What are you doing for the Fourth of July?

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Jul 6, 2013 10:42:16 PM

Be careful what you wish for; you've signed yourself up for the long, dramatized rendition. ;)

I woke up the morning of the 4th to hard rain, as promised. But I kinda like that -- don't you think parades and fun in the rain is exciting? Go easy on the makeup and take comfort in the fact that everyone's hair is looking a little bedraggled, and I think rain can heighten the good times. After all, "An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered." (That's G.K. Chesterton, if you care.)

But that's not what I did. Partying in the rain wouldn't be too momentous, considering a lot of the country had a soggy independence day. Rather, I decided, with the others working on the project with me, to brave the rain in the morning and go out in the backyard to work on the project we've been plodding through for the last few months: building a retaining wall and a patio, out of cement.

So I threw on my rattiest of ratty clothes and we started pulling supplies out of the garage. The heavy cement mixer was wheeled up through the inches-deep mud, cement and mortar bags (80 lbs... that is HEAVY! ...for me, anyway...) were dropped onto boards, so they wouldn't get wet too fast to mix, and levels of all sizes dropped on the bank of the ditch to slowly get sucked into the muck.

Then it was time to start adding a 3rd level of cement blocks, on top of the footers we'd poured. (Getting the footers set was my least favorite part, so far. Most unpleasant.) So down to the driveway, where a pallet full of cement blocks was sitting. We discovered they're significantly heavier wet. Apparently cement blocks actually do contain quite a bit of water. But we picked them up and sloshed and slipped up the bank to lay them out on the wall. After the first load, I was put in charge of laying the blocks brought to me. Certain among us felt they needed to carry two at a time. I'm here to tell you they were too heavy and it was too slippery for that. But we finished that step, and blasted some water into the cement mixer, then plopped in 80 pounds of mortar. In a way reminiscent of an ice-cream maker, the water and mortar were mixed together, until it became the most delightful squish.

That meant time to get down in the ditch with the wall and levels. Pick up a block, mush some mortar all along the top of the block from the layer below, gently lay the block back on top, check that it's level (front to back, side to side, and block to block). It's not level. Squash and mush and twist and shout (and shake it up baby, now) and check again. Finally it's level(ish). Next block. There are a lot of blocks.

Finally finished, a couple hours later, mortar was rinsed out of the mixer, and cement took it's place. We mixed and dumped it into a wheelbarrow and scooped buckets-full and poured them in, to fill the cement blocks, barely keeping up mixing new batches as the first was finished. But this step went a little faster than the mortar step. Just an hour or so. Finally, they were full, and we'd used the last of the cement mixed up. Time to clean up.

We began spraying off our gloves (which were really quite pointless), and the trowels and the levels and the buckets and the mixer and everything else. After everything was relatively blasted off, and safely stowed in the garage, away from the mud, we turned the hose on each other. Though the rain had been falling most of the time we were working, all it did was deepen the mud we were sloshing through, leaving the coating of mortar and cement and MUD gracing our persons undisturbed. Once we were in a reasonable state to enter the house, showers finished the job.

And that's my 4th of July story.
Not sure why I wrote it out so completely, but there 'tis!

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