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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Conversation(s) with an Anarchist

So there I was…

Sitting across the kitchen table from Dave,  having a cup of coffee/ (Starbucks/ French roast/ whole bean/ not ground.)  I asked him  what it meant to be an anarchist?

I could tell I had tapped into some strong anger….

As a peace-loving, non anarchist type myself, I was genuinely curious.

Besides he was drinking coffee from out of my stash….

I hate/ loath/ stay as far away as I can, from arguments of a non-productive nature.  Life is too short.

You do what you do..I do what I do.  (I’ll give you ten points if you can tell me what movie that phrase comes from.)

It is hard enough to work through an issue with a person I am in a long-term committed relationship with. Why in the world would I go there with someone who doesn’t feel that way about me?

Not going to happen.

But at the same time, I am nobody’s rubber stamp.  I have lived long enough to know  I do not always have a corner on the truth, and once in a while have the energy to “go there”  in the right setting and with the right person…

 

to be continued….?

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I so do  appreciate those of you that have me on your feed or take the time to stop by, read my stuff and occasionally leave a comment.  It adds immensely to my quality of life.  Each of you, in your own way,  give me just a little bigger sense of connection to the world.

Have a great weekend!   DM

 

 

 

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

Jack the plumber and other stories

My niece bought a coffee shop last month.

The previous owners had allowed me to sell my local history book in their gift store so I stopped by this week to restock.

I ran into a  high school class mate.  We decided to do coffee Saturday morning.

Saturday, as I sat at the main table, I was concerned I was sitting in someones chair.

“Not to worry,” they said.

One of the regulars, (Jack) is a plumber.  I’ve seen Jack around town for 40 years.    He was heading to work on a water heater after he left the coffee-house.

My classmate asked me to guess how old Jack was after he left…I guessed 80 only because I knew he was about my dad’s age…

88.

Jack is 88.  He has the energy of a man 20 years younger.  Now think about it for a second.   On a Saturday morning Jack was installing a water heater for someone.  I thought I was doing good to be at the coffee shop on my day off by 7:30. 🙂

My dad used to say “The word retirement is not in my vocabulary.”  Another one I’ve heard him say is, “Do what you love and  you’ll never have to work a day in your life…”  Those little ditties were  being lived out in front of my Saturday morning in the person of Jack.

Pause.

I am still reading  John Muir His Life And His Letters And Other Writings.   I started using the highlighter.  The guy was a poet.

Came across another nugget the other night.  He was telling a friend goodby….

He wrote:

“I don’t envy you.  You’ll have a hard time keeping your heart light and simple in the midst of this crowd of madmen.  Instead of the music of the wind among the spruce-tops and the tinkling of the waterfalls, your ears will be filled with the oaths and groans of these poor deluded, self-burdened men.”

Reading that admonition by Muir to his friend, confirmed for me yet again this impulse to keep my heart light and simple in the midst of life.

Yes,  sometimes I wished I had a little more wiggle room when it comes to finances.  If I had the option,  would I rather spend my life making lots of money in a job I hate with the goal of someday slowing down and enjoying it, or make a lot less and enjoy myself now.

As a firstborn, formerly driven workaholic, I can now take a nap  without shame.  (That is no small feat.)  I  no longer hear the voice of the old German taskmaster who  lives in my head.  I know he’s still up there, but he no longer in charge.

The old German.

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And on an almost unrelated  note.  We had a crop failure this year with the apples.  (we have a small orchard of about 100 trees) In June we had a nasty hail storm.  The apples kept forming but 90% of the crop was severely blemished. Still OK for cooking, cider, etc. but not marketable.

2017 hail damaged apple

Had two different Amish families come and pick some for cider.   I know they probably thought I was nuts to just give them away…but hated to see them go to waste and I was darned if I was going to deal with snarky comments.

I would rather give them away or let them rot.

“keep your heart light and simple, in the midst of this crowd of madmen…” John Muir

Later! 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

 

How would you approach this?

Twice a month, my wife and a neighbor  take turns driving to an Amish discount grocery store.  It is a combination, girls day out, and a chance to save some serious $  on the food budget.

When I got home from work, the last time they made the trek, my wife looked at me and said, “We were almost killed this morning in a traffic accident.”

Our neighbor, is in her late 60’s, does not like to drive in traffic, and creeps along when she is out and about.   Apparently, she (the neighbor) did not look to her right as she turned left out of the driveway.  The Amish store is situated on a paved road, below the crest of a hill..accident waiting to happen.  There is not a lot of traffic on it, but all it takes is one screw up.  Just as they were about into their lane, a blue pickup truck, flew in front of them, going at least 60 mph.  Both wife and neighbor were startled,  and neighbor sheepishly admitted she had forgotten to look to her right.

THEN,  as they were having this conversation, a semi barreled over the hill and passed them on their left…he too was flying, and had they been in an accident with the pickup truck moments before, there was little doubt in my wife’s mind, that the semi would have ran into all of them.

It is not my place to tell my wife, how to run her life, BUT I did suggest, she think twice about riding in the same car with the neighbor, if she is driving.

Wife had already made up her mind, that was the last time.  I suggested saying something sooner than later about the driving arrangement, before the next trip rolls around.  Both of us are pretty sure, our neighbor will not respond graciously when my wife breaks the news…Their next trip is coming up in a week or so…and neighbor reminded my wife on the phone yesterday, it was her turn to drive.  Wife didn’t say anything on the phone.

I always think, as much as possible it is better to have those kind of conversations in person, rather than over the phone, via e-mail, etc. etc.

Any suggestions on how to have that conversation and how you would word it?

As far as I’m concerned, she is an accident waiting to happen.  I can  very easily see this drive a wedge in our neighborly relationship.

Oh well.

Dealing With The Public

When I walked up to the Lowes contractor desk on Wednesday, I sensed tension….a lot of tension. (I am pretty sure I know why, but I am not at liberty to talk about it here.)

It had been a long morning for me as well.  My brain was fried.  I had one of those small projects where the homeowner hovered over me while I worked.   The icing on the cake was when it came time to collect.

Back story…

This was a small job.  The guy (let’s call him Bob) had been in the hospital for 6 weeks, almost died.  I worked for Bob last year.   In spite of his  sometimes cantankerous personality,  he’s grown on me, and when I heard he was seriously ill, I stopped to see him while he was still in the hospital a few weeks back.   He expressed a desire to have a little 16 by 16 deck built and wondered if I would have time  this Summer.

My thought was,  the guy had almost met his maker, and this was a great way to give him a little encouragement, so I worked his project into my schedule ASAP. Tuesday of this week we built the deck. Got done a day sooner than I had projected.  Asked him if he wanted me to come back on Wednesday because I had allocated two days for his project.

“That would be great,” he told me!

His parting comment to me when he handed me the check Wednesday was, ” Boy, I didn’t realize this deck was going to be so expensive.”

(When I work for Bob, it is on a time and material basis…he buys his own materials and I work by the hour.)   I looked at him and thought, you have got to be kidding me..….

He didn’t get the area ready for the deck like I had suggested…so in addition to building the deck, we also ended up leveling off and packing 6 ton of lime. That shot an extra hour and 1/2  the first day.

Here’s a picture of the deck after the first day:

And here is a picture of the finished product:

So Wednesday after lunch, went from Bob’s place directly to Lowes to order material for landscaping job to be done later this Summer….

Did I  mentioned I was tired? 😉

I asked one of the ladies standing @ the counter if I could set up a delivery for 100 bags of red mulch, 80 landscaping blocks and matching caps.

Well, they didn’t have enough red mulch to  do my order…they did have another product on hand but that would be another $.67 per bag…= $67 more… and this was a bid job…..oh well.

Because this was going to be a larger order, I asked if there was any chance they could work with me on the delivery charge?

The lady said she would have to ask the store manager…which she did, and he said, they would deliver for $25. (a $40 savings for me.)

“Could she  match the $3 price?” 

“Well I will have to check with the store manager again.”  she said.

“Don’t worry about it,” I said.  (I just wanted to get things ordered and head home.)

There was some confusion @ the counter, as they tried to ring up the order.  They could not find me in their system  as a contractor.   I get regular e-mails from corporate, so I was pretty sure I was.

I could see one of the older estimators sitting @ his desk listening to me try to get things sorted out and he said, “Why don’t you just come here to my desk and I will help you.”

I had all of my notes with me, from when I’d originally looked up Lowes prices on-line…(the red 2 cubic mulch at that time was selling for $2.50 a bag…not $3 and certainly not $3.67)

So he and I  found the skew numbers for everything…and sent me on my way.

When I got home, I realized he’d sold me the mulch for $2.50 a bag.  He didn’t ask the store manager.  He just did it…a $117 savings and I did not raise my voice.  I didn’t whine, I didn’t rant.  I didn’t say, that’s not fair….nothing.  I was too tired to do any of that…. 🙂

There is definitely a lesson in all of that somewhere  😉

My heart goes out to those of you that work with the public on a daily basis…not just one cranky old codger @ a time (like me and “Hovering Bob”)…but dozens of personality types a day.

It has to get exhausting.

Guess who I am going to work with next time I need to get an estimate from Lowes…

Be nice to the customer service reps, the receptionists you talk  to, and yes, even the medical bill collectors. (I have a story about that I could tell you, but this is already getting way too long.)

Have a good weekend. DM