Chickens don’t care
Finally finished pouring the floor in the barn yesterday and I can say it was no small task, especially for such a small structure.
After my father and I broke up the preexisting slab, I took an afternoon and pulled out a bunch of the dirt from where the chickens used to roost (SW corner). For some reason there was never any cement in that stall so the practice before was to just keep throwing new hay in there under them every once in a while and then pull it out (or not) if it got to smell too much. All told, we took 2 mule loads out of there. The soil has almost 4 years of chicken crap dripped into it and an equal amount of time with a steady stream of hay chips and the occasional pile of nanny berries (goat poo). This interior compost and also a pile from just out front of the barn got moved to the front yard to be used in the Actual Seed Garden. Leah capitalizes some things. I think it’s cute. This pile was also the floor of a chicken coop. One that was added on when the total was 130 birds. The back wall and about ½ of the floor were covered with an old billboard canvas, so everything that fell out of the other half of the flock landed on the tarp. When I took down the loafing shed/chicken coop, I just left the canvas where it lay after folding the wall section down over the floor section. This way the rain and snow couldn’t wash away all the chicken goodness. Leah and I used the mule to drag that to the front yard too. New garden. Exciting. She’ll likely write a story about it soon.
Back in the barn I knew IT WAS TIME. Just so happens a young couple stopped by last week asking about one of my old cars. I remember him from when we got a new roof put on the house. He was the laborer. He wanted to know if the car was for sale. The transmission had gone bad due to an unobserved fluid leak coming back from out west and for the next 2 ½ years I unsuccessfully worked at getting things set back up the way they were before the leak. After my 3rd transmission not doing what I had hoped and then finally giving it up, I told the guy that he could have the car, and my older picked over parts car if he helped me put the floor into the barn. He said the deal sounded great. It’s hard to find good help these days. Though I’m not sure during when it was ever easy to find good help. I feel as though I’m good help. The guys I work for have always said so. But, twas not the case this time. Oh, don’t get me wrong, he was/is a hard worker. His fiancé/girlfriend/partner Amber threw in and went at moving the 8 tons of bank sand into the barn and leveling the floor. Front end loader to truck bed, drive 9 miles with almost no weight on the front wheels and the back tires groaning under the load and then DOWN into the mule and then DOWN onto the barn floor. Things, of course, got complicated. Her health issues, then his health issues, and then no show after only the second day. No show no call.
It rained that day but not enough to keep me from working on digging out the new drainage system going around the structure. It was always nasty wet in there, and the river of mud out front would wash right down inside. All told an ugly scene. Having animals in that barn for 4 years has instructed me on how I want to set things up and NOT having the limitations of a screwed up floor and a bunch of stalls from someone else’s idea for a perfect set up. Saturday and Sunday I was off to Cleveland to finish up the second part of a Technical Ropes Rescue course. Craziest coincidence. A class offered for free that I have dreamed of taking since I saw folks on ropes doing something or other long ago. Monday morning rolls around and I’m back out digging ditch, dreading copping up more gravel and pitching it into the mule UP! from the ground. Ug. Then I get a call from guy’s dad saying he was going to come and cover for his kid, he and his partner. They’re tree trimmers, Arborists really. They showed up a little later than they said they would but once they got here they threw themselves at the work with a gusto. Suddenly all the gravel I need is there. I cut the dad some slack picking it up for his kid like this so we only moved gravel in, I didn’t have them help refill the ditches. My mistake maybe. They were to come on the following day, Thursday, to help with the pour. Along the way I beefed up the box on the back of the Mule and made it a bit more permanent.
One interesting side note. Being “unemployed”, or rather, “not having a “normal J. O. B.”, I kind of loose track of days and dates. It was Tuesday afternoon when I realized that the pour wasn’t till Thursday and not Wednesday. I had a whole other day to get it all done. Very welcome surprise.
It went as well as I expected. There were a few minor mishaps but the floor is flat and the cement truck left empty and paid. A friend of my father’s came with him to help with 20 years of cement in his memory banks.
First things first we set up his laser level. The whole eastern side of the floor and especially the SE corner, the floor was too high, too much sand. We shoveled almost a Mule load of sand out the back door. Laid the plastic, built the ramp, and here comes the truck. First load over the hill and down the slope into the barn, no sweat. Maybe add a little water to the truck and some more mud to the next Mule load. Second load has a moment of confusion at the turn around and the box shifts and the gate starts out the chute and the liquid cement starts pushing its way towards gravity on a moving Mule, bumping its way down an incline. Only lost 5-7 gallons on the hillside. A quick repair job and we are off and running. Two pushes from the cement tank. Start the Mule and drive it up hill to just around the other side of the Seed House. Stop. Get off.
Go into reverse, walking behind the Mule. Climb back onto the front of the Mule and steer it 150’ perched on top engine breaking down the hill with a bit over a half a yard of cement in the back. After 4 or 5 loads I let Kurt, a youngin from the fire department and a driver for the Army, drive the rest of the loads. There were a few mishaps along the way. Boards giving way on this side of the chute, then on the other but then, last load, truck is empty, driver wants paid and to clean out his truck, IN THAT ORDER.
Lovely, now Mule won’t start. Sitting on the driveway with about 1/3 yard in the box. And, almost naturally, my jumper cables are with the kid who’s dad was bailing him out. Can’t jump it, put a battery charger on it. Pay the guy. Mule starts. Drive it to the barn. Turns out the previous load was enough to finish the floor. A bunch of that load was shoveled out onto the exterior pad. So the entire last load will be not only not inside, but not in either of the 2 small form I added along side the original slab. Instead I quick, quick rake out all the gravel between the slab and where the drain pipe goes under the gravel bed, and shape the soft soil sides of the driveway into a kind of form. BLOP. Last load in place, Mule won’t start. Kurt grabs his more-power-than-brains 4-wheeler and proceeds to ignore what I’m saying to him and tears up the yard by disobeying the laws of physics. In particular the Coefficient of Friction and Newton’s First Law. As a result, he did more damage in 30 seconds than the previous 5 ¼ yards of cement and 8 tons of sand and 6 tons of gravel had done. Thanks Kurt.
The slab finishing took a while. The finisher wasn’t having an easy go of it. Finishing is a very labor intensive activity. It’s why guys like me get finishers. Just like finishing drywall, there is a knack that some folks either have or learn and make it look simple. The rest of us are shades of not very good or mostly just slow. All in all, it’s a flat floor in my barn that I can clean with a flat shovel and a broom. The perfect is the enemy of the good. And besides, the chickens don’t care…