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

 

 

 

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

 

My cabin in the woods

In 2011 one of my regular customers asked me to help build  a new loafing shed for his dairy set up.  The first phase of the project  was for him to tear down an old limestone barn, dating from the 1800’s.  Wish I would have taken a picture.

There is something about old limestone buildings that stirs something in me.  I asked him what he was going to do with the old stone…long story short.  He gave it to me.  13  dump truck loads worth.  The only investment I had, was my time and the fuel it took to haul it home….

So this pile of limestone has been sitting there patiently waiting for me to do something with it…

That something has finally begun to stir…

We have a quiet spot out in the windbreak that looks north… In June, the wild black raspberries make an appearance.

One of my favorite places.

It is very easy to slough off the clamor when I’m out there.

I’m thinking I’ll just run a garden hose and a drop chord out there for some basic creature comforts…Murphy bed, barn beam interior, small loft.  16 ft by 20 ft tops/ with a small front porch like this….

 

I plan to do this on the cheap, using all recycled materials.

Want to help?

Think… Thoreau/ Walden/ tiny house…

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Before and After

We wrapped up a landscaping project yesterday for 85 yr old Betty M.

(50 foot of new sidewalk, retaining wall and landscaping.)

Started talking to Betty  about her project October of 2016.  I spent a lot of time pulling all of the details of this one together.

 

Here are the before pictures:

And here are the “after” pictures:

 

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Back story.  Because of the steepness of the bank, local landscapers were skittish about touching this one.  First estimate came in at over $12,000.  Second guy said, if Betty wasn’t willing to spend at least $9,000 on the landscaping, (not counting the sidewalk) he was not interested in even doing an estimate.

After a lot of research and thought, I decided to give it a whirl myself. 🙂 (Initially, I was just bidding on the sidewalk)

I found a new product on the Internet called “geo-grid” that has been created for just these situations.    It is a thick plastic grid  staked to the ground.

Here is a picture of the geo-grid before we put on the mulch:

Geo-grid.

Long term goal is to have juniper plants take over the area.   One nursery was asking $50 a pop for the little buggers.. junipers. I suggested to Betty, let’s wait until everything else was done, and check end of season prices @ the local big box store .

(I needed 20)

I called the big box store on Thursday to see if they had any junipers left in the greenhouse?

Yes they did, and everything was 30% off…!!!

Heck, half  of them were on sale for $5.00 a piece.

Well, need to run.

Let me know if you need an estimate on any construction work… 🙂  If I don’t know how to do it,  I will tell you straight up.

Later!   DM

 

Wrong Signals

Two quick stories….

Two weeks ago, my wife had her high school class reunion.  The night of the dinner/ dance,  Nancy, (one of the organizers) asked my wife if she wouldn’t mind dressing up in a fancy gown and wearing a tiara. One of my wife’s jobs was to  hand out drink tickets and greet people as they arrived.  Several of the organizers were going to dress up in clothes from the 70’s…  Wife had been elected home-coming queen her senior year, and Nancy thought it would be fun to have her do this… Wife does not like to be in the lime light, but said, she’d do it as a good sport….

Well, the next morning as we got ready for a school tour, Jerry, one of the guys from her class commented on how much of a flirt she was the night before.  His comment took my wife off guard and by surprise.   Knowing my wife’s heart as well as I do, after 30 some years of marriage,  a flirt-er she is not.    A kinder, more thoughtful person you will not meet…but what Jerry her classmate took for flirting was her trying to be a good sport.

Pause.

I have been working on a remodel job the past month for a very challenging and difficult person.  Angry, PTSD, verbally abusive,  the word bully came to mind the first week I was there….I am used to dealing with a wide range of personality types, love my job, felt very comfortable with the things we were doing to his house, so all of the negative energy, was going right past me…until the 2nd week in.   The guy started dropping homosexual comments in my direction.

It creeped me out.

A few of you have written about this sort of thing in your blogs and how a sense of humor can go along ways to diffuse sexual comments.  Well, after the “sense of humor/ ignore it” approach didn’t work, I finally laid the law down last Friday.

If I hear another perverted comment in my direction, I am walking off the job.  Period.

Me having a positive, can-do attitude  and being a good listener was somehow getting misconstrued into only God knows what…

It made me mad.

Because I am the father of 3  daughters  and have heard  (after the fact) multiple situations where they were harassed, more than once, I wanted to straighten out a set of kneecaps with a baseball bat… (in love mind you)  🙂

This sort of stuff gets wearisome .

We live in a sexually saturated culture.  I get that.

Mostly writing this out to vent.

Very thankful I don’t have to put up with it every day.

Later! DM

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And on a completely unrelated note… here’s a short video I filmed this week in the garden.  We had a heavy dew that morning and a spiderweb caught my eye. I grabbed the camera to take a few pictures….

It is so peaceful out there.