July 31 - August 6

July 31 - Today was the beginning of what turned out to be a horrible ordeal getting the Lite-forms set. As you've seen, the Lite-forms were delivered assembled, presumably to simplify our task. In reality, the preassembly made matters far harder than just assembling in place.  In addition to the usual crew (James and David), we also had Bob Gorham (back left) (Jame's dad) and Ken Bergeron (a friend of David and Elaine). Here we are, minus Ken, who took the picture.  Second from left is Joe (Little Joe) Casados, who ran the backhoe.

The first task was setting the Lite-forms in the trenches so that we could then set the steel columns in place. The forms were light enough for us to handle, but they are unwielding and a little fragile. The biggest pieces were almost 30' long and 2' wide. The real problem, which we are amazed was not anticipated by the vendor, was threading all the internal structure over the dowels sticking out of the footings. There was much sweating, cursing, and occasional loss of blood as we man-handled the forms into place, or as much into place as they were going to be.

In the course of placing the forms we discover that some of the footings are in the wrong place. This is partly explained by a difference between the foundation drawings and the building drawings, but that only accounts for 2" and the overall error is more like 6". The concrete crew will have to come and make some corrections. The footing is wide enough that they will be able to cut the rebar, drill holes, and epoxy new rebar in place. No new concrete will have to be poured.

The real excitement started after lunch when we began to set the columns. Made of steel wide-flange I-beams, the lighted columns were around 250 pounds, the heaviest a little over 500 pounds.  The plan was to have Little Joe lift each into place, we would then get them aligned and then staked into place with ropes to stakes.

We prep the ropes, stakes, and Joe starts lifting the first column. Everything looks like it's going to work.

After the column is aligned and staked, we discover the first oh-shit. The chain doesn't have enough slack to be released from the column.  Rather than reset the column, James decides he can remove the chain. Not exactly up to OSHA regs, but it got done.

For the rest of the day, we're careful to make sure to leave more slack in the chain, but it's still difficult.

August 1- The setting of the columns continues. Joe has come back with another chain bolted into a loop. This loop goes around the column, just beneath the top plate, and then is hooked to a chain dropped from the bucket. Seems cool. Once again, the first column reveals the flaw in the plan - the chain loop is below the stabilizing ropes! For each column, James uses the backhoe as a platform to reach the top of the column. One-by-one the ropes are lifted off the studs and threaded under the chain and replace on the studs. The chain is then slid down the last rope, which is removed from the stake, then replaced.  In the background you can see James' mom Cathy, who has come up with Elaine to provide moral support (and take more pictures).

By the end of the day all the columns are set and staked. The bright yellow guy-lines against the red-oxide columns and green trees give the appearance of some sort of installation piece or environmental sculpture. Maybe we can get foundation money to just leave it as it is.


August 2 - Major scare today. James is heading to the site (from Albuquerque) when the left rear wheel rolls right off the truck, snapping all the wheel studs in the process. This occurs just south of the Regina general store. Although there are two tow trucks nominally in Cuba, one is off-duty for the day with the driver at home in Albuquerque, the other is out of service. Little Joe happens along and spends about 4 hours with James, driving into Cuba to buy parts (took two stores to round up 7 wheel studs), then back to the truck for on-the-spot repairs. For all the drama, the damage was surprisingly light.

August 3 - The work on the forms is only just beginning with the placement in the trenches. Lars, who works for the local rep, comes to the site to check up on our progress and to provide some hands-on guidance on all the detailing we need to do to prepare for the pour, and it's a LOT of work, almost none of which is described in the manual for the system.  We spend the whole day plus all the next day prepping the forms, and we're still not done.