The other day a friend was regaling me with a hilarious tale of how her young Lab had destroyed not one, but three, dime-store wading pools in just a couple of weeks. Mind you, her retriever loves to play in the water, but seems to enjoy testing the pool’s mettle every bit as much. The first thought that came to mind was: Why not substitute a shallow galvanized or heavy-duty plastic livestock tank for the light plastic pool?
I’ve had farm dogs that will jump into deep stock tanks after spending an hour tearing a packrat nest apart on a hot day. Even our small dogs take regular cooling dips in the shallow tanks we use to water the sheep. I know my friend’s Lab would love it. But that got me thinking about all the ways we put those water tanks to good — if somewhat unintended — use.
The larger round galvanized and plastic tanks make wonderful pools for kids and adults — nothing refreshes like a dip in the windmill-filled tank after hours of working outside. To devote one tank to swimming only, just locate it on some level ground, fill it up, then open the drain plug when finished. Better yet, attach a hose to the plug and water your plants. Some folks even attach filtering systems to their stock tank pools. My wife and I use a 6-foot-long-by-2-foot-wide tank specifically to cool down after gardening in the hot Kansas wind.
Some folks use tanks to collect rainwater runoff from their roofs, and outfit them with valves and pumps to deliver water to the garden, wash house (rainwater is naturally soft) and livestock. I have friends who have partially buried water troughs and made small ponds with them — some with recirculating pumps, filters and waterfalls. With this setup, you could easily keep some fish and water plants happy — for the warm months anyway.
Another friend who is an avid organic gardener keeps a large water feature in the center of her vegetable garden. In the tank, she grows a pussy willow bush on a mound of soil with water lilies and goldfish. She dips water from the tank for settling in transplants. The action of the sun, plants and fish help the water to lose its chlorine and gain natural fertilizer — she keeps it filled with the hose but wishes it were closer to the barn’s gutters so it could be replenished with rainwater, too.
There are many uses for stock tanks that I’m aware of. I’ve heard of folks filling them with soil to use as raised garden beds. Folks in some regions install picnic tables in the center of larger round tanks and float down calm rivers. I’ve seen them inverted as covers for chicken coops, and they’re perfect containers for brooding day-old chicks.
Whether you’ve just returned from your first river tanking experience in Nebraska or designed a rainwater collection system using a tank, I’d love to hear from you. If you have a wonderful water tank experience to share, please don’t hesitate to send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. It might wind up in a future issue of the magazine.
See you in winter,
Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.