THE CEMENT MIXER
When your forms are complete, it is time to make cement. You will obviously need a cement mixer. If you do much cement work, a mixer is nice to have. However, it is a large, cumbersome monstrosity that has a tendency to get in the way when not in use. If possible, you should try to borrow a mixer from a neighbor. If you have to buy one, store it at your parents' house. They probably won't object. You can tell them you don't have enough room in your garage, and that it will give you one more reason to visit.
Strategically locate bags of mortar, sand and gravel near the mixer. Without forgetting mixture ratios, shovel the allotted amounts. Turn on the mixer; spray in some water from a garden hose, and voila...you have cement. It is just not the right consistency cement.
I can still recall the first load of cement Robin and I ever made together. I shoveled, and Robin looked on intently. Five of this, 30 of that, then she shot in the water. The mixer mixed. I stopped the motor and stuck a finger in the drum. I stirred the cement. I held my finger in the air. "Too loose," I determined. So I added more dry ingredients.
It seemed that every time I added cement or gravel, the mixture became too dry. So Robin would spray it, then it would become loose again.
Once something is added, there is no subtracting it. Another ingredient must be added to balance it. Of course, this activity cannot go on indefinitely. The mixer is only so big; there will come a point at which it will overflow.
A couple more shovels full of gravel and another indiscreet squirt from the hose brought us to the overflow point. Since nothing more would fit in the drum, I decided to go with a wet mixture. I discovered then that we had a problem.
I had been smart enough to strategically place the bags of ingredients. However, I had not strategically placed the mixer. It was twelve feet from any part of the form. There was no way to perform a direct dump into the hole.
"What now?" my darling wife politely asked. I could see she did not relish the obvious idea. She had had enough of lumping cement in its dry state.
"We're going to have to carry it over by the bucket load," I said.
"Well, go get A bucket!"
I noticed her emphasis on the singular form of the noun, "bucket". I tactfully retrieved a single pail from the garage while she watched the mixer. I think she was wishing the motor spinning the drum was also hooked to a set of wheels.
"OK," I said, "you tip the drum and dump some of the cement into this pail. I'll haul it over to the ditch."
"How does it work?" She was hesitant about fooling with the monster, especially while the drum was turning.
"Let me look at it," I sniffed. I shouldered her out of the way. "Women can't figure out mechanical devices. They need a man to show them how it works."
Robin folded her arms and shook her head. She knew that I had never used a mixer before.
"See this lever?" I pointed to a piece of metal with a rubber hand grip. It was attached to the yoke that was holding the spinning drum. "You pull it out past this nipple that's supporting it. Then you slowly lower it." I firmly gripped the handle to show her the proper technique.
When I pulled the lever past the nipple, I realized that the contents of the drum weighed far in excess of anything I had ever bench pressed during my three weeks of weight training in high school. Worse, the weight of the drum was not balanced and had been supported only by the nipple.
Robin was as surprised as I was when the handle flew out of my hand, and the contents of the drum dumped unceremoniously on an open bag of mortar.
The mixture was thin and plentiful. It quickly surrounded my feet and splattered on nearly every object within a ten-foot radius.
"I'm so glad you understand mechanical things," my wife said gratefully.
I shook my head and pulled back on the handle. The empty drum returned to its normal resting place. "I guess the gravity today is stronger than I thought." It was my sorry attempt at humor.
"Well, I hope you're going to clean up this mess." Robin had come through the ordeal without attracting a drop of cement. Not only does she have a clean chromosome, dirt and slop are simply afraid of her. "And when you're done, I'll hose you off. There's no way you are coming into the house like that."
After cleaning the cement from the ground, I was forced to strip down to my Levis; then I was shot with blasts of cold water. Besides curing any immediate inclination I might have had of a sexual nature, the water motivated me to be more prudent in future batch sizes.
Pouring the remainder of the footing proved uneventful. I mixed and poured, while Robin distributed and leveled with a floating trowel.
Late that evening, tired, dusty, battered and again bespeckled by cement, I stood over the completed job. I placed my hands on my hips and contemplated the first real progress I had made on the addition. No longer was I destroying or digging or planning. From this point forward, every step I took was in a positive direction. I was building!