September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

Becoming a journeyman in masonry

By Kerry [email protected] | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

When a person, specifically a woman, lives on a farm, she better be a jack of-all-trades.
In fact, I believe that is one of the reasons Steve married me.
When I asked him why he chose me to be his wife, he mentioned that I was a go-getter and wasn't afraid to try anything.
"...and you knew how to change the oil on your car," he added. (I think he loves me, too.)
I guess I have to thank my father for teaching me how to change the oil. Dad should be glad to know that it was I who taught our two boys to do that as well.
So, I knew how to change the oil on my car when I married Steve. What I didn't know was how to drive a tractor or bale hay. I knew even less about dairy cows. Sure I knew about milking and such, but there is so much more to being a dairy farmer than just milking a cow.
It kind of gives me the ooey-gooey feeling in my heart when I think of all the things Steve has taught me to do on the farm. I think they call that love.
The one activity that I had absolutely no idea of how to even get started was pouring cement. Dad never taught me the fine art of concrete.
Since moving to the farm 20-years ago, I have helped form, pour and level cement in the milking parlor; the cow path to the pasture; the yard by the late-lactation group of cows; by the silos; in the compost barn and the sidewalk in front of our house. I think I worked cement enough times now to consider myself a journeyman masonry laborer.
I am fully trained in working concrete, but not yet a master and that was evident in the last big cement project we had on the farm.
I am by no means an expert in floating a big slab of cement. I have done it many times on smaller pieces of cement, but this project was huge. I believe it measured 20-feet-wide by 60-feet long.
I think I had trouble with that this time because we actually rented a real float. I have only been trained on using a 2-by-6 length of wood to float cement.
It's back-breaking torture, I tell you.
I grabbed the float and attached three or four pieces of the handle.
Just as I pushed the float out on the cement - yes, I know you have to twist the handle to raise and lower the float - someone yelled at me, "It's too wet to do that now."
It was Mr. Apprentice Trainer, aka - Steve.
I stopped, looked up, and the float sank into the cement making a Minnesota River Valley-sized trench right in the middle of the cement slab.
Yes, I made a mess trying to pull the float off the cement too.
After I cussed loudly for a bit, I put the float down and started working on the edging. Now that's a job that I can be considered an expert. Smooth edges all the way around. After a bit, I determined the cement to be dry enough for another go at the float.
For the life of me, I couldn't get the river valley to disappear into oblivion. I really needed to hide my blunder. I knew what was going to happen, if it remained evident for eternity.
I even convinced Russell to try fixing my mess, to no avail.
So now I am the recipient of constant ribbing in the house. I would imagine all cement masters go through this process too, so I will take it.
"There's this big dip in the cement that makes for a big puddle," Joey said.
Because I gave Russell grief and told him to use a piece of wood and a pry bar to remove the forms, I heard this: "Maybe you should have used a piece of wood and a pry bar to get that dip out of the cement, Mother."
Steve hasn't really said all that much to me.
I think he knows better.
I am most definitely not a master at masonry, but I am working on it.
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