 feet to the big plastic green tank just off the south corner of the house.

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At the actual catchment tank opening,


the first drops (including leaves and other roof debris) bypass the catchment tank and shoot straight down into a First Flow Diverter which is a pipe that goes about 20 feet and then ends.


The first flow debris goes there and the pipe keeps filling and backing up that 20 feet so that it’s relatively litter-free water that heads into the elbow pipe and down into the catchment tank. A threaded cap screws off and the debris is easily removed. Tiny holes are drilled into the pipe to let the water slowly drain out.

Plumbing isn’t the mystery that electricity is. Electricity is magic, completely indistinguishable from voodoo. Plumbing is machinery – simple tinker-toys – but the ingenuity of this system feels magical.

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Clouds move in and the guys don’t break for sandwiches until 2:30. Their minds hover over the project as they chew. The Bearded One tells how our solar read-out lost its memory when the generator ran out of propane. As it coughs and sputters, the electrical power it is sending to the inverter starts looking somehow “wrong.”

Tom explains about the automatic shut off, how the inverter is wired to protect itself. “I don’t deal with this,” he says in a little inverter voice, “it could hurt me!” The Bearded One cracks up laughing. Tom laughs, too.

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Two hours later and it’s starting to rain. The men rush to get the last pipe blue-glued into place and we watch as the first flow drips out the elbow. Both men whoop and cheer. I love being around happy men.

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29 responses to “Gutter Talk

  1. I forgot to thank you last night for your frequent 4-cookie packs! The perfect number, more than that would be decadent. In case you missed this, FYI:

  2. So COOL!! You’re amazing all around – this is like playing fort. But for real…for life! Aloha

  3. P.S. – Nice apron.

  4. Wish I was there to see the first rain in the new tank. Thanks much.

  5. Christine Widman

    You have gallons and gallons of water to tap.
    Here just the opposite…though here the two fastest ways to die are from lack of water hiking in the desert or too much water getting caught in a wild monsoon flood.
    This intrigues me.
    Graham Nash – after thinking/studying about the possibility of an apocalyptic event – moved to Hawaii years ago because water is the most critical necessity & Hawaii has water abundance.
    Thought you’d like this little hippie piece of info. 🙂
    I am also intrigued by your water catchment process. Hooray for this major off-the-grid installation. So cool.
    lololol LOVED the magic versus tinker toys explanation of electricity versus plumbing!!! I’d want to be Bearded One’s electricity magician.

    • Hawaii has lots of rain, but virtually no surface water like rivers or streams or ponds. Lava is so porous. So for a source of fresh water, it’s all catchment. I’ve heard of just a few wells on the whole island. Thanks for the info on Graham Nash…I looked it up, and he’s on Kauai. 🙂 Aloha and warm hugs to you as your temperatures plummet on the desert this mid-November. xo

  6. I agree! Men are their happiest I think when they have solved a problem and made something with their hands and TOOLS. [Tools are most important for male happiness] 🙂

    We have lots of rain here this month, and thunder and lightening. And hail. And sunshine – most mornings have been warm and sunny and Siddy and I trot off for our walk assured of a lovely summery day only to be met by a gathering of gloomy clouds, rising wind and plummeting temperatures by lunch time. Discombobulating to say the least!

    It’s all going rather well in Hawaii isn’t it – and good to see that it has potential to survive the apocalypse 🙂

    • Aloha, Pauline! Hail! You are in a transition month, no day can make up its mind. Soon Spring will prevail. Siddy has to get out! 🙂

      I apologize for the delay in responding — I’ve been obsessing and compulsiving over soon-to-arrive kids and friends of kids (4 additional people here on Nov 20!! I am very excited.:) and having everything ready and clean — each gets an inflatable bed, sheets, one blanket, two pillows, bath towel, hand towel, flashlight, clean socks for nights and mosquitos, and whatever else I can fuss over. 🙂 The B.O. has a cold, but he’s still happy. xo

      • You will have such a wonderful house full – it will be like the old days when the friends of your teenagers tumbled in and stayed over and stripped the fridge bare and asked endless questions about the meaning of life. Weren’t those wonderful days! 🙂 Except now you’ve got mosquitoes too!

        You have reminded me that I’ve got a friend [just the one] coming for a week next week and I still haven’t got her bed yet – must go hunting for a foldaway!

        The dangler is finished 🙂 Look for a post very soon.

        Hope the BO gets rid of his cold soon! xoxo

  7. Wonderful! Great design — looks terrific — glad you have your happy tool men! I love being around happy men, too — especially with full tummies! Aloha! xoxoB

  8. “Rube Goldbergesque route”–great line. You made me look silly laughing at Starbucks. Peace, John

    • Mahalo John. We looked at some old Rube Goldberg comics and laughed, too. 🙂

      Our son had to make a Rube Goldberg machine of some sort in 7th grade. A great assignment. Aloha, Christi

  9. Being around happy men is much more preferably to being around unhappy men and electricity, tools and water are almost a sure fire bet to make men happy :). Glad you are now collecting water and sunshiney power Ms Christi and you have made the most smooth transition from backwoods cold grey acreage to tropical orchid filled paradise…what a gal! 🙂

    • Aloha Fran! I’m behind on everything Computer — thanks for always checking in, my twin. 🙂 I’m currently waiting for Annie and her friend Amanda to land. They’re renting a car so they can gallivant — and they insisted they don’t need picking up at the airport, they’ll just drive in the driveway! The B.O. has a chesty-cough cold today so I’m fine to stay here. He doesn’t want to give it to the Nurses on Vacation. One of the amazing benefits of having adult children. I LOVE having adult children. And a happy, if congested, husband. Hugs from Hawaii!

      • I love having adult children as well. My son and his partner Kelsey took me to a concert the other day and out to dinner. Try getting your primary school kids to do that ;). Poor B.O. 😦 Hugs from Sunny Sidmouth to no doubt sunny Hawaii. He has been working hard of late so having a cold will make his slow down a bit and rest. The girls will have had flu injections if they are nurses so they will probably be immune to the B.O. and his exotic Hawaiian bugs ;). Have a fantastic time with your girls Christi and enjoy that gorgeous paradise that you call home now 🙂

  10. Love your rainwater tank and the system to keep out debris. But I have a question: if there isn’t much in the way of rivers, streams, etc., what did people do for fresh water before the Euros rolled in? I’m assuming catchment of some sort, but would love to know more (if you have an answer to that, of course). I love seeing your progress, both with the house and in yourself as you settle in to island life. I’ve lived on Vancouver Island, South Pender Island and Texada Island and loved it every time (well, I don’t really remember Texada; I was pretty small then, but the photos show me laughing :-)) The only hardship was getting to the mainland to see family; we didn’t go very often. Do you think you will get a boat or canoe or the like? I’m sure there are fish in those lovely seas . . .

    • Aloha Linne — and how wonderful to hear from you! From your current frigid temperatures of Canada to our current 79 degrees and sunny with wonderful trade winds. It’s been so humid I am LOVING the wind. Enough of the weather, eh? 🙂 I’ve wondered about your fresh water question, too…I assume rain catchment as well, but I’ll ask around. Our younger daughter and her nursing friend arrive here today for a 5 day visit! I am so lucky to have our son here and our eldest comes on Nov. 20, so there will be about a 15 hour overlap when all three are here!…plus Annie’s sweet friend. The B.O. and I were just this morning talking about how FAR it actually is to Seattle. 6 hours flight time to Honolulu. Thousands of miles of ocean. What an amazing thing airplanes are. No boats or canoes for us. People fish from the cliffs (Puna, coast is 20 foot lava cliffs) here as much as they go out on boats. Thanks for checking in. xx00

  11. Wow, you’ve sure had a lot of fun adventures in Hawaii! It’s always wonderful when a project turns out well.

  12. Simple pleasures eh, how delightful when things just work 😃

  13. As you should. Crabby men are completely unattractive, a fact many football-loving guys would do well to drink in. It sounds to me like you are loving this place as a couple, and that means Deb and I are happy for you.

    • Mahalo, J.K. And Deb! And I am happy for you two as you move to Portland. A great city with an epic bookstore as you so eloquently describe in your blog this week I’m intrigued by your list of travel writers. The genre is an interesting mix — memoir with history and discovery and first hand experience of “other.” It’s cooling off here in Hawaii — 66 degrees F at night and our neighbor called it a cold snap. 🙂 I love the light and sunrays and warm breeze. Hugs to you and Deb and keep warm. Aloha!

  14. I’ve been researching ways to capture our precious few raindrops here in California. We average 12 to 18 inches when we’re not in the midst of a drought, but for the past three years we’ve received a fraction of that. It seems sensible to capture whatever water you can to divert back into the garden. I applaud you!

    • Aloha Alys! Thanks for dropping by and commenting. We have Pauline and Fran in common! I look forward to following your California adventures — boy, that drought is scary. We get so much rain here (140+ inches a year!) that all our household water (washing, flushing, bathing) is catchment. We get drinking water from public stations, which most everyone does, and haul it home. We plan to get a Berkey water filter so we can drink the catchment, but haven’t done that yet. We’ve just lived in Hawaii 9 months — moved from Olalla, WA, just south of Seattle last April. We’ll be learning the ropes for a while. Hugs from Hawaii, Christi

      • Aloha, Christi.

        Wow, what an interesting life you’re leading. I guess moving from Seattle to Hawaii gives you plenty of experience with rain. Are you enjoying the warmer, year-round temps? I actually prefer mild (say 70s) myself, not too hot or too cold, but I do love the rain. We get so little of it.


      • Aloha Alys! Mahalo for your kind comment. We get 140 inches of rain a year here (Seattle only get 60 or so, but it comes in an eye dropper:), but it’s weird because it mainly rains at night here! Really! And yes, I’m really enjoying the warmth — at night it’s gotten down to 57 and 58F, and in the day it can get to 80, but that’s it. The breeze is delicious. The hard part was this summer. It was sooo humid, and in the mid-80s in July-Sept. Not THAT hot, but the humidity was icky. Everyone said it was very unusual. I hope that’s true. Like you, I love the rain, though. The humidity was a tropical depression…we also had 3 tropical storms/hurricanes. Hugs to you in San Jose! xo

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