The Indispensable Field Bucket

The Field Bucket

A typical day in the office

I’ve not had many opportunities to be this comfortable when I was working a wetland data point.  In this case, my auto was nearby and I used it to carry gear from data point to data point.  Nice.

When we were working at the Corps’ Waterways Experiment Station in Vicksburg, MS, Dr Steve Sprecher introduced me to the practice of using an army mess kit knife as a soils knife.  I have used one ever since; in fact, I have used my mess kit knife so much that the blade has developed a distinct inward-oriented curve from cleaning soil materials from my augers. I’ve had my share of doctor visits and stitches and thus I like the fact that this knife has a dull blade.

The stool has a rotating top and sitting on it takes a load off one’s knees.  Although this is probably the only time that I used it for a delineation, I have used it when I was estimating plant cover for mitigation studies.  In one pitcher plant pine savannah, it was not unusual to spend 10 to 15 minutes (or more depending on plant identification challenges) at a quadrat point because there were so many plant species present.  With at least 8 randomly located quadrats per plot, it was definitely worth my while to carry the bucket.

Speaking of “the bucket”, as a kid when I saw Jimmy Durante “kick the bucket” in “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World”, I almost split my sides from laughing!  If you haven’t seen it you should.  If you have seen it you are probably laughing with me right now.

Rite in the Rain

Courtesy of

Relatively early in my wetlands career, I adopted the yellow loose-leaf notebook with journal-style Rite-in-the Rain paper for recording field notes (in pencil).  One should do what works for them, and I have found that the process of writing something down clarifies and preserves my thoughts   I believe that taking appropriate notes is an important part of being professional in one’s work.

The gardener’ tool belt is raggedy now, but I use it to carry my soils knife, a hand trowel for mini-soil samples, a pair of brush clippers for leveling the playing field with pesky briars, a pair of field scissors for plant samples, and a y-handled forked stick for cleaning the tube of my soil probe.

All I need now is a group of minions to act as field porters for me.  Any volunteers?

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One Comment

  1. Charlie Newling
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    Jim and Sarah:

    Great job on this website! Regarding your observations, let me add that duck hunting is great preparation for someone doing wetland related field work. All the way back to my graduate school years in Carbondale (early ’70′s), my ne’er do well friends and I realized you couldn’t go duck hunting without an all purpose, multi-use, 5-gallon plastic “pickle bucket”. We always called them “pickle buckets” because we could get them for free when they were discarded by the fast food places in town but no matter how well you washed them, they’d never seem to totally lose the aroma of their former contents. Now, based on your suggestions regarding its usefulness as a field tool, I have another item to add to my “bucket list”.

    –Charlie (7/29/10)

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