"There is no 'try'...there is only do, or do not." ~ Yoda

"There is no 'try'...there is only do, or do not." ~ Yoda

Preparing myself, my family and my friends for the Fourth Turning.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Status Update: The Bridge at Hemlock Creek

We are nearing completion but my, what a battle it has been.

Our bridge design was not completed until late in September - leaving but a few days for the project to be completed before the moratorium on stream work (October 1 to May 15) took effect.  The DEC has graciously granted an extension to the 15th of October.

However, the bridge as designed could not be built within budget - in fact, in came in at 60% over budget, an extra 18 thousand dollars.

Back to the drawing board while we petitioned the DEC.  The final design was in place just in time for the flooding that accompanied the tropical storm that traced a path along the eastern seaboard, inundating the Carolinas, and trapping me on my property when a newly-built section of road washed out.

So we were delayed again, and eating into our extension.  First, the road had to be repaired.  At that point, I left for my mother's house in Fredonia, NY for a weekend of hot food, showers, and a bed.  I returned late Tuesday.  Pumps, not running, ran hoses into the hole containing the first footer.  The footer was still under water.

On Wednesday, AJ called and said he was bringing a larger pump - it turned out to be a six-inch diesel behemoth the size of a water buffalo.  It did the trick, emptying the hole in a matter of minutes, spewing a torrent of muddy water from the outlet hose.  As the water receded, Bill dug a sump to collect water for the pump, and forming work for the footer modifications made necessary by the modified design began.

Through herculean efforts on the part of Bill Kirk (from Kirksway Farms - he does the excavating) and AJ, the first footer was modified, poured on Thursday.  On Friday the abutment was formed.  On Saturday, at 0700 the concrete arrived and was poured.  We were done for at least 24 hours, ideally 36, while the concrete cured.


Dave would return on Sunday, and he and I would strip the forms.  Apparently, he came by during the time I was in the draw, building waterfalls.  I worried about the forms, and the time we were losing by not having them stripped so that work could proceed on Monday.

On Monday, unable to get a hold of AJ or Dave Evangelista (the mason), I went ahead and began stripping forms from the partially cured concrete. Bill showed up around noon; he had not heard from AJ either.  I explained that I was proceeding with the plan we had discussed on Friday, when we poured the abutment, and asked him to return with the backhoe and Bobcat in an hour or.

He promised to do so; in the meantime, I got ahold of AJ who explained that Dave had checked the forms Sunday evening, and decided the stone was still too wet to strip.  He said Dave had said he wanted to wait until Monday afternoon.

Oops.  No matter, the concrete was fine - AJ arrived a bit later, and Bill returned with one of his hands, a fellow named Don.  Together we completed the stripping, moved the equipment across the stream (back breaking work - the panels for the forms weigh close a hundred pounds each - we had a couple of dozen, along with bracing wood, iron pins, wire and so forth.

By Monday afternoon we had back filled the first abutment and moved across the stream, pulled the stumps, and begun to dig.  We took the remains  of the coffer damn stripped from the near side, and re-built it on the far side.

Tuesday was spent digging a giant hole in the far side of the creek, ripping out the root balls from the trees we had felled when clearing the drive.  Next, we made the decision to keep the six-inch pump on hand, as the hole was rapidly filling with water and we didn't believe the 2 and 4 inch pumps would keep up.

We hauled it to town, filled the tank with diesel, returned to the stream, crossed the stream with the pump, staged it, dropped it in the hole and began pulling water.  The discharge hose had nowhere to run but back across the stream - but it only reached so far, and as the pump pulled water, it gushed from the far end onto the bank, and right back into the stream.

A problem, as silt in the water is exactly what we are supposed to be avoiding.

So AJ and I stayed on after the others had left, digging a trench and an earthen barrier to divert the spillage from straying back to the creek, and instead flow to a drainage channel emptying into low ground on the near side.

Wednesday dawned cold again - the second frost this year - as everyone gathered back at the site.  AJ brought an extension hose for the pump outflow.  Shawn and Andrew arrived to help with the framing.  Bill and Don returned.  Dave and his sidekick, Dustin (aka, of course, 'Dusty') returned for a little masonry work. Bill brought the unwelcome news that rain was forecast for Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Now, our concern was not so much for the concrete forming and pouring work - we can do that in the rain.  The issues are twofold; the stream topping the coffer damn we had constructed to isolate the site is the first. As bad as this would be, it pales beside the second: The collapsing of the hillside above the abutment into the hole, and, depending upon the stage of the work, either onto the footer, or onto the poured abutment in its form.

Please note: as of this writing, those risks remain live.  Tomorrow, the 14th, we will form and pour the second abutment.  And then will come the rain.

I retreated up the hill, limbed and cut three pine trees remaining from our felling operations into manageable logs.  The branches got added to the burn pile, which alternately issued forth billowing clouds of white smoke, or burned clear and bright.  Done with that, I began the cutting and splitting of the stack of cherry logs hauled up the previous day when beginning excavation, after having felled two additional trees.

This took a few hours.

By the afternoon, the gravel had been laid in the pit, the form set, the reinforcing bar set and tied, the pump was running well, concrete was on the way.  It arrived at 1600, backed smartly up to the first abutment, and extended its boom with attached hopper and hose.  So, the form is set, the steel tied, the creek diverted, the crew ready, the concrete here and it starts to pour.

The concrete, I mean.  Bright sun today.  It fell cleanly and quickly, oozing like soft pudding to fill the form, helped along by men with rakes.  The first arm of the form was poured, and some slight bowing on the outer edge of the form ensued, quickly buttressed by additional rebar driven into the ground adjoining it.

On to the next arm, the plan being to fill the center last.  The outer wall of this one began to swell, as had the other.  Additional rebar bracing had no effect.  Finally two by fours were laid across the arm and screwed in place, arresting the bowing, and preventing a cracked form (that would have been an unmitigated disaster, if the concrete had flowed out.).

Problem solved, the pouring continued.  Then the truck ran out of concrete.  Apparently, the bowing had increased the cubic capacity of the form by sufficient volume to cause the level in the form to be below the desired level.

I suggested large rocks as filler - reasoning that they would displace the concrete sufficiently to raise it's level, and would seem to offer no structural impairment.  I still maintain this would have been the simplest and most effective method.

Dave did not like this idea, but admitted there may be no alternative.  Sending for more concrete could not be done that day.  Concrete arriving the next day would form a cold seam with the hardened concrete from today, impairing the structural integrity of the footer.

Someone (I can't recall who) asked if we had any pea gravel remaining after laying the base for the footer.  I had seen it - I replied we had about a yard. Across the stream I went, bucket in hand, to start hauling stone.  Justin - the driver of the concrete truck (who, by the way, does not go by the nickname 'Justy" despite the alliterative tie with Dustin) - suggested we just throw the stone on the conveyor belt, conveniently located over the stone pile.

Dusty and I got to shoveling - he with a shovel, and I with my bucket.  We got enough stone into the form to raise the level to just about where we wanted it.  It looked like an awful lot of stone for such a small area of concrete, but the men got to working it with rakes and shovels, mixing it in with the existing muck.

Dave voiced a desire for more concrete.  I recalled two 80 pound bags left from construction of the Abode, tucked warmly and dryly inside the Abode beside my writing table (how hillbilly is that?). I asked Dave if he wanted then, and he assented.  I sped up the hill, followed by Andrew, and we each retrieved a bag and carried them down the hill.  Emptied on top of the stone, with a little water added, thoroughly mixed, and dispersed through the form as far as possible.

I headed up the hill to shower - no small undertaking itself, in an environment with no running water - as I had to head into Ithaca to visit the library to use their computers and printers to print out the closing documents for a loan for the deck of the bridge.  This I did, and had a pleasant dinner of onion soup, salad, and an Ahi steak sandwich with fries. 

The food up here is amazing.

So here we are.  2200 on Wednesday, the 13th of October.  Belly full, feet dry, clothes clean, wine at hand, Abode warm, writing, content.  One abutment finished.  The second footer poured.  Two days remaining in our extension.  Financing secured. 

Rain in the forecast.

Stay tuned.

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