Our first bucket brigade

post by Daniel,  field school student

The forecast for overnight Wednesday included chances of strong to straight-line winds, hail, and possible tornadoes. With this in mind, we took as many precautions as possible when closing up the site for the night. Our normal routine is to cover each unit with 4mm-thick black contractor plastic, weighted down around the edges with rocks. On Wednesday afternoon, we stacked overturned 5 gallon buckets, three high, and made of each cover a tent which, we hoped, would divert rain water into the surrounding grass.

Unit covered with plastic filled with water.

Unit covered with plastic filled with water.

Unfortunately, our efforts were no match for Mother Nature. The rain came down too fast, and upon our arrival the next day, it became abundantly clear that today we were to receive a new kind of  education. Black tarps were strewn about the yellow field and overturned floating buckets were moored against the sides of practically every unit; this was a discouraging sight.

Plastic was ripped off of this unit by strong winds overnight.

Plastic was ripped off of this unit by strong winds overnight.



Nevertheless, we formed lines and made short work of bailing water.

Bailing units with buckets.

Bailing units with buckets.


As more rain began to fall, it was obvious that there would be no shoveling today.

Bucket Bridade 1.

Bucket Bridade 1.

This is not to say there was a lack of work. On the contrary, there was quite a lot to be done; namely, washing the very artifacts we had been gathering and filing into small bags over the course of nearly four weeks.  It was satisfying to see that our ability to discern true artifact from naturally-occurring rocks was much improved from our first week.

Washing artifacts in the barn during additional rain on Thursday.

Washing artifacts in the barn during additional rain on Thursday.

We are hoping for sunshine and no rain on Friday…we are having visitors to the site and we want to show them more than mud pits!


4 thoughts on “Our first bucket brigade

  1. When I lived in Sumner County many years ago, I would sometimes go over to Rutherford County for a visit. One of the first unusual things I noticed was how storm water pools over large areas of the ground and just sits there for a few days, sort of making ephemeral lakes 2 inches deep in fields.

    Bailing squares is no fun. That’s for sure. The only thing worse is bailing them during a wintertime excavation. Been there. Done that—on the T-0 of the Nolichucky River in winter 1982. It was wet, windy, and frigid. B-r-r-r-r-r!!!

    Field school is all about learning, so here is a new fact to learn. Plastic sheet thickness is not measured in “millimeters” as Daniel indicates in the post above. Rather, it is measured with an unusual and not-too-often-seen unit of measurement called the “mil,” and is often written as “mils” or even “mills” by some folks. A lot of my work is done in the environmental protection business, and we use the “mil” to measure the thicknesses of geotextile liners and other types of sheet liners that we install in engineered landfills to prevent the escape of contaminated landfill leachate into the surrounding soil and groundwater. You can read about the “mil” and a number of other oddball units of measurement at the following URL:


    Keep on having fun guys!!!

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