The UFO has landed…….

18 03 2018

Mon Abri Mk II has often been described as, due to its unusual footprint, something that could fly, and then on the slab day my mate Phil called it a UFO, so I think that will sort of stick now…

Pouring the slab has been twelve months in the making, with humungous earthworks and footings that ensure this house will never move even in an earthquake, it’s been a real labour of love. Well, lots of labour anyway. I never thought it would take this long, but here I’m at the mercy of the weather and Tasmanian laid back attitudes….  I now go with the flow, I’m too old to start fights!

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My daughter Claire’s been here for well over a week, and we prepared for the epic pour by first cleaning off all the mud and organic matter and other crap that since the footings were done was blown into the area by the frequent windy weather. Lots of pressure cleaning, and then wet vacuuming all the mud out, in some attempt at ensuring the new concrete would stick to the old. Two days work there, and I don’t even know if it was actually necessary, but it made me feel better, and I needed that to destress…. that little job took 1200 litres of water (from the dam) and was entirely powered from the power station that worked like a charm…..  I could not be more pleased with my off grid system.

It might have been an omen, but the pour day didn’t exactly start as planned. Since my first winter here, when the temperature outside my bedroom can often go down to zero or less, I’ve been using a bucket full of sawdust to pee in so that I don’t have to get all dressed up and go outside. This works great, doesn’t smell, and makes great additions to my compost system. Until that is, the handle rusts off the bucket at 4:45AM , and it all gets spilled on the bloody carpet! Fortunately for Claire, she had woken up herself for a toilet break, because I had no other option than to use up the next half hour sucking it all up with the vacuum cleaner luckily still in wet mode. Needless to say, I wasn’t going back to sleep, which was just as well, because the pump turned up half an hour early, in the pitch dark….. Panic station started early.

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Pouring at dawn was a new experience

All my helpers weren’t due to arrive until 7AM, and the concrete fifteen minutes later. We started with the pointy bit that sticks into the hillside, because I knew it was the hardest part, and once done we would have the opportunity to screed from edge to edge

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That last missing bit……

on the skinny part of the house. The trouble was of course that my crew were completely inexperienced, and as soon as Robbie Page who owned the pump realised what was going on, he expressed his utter dismay that I had not accepted his [unaffordable] quote to do the job…… once the first truckload of 7m³ was disgorged from the pump, his offsider thankfully stepped in and gave the guys a quick lesson on how to screed…. which they fortunately quickly picked up. Screeding this job was easier than any I’d done before (because I didn’t do any!) as it was all pumped and vibrated, something I now really wish we’d done in Qld. Regardless, screeding was still necessary, and the two young guys at the ends of the tool did a sterling job under the circumstances…….

All went basically well, until right at the end when we were just short of finishing. The deal struck with the concrete suppliers was that I ordered 24m³ plus. Which means that after the 24m³ are poured, a quick evaluation is made of how much more is needed, and the last truck is sent from the depot. The missing bit in the photo was guesstimated by Robbie (who is very experienced) and I at roughly 0.4m³, and we thought ‘order 0.6, just in case’, which we IMG_20180317_130227did. While waiting for this last truckload, I began ‘helicoptering’ the slab in an attempt to get it as smooth as possible; and frankly, I’m quite pleased with the result, it’s ‘good enough’.

Except that the missing bit immediately turned into a problem; Duggan’s sent me a load of shit concrete that started going off right in front of our eyes, and there wasn’t enough….. no way did 0.6m³ come out of that truck, and nor was it fresh. When I dropped the vibrator into it, it hardly slumped at all, and while I was still floating water off concrete laid an hour earlier, I was unable to float this at all…….

The boys screeded it as fast as possible before it went rock hard and there were ravines in the surface that looked impossible to fill by moving what should normally have been workable material into them to fill them up……  I was beside myself, and really really pissed off.

With the local hardware store now no longer opening on weekends, I was faced with a desperate and frantic 50km return drive to Huonville to buy premixed-just add water concrete in bags in an attempt to salvage the situation. One hour later, on my return, I was amazed to discover that Claire – who obviously has a vested interest in this project – had whipped the crew into frantic labour to save the surface of our bedroom floor. I honestly don’t know how they managed it. It was bordering on a miracle, and it was just as well they did manage it, because the one bag I mixed in the wheelbarrow could not be pressed into the last bit in the corner, so hard had it already set. The resulting surface is worse than what a total novice would achieve.

All I can say is that it’s lucky that pointy bit will only be turned into a storage cupboard, because I would never live it down had this load of crap ended up in the middle of our bedroom. You can rest assured there will be a very stern complaint call to the supplier first thing tomorrow morning……  you’d think afer spending over $6000 on the day (and a similar amount on past pours) they would look after me…. I’ll probably get over it, but honestly……

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All done. Everyone’s left, and all the beer’s been drunk!

We eventually broke the beer open, and celebrated a job well done under difficult circumstances. We did our best, and that’s all you can do. I reckon I’ve saved twenty grand by doing it this way, and that’s money I just don’t have to throw away – especially now I’ve spent most of it!

I can’t thank the crew enough….. Phil, who kept morale up among the youngsters, and Claire tells me, was largely responsible for repairing the bedroom floor while I was gone, Caleb, Martin, and of course my daughter Claire. Jack from Page’s concreting gets a deserved mention for screeding the hard bit for us. I won’t mention Duggan’s……..

Since pouring the concrete, it’s been raining for three days…. which is great for the still curing concrete. It’s a big step getting out of the ground, but really, all the hard work starts now. Watch this space.


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17 responses

18 03 2018
Glenda Stasse

It does actually look a bit like a template for a paper plane so the UFO tag makes sense. Well done all!

18 03 2018
mikestasse

Looking at it again, it looks less like ‘landed’ and more like ‘crashed’ into the hillside!

18 03 2018
Brendon Crook

Wow, I remember you showing me the drawings of the house when I visited you in Cooran.
Well done Mike, it’s all coming together & in such a lovely area too.

18 03 2018
mikestasse

Yeah, it’s kind of cool to get from pencil lines on graph paper to the real thing….

18 03 2018
Practical Parsimony

I think I would get some compensation for the horrid concrete they sent you and not enough at that. Let them fix it for you or refund some of your money.

By the way, I cannot believe you all drank beer and they drove afterwards.

18 03 2018
mikestasse

Can’t be fixed now…… literally cast in concrete. Only one of us drove afterwards, and I’m sure he knows what he’s doing…..

18 03 2018
Practical Parsimony

Why were you carrying a pee bucket at 4:45 am?

18 03 2018
mikestasse

To pee of course……!!

18 03 2018
rabiddoomsayer

I have only done concreting once. Total disaster. Too wet, too wet, too late.

18 03 2018
MargfromTassie

You should get the Grand Designs people out there.

19 03 2018
mikestasse

I actually did apply, but I think they lost interest when they found out I’d already started, and had over 750 applicants!

19 03 2018
charmianl

Any chance of a picture or drawing of what it will be like when built?

20 03 2018
20 03 2018
Cupid Stunt

“We eventually broke the beer open, and celebrated a job well done under difficult circumstances.” Yeah… Did you know that very hour 11 hectares of soil are lost irreversibly and covered with concrete, and that’s just in Europe. 33 % of global soil is already degraded.

21 03 2018
mikestasse

What has that got to do with me? Even if I hadn’t used concrete, I would have still ‘covered’ 120m2 off my 50,000m2 farm so I can live here.

Meanwhile, I’m actually working almost daily to IMPROVE the soil I have here….. you’ve picked the wrong guy to have a go at.

9 04 2018
H and S Wallace

Well he does call himself Cupid Stunt Mike!! Congrats on the concrete pour, look forward to our next visit..must stock up on the Aldi coffee and chocolate 🙂 All the best from us both

10 04 2018
mikestasse

Thanks guys….. the blocky came for a look last night, and hopefully, weather and all, we’ll start laying blocks next weekend…….

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