The Coast News Group

83-year-old begins harvesting rain

By Faith Attaguile


Longtime Encinitas resident Miriam Clark grows fresh, organic vegetables supported by her rainwater harvesting system. Courtesy photo
Miriam Clark moved to Encinitas from Los Angeles in 1954 with her husband Bill and three young children. She was 24 years old.

Four years later, while the young family was driving to the beach along Bracero Road, Miriam and Bill saw a sign: “Land for Sale.” At her husband’s urging, Clark got out of the car (in her bathing suit) to talk to the owner of the land, Mr. Palmer. He told her he’d sell the the 3/4 -acre lot at 745 Bracero for $4,500.

“We both had teaching contracts then,” Clark told me, “and it felt like they were burning holes in our pockets. Money to spend. So we signed a contract. Five-and-a-half years later we paid it off.”

Right around the time they paid off their contract, a little girl was born into the family, making them six. So they built a three bedroom, one-bath house on their newly-acquired land. And in 1964, they moved in.

What was life like on Bracero Road at the time?

“Well, pretty bare. You wouldn’t know it now, would you? But there was just Mr. Palmer’s house, a really nice one, over at the corner of Requeza and Bonita. A small, two-bedroom house next door to us, and Eric’s house just across the road on Bracero. The rest was just bare land – and I mean, bare. No trees, nothing.”

That was then, this is now

Clark’s land isn’t bare any more. Her children are grown and all but her son David have moved away. David has his own studio on the property, and helps her care for about eight raised vegetable beds in the back yard. Something is always growing, giving them great fresh, organic vegetables for most of the year.

“The rhubarb, I love.” Clark said. “It’s a beautiful plant! I just made rhubarb crunch — would you like some? It’s still warm….”

She grinned. Pulling a carton of vanilla ice cream out of the freezer, she scooped some on top of the aromatic delight she had just portioned out for me.

Watching in anticipation, I asked her why she decided to install a rainwater harvesting system.

“It was my stepdaughter who put me on to it,” she said as she placed my dessert in front of me. “She and a friend went to a workshop on rainwater harvesting over here in Encinitas. They came back really excited about the idea.”

“Think about it,” she said. “Water is a disappearing resource. Everyone knows that. And we live in a semi-arid desert here in Southern California. So it’s a shame that we don’t capture and reuse the little rain that we do get.”

Eventually, Clark got in touch with Albert Barlow, owner of Rain Water Systems in Santee. After talking with him, she decided it really was a “no-brainer.” After all, Southern California weather allows winter and summer gardens needing water throughout the year. Although the average yearly San Diego rainfall is only about 10 inches, that can add up to a lot of water.

“Barlow explained that with this area’s average rainfall, 1,000 square feet of roof would yield 623 gallons of water/inch of rain. That’s more than 6,000 gallons of water per year,” Clark said

Barlow later gave this equation: Room area (square feet) times feet of rainfall times 7.48 gallon/feet equals total gallons of rainwater. Barlow has been in the rainwater catchment business for many years. He’s passionate about what he does and installed Clark’s system without a hitch. So when the December storms hit the area, the system was ready to bring in the rain-gold.

And it did. By the end of the month, rainwater from about 1,400 square feet of rooftop had almost filled her two, 825-gallon Bushman tanks.

“I thought Albert was crazy when he told me I would be able to use a third tank, so I didn’t go that route. But now I’m thinking … Another rain tank for a backyard orchard?

As I finished the last of my rhubarb crunch, I couldn’t help but wonder: What will Clark’s next project look like? For a free consultation about a rainwater system in your own back yard, call (619) 798-7312.

Faith Attaguile owns Frontline Copy, a San Diego-based company offering copywriting, blogging and marketing services to eco-businesses working for a more sustainable world.



1 comment

Albert Barlow February 25, 2013 at 10:58 am

Thank you Miriam Clark.
I really appreciated not only the business, but of helping provide a natural water source for your beautiful food gardens.
Thank you Faith Attaguile for the spotlight on my small business.

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