During my last two trips to the Bay Area, Lisa has been excavating a trench approximately 30 cm wide by 10 m long by 10-15 cm deep. This past week while I've been working from home, Lisa has been building wooden forms including cross-pieces that break the trench into five segments. The plan is for us to pour a segment, wait for it to sufficiently set, remove the form holding one end, insert a piece of cardboard to separate the segments, then pour the next segment. The cardboard spacers will eventually rot away, but we figure the spaces between the segments will fill with dirt on their own, or else we can fill them with one of the various sealants out there.
Yesterday I helped Lisa secure the cross pieces, which are held in place with wood screws for easy removal. This morning, I kitted up in my coveralls and moved five wheelbarrow-loads of firewood from the Mountain of Wood that was dumped too far toward the street. After that, Lisa and I went to Big R to get a few more tools, including a new garden hose (the old one has a hole in it; darn mice!) and a spray nozzle, some heavy nitrile gloves, and a garden watering can, which is useful for adding more water to the concrete in small amounts while keeping down the concrete dust. After lunch, it was time to start pouring.
Wearing a dust mask (you don't want to inhale concrete mix; it reacts with all moisture) and gloves and my coveralls, we mixed not more than two 60-pound sacks of Quikrete® (pre-mixed concrete/sand/aggregate) at a time in the wheelbarrow. This is heavy work. You have to add water, but not too much water, then stir it until it reaches the right consistency. I then rolled it down to the first segment and we poured it into the wood forms. In this picture you can see Lisa using a board to spread the first two sacks worth of concrete evenly.
In the end, I mixed six sacks of concrete in four batches because after doing the fifth sack it became clear that we needed a little bit more. Lisa worked the concrete with a section of 2 x 4, a concrete float (a flat piece of metal with a handle) and a small trowel-like tool. It's tricky work to get it just right.
Here's another view of the completed segment and the other segments stretching away. If it looks like the carport is crooked, you're right; the original carport was laid slightly off square, but that's okay.
After finishing the first segment, we had about half a sack's worth of concrete left over. We dumped the excess into the second segment and spread it out more or less evenly. We don't think that should be a problem for starting the second segment tomorrow, when Lisa will remove the cross-piece in the foreground and insert a piece of cardboard before we start mixing more concrete.
I've been using a flat scraper to mix the concrete, and it's hard work. After dinner tonight, we went to Lowe's and bought a mortar hoe, which is a hoe with holes in it to make it more suitable for mixing small-batch concrete like this. I hope it will make the mixing a little bit easier.
The spray nozzle made cleaning up relatively easy. You of course have to wash up fairly quickly, since the concrete does start to set pretty quickly, and you don't want a bunch of dried concrete caking up your tools and wheelbarrow. I'm doing the washout in an area where we don't really care if we end up with some bits of sort-of concrete.
This is tiring work. It's a pity that there's no place to rent a concrete mixer in Fernley. We could buy a small mixer locally, but it only does about the same amount as a wheelbarrow load, and then you'd have to find somewhere to keep it when you were done with it. With two pours down and four to go, I reckon we can get it done in the next few days even if we only manage to do one pour per day. With luck, we may get two pours done in a day, allowing time between pours for the first of the two to set sufficiently.