Friday, July 23, 2004

Concrete Play Time!

Wednesday was a day filled with fun outdoor activities, mainly waiting for cement trucks, praying more things won't break, and playing around with concrete. No, I wasn't just goofing around with some Tonka trucks in the sand box, but instead I was helping out in pouring the concrete foundation for a new grain bin to be put up on the family farm.

We did this last year or the year before (I'm not sure which, my memory is fading fast in my ripe, old age) and it went pretty smoothly, although we ended up a little short with the concrete so we had to drop some big rocks into the poured cement to get it up to the proper height. Anyhow, I was expecting it to take a couple of hours, much like last time, but what did happen wasn't quite what anyone had planned.

To assist in pouring the cement this year, we also hired a pumper truck. The cement trucks would dump their load into this truck and the pumper would guide the cement to the area we wanted it. This is a heck of a lot better then simply having a cement truck dump its load on the edge of where we're pouring and then all of us having to scoop the cement to the far edges.

We were supposed to start pouring the cement at 1:30 pm, but the first of the cement trucks (we had four coming) didn't get there until almost 3. They didn't think they'd have to come because it was raining... in Spring Valley. That's where they are based out of so they must have just thought that since it was raining there it must be raining everywhere. Idiots. We told them it was fine where we were so they got on their way.

When they finally arrived, everything went pretty smoothly, for the first three trucks worth of cement. We poured the outside just fine and half of the surface with the first three trucks, while the fourth would finish off the entire slab.

We were handling the cement pretty good and it was going to be finished wonderfully in no time. At least it would have if the fourth truck hadn't blow a tire on the way to the farm, and it had to blow the tire about a mile away from where we were. So, what were we going to do? With the sun beating down, the temperature rising, and the breeze nonexistent, the cement was hardening up pretty quickly.

The cement slab was only half done. If the cement didn't get there quickly, we would have a crack down the middle of the slab and where the slab met the concrete on the edges. Over time, if that happened, the bin on top of the slab would push the two sides down and the foundation would split. Not good. Especially since we were going to be having 35,000 bushels of corn sitting on top of this slab.

The company providing the cement was going to send a truck to fix the tire on the cement truck, but they were probably an hour off. That was getting to be too long. In order to try to get the truck here as fast as possible so we could get the cement in and bonded to what was already down, we sent some guys down to try to do what they could to help the truck along.

What they did was chain up the axle that the bad tire was on so that the rim and tire didn't drag on the ground. This allowed the cement truck to get moving again, but at a very slow pace. Thank goodness there was only a mile to go to get to the farm. When the cement truck was about 500 yards, maybe less even, the repair truck shows up and decides to do the dumbest thing--fix the tire right then and there.

Why couldn't they wait until we got the truck in our yard so we could unload the concrete? Why? Sure the tire needs to get changed, but it could wait another few minutes. Instead it took them another half an hour to change that tire and then they got into our yard and started pouring.

To help the new cement bond to the already poured cement (which was pretty firm at this point), we used a vibration tool that helped to integrate the old with the new. We also had to pour the cement fast so we could do the finishing on the surface before the concrete go too hard. For this reason, we were all really busy and no one got a chance to snap some pictures with my camera of us working on this load of concrete.

Once we finished off the platform for the bin, we had some concrete left over that we used to put in a small walkway for one of our shops. That went pretty well and we managed to get all of the concrete poured, worked with, and finished by about 8 pm. Thanks to all of the things that could go wrong (including a grain cart breaking in our pea field, which we had to deal with as well while we were pouring the cement) a job that should have taken a couple of hours took about 6 and a half.

*Sigh* It was a long, warm, frustrating day, but it managed to turn out all right in the end... we hope.

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