You are simply going to have to forgive my negligence. How over a month slipped by since my last post is beyond me. Those wall calendars I told you about? They are my lifesaver these days. I had to implement a color code—one color per family member—to keep everything straight. Things are looking a little . . . dense. #overcommitted
Beyond shuttling kids to their various activities and shoving food in their mouths when we get a spare minute, I am not keeping up on anything very well. But we had a rare opportunity to finally work on some outdoor projects and we had to jump on it.
As farmers we have usually have plenty of time for indoor projects when the weather turns sour. It is the outdoor projects that are hard to accomplish. When the weather is good, farm work always takes priority. Late last fall, we excavated our yard down to dirt and had great intentions of making serious progress...
...only to stall out when it started to snow in early October. What a blessing this warm October has been! We finally wrapped up the most important farm work and started back in on this project. First we added in a layer of sand and gravel and leveled it to the grade we needed for proper drainage.
Next, we had to build forms for all of the concrete. This wasn't exactly a simple job due to the, uh, complexity of my design. Sorry, Tom. (If you would like a reminder of what our plan was, you can refer back to this post about the overall design, and this post about the hard-scaping.) Basically, it wasn't just one large concrete pad. It was a grid of smaller pads with space in between for gravel. This required quite a bit more time and materials for forms.
They then cut and installed wire mesh. This was the morning of our pour. You can see the back of the cement truck backed up and ready to go.
This part of the process moved very quickly as concrete was dumped into each of our forms. The concrete was roughly raked into place and then leveled off until the right amount was left in each form.
We moved from one side of the house directly to the other side to fill the rest of the forms. Then the truck left to get another load and we set to work smoothing and finishing.
This is when we realized we probably took on too much at one time. It was a warm, breezy day and the concrete was drying up on us too fast. It was all we could do to smooth and edge each of the pads. (And this is when they certainly questioned the wisdom of having so many individual pads, rather than one large pad with just 4 sides.
In the end we persevered and with a lot of elbow-grease managed to get what we had poured mostly smooth.
Good enough had to be good enough, because the concrete truck was back with another load. The driver was awesome enough to help finish the previous pads before we tackled the next piece, a pad in front of a new shop door we installed last year. We had started pouring around 11:00 and worked without stopping for lunch. It look well past dinner time to finish this one, and believe me when I say we were P-O-O-P-E-D.
Now, I need to stop here and set something straight. Because I am behind the camera and not shown actually working in any of these photos, you would naturally assume that my job was strictly direction, documentation and cheerleading. (And well, usually you would be right. My job is mostly taking care of kids and filling bellies.) But on this day, let me reassure you that I worked right along side the guys all day long. (I know you were worried- ha).
As first-time concrete layers (except my dad who is jack-of-all-trades), it was a stressful and backbreaking day. It was good for me to have concrete under my nails and ground into my knees, along with very sore muscles to show for the day because Tom said that way I would know how hard it was and couldn't complain if it wasn't perfect.
And he is right. I am extremely happy with the (albeit imperfect) outcome. It was a hard but rewarding day. And I am so thankful to my husband, brother, and dad for their patience and hard work, and to my mom for watching kids and cooking us a yummy dinner that night.
After the forms were removed, my brother and I worked together to lay sand and pavers in a few strategic places.
Tom worked behind us to fill in the gaps with gravel.
The open gravel areas will contain plants eventually. This isn't much for an after photo since it isn't really "done". It probably looks a little sterile at this point, but I know once we add plants next spring, patio furniture, a deck, and eventually a pergola, it will all look a-maz-ing.
The guys had to break to haul peas to market this week, but deck-building is next up on the agenda, as long as we have decent weather to work in. Our current deck is partly dismantled (and our patio door secured so nobody can take a dive). We are also going to be building a small deck and stairs at my brother's house first. Plenty to do. Wish us luck (and some nice weather!)