Potato buckets are a simple and efficient way to get started growing your own food and to become familiar with the basic principles of gardening. I chose to write about a bucket instead of a traditional garden because not everyone has access to a garden, but you can pick up a 5-gallon bucket and a bag of potting soil at most hardware stores.
Most large box stores will also have a gardening section where you can pick up all the parts for this project including the seed potatoes to kickstart your garden.
Prepare the Soil
Fill the bucket about ⅓ full with the soil. Make sure that it’s not hard packed. The potatoes are going to grow in the soil and will be constricted in hard packed soil. The looser the dirt, the easier it is for the potatoes to grow to be large and tasty.
Plant the Seed Potatoes
Place three of the seed potatoes in the bucket so that they’re evenly spaced from the bucket wall and from each other. Examine the seed potatoes to find the largest “eye” of each one and make sure it’s facing upwards. Add more dirt to cover the seed potatoes and fill the bucket to about ½ full. Optionally, you can line the inside of the bucket with foil to help reflect sunlight down through the neck of the bucket.
Feed your Spuds
Potatoes grow best in loose, moist soil. Set yourself a reminder alarm to check on your bucket every day to make sure that the soil is staying nice and dark with moisture while at the same time not turning into a muddy pit. Potatoes are hardy tubers and the potting soil should be nice and rich so you shouldn’t have to add any fertilizer or nutrients to the bucket. Just make sure to keep the soil damp.
You should start seeing sprouts shooting through the soil after a couple weeks. Keep feeding your bucket to grow the sprouts into tall, leafy stalks. The leaves should begin creeping over the edge of the bucket in a couple more weeks. When they do, it’s time to start mounding the soil up around the base of the stalks.
To do this, fill the bucket with more potting soil to about ¾ full or just below where the leaves have started growing. Once covered with dirt, the stalks of the plant will send out roots on which more potatoes will grow and increase your yield. The stalk will continue growing up as well as out.
Continue keeping the soil moist and loose to encourage the potatoes to grow. As the stalks continue growing, keep mounding up the dirt until you reach the top of the bucket.
Harvest your Crop
After about 10-15 weeks, you begin to notice that the leaves of your plant are starting to wilt. This is expected. Once most the leaves have started wilting, stop watering the bucket and let the plants wither. Once all the branches have lost their leaves and the stalks have withered, it’s time to harvest your spuds.
The easiest way to do this is to simply tip the bucket over and dump everything out. Naturally, you’ll need some way to collect the dirt and clean up so it’s a good idea to lay out a tarp and dump everything on it. Sort through all the soil and pull out your spuds.
When you’ve removed the spuds, dump the soil back into the bucket for next time or for your next crop. Take the spuds inside and give them a good wash and a scrub.
Store your Spuds
You should be able to store your harvest easily in a grocery bag. Keep them in a cool, dry place and they should last for a long time.
Boil ‘em, Mash ‘em, Stick ‘em in a Stew
All that’s left to do is to cook them up. One of my favorite ways to cook potatoes is to cut them up into small pieces and pan fry them in butter. Once they start to brown up, add eggs and cheese. Once it starts to firm up, throw a tortilla over the whole thing for a minute or two until it’s nice and warmed up. Then hold a plate over the pan like a lid and flip the whole thing over so that the tortilla and the potato scramble lands on the plate and is ready to eat.
If you drive a car, there is a high likelihood that you will get pulled over by the police at some point. Seeing the flashing blue lights in your rearview mirror is one of the more stressful things that can happen to most drivers. When it does happen to you, there are a few things you can do to make the interaction go smoothly.
Flashing Blue Lights
When you see the blue lights in your rearview, the first thing you should do is look for a safe place to pull over. Most states have laws requiring drivers to slow down and pull over whenever an emergency vehicle with flashing lights is behind you whether they’re after you or someone else.
Use your turn signal just like you would if you were turning and pull over somewhere safe. You want to get as far out of the flow of traffic as you can so that the officer is safe when walking up to your vehicle. A parking lot is a good place to pull over, but the shoulder of the road will do. If there simply isn’t a safe place to pull over, turn on your blinker and drive slowly to let the officer know that you’re trying to find a safe place to stop.
Once you get stopped, the officer will pull up behind you and will likely shine a spotlight into your car. This helps the officer see what’s going on inside your vehicle. The next thing you should do is turn off the car and place your keys on the dashboard. This sends a clear message to the officer that you have no intention of driving off. If the radio is on, be sure to turn it off also.
There will be a minute or two from the time the cars stop until the officer is at your window. During this time, the officer is checking with dispatch to see if there are any reports on the car or people associated with it. While this is happening, you should be busy getting your driver’s licence, the vehicle registration, and your proof of insurance ready. Once you’ve got these documents ready, place them on the dashboard as well. All that’s left to do now is wait for the officer to approach your vehicle.
While you wait, be sure to keep your hands visible. Put both hands on the steering wheel or somewhere else that is easy for the officer to see with your fingers extended. The walk up to a vehicle and the first few moments of an interaction are the most stressful for the officer so anything you can do to signal that you’re cooperating and not a threat will help put the officer at ease.
Now that the officer is at your window, it’s time to make it clear that you recognize his or her authority. Greet the officer politely. Make good use of “officer”, “sir” or “ma’am” as appropriate. The goal is to show deference and respect, not to be a kiss up. Even if you were driving 24 in a 25 and you’re late to pick up your kids from school, if you make the extra effort to be polite and show respect then you’re more likely to drive away having had a good interaction.
If the officer asks you if you know why you were pulled over, be honest, but don’t guess. If you’re confident that you weren’t speeding, say so, respectfully. Unless you’re sure that you actually were violating some traffic law, don’t admit to anything. Saying, “I’m sorry officer, I don’t know why I was pulled over,” is a good way to respond to the question.
I’m Sorry Officer
The officer should tell you why you’ve been pulled over. This is not the time to argue or debate whether the offense actually occurred. If you disagree with the officer’s version of what happened, it’s ok to say so as long as you’re being respectful. Saying something like, “I’m sorry officer, I remember coming to a full stop at the stop sign,” is a good way to respectfully let the officer know that you disagree.
In this scenario, it’s likely that the officer will write you a ticket. In the event that happens and you believe that the ticket is incorrect, it’s ok to politely ask the officer how you should go about contesting the ticket. It’s likely that there are instructions on the backside of the ticket telling you how to pay it or contest it.
Police Are People Too
The uniform, the bullet-proof vest, the pistol, the badge; all these things are designed to help officers do their jobs and, frankly, they’re intended to convey an image of authority and intimidation. Underneath all that kit, however, is a human being with thoughts and feelings just like yours. Not only that, but these humans spend their workdays dealing with other humans who are having what might be the worst day of their lives.
Working every day in that environment is stressful, but it gives us the chance to exceed their expectation for a routine interaction by simply being polite and respectful. The simple, small things you do to show legitimate respect to an officer may be enough to tip the scales in your favor so that you get a warning instead of a ticket.
Being able to handle a needle and thread to perform basic repairs of your clothes and equipment is a very important skill to possess. You don’t fully realize or appreciate the importance of buttons until they break on you when you’re 10 miles into a 40 mile hike.
Sewing a Button
Buttons come primarily in 2 or 4-hole designs. The process for attaching either design is mostly the same.
Thread the Needle
This can be very frustrating. If the end of your thread is frayed, you can wet it with your lips to help create a narrow end to feed through the eye of the needle. Once you thread the needle, pull it through so that both ends are equal and at least 12 inches long. Tie a knot in the tail end of the thread to create an anchor point and help prevent the thread from pulling loose while you’re working.
Create the Anchor
From the back side of the cloth, run the needle through to the front. If you have a 2-hole button, run the needle through to the back side again so that a small loop is formed in the front side. The size of the loop should be equal to the distance between the holes in the button. Run the needle through the cloth several times to build up the loop. If you have a 4-hole button, do the same thing except in the shape of an X.
Place the Button
With your anchor created, position the button holes over the ends of the anchor and run the needle from the back of the cloth through to the front and through one of the button holes. It’s important not to make the button snug up to the cloth, there should be a space the width of a toothpick between the button and the cloth. You can eyeball this distance, but to get a nice, clean stitch, it’s helpful to lay another needle or toothpick over the top of the button to act as a spacer so that as you run the needle through the holes, the thread wraps over it.
Run the needle from back to front through the buttonholes and over the spacer until you feel you’ve made a solid attachment. Then run the needle back through the buttonholes, but not through the cloth so that the thread is dangling between the button and the cloth. Wrap the dangling thread around the stitched thread several times and pull it snug to cinch down the thread that holds the button on to the cloth. This will reinforce the stitching
To finish the job, run the needle through the anchor to the back side of the cloth. Then run the needle through the back side of the anchor several times and tie a knot to secure the thread. Tying several knots isn’t a bad idea, but don’t overdo it. Once you’re satisfied that the knots will hold, trim away the excess thread and test your work.
Stitching a Tear
When you stitch a torn piece of clothing, you’re going to have to make do with less cloth than you originally started with. A tear in cloth means that the threads at the edge of the rip have been weakened and aren’t suitable for holding a stitch. That doesn’t mean that you can’t fix or patch the tear, you’ll just have to accept that it may be a little tight until you can get to a proper tailor.
I should also mention that there are many, many techniques for stitching tears and that each has it’s own advantages and difficulties. The technique that is being taught here is a very simple, but sturdy approach that is field expedient and durable.
Thread the Needle
This step is more or less the same as described in the Sewing a Button section. The length of the thread you’ll need is dependent on the thickness of the cloth you’re stitching and the length of the tear. Generally speaking, you’ll probably want to have 12-24 inches of doubled up thread (that’s 24-48 inches of single strand thread).
Clean up the Tear
Before you begin stitching, it’s a good idea to try and clean up the edges of the tear. Cut away any loose thread and try to make the edges as straight and clean as possible. Try not to cut away any serviceable material as you’ll need this to help close the tear.
Meet in the Middle
Once the edges are cleaned up, press them together so that the insides of both sides the cloth are touching and the edges face outward away from the wearer’s body. Beginning at one end of the tear, begin stitching the two sides together.
There are a couple techniques you can use to actually stitch the tear. One technique is a back-and-forth stitch where you simply run the needle from one side to the other along the length of the tear. The other is a running loop stitch where you run the needle through from one side, bring it back over the tear to the same side, cinch the stitch, and run the needle back through the same side.
Run your stitching up and down the length of the tear several times to make the stitching hold tight.
Reinforce the Ends
Once you’ve closed up the tear, run a few extra stitches through the ends of the tear to provide additional reinforcement where the tear is most likely to grow. After building up the material with the thread, tie a knot or two to hold it in place and trim off the extra thread.
Every man should have at least one suit ready to go at all times. Even if you work in a coal mine, the occasions to wear a suit can sneak up on you when you least expect it and that is usually a bad time to try and knock the wrinkles out of an old shirt and pants.
There are many, many different kinds of irons available today. Instead of trying to give instructions about knobs and dials, it’s more effective to give generalized advice about how to use an iron.
Most irons have a steam and/or spray feature that lets you fill them with water so that you can shoot streams of water or puffs of steam out while ironing. These are intended to help knock stubborn wrinkles out of your clothes and can be helpful. If possible, make sure that you’re using water that is as pure as you can find. Any impurities in the water will get left behind inside the iron and that build-up can cause it to fail over time.
If your iron doesn’t have a spray or steam feature, you can still gain the benefit of this technique by sprinkling or spraying water with your fingers or even a squirt gun.
Most irons also have an ability to raise or lower the temperature to make sure that the clothes being ironed have the correct level of heat applied without damaging the material. If you set the temperature too low, you won’t have much effect on the cloth. If you set the temperature too high, you can melt or burn the material. Reading the labels on your clothes and the instruction manual of the iron are the best ways to figure out what temperature to use.
If you insist on trial and error, start with a low setting as it’s better to have to redo the work of running the iron over your clothes than to burn or scorch your clothes.
Most dress pants have seams that run down the inside and the outside of the legs. Using these seams as a guide will make the work of ironing your pants very easy. When you iron your pants, you should do one leg at a time, but the process for each leg is the same.
Before getting into the instruction, we should define some terms that are going to be used:
Hold the pants by the cuff of one leg so that the inside and outside seams are touching. Almost like you were closing a zipper on a plastic baggie, run your other hand along the two seams until you get close to the crotch of the pants and lay them on the ironing board. Your goal here is to get the seams to line up as high up the leg as you can manage. This will get the front and back part of the pant leg to rest as evenly as possible making ironing that much easier.
While ironing your pants, you’ll be running the iron over two layers of cloth and while you can visually ensure that top side is free of wrinkles, you should also take care to ensure that the underside is also wrinkle-free. Running the iron over a wrinkle will turn the wrinkle into a crease and make it harder to smooth out later.
Once you have the inside and outside seams lined up on the ironing board, hold it in place with one hand and take the iron in the other hand. Starting at the crotch, place the face of the iron on the pants next to the seam and push out away from the seam. This should create a crease in what is either the front or back side of the pants depending on which side of the seam you started on.
Work your way down and continue this pattern until you have run the face of the iron over the entire length of the leg on both the front and back side of the seam. This should create a crease on the front and back of each pant leg that runs from the about the level of the crotch down to the cuff of the pants.
Once you have one leg finished, do the same to the other leg. When you are done, you can iron out any creases in the seat of the pants by sliding the pants over one end of the ironing board so that there is only one layer of cloth coming in contact with the iron.
The principals of ironing a shirt are similar to those of ironing your pants. The major differences are that with the pants, you’re effort is focused mainly on the legs which have two layers of cloth, the shirt is composed mainly of torso which is only one layer of cloth and you don’t crease the arms of the shirt.
Apply the same technique of lining up seams that you used for the legs of the pants to the arms of the shirt. Some shirt sleeves are curved so it’s easier to have wrinkles form in the under side. If the shirt sleeves have only one seam, you should aim to create a crease on the opposite side of the sleeve from the seam. If your sleeves have two seams, then you only need to reinforce them and smooth out the cloth.
The torso of the shirt is much easier to iron. Open the shirt up so that large sections of torso material lay flat on the ironing board and simply run the iron over those sections. Once you’ve removed all the wrinkles, turn the shirt so that an un-ironed section of cloth is on the board and repeat the process. Continue until you’ve ironed out all the wrinkles from the torso of the shirt. There should be no wrinkles or creases in the torso of the shirt.
Hanging It Up
After putting in the time and effort of ironing your shirt and pants, it’s important to store it in a safe place where you can prevent it from getting wrinkled. To hang your pants, line up both legs so that both inside and outside seams form a single flattened stack. The creases that you formed into the pant legs should form the sides of the stack. If your hanger has clips, attach theses clips to the cuffs of the pants so that the waistband hangs down. If your hanger doesn’t have clips, run the pant legs over the crossbar of the hanger so that the leg creases are reinforced while the pants are hanging.
With the pants hung, open up your shirt and drape it over the hanger and the pants so that both are on the same hanger. Keeping them together will make it easier to keep track of and use when the time comes.
Finally, put the hanger in a closet so that the other things in the closet don’t wrinkle your freshly pressed shirt and pants.