Updated: Jan 16
Our greenhouse build has been waiting for concrete: for me, a daunting hurdle! I have never done concrete work of any kind, and had a fair number of stress dreams about it over the last weeks. To have a cement truck delivery, we were required to provide all the labor (two minimally experienced retirees), and were to pay $60/hour for any time beyond 30 minutes. But what does a concrete delivery look like? Would the truck be able to access the holes? Would the chute be able to reach down to the lower level? How close could he get? Could the concrete pour directly from the truck into each hole? Would we have to haul concrete to the holes ourselves? Would we need buckets, or wheelbarrows, or what? Would we be better off getting Quickcrete from Home Depot and doing it all ourselves? Would we be better off hiring Bill's crew to do it for us?
It turned out to be completely manageable, although a sturdy load of labor.
We scheduled our post-hole concrete pour weeks later than expected. We had weather delays -- a couple of 4-6" snowfalls, stretches of bitter cold days, and howling winds. The good weather seemed to come on weekends, when the concrete trucks aren't running. Then of course there were the holidays, and last week we enjoyed our son Tad's visit. We would have poured concrete with Tad here, but we were on the land for the weekend and then headed up to Santa Fe.
Well, today we finally took on that concrete job!
We went over early to check the measurements and level, and adjust as needed. We had a cart with 5-gallon buckets, another dump cart lined with a tub, and a wheelbarrow, in case the chute couldn't get directly to the holes.
At noon we headed out to the gate to lead the truck in. It is a massive vehicle! Not as big as the semis we've had out, but it has no joint, so has a terrible turning radius. In the third picture below, just behind the cab and in front of the mixer, you can see the 1/2 tree that the truck removed attempting the tight turn into our driveway! He ended up having to go down and turn around at our camp, as the semi had done. After a brief conversation with the driver, it was clear that the wished-for "chute-into-the-hole" method was not an option -- the chute is much too wide.
That meant we'd be using the carts and shovels -- our more labor-intensive option. The concrete was dryer and more viscous than we imagined, so the 5-gallon buckets were out. It made it an easy choice -- dump bucket, wheelbarrow, and shovels were our chosen tools!
Chip and I took turns loading our carts, took them to separate holes, and shoveled the concrete into each hole. Danny wasn't supposed to help, but he helped push the heavy loads. We hauled and loaded a total of over 8,000 pounds of concrete multiple times by the time we were done!
We rough-finished the top holes, then headed down below. We were concerned that Danny couldn't dump over the edge into our carts down below, which meant we'd have to run the loads all the way to the end and then down into the bottom... it turned out he was able to drive around and get in to the lower space at the end, which helped considerably.
By the end, Danny even picked up a shovel and pitched in helping us fill holes! Then when the rough filling was done and we were toward the end of the load, he filled our tubs a last time and started cleaning out the truck. It had taken 75 minutes, so we expected we'd still owe $45. Danny said no, we didn't have any extra time charge. Chip and I checked all the holes to make sure concrete got all the way down and behind the posts. When we were satisfied, we used the last of the load to mound up concrete so water would run away from the poles. We then put a few shovel loads of dirt on each to protect from night time freezing.
Our mesa welcomed us back to camp with a twilight glow.