Little did we know…..

Friday morning 10 AM.

We were scheduled to pour  10 yards of cement..(40,000 pounds worth)  for a new garage. When the cement truck driver stepped out of the cab, there was a nervous look in his eyes….

       “It is already down to a 2 inch slump…I started out with 4 inch when I left the plant, and that was only 10 minutes ago.”

Come with me for a moment into the world of concrete….

Ever noticed how every vocation has its own lingo?    You either know it or you don’t.    Same goes for concrete.  I’d like to give you a very basic working knowledge of the trade.  You never know when this might come in handy 😉

Concrete (or cement)  is measured in cubic yards…ie.  a three ft by three-foot by three ft mass is one cubic  yard of cement.  A fully loaded cement truck can haul ten yards.

You purchase it in 1/4 yard increments.

Concrete is sold in various mixes…the higher the number (#3000, #3500, #4000, etc) the richer the mix.  The stronger the mix, the easier it is to smooth out if it is going to be a floor.

Concrete becomes hard due to a chemical reaction.  Heat and cold  affect the speed of the chemical reaction. This time of year (late Fall) we begin to add various things to the mix to help speed up the  process, because otherwise, the cement will just lay there…and if the temperatures are hovering close to freezing, you run the risk looking loosing it completely.

One of the most common additives is Calcium.

1% calcium will cut the curing time by 50%…2% will make it set up 4 times faster.   (Are you still with me? )  Another variable is the temperature of the water…This time of year, you can also order concrete with hot water, which will also speed up the set time.

Pause…

I need to tell you about slump.

Slump is how we measure the consistency of concrete… (wet or dry)

You take a one foot tall cone and fill it with concrete…stir it up then dump it. Measure how much it settles (slumps)   (ie.  If you have a 4 inch slump, then the pile has settled 4 inches)  If you have a 6 inch slump, it is quite a bit wetter and has settled…. how much?

When I ordered the concrete  Friday, I requested a 4 inch slump.  That is  the perfect consistency for placing without compromising the strength.

Side note…The higher the slump, the weaker the finished product.  If someone is pouring your driveway, and they are the lazy type, they may pour a 7 or 8 inch slump.  Very easy to work with, and you will be none the wiser.  Not until a year or two later, when the new concrete starts to break up.   SO, if you EVER, hire someone to pour any concrete for you…walk up to the foreman  and ask him what slump he intends to pour?   You will do two things.  Probably stop him dead in his tracks, because no one ever asks that question,  and two, he will realize he is working with an informed consumer. 🙂

If it is anything more than a 5, you  tell him that is not acceptable.  Basically he is selling you an inferior product.  Unless you are on some type of state inspected commercial job…no one EVER inspects the slump.  I see this sort of stuff happen all the time.

Anyway, the driver was nervous because in the ten minutes it took for him to drive from the concrete plant to me, it had gone from a 4 inch slump to a 2 inch slump.    We potentially had what is called a “hot load” on our hands,   where the concrete sets up so quickly, within minutes, you have a large blob of grey molten rock that has turned to stone.

I got nervous because, while  a 24 ft by 24 ft garage slab is a slam dunk for a regular concrete crew  we were not a seasoned crew.  The four of us had never all worked together , and 2 of the 4 had done very little concrete work.

So, there I was with 40,000 pounds of concrete with 1% and hot water  with a 2 inch slump, that needed to be placed and troweled, and I only had minutes to act.

 

 

Here we were, Friday morning before the truck arrived…

Little did we know.

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Like I just did here for you, I would LOVE to learn a few snippets from some area of your life, that may be helpful to me  and the average person probably doesn’t know unless they run in those circles…  (ie. work related, hobby related, investment related, relationship related, etc, etc.DM

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Update 11/6/2017

In case you were wondering…

Just finished  power troweled garage floor

It turned out stellar!

Stellar: informal definition – exceptionally good; outstanding.

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Katie and the Amish Farmer

I have been on the receiving end of two attitudes the past couple of weeks with our apple give away.    Both have left  lasting impressions.

Do you mind if I tell you two short stories? 😉

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Her name is Katie.

She called our place a week ago, looking for apples.

Wondered if she could stop by after work.  She wanted to make apple butter.

I told her on the phone about the hail storm in June, how it had severely damaged the crop.  She was more than welcome to get as many as she wanted, I didn’t want them to go to waste…and they were free. She insisted on paying something,  but it would have to be after she got paid on Wednesday.  (She works at a local nursing home.)  I was struck by the concerned tone of her voice on the phone.

She stopped  one of the days I was home working in the shop.

I was struck even more by her appreciative, caring attitude when I met her in person. If I could bottle it up and sell it, I would be a rich.  What her attitude did (and does) to my heart  is almost palatable….like a perfume that makes my heart glad.

Katie came back this week and got a few more apples…and a pumpkin. She insisted on giving my wife $20.

 

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This second attitude came my way via an Amish farmer.  He was here twice picking apples.  I lost track of how many bushel he ended up getting.

The second attitude  (if I were to put it into words) goes something like this…… You must be stupid (or uninformed).  Sure I will take free apples.   Before giving my friend your phone number I want to make sure I get all I want).

I don’t have a prejudiced, biased, judgemental bone in my body toward the Amish.  It has nothing to do with that. In the past  few years the Amish have been moving into our area in droves.  I interact with them every chance I get.

The Amish farmer asked if I had any apple wood he might be able to get for smoking.  Just so happened I did have a pile stacked by the barn I was hoping to sell to local restaurants…. When he asked me what I would charge for the wood, (this was after getting all of those free apples) I still sensed he was trying to get as much as he could for the least amount of money….

I just think it is hard-wired into some people to do business this way.

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People  are watching.  They may not say anything, but don’t think our good (or less than stellar) attitudes don’t go unnoticed.

 

Protecting the brand.

Hail damaged Cortland

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Do you have any recent (encouraging) encounters with a stranger that left a lasting impression?

You know me….I love details. 🙂 DM

Felons and farmboys

Call me crazy, but two of my favorite people groups to hire from are farm boys and felons.

Yes you have to be a little careful with the 2nd group, but in my line of work (construction)  it helps to have a little “fire”/ passion/get to it-ness  (is that a word?)

We had a new guy helping us out yesterday on a roof tear off from the  later category.  (The homeowner hired him directly because my crew is a little short handed)

He’s got a new baby. Trying to make something of his life.  Has what look like quite a few gang tattoos.  He did a pretty good job hanging in there.

At some point he mentioned being a felon, “Having done some crazy @#it when he was younger.”

I asked him how old he was?

25

I smiled and told him what my dad  would say.

Dad likes to say, “The human brain doesn’t really mature until you are 25.”  (I think it is a Dr Phil-ism)

My new co-worker looked at me and said,”That is correct, I would tend to agree with him.”

A couple of you regulars probably remember the story of Johnny, (the guy who stabbed me with the sawzall a few years back).

 Here’s a link to that story.  

I intended to write about working with a felon this morning but in re-reading that older post, it says what I wanted to say…

Well, I need to get ready for work.

I’ll leave you with a song I like to listen to once in a while that helps me stay in touch with my farmboy roots… 😉  Later! DM

 

Picking green beans in the rain

It had been thundering for the past half an hour, and then it started to rain.

I was out in the garden picking green beans Tuesday night.

I could feel the anger slowly melting  away.

In the Christian tradition, there is a thought that goes like this….Be angry but do not sin…do not let the sun go down on your anger.

The word sin has all but disappeared in the work a day English language.

Too bad.   It  literally means  “to miss the mark”… a word picture of a faulty bow (bow and arrow) that doesn’t  shoot straight…shoot an arrow with this bow and it will inevitably veer to the left or right.

So there I was grousing a bad attitude about something I could not shake.  I did not want to have a bad attitude but i did…. If I told you what it was that had me vexed, you wouldn’t believe it.  Doesn’t matter. problem was, I could not shake it. Tried everything I knew…

And then it started to rain….and the bad attitude just sort of dissolved…. Not sure how that works, but I like it.

Pause.

Stopped by my mom and dad’s yesterday morning for coffee. They are both in their 80’s….still live on the family farm.  Dad was outside pushing a riding lawnmower onto a trailer.  I got there just in time to help him finish.

I cherish moments like that,  all the more of late… There has been a slew of obituaries in the local paper of people I know….most of them my parents age or younger.

My favorite moment yesterday  happened just before I left.  I asked dad about the young farmer who had recently purchased an adjacent farm dad used to farm.

(I’m scratching my head wondering how that math works…farm ground around here is still in the $5000, to $6000 per acre range, and with current corn and bean prices, dad lost money last season farming that same ground).

Dad said...”The younger generation has never experienced what can happen when the bottom drops out.  I have.  You never forget those things.. I would be very careful just how much debt you take on right now.  One of the salesman in the local John Deere  store told me this week, they are looking at a long term gradual decline in sales, just like back in the 1980’s…”

Listening to my dad validate my concerns did something for me.

It helped me to feel grounded.

Picking green beans in the rain and having coffee with my parents gave me a sense of being grounded.

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When you hear that term “grounded,”   what does that mean to you?  What are some ways that happens in your life?  I want details.

DM

One ton of fresh compost

Making diamonds

I love hearing stories about what my kids are up to…heard this one this morning. DM

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“We decided to move our business here because of you!”  the young woman told my daughter yesterday with a grin.

(Daughter works behind the counter @ a local pharmacy.)

Daughter didn’t know who this person was, and had a puzzled look on her face.

Lady smiled and continued…

“Well, we are new to the community, and you stopped by where I work back on March 21st in celebration of World Down Syndrome Day, with those lottery tickets.  Your attitude really touched me.  I asked you if you  worked outside the home and mentioned you worked here…  My husband and I wanted to start doing business here because of you.”

Three years ago, our third grandchild was born.

Shortly after his birth, it was determined he had Down Syndrome.   The first several weeks of his life  were touch and go.  Even to this day, there are medical issues he is having to deal with related to Downs….

None of us really know how we will respond to  life’s challenges until we are in the middle of it.  Our daughter and her husband have decided to  celebrate the birth of their little boy by passing out lottery tickets in honor of him and raise awareness of those who have been blessed by down syndrome each March 21st.  (Those are her words)

Kasen celebrated his third birthday last week.  He is a hoot.  Loves to hang out with his dad, and grandpa when they cut firewood. He loves to sit on my lap and listen to Scottish drum music. His dad is a fire fighter, Kason has already been adopted by the local fire department as one of their own.

 

Kasen during one of his stays in the  Intensive Care Unit

Kasen and his new toy chainsaw

 

Life is good.

If you don’t want to watch all 9 minutes of that Scottish drum music (see link)  jump ahead to about 7 minutes…that last song is Kasen and my favorite. 😉 DM

 

Here and now I’m in the fire,
In above my head
Oh, oh, oh oh, oh, oh
Being held under the pressure,
Don’t know what’ll be left
Oh, oh, oh oh, oh, oh
But it’s here in the ashes
I’m finding treasure

He’s making diamonds, diamonds
Making diamonds out of dust
He is refining in his timing
He’s making diamonds out of us”

From the song Diamonds by Hawk Nelson

Schools Of Thought

“Well, I want it done right!”  Dave told me yesterday. He sounded a little exasperated   We were talking about how to proceed with tiling his shower.

I told him at the beginning of his project, I have done four tiling projects so far.  If I didn’t know something I would not fake it.  I do know who to ask most times if I have a question. Tiling is not rocket science, although there is more than one way to do things.

Yesterday, the plumber on the job, (who has also tiled),  made some suggestions I had never heard of before on how to fabricate the shower base from scratch.  Talk to three tilers and you’ll probably get three different  approaches.

Same goes with bee keeping. It is not an exact science.  We have a local  husband and wife  who both wanted to be bee keepers. Both wanting to do things right, had strong (different) opinions on what that looked like.   They decided each needed their own hives to manage.  End of conflict.

Side note…we opened our  hive last Sunday.  There were (9) new queen cells forming….

Talk to three different bee keepers and you will probably hear three different approaches to what to do next…..

When I took some classes years ago, called Introduction to Theology, I had a teacher that I really liked.   I remember covering the topic of  end times.  The technical term is Eschatology.  I found out there were at least (3) major schools of thought, with subsets even within that.  We covered all three, thoroughly. At some point, the teacher shared with us where he was at in his understanding and why, but  it never felt like he was  trying to manipulate me to get me to a certain understanding.

I appreciate intellectual integrity, and don’t respond well to manipulation, lying or snark.

I have a strong independent streak. (Just ask my wife) 🙂

I use the same approach when it comes to politics,  social issues and life in general.  I used to meet with a friend on a regular basis over coffee to talk about local history.  Sometimes our conversations would drift  into  politics and current events.  We were polar opposites in some respects, (He was an anarchists I am not. 🙂  He served on the board  of the ACLU/ absolutely hated Christians, organized religion, had served a tour of duty in Vietnam,  which left him with another whole set of issues, I did not.  But… we shared a love of local history,  both grew up on a farm, and worked real hard at showing each other respect when we talked.

I had (and still have) a genuine intellectual curiosity, to try to understand why and how he was coming to some of his conclusions.    I had (and have) absolutely zero interest in getting into a pissing match conflict with someone about some issue.  It is hard enough to get along and communicate effectively in the context of a healthy marriage…why in the world would I go looking to take a spin on the crazy cycle with the rest of the world…it ain’t going to happen.

Crazy cycle: a word picture for getting into a fight where you just go round and round and nothing is resolved.

 

Second year  we were married, we went to a marriage workshop.   One of the topics was how to have a good fight.  Don’t you just love that title! 🙂

Conflict in and of itself is not always bad.

It is possible to express anger in a healthy way.  It does not have to be destructive.

When seeking to resolve a conflict…try to stay on topic.  If the issue is conflict about money, then don’t go off on bunny trails about other unresolved issues.

Schedule a time when you can talk ..ie.  Wife and I have found, Saturday morning is a lot better time than right before bed to talk about money problems.

Don’t garbage dump, get historical, or hit below the belt (name calling, bringing up old wounds, etc.)

Use “I” statements rather than “you” statements…better to say, “I am angry because”, rather than, “You make me angry….”

So much of communication is nonverbal…ie. eye contact, tone of voice, etc. Don’t get into a conflict over the phone, via the internet, letter, etc. It is hard enough to really hear what the other person is saying in person.

Any other thoughts on conflict, difference of opinions, etc?  I really appreciate those of you that take the time to read these ramblings.

Later! DM

 

 

 

Iowa Nice

Daughter # 2  (Kathy) was heading home from work a year ago about this time of day when it happened.  She noticed the car in front of her begin to fish-tale.  Then quoting now, “chunks of rubber began  flying off.”   Kathy didn’t know who was behind the wheel, but instinctively pulled over to see if she could help.

Out stepped a young Korean woman, her hands were shaking.  Her name was Ling.

“What just happened?”   Ling asked Kathy

“Your back tire blew” she said.

“Do you have someone you can call?” Kathy asked.

Ling pulled out her phone, but because they were in a low spot, she didn’t have a  signal.

Ling was a music major, heading for a recital in Dubuque.  Kathy offered to stay with her until they could figure out what to do.   Kathy called a local towing company she knew.   They ended up taking car back to the shop to address the tire situation.  (Don’t tell anyone I told you this) but Kathy offered to pick up the tab on the tow. When the tow truck driver realized she was doing this, he knocked 50% off the total and told her, if she  brought him in a plate of home made cookies  he would call it even.

After the spare was put on the car, and a couple of the other tires  rotated, Ling was back on the road.  Kathy and Ling kept in touch periodically throughout last year.

Last week, Ling’s parents were stateside for  graduation.  They wanted to meet “the angel” who had helped their daughter the year before, and go out for lunch.

As a parent of three daughters myself, I can very easily put myself in their shoes.

 

Kindness is alive and well in Iowa.