I have been writing about the expansion of our farm. From the moment I saw my first robotic milking system, I knew this would be something we wanted in the future. However, with the inability to find quality, reliable help and our daughter Anna wanting to return to the farm, we decided to go ahead with the project while she was still in college.
     In the fall, we waited for permits and then decided to hold off until spring for warm weather. We put in the silt fencing to comply with erosion control on the work site, and then the excavation started March 20. Moving 25,000 yards of soil took a long time. Every day, including Saturday and Sunday, the excavators were out driving the earth mover to scrape and haul dirt. They worked from sun up to sun down. The piles of soil got bigger and the hole got deeper.
     As the building site was being prepared, the pre-cast walls and slatted floors were being hauled on semi-trailers and carefully unloaded. These huge pieces of concrete were stacked in a series of piles so they could be retrieved when they were going to be installed.
     The floor depth had to be at 12 feet to allow the manure from our existing freestall barn to be able to flow into it as it was cleaned daily. As the depth got closer to the right level, the excavators were measuring, surveying and took readings from all over the site. When the hole was ready, the gravel trucks drove into the pit and dumped gravel that was then spread and packed to have the wire mesh strung over it.
     As the sun was rising May 1, the cement pump truck arrived followed by a line of cement trucks to pour the floor of the manure storage. All day the trucks rolled in and out moving around the outside edge, pumping 870 yards of concrete into the hole.  
     The concrete needed a week to cure. On May 8, the walls, pillars and slatted floor pieces were carefully carried over with a payloader to be hung from cables with a crane as the crew put the pieces into place.
     I was amazed they could hang the pieces on cables and push them back and forth, and then set them in right next to each other, using pry bars and their own strength to get it to line up perfectly.
     Just as they started to make good progress, the rain started. All the while the crew kept setting walls, pillars and slatted floor pieces.
     For the next few days it rained and rained and rained. We had to pump rain water out of the pit many times. Nothing could go in or out of that area without getting stuck.
     Our geese had been watching the new pond that was made, and one silly goose got stuck in the pit daily. Someone would venture down to help the poor thing to only have to do it again the next day.
     After the walls were set, the rain water was pumped out. It was a waiting game for the ground to dry, for the soil needed to get backfilled next to the walls. This was painstaking to watch as a backhoe put scoops of soil into the 12-foot ditch between the wall so a mini excavator could pack it. This was a critical step and the engineers had to come to inspect if it was being done properly.
     To be continued.
    Tina Hinchley, her husband, Duane, and their daughters, Anna and Catherine, milk 135 registered Holsteins and farm 2,500 acres of crops near Cambridge, Wis. They have been hosting farm tours for over 20 years.