2017 Bay Island Bonsai Show

I had a really great time at last weekends 18th annual Bay Island Bonsai Show. It's very impressive that Boon and his club have been putting this show on for 18 years now!   Props to Boon, Paul Kellum, Matt Reel, Tyler Sherrod and the club for planning and executing on a great show.   I've included a few pictures from some of my favorites from the weekend and a before and after of my entry below.

On first glance, I assumed this was a Japanese Maple, but the owner Paul Kellum explained that it's a Trident.  I love the nebari and the fact that the second smaller trunk originates directly out of the nebari to create a true double trunk tree.  The white bark extends throughout the trunk and main branches which is a sign of age.

 

This Chojubai a variety of Japanese Quince is owned by club member Kenny Lamm. You can see a few red blossoms just about ready to open.  This clump style tree has ramified nicely and makes a fantastic addition to this shohin box display.

 

Adair's Olive was the heaviest tree out off all.  The wide base, rapid trunk taper and overall size make this tree very impressive in person.  My nickname for it is Jaba the Olive:)

 

I know almost nothing about Suiseki, but I know what I like and I like what I see here.  The overall presentation gives me a calming feeling,  it's the type of thing that makes you slowly take in a deep breath.  You could get lost looking into the painting which I believe was created using spray paint forming a picture that's both simple and complex at the same time.

 

Here's John Kirby's California Juniper which I believe many years ago was initially styled by Shinji Suzuki during a demo and since then worked on primarily by John, Daisaku and Boon.  My favorite Junipers tend to show both power and grace which are two characteristics of this tree.  The height and and trunk diameter almost give this a Bunjin feel, but the tree also exhibits power and strength.  You can't beat the candy cane twist of the live vein and wonder how mother nature made it wrap around the trunk like that.

 

Next to the California was this small Crape Myrtle.  All I can say about this is, "Baby got Back!"

 

I'm not sure who's Ume this is, but I really like it and wish it was part of my collection.  It sure is hard to find good ume in the US!  The crackly bark and deadwood on this tree lead me to believe it's pretty old, at least as far as Ume go in the US.  Did you know ume is closely related to both the Plum and Apricot? The delicate flowers contrast beautiful with the rugged trunk.

 

During our show, everyone picks a task or job to ensure everything flows smoothly during the show.  My job was to bring all the trees to the photographer, then set them back up at their display.  Here's Sam Ogranaja a fantastic photographer getting set up with this twin trunk Stewartia.

 

As always I appreciate the opportunity to get up close and personal with each tree.  This Kokonoe White pine which also belongs to John Kirby is the best I've seen in the US.  The tree was originally grafted to a Black Pine base, however Kokonoe being one of stronger varieties, was able to ground layer it self from just above the graft line.  Now this tree has a high quality nebari and is on it's own root base.   John has done a phenomenal job with it.

Break time!  Shout out to my new friend Sam Ogranaja, who took us to Firebrand Artisan Breads for a quick snack.  Very tasty coffee and cream puff.

 

This was the second time I showed a tree.  A Sierra Juniper which still has a long way to go. Currently it needs to be shifted over to the viewers right hand side and the foliage pads need to fill in and develop a lot more.  I collected it in either 2011 or 2012-can't remember exactly.  There's a piece of granite embedded in the lower right hand side.  This is just a pic I took with my phone, Sams pics looked much better.

 

Not the best shot below, but here's the same tree just after collection from a different angle.  It's fun to look back and see how our tree change over time.

 

That's all for now, but please stay tuned for a podcast where I got to sit down and chat with Matt Reel, Tyler Sherrod and Paul Kellum.

 

For my next trick, I will saw this in half

Because of our moderate climate here on the Central Coast, we can get away with re-potting anytime between winter and early spring.  This year, I'm glad to get started early because I've never been so busy with tons of little projects that need repotting like this little coast live oak.  Future award winner in the year 2045;)

 

I've been collecting Junipers for about seven years now, and I'm always trying to learn more about how to work with them. Generally speaking I've always tried to error on the side of caution which is the reason for this super long and skinny box. It seems like the more roots you collect, the better chance the tree has of surviving after collection.  However, I think I was a bit too cautious with this one.

Because the tree has been growing strongly, I decided to re-pot and put it into a small box.  The first thing I did was to take the box apart. Using screws makes the box stronger and easier to take a part.  

 

If I could go back in time, I probably would have reduced the length of the root mass by about 25% at the time I boxed it up.  That way I could get it into a Bonsai pot more quickly.

 

Here's a closer pic of all the roots growing in pumice.

 

Once again staying on the side of caution, I cut off about 1/2 the roots and then bare rooted the front half.

 

Here it is after cutting off half and combing out the front of the root ball out.  I built a new box and used Clay King as the soil medium.

 

Now being in a smaller box it's much easier to move around now.  I tilted the tree a bit more forward which changed the profile of the foliage for now.  The next time I re-pot I'll bare root the back half and shorten more length off the sides. The tree still has a long way to go and I look forward to wiring and styling in the near future, stay tuned for more updates.  Thanks so much for reading and Happy Holidays!

 

Collecting Tips & Some Pics

I wanted and tried to get this post out earlier especially because October is a great month to collect in California, but life just got a bit too busy and I couldn't make it happen.   I've listed a few basic tips or general guidelines below that i'd recommend when collecting trees for Bonsai. This isn't meant to be a definitive guide, more so just what I do personally and some advice I'd give to non-experienced collectors.  I'd love to hear what you think.

Collecting Tips

  • Be respectful of the land - get permission from the land owners, back fill all your holes and make it look like you were never there when you leave.
  • Try and get as many fine fibrous roots as you can.  The more roots you can keep, the better chance the tree will survive (up to a certain point).
  • Bring tools that are appropriate for the collecting site.  Collecting a CA juniper in a desert situation is very different than collecting Sierra Juniper off granite mountains.
  • Wrap the root ball with damp sphagnum moss, an old t-shirt or anything that will hold some moisture.  Then use a plastic trash bag and wrap the whole thing with clear packing tape, this will keep the root ball from getting too beat up on the trip back.
  • Tie the tree to a metal frame pack to hike it back to your vehicle.
  • The best time of year to collect is generally the same time you would re-pot.

Aftercare Tips

  • Use a plastic, wood or ceramic container that will fit the root ball nicely.  I like building wooden boxes so I can make them the same shape as the mass of roots.
  • Your container only needs to be maybe 1/4 inch to 1.5 inches of excess space around the sides of the root ball.
  • 100% washed and sifted pumice is my favorite soil for newly collected trees to start out in.
  • Make sure to firmly secure the tree into the pot so it doesn't move around(sometimes you have to get creative to do this, use aluminum wire or support the tree by attaching more wood to your box).
  • Frequent Misting, or fogging(even better) could be good, but may not be required.  Try not to get the soil wet from misting/fogging.
  • If the tree has a good amount of roots, personally i'll put it into full sun right away.  If the tree does not have many roots, I think some shade or misting house might be better.
  • Light foliar feeding during the first several months is a good idea.
  • Bottom heat maintaining temps between 65-75 degrees F could be a good option, but not required(I don't currently use).
  • Lightly feeding with organic fertilizer one month after potting is good- but don't over do it.

Thanks for taking a look, here's a couple I collected during my last trip.

 

A couple close up shots.

 

And a cool Juko Koyo pot, I recently bought:)

Mountains and Workshops

Here's a quick update about what i've been up to recently. If we're friends on Facebook you may have already seen some of these pics.

I got to spend a few days up in the mountains with my wife and dogs which is my favorite way to clear my mind and take a break from the day to day.  Who doesn't like looking at ancient trees growing in the granite?  I particularly liked this naturally dwarfed Juniper that Courtney and Thor are sitting next to.

 

This little Ponderosa is pretty funny 🙂  These trees grow often grow with a bulbous base because the trunks swell while pinched between the granite cracks.

But... I've never seen one grow into such a nice little round ball.  Would make an odd Bonsai.  

 

I love seeing a variety of native CA trees up in the mountains.  In this pic there's Ponderosa, Juniper and Manzanita which is a tree I hope to see more used for Bonsai in the future. Anyone have any success with Manzanita?  Smooth red bark, twist, curve, silver/grey deadwood, small green leaves and flowers.  They also show the struggles that mother nature throws at them.  But, most say that their really challenging to keep long term and i've never collected one.

 

Speaking of CA native trees, here's one of my recent projects that I worked on while sneaking away from working on our house remodeling.  This is a Coastal Red Wood I purchased from Zack Shimon late last year.  This is the pic before working on it.  This time I thinned the tree significantly, selected and wired the branches that were usable.

 

I also discovered that a large portion of the front had died off.  Because of this I removed the bark to expose the wood underneath and discovered there was some type of insect boring in many section of the dead wood, which created these holes in the trunk.  I don't have an after pic right now, but next time I re-work this redwood i'll post one.

 

The next project I worked on is one of my favorite Junipers, a twin trunked tree. Here it is after I worked on it last year. You can see a small root graft that we placed on it on the right hand side under the spiky jin.  In the future I'll cut the foliage off the graft to leave it's roots which will feed the main tree.

 

I put quite a bit of copper wire on this tree, which took me two full days of work .

 

For this tree I used wire from a new supplier i've never tried before.  It came from a Facebook friend of mine named Aaron Wiley.  I was very impressed with the softness and quality of his annealed copper wire.  If your interested, feel free to email him at abw8182@gmail.com.  Please let him know I sent you and you'll get a 10% discount.

6 gauge 25 foot roll $28 each
8 gauge 25 foot roll $24 each
10 gauge 50 foot rolls $26 each
12 gauge 50 foot roll $18 each
14 gauge 50 foot roll $16 each
16 gauge 50 foot roll $14 each
18 gauge 50 foot roll $10 each
20 gauge 50 foot roll $8 each

Some annealed coils of Aaron's wire, good stuff!

 

I also added shari on the left hand trunk around the middle of the live vein.  The plan is to slowly widen the shari over time, giving the tree time to rest and get strong again before widening anymore.

 

In cases like this it's better to work on your trees little by little, instead of doing everything at once.  I followed the grain of the wood and created a long window of Shari.

 

Here's the result after styling the tree.  Please note the lovely hand model to the left by Mr. John Kirby who was nice enough to hold the tree stable while I took a picture.  I'm going to re-pot during late winter of 2016 and tilt the tree forward a bit.  I'll also be reducing the size of the box it's growing in and taking measurements for a new pot.

 

And here we are after loading up in the back of my Tacoma, ready to drive back to the Central Coast.  The spiked Jin features on both trunks are my favorite part of this double trunk and make me look forward to the trees future development.   Here's a few different angles to close this out. Thanks so much for stopping by, really appreciate you taking a look!

New Home & BIB 2016

In Oct of 2015, my wife and I decided to take on what turned out to be a massive project in selling our current home and buying a new one.  The new house is a major, "fixer upper" and has taken up just about all our free time.  We completely gutted the inside and are now about 85% finished with remodeling the inside of the house.  Because of the timing in selling and buying, there were a few months where I couldn't keep my Bonsai at my new or old house. Fortunately, my good friend Ron Bereman was extremely kind and let me keep my trees at his house during the transitions.

Loading the trees to take to Ron's House.

You might be a Bonsai nut if the main purpose of buying a new home is to have enough room to accomplish your Bonsai goals;) Mine include building the garden I envision and someday having a Bonsai business.  Our new house is on an acre in Nipomo, CA here's a shot of the front section of my new yard and future site of my display garden.

Nipomo has nice sandy soil and a climate that I love.  After we finally move in, I plan to spend a lot more time with my trees, collecting new ones and growing Bonsai from seed, cutting and airlayer .  I dug about seven of these Kishu out from my old yard and have transplanted them into the new one.

Bonus point if you can tell what movie i'm a fan of from this pic?
One of the twisted young Kishu transplanted at the new house.  

Anytime that I'm not spending on the new house, I definitely feel guilty about. However, you gotta take breaks sometime right?  I had lot's of fun taking one of those breaks at the 2016 BIB Show.

My main job at the show for the past several years has been to assist Eric Schrader and David Campbell by bringing them trees for photography.  I wanted to show a few pics of the trees from the beautiful show.  I need to power through our house project, then I hope to be working with Bonsai and this blog a whole lot more.  Please stay tuned, thanks!

Thought this was a cool pic, showing some gorgeous pine bark and Eric working his magic in the background:)
Morten giving a docent tour
Originally grown by Jim Gremmel. Hope I can make some like this down the road.
Started from seed by Morten in 2000

Collected by me in... I think 2010, now owned by Greg M

 

 

 

Godzilla, Collecting, Ume and Cuttings

Jeez, can you believe it's 2015 already?  I saw this Facebook post saying that we are now closer to the year 2030 than we are to the year 2000.  It's a trip for me to think about how time seems to go by faster and faster as I get older.   Anyways, I hope your 2015 is off to a fantastic start and you and your trees are happy and healthy!

For this post, first I'm going to rewind to fall of 2014 and throw back a few pictures from then.  The first is this Mikawa Black Pine owned by Mr. Manakitivipart.  This is the first tree I ever saw of Boon's and one of the reasons I decided to sign up for an intensive with him.  I saw the tree at the GSBF convention some years back and remember thinking, "This Black Pine looks like something you'd see in a Kinbon magazine."  One of the coolest things about the intensive series is that you get to work on quality material like this pine below.

 

 

This time around, I didn't do a whole lot to the tree, just some needle pulling helping to balance the trees energy and thinning in some over crowded areas.  I think the picture above was taken at a better angle, but here is a before and after the work.

 

In October I went on my last collection trip of the season.  The first pic is a tree that some might call unique, while others may think it odd.  It's hard to tell what you really have from this picture, but I like it and think it's pretty interesting.  I'll make sure to post updates on it's progression in the future.

 

This second one is a bit of a back breaker and was collected by one of my good friends.  Forget going to the gym, just start taking something like this back to your vehicle on a daily basis and you'll be set.

 

This might have been the first Mame size Sierra I stopped to take a good look at. Something this small doesn't normally have natural white deadwood like this one.

 

Fast forwarding to the first weekend of 2015, I brought my Ume up to Boon's workshop where we cut it back and re-potted it.  Because it stays relatively warm during the Winter on the Central Coast of CA, I made sure to remove all the leaves in December to help push the tree into it's dormant period. While I keep the tree in full sun during Spring, Summer and Fall, I usually place it in a spot that gets more shade during the winter to help keep it from growing new leaves until early spring.

 

This years new green growth had many small flower buds which would've bloomed into white blossoms if I waited another month to cut back. However because of timing, scheduling issues and the fact that I'm ultimately more concerned with focusing on branch structure for the time being I cut it back and will get to enjoy the beautiful flower show in the future.

 

The first thing I did to repot the tree was to cut the wire on the bottom side of the pot which holds the tree in place.   After the wire was cut I used my sickle along the edge of the pot to create a very thin channel between the root ball and the interior side of the pot.

 

Depending on the interior edge and lip of the pot sometimes this can be a challenging task.  Fortunately, because there's no interior lip on this pot, the tree and root ball were removed easily.

 

The next step in the repot, for me, was to reduce the bottom of the root ball.  It's important to try and keep the bottom of the root ball as even as possible while scraping it with your rake.  You don't want to dig any holes in certain spots or make the root ball too uneven.  The goal is to try and keep it nice and flat all the way across.

 

After working to reducing the bottom, I used bent tweezers to comb out the root ball creating a gradual downward slope going away from the trunk.  This is also the time to uncross and roots and redirect them so they are growing outward.

 

I got a smaller pot ready which I bought from Boon on his recent trip to Japan.  To prep the new pot I added screen to the drainage holes, put in the tie down wire and sprinkled some pumice on the bottom for better drainage.

 

Here's the tree after tying it into the pot.

 

And finally, here it is below, in it's new pot after it was cut back.  This is a relatively young ume, I'm guessing it's maybe between 10-14 years old.  It hasn't yet developed the desirable old crackly bark that contrasts so well with the delicate flowers.  It still needs more carving and branch development.  In a few weeks, I plan to spray a mixture of lime sulfur and water on the tree as a fungicide to help maintain the trees health.

 

One question I've wondered about and have heard asked a few times is, "Is this called Ume or Mume" and "Is it actually an apricot or a plum?"  It get's a bit confusing because it is commonly called, "Ume", but the scientific name for it is, "Mume."  In the US I've commonly heard this called Japanese flowering apricot, but I've also heard it called Chinese Plum.  Among Japanese websites that I've browsed using an English translator I generally see it translated as, "Longevity Plum."  However to me the fruit of the tree looks more like an apricot than a plum.  I was interested to recently learn that both answers are correct because the species is related to both plum and apricot.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prunus_mume

 

The past few years i've experimented with taking Ume cuttings.  Here's a cutting that is approx 2 years old above and a 3 year old one below.  I wired movement into them while the growth was still soft and then planted them in the ground last weekend.

That's all for now, I'd love to see some of you at the Bay Island Bonsai show on Jan 24th and 25th in Oakland.  Take care and Happy New Year!

A Couple Questionable Set Ups

I don’t necessarily recommend anyone actually doing what I’ve done above.  This post is mostly just for comedy purposes and for the fun of showing you what I’ve been up to lately.  I’d really like to buy a nice camper shell that rises higher than the cab of my truck for moving trees around.  I searched for several months all over Craigslist with no luck in finding a used version of what I want.  I also just couldn't bring myself to spend the $2,000 for a nice new one.

 

So I used long wood screws and built this structure out of some wood crates I had at the house.  I made sure the structure was tied down extremely tightly, so that it wouldn't move an inch and covered it with a mesh tarp.  While it might not be the ideal way to transport trees around, it works better than nothing for now.

 

 

Here’s a before shot of the back side of this Sierra Juniper I collected in Fall of 2014 and my wife who just helped me move it to the back of my truck.

 

And this is the tree after the first styling - inside it's wooden shelter.

 

These days backpackers use better technology with internally framed backpacks.  This means that you can probably find one of these old metal framed packs  inexpensively.  I think they work really well for tying trees up and hiking them back to your vehicle.  I bent a piece of rebar into shape using a sturdy vice and then used industrial strength zip ties to attach it to the metal frame.  I used electrical tape around the rebar as a preventative to keep it from rusting.  It turned out to be very strong.

 

A better option and something I’ll invest in for the future would be a nice hunting pack used for carrying large game out of the forest.  That would be a lot lighter option and a better for long term collecting.

 

Here’s a little Ponderosa I tied to the back of my pack, having the ledge makes things much easier.  I also use a hunting cart for bigger trees when the conditions are right.  Although I’ve found that often there’s no accessible path from the tree to your vehicle.

 

Can anyone please explain to me how this little guy is growing like this?  This granite is completely vertical!

 

 

 

Intensive Program and a Pen Drawing

I am very proud to report that last weekend I graduated from Boon's Intensive Program!  Attending the program has been an absolutely fantastic experience which I would highly recommend to anyone who has considered it in the past or for anyone interested in a structured program to learn Bonsai. It’s very satisfying to check this goal off my list and feel the confidence I have gained from the experience.  If you have not heard about the program, I suggest that you check out the following articles by Bob King of ABS:

http://www.bonsaiboon.com/images/abs_article_vol44_no2_intensive.pdf   

 http://www.bonsaiboon.com/images/abs_article_vol44_no2_intensive_pt2.pdf   

Starting the 10 day De Candling technique on one of Boon's Black Pines. Just one of the many great things I learned.

 

While I was up North attending the intensive, my friend Derek Loring from Napa gave me this picture which he drew for me.  While he appreciates trees he's not necessarily a bonsai guy.  I am very impressed!  The foliage is just made of dots and I really like the style he used on the dead wood.  Do you recognize this tree?   

Grafting, Fertilizing and a Rhino

Here's some quick pictures from the last few weekends:

This is a Sierra Juniper that I brought to a recent BIB workshop. This tree was originally collected by and purchased from Ned of Deadwood Bonsai.

One of the more challenging aspects for this tree is the fact that the majority of the foliage is too far from the base of the tree and the design I envision.  I think it would look best as a short and powerful tree which leaves me with two option-either big heavy bends or grafting new foliage.  Much of the large branch on the left hand side will be removed.

I've heard varying opinions on whether you should graft foliage onto native Junipers or keep the foliage natural.  Currently I believe I stand somewhere in the middle of this debate.

Here are the Itowigawa 2-3 year old cuttings which we used for grafting.

I think it would be really cool to find examples of our natives juniper varieties with foliage that has good characteristics like being naturally smaller and tighter.  It would be great If we could find these trees which grew as chance seedlings and propagate them for grafting.  If my tree had coarse, large or weeping Sierra Juniper foliage, i'd love to replace it with smaller tighter Sierra Juniper foliage.  Hopefully this is something we will see as time goes on.

In total, Boon helped me place 8 grafts on the tree.  The Itowigawa foliage and roots are kept, until the two plants fuse then the roots will be removed.

I made a big batch of fertilizer cakes with the ingredients below. I used about 70% Whitney Farms and 30% cotton seed meal for the dry mixture.  Then 50/50 water and fish emulsion with a small amount of Cal Mag and sea kelp.

I still form the cakes with my hands, but would like to try using a melon ball scooper with  a ratchet arm. This time around I stopped making the holes in the top of the cakes.  I found that this was more time consuming and I did not see much difference in the cakes without a indentation at the top.

Next time, I might try covering the mixture with plastic wrap for a few days to allow the bacteria to grow, which strengthens the fertilizer and the smell.  Here's a picture of some of the first cakes I ever made after being covered for a couple weeks.  You can see them starting to turn white from stuff growing on them.  I let them dry in my garage, which I will not do again.  It smelled absolutely amazing;)

Lastly, a pic from a short trip collecting California Junipers on private land.  While in a lot of situations it would not work, we rode in style in this off road vehicle called a Rhino.  It was my first time taking something like this and felt much different than usual.  I think it felt like cheating, because my legs weren't even sore the next day.

Updated Watering Set Up

For many, the benefits of watering with reverse osmosis or rain water may not be worth the time, energy or money it costs to set up.  However for others with really poor quality water like me, it could also be a very good idea for the health of your trees.

In a few months I will be returning my old Reverse Osmosis system to the original owner.  This person was very kind in letting me borrow his for the past year or so, but it's time to get my own.  Because of this I bought a new one and updated my watering set up.  I've posted the results below with a little write up about what I did in hopes that it may give you some ideas if you have poor water quality like me.   I'm now using a combo of collected rain water and reverse osmosis water for my trees.

Here's what my new overall set up looks like:

 

My new RO system is housed inside this small rubber made shed.  I drilled holes in the side of the container to put the lines through, so I can completely shut the door and keep the RO fully covered.  Both the RO system and the rain barrels empty into the trash can on the right.

 

 

The water is pumped out of the trash can using this electric submersible pump, through my hose and finally out of my watering wand.

 

After doing some research online and reading some good reviews, I decided to go with this Stealth RO 200 made by Hydro Logic.  The system costs about $220 on Amazon and is made by the same company who produced the old RO I was using called The Merlin.  This new system costs only a fraction of the price compared with the Merlin, but also only produces good water at the rate of about  20% compared with the Merlin. The Stealth also produces slightly better quality water, by filtering a greater amount of particles compared with The Merlin.   

 

Here's a picture which shows a comparison of the good(blue line) and bad water(black water) being produced from the new Stealth.  I have the black line connected to a much larger line running to my lawn in the front yard.

 

The Merlin RO produced about 1000 gallons per day and was considered a "Tankless" system.  The Merlin produced water fast enought so I could just turn the RO system on until the trash can was full.  This would usually take anywhere from 10 minutes to about 1.5 hours depending.  Because the Stealth is 80% slower, this time around I drilled a hole in the can so I could install this float pump.

 

Here's a pic of the RO water filling the can with the float pump installed.

 

Once the water level forces the white plastic piece to a set level, both the water from the blue and black lines shut off.  This makes things much more convenient, because now I don't have to worry about forgetting to turn the RO off or guessing when the can is full.   I'd highly recommend using a float pump if your going to use an RO system.  

 

In addition to the RO water filling the trash can, I set up these three 55 gallon food grade barrels to collect rain water.  I found them on Craigslist for $20/each from an olive oil farm.  If I could do it over, I'd suggest finding barrels with removable tops.  I ended up having to cut large holes in the tops to clean them out and insert the fittings. You'd be surprised at how much water comes off your roof and at how fast these guys fill up.  I got a bit more than what's shown from one short drizzle.

 

There are several ways you could link your barrels together.  Just Youtube rain barrel construction for other options.  Personally I used these fittings below which you should be able to find in the PVC section of any hardware store.  To help get a better seal, I used PVC cement around all the threads.  No leaks so far.

 

To drill the correct size holes, I used a bit like this.

 

 

I also used PVC cement on the insides of the fittings which the flexible PVC tube inserts into.

 

To add the facet head, I just drilled a hole using the bit shown above and threaded the head into the barrel adding PVC cement around the threads.

 

Here's a picture showing the pressure coming out of the first barrel.

 

I cut an old hose and connected the threaded side to the faucet tap and the other end through a hole in the trash can.

 

Here's what the inside of the can looks like when both the RO and Rain Barrels are filling my can.  The light gray hose shows the water pressure from the rain barrels.

 

To help filter the rain water, I used two-dollar store colanders, with two sheets of aluminum window screen in between them.  There are pre made screen filters you can buy, but this was a lot less expensive.  I also wanted something that was east to take apart and clean.

 

For now, i'm using trash can lids to cover the barrels. The colander filter is right below where the gutter drains into.  I also fitted another plastic pot with window screen and fitted it around the gutter opening.

I also plan to install an overflow line near the top of the last barrel and run the line to the lawn in my front yard.  But, that's about it for now-So there you have it, my new watering system.  Thanks for looking, really appriciate it!