How We Got Concrete (and Me) to The Top of Our 24-Foot Tower

The first load of concrete heading for the top of the silo next to the barn that Bob is converting into an Observation Tower.
The first load of concrete heading for the top of the silo that Bob is converting into an Observation Tower.

No, that’s not me in the bag. That’s about one-thousand pounds of concrete hanging off of the arm of the bucket truck. And it’s just one of seven sacks of concrete Bob and Nick hoisted 24-feet up to the top of the silo/tower, to pour the foundation for the new observation deck overlooking the farm.

The silo as seen from inside the donkey barn. The opening was once used to shovel grain or other silage out of the silo. Now, it's the portal to the top of the tower.
The silo as seen from inside the donkey barn. The opening was once used to shovel grain or other silage out of the silo. Now, it’s the portal to the top of the tower.

But before I get to the big pour, I want to share with you my own harrowing climb to the top. As I mentioned in my earlier post about the tower, I am terrified of heights.  So before anything changed up there, I tried to hand off my camera to Bob so he could take some “before” pictures of the silo top. But he wouldn’t to it. He said he’d carry the camera up for me but if I wanted pictures I’d have to go up there and take them myself. I know Bob was anxious for me to see the view and I think he used my commitment to the pictures to get me to punch through my fear and make the climb. (And I suppose this is why I love him, because he gets me out of my comfort zones).

The ladder to the top. Just go to the light.....
The ladder to the top. Just go to the light…..

I agreed to try. But I wasn’t sure I’d make it. To start, I had to shimmy my way through an opening in the silo to get inside of it and climb onto the ladder. You can see the opening in the above photo. What you can’t see is that the ladder extends downward another six feet before it touches the ground. So just getting on the ladder requires stepping out over a pit. Once on the ladder, you’re already six feet up with another twenty-four or so feet to go.

The ladder sticking out of the top of the silo, which is cone-shaped and slopes downward towards the edges.

Did I mention the ladder is wobbly?  With every step up, I could feel it shaking. Bob said the ladder is designed to do that. Something about needing the flexibility so it doesn’t break under a lot of weight or pressure. But it didn’t feel like a safety feature to me. The closer I got to the top, the more it shook. Soon my knees were shaking, too. That made it hard to keep climbing. But I did. Bob braced the bottom of the ladder, mostly to make me stop worrying about it tipping backwards, and I found it helped to look straight ahead at the wall of the silo and not look up or down.

The top of the silo before the pour, prepared with hog wire to hold the concrete.
The top of the silo before the pour, prepared with hog wire and a wooden form to hold the concrete.

The scariest part of the climb came at the end, when I emerged out of the opening at the top and had to get off of the ladder and onto the silo .  If I weren’t such a chicken, I could have just stepped up and stood there. But I was far too scared to stand up, especially with all of the hog wire laid out on the roof of the silo to hold the coming concrete. So I sort of dragged myself out onto the silo on my belly and then flopped my legs off of the ladder like the tail of a fish. And there I was, 24-feet up, clinging to the hog wire! Lying on my belly, I snapped the above “before” photo of the pour area I had made the climb to get. Looking at the photo, I hope you can see how the concrete will fill in to the top of the wooden form to cover the sloping cone and create a flat observation deck.

My first glimpse of the view of the vineyard from the top of the tower.
My first glimpse of the view of the vineyard from the top of the tower.

I never did work up the nerve to stand but I did press myself up like a sphinx to peek out over the wooden form to see the vineyard. Wow, what a view! Ever since moving here, I have wanted to get a picture that shows the vineyard in the foreground and the horses grazing in the pasture in the background. I wasn’t going to get that picture this time, not without standing up. But I could see that once the flat platform is finished and I feel more comfortable moving around up there, I can go back up and get it.

The arm of the bucket truck intrudes upon my view.
Just as I mustered the courage to take more pictures, the arm of the bucket truck intruded upon my view.

I was inspired to sit up a bit more so I could take more pictures, but just then, the arm of the bucket truck appeared. Nick was ready to start mixing and hoisting concrete. And that was my cue to get down. There was no way I wanted to be up there dodging a 1,000 pound sack of wet concrete!

Back into the hole for the climb down.
Back into the hole for the climb down.

So I had to flop my legs back into the silo and onto the ladder and then shimmy on my belly backwards as I stepped down the rungs until I was back on the ladder and climbing down. Bob went first and was just below me on the ladder and Nick steadied it from ground. The ladder still wobbled, but going down was much easier than going up. Having survived the climb once, I know I will go back up there when the observation deck is finished. It will be yet another interesting vantage point from which to photograph and share the vineyard.

Now, with me safely on the ground, and without further adieu, here are the pictures of The Big Pour, or, how Bob and Nick got 7,000 pounds of concrete to the top of the tower:

Nick got things started by mixing up a batch of concrete in a mixer attached to the Bobcat,
Nick got things started by breaking open several sacks of concrete mix to load them into a mixer attached to the Bobcat.
Once the concrete mix was in,
Then, he added water to about the consistency of pancake batter.
The hydraulics on the Bobcat power the paddles in the mixer to mix the concrete.
The hydraulics on the Bobcat power the paddles in the mixer to mix the concrete.
Bob up top, watching the concrete mix.
Bob up top, watching the concrete mix (I took this picture before I went down.)
When the concrete was ready, Nick loaded it into a huge, sturdy sack made of tarp material.
When the concrete was ready, Nick released it into a huge, sturdy sack made of tarp material.
The concrete flowing into the sack.
The concrete flowing into the sack.
When the sack was full, Nick connected it to the hook on the end of the bucket truck arm for liftoff.
When the sack was full, Nick connected it to the hook on the end of the bucket truck arm. He and Bob figure that a full sack of concrete weighs 800-1,000 pounds.
Then, he jumped into the bucket truck to hoist the sack to Bob, who was waiting up top.
With the sack on the hook, Nick jumped into the bucket truck to hoist the sack to Bob, who was waiting up top.
DSC_0126
The heavy sack as it leaves the ground. There is a drawstring on the bottom of the sack that Bob will open to release the concrete.
Almost there....
Nick has to lift the sack all the way over the hog wire on top of the tower, and then swing towards Bob so he can reach it.
Bob guiding the sack into place.
Bob guiding the sack into place.
Nick keeping a close watch on the sack so it doesn't bump anything, especially Bob!
Nick keeping a close watch on the sack so it doesn’t bump anything, especially Bob!
Just a few more inches....
The sack as it is just about to clear the hog wire….
Bob grabs the sack and gets ready to release the concrete.
Bob grabs the sack and gets ready to release the concrete.
Nick's view of the arm reaching over the top of the silo.
Nick’s view of the arm reaching over the top of the silo.
Bob opens the drawstring to release the concrete.
Bob opens the drawstring to release the concrete.
The empty sack is sent away for another load.
The empty sack is sent away for another load.
Bob raking the wet concrete on top of the silo.
Bob raking the wet concrete on top of the silo.
Bob got seven sacks of concrete hoisted to the top. And that just filled up the first half of the form! It's going to take another pour to complete the platform.
Bob and Nick hoisted seven sacks of concrete to the top during this pour. And that just filled up the first half of the form! It’s going to take another pour to complete the platform. When it’s done, I’ll go back up and get some pictures of the farm and vineyard that reveal the lay of the land.
Meantime, Bob is working on several design ideas for a staircase to the top as well as for a gazebo to place up there.
Meantime, Bob is working on several design ideas for a staircase to the top as well as for a gazebo cover to place up there. That way, visitors won’t have to go through what I did to go up and see the view.
And even though all of this went on right next to the donkey barn, Luigi paid it no mind. He was more interested in the greener grass on the other side of the fence.
And even though all of this went on right next to the donkey barn, Luigi paid it no mind. He was more interested in the greener grass on the other side of the fence.

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “How We Got Concrete (and Me) to The Top of Our 24-Foot Tower”

    1. Welcome! I am glad you are enjoying the blog! The existing top of the silo, and the silo as a whole, are made of reinforced concrete, or concrete with steel bars (rebar) throughout. The walls of the silo and the cap are about 3.5″ thick and are quite sturdy. Bob reinforced the added concrete the same way, by placing a layer of rebar and hog wire between each batch that went in. Also, the hog wire ring you see around the perimeter of the observation deck is embedded in the new concrete to a depth of two feet to form the basis for a strong safety rail. This is not something we are going to open to the public. It’s just for our own enjoyment. But we still want it to be safe and having been up there I can tell you it’s all very solid.

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