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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I’m not sure it is worth noting….but I then again, I think it is. :-)

I needed to stop yesterday morning for fuel before heading out-of-town to install some laminate flooring. Typical small town mom and pop convenience store during early morning  rush.  People in a hurry.   Grabbing a few lottery tickets, a pack of smokes…..fuel…. the regulars…and then there was me.

There was a momentary break in the flow of customers.  Two girls working behind the counter.  One stepped into the kitchen area to do something…the second young lady…well, I was struck by two things she did.

First..she was humming a song.

Secondly..she sort of skipped/ (danced?) over to the cash register to ring me up.

It wasn’t contrived.

You could feel her cheerful energy even before acknowledging me as her next customer.

It was refreshing.  Encounter someone with a little splash of  (not sure what to call it?).

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We were out-of-town last weekend.  Took a road trip to visit daughter # three and help re-roof her house.  While I was up on the roof, doing some bonding and having quality time with my son-in-law and a few of his friends,  Mrs DM headed up town to do some retail therapy with our daughter.   One of their stops was a place called the “Weigh and Pay”   I’ve never been there.  Discount/ second-hand store kind of place.  One of my daughter’s favorite places to find a bargain.  Daughter was laughing and bantering with  the cashier, who obviously knew daughter.  Wife was next in line,  Wife quietly leans in and whispers to the cashier, “She is my sunshine.”

Clerk (large African-American woman) cracks a big smile, and  tells my wife…“I know what you mean!   I just love her spirit!”

(If you’re a long time reader, you have heard me brag about this daughter before. When she worked @ the local Subway, people would come in and request a song.   I am not kidding you.

Heck, I could tell you stories from all  of our kids lives when it comes to this stuff.  Cool thing is, it has absolutely nothing to do with money, status, or education.  You can’t buy it.  It flows from their hearts.

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I do know these people are a blessing to encounter.

Saying goodby after the 2017 roofing party

Two things….help me out with a name for what I’m trying to articulate.

Secondly, Is there anybody in your life who has a little bit of whatever I’m talking about?   Doesn’t mean they don’t have their off days.  Maybe it’s the post-mistress at your local post office…or a waitress or bartender @ one of your regular stops… Maybe it’s your car mechanic, or your sister-in-law, or one of your kids… Maybe it’s you?   Tell me a story (or three.)  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

 

 

 

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

So I did

Stairway to heaven

(My view yesterday  while I worked)

Woke up yesterday morning to  drizzle.   I’d hoped to finish a metal roof on  our two-story garage.   The garage is an old house dating back to the 1870’s.  If we had the funds, it would make an awesome guest house.   Sloped ceilings in the second floor rooms. Old old wallpaper still on the walls. Blueish green antique doors.  A chimney that still works…..

and a family of raccoons that have moved into the attic.

I realized a few weeks ago, they’d put a couple of holes right through the roof into the attic, which explained why we were starting to get water stains in the ceiling of our storage room.

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Pause.

We were re-watching an episode of Downton Abbey last night.  There was going to be a cricket match between the house staff and the locals… Molesley (one of the footman) kept going on and on at how good he was at cricket….his dad had been a coach….it made me cringe listen to him toot his own horn.  I looked over at my wife and told her,If I ever start sounding like that...tell me! “

Sometimes in my desire to keep it real here, I want to write about  the good stuff that is going on in my life, (like the retaining wall job from last week.) But, then I start to second guess myself, lest I sound like a Molesley 🙂

Life is a mix.

I’m not interested in the sanitized version of your life.  If something good is happening, I want to hear about it.

And, if something has really got you vexed, I want to hear about that too.  Because my life is a mixture, hearing about how other people deal with things helps keep me sane.

I have some older friends that I consider pretty well grounded.  My favorite stories from them are about things that trip them up…and I want details...so on that note, I am going to close with a recent event from my life.

 

I was approached a few years ago by XYZ. (a local store) They wanted to sell our apples through their venue.

Sure. Win-win  I thought.

Because it was a new business, in my desire to help them out, I suggested,  rather than getting paid,  I would spend what they owed me as in store credit.

Sure she said. Sounded great she said.

Well, we did it for two years,  but every time I stepped into the store, I sensed  an under-current of hurry/ hurry/ stress, stress.   This last season, I kept asking where we were at on the ledger sheet?   I would hear,

“I’ve written everything down..don’t have the exact total now….but I will.”

This happened multiple times. Got more awkward ever time I brought it up.  Finally I said, “Just cut me a gift certificate and  that will simplify things for both of us.”

Even that felt like I was pulling teeth.

Did I mention, the owner, sucked at returning phone calls, texts, etc.  Yea, well I finally called, left a message and said the following Thursday I would stop in and wanted to pick up the gift certificate.   I texted a reminder the day before, since no one ever picks up the phone when I called.   When I stopped in, the wife wasn’t there, but the husband mentioned she was up like at 5:30 that morning working on my total.

I sensed tension.

I’m thinking to myself, this is ridiculous.

Life is too short.

Selling apples is a hobby for me.

I am not even generating  that much income.

I refuse to put myself in a situation where there is tension every time I step through the door,  so I  decided earlier this summer, I had had enough.  I contacted the husband. Told him I was simplifying my life this Summer and would not be selling apples through their venue in the Fall.

That would give him plenty of time to line up another source for apples.

Well, there has been a $35.00 gift certificate attached to a magnet on the frig ever since.  I have not wanted to go back to the store.  Toyed around with giving it to someone else as a gift.

Then, the other day,  I thought, what the heck...that is my money.  Plus, they have delicious cheese in the store…and locally produced wine.  I am going to stop, and buy a block of delicious blue berry cheddar , and pick up a bottle of semi sweet Riesling Castle wine.   Then I am going to celebrate the completion of two very stressful projects.

So I did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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.