What Are You Making?

Summer DreamsI have spent the summer working on a trash pile. Not building one, though the effort has in fact created several trash piles, but transforming one.

When I toured this property before buying it, I dismissed the large disintegrating shed in the woods, and surrounding trash. Questioning the Realtor, it was not clear whether it was on my property, or the neighbor’s. By the time that was cleared up, I was already in love with the place.

This space had been ignored by everyone for a very long time. The closest neighbor told me she hadn’t walked down there in years, and yet she walked past it on a daily basis. The other adjoining neighbor told me it had been like that for a decade or more. Neither of these neighbors knew what it had been used for originally.
I became intrigued by it for many reasons. First off it had obviously contained livestock at one point. Hence the dirt would be very fertile and I would like that for gardening. Secondly I was considering having livestock of my own. Half of the building was still standing, though crookedly, and had a solid roof, perfect for some small animal project, and there was a barnyard, though at first it was impossible to walk out as far as the fence line. Thirdly, the area was a dangerous mix of a collapsing building, broken glass and rusting metal, and trash of all sorts. A perfect breeding ground for vermin. Fourth – I passed by it repeatedly every week when I mowed the lawn.

The garden was planted and I just needed to wait for it to produce. There wasn’t much weeding to do. The lawn didn’t grow that fast. With family staying with me, and sharing in the housework, I was free to play outside.

At first there was a lot of time spent staring and trying to figure out just where to start. It seemed to be such an insurmountable task. How could I pull down this rotted leaning shed without getting hurt? How could I move and get rid of all the trash? How could I make anything usable without much money to invest? I had almost no tools, I am old, fat and out of shape.

I began removing what I could safely without the roof falling in on me. I put in a couple of posts I hoped would give the structure a little more support. A neighbor came up while I was there and since he was tall, he pushed the roof of the shed back while I pulled the bottom forward with a rope. That’s all it took. With the eight of the tree still on the roof it slowly collapsed on itself and was now only knee high. A much safer pile to work. I just started slowly working my way from front to back collecting trash to take to the dump. The neighbor lady asked if her husband could take the metals for scrapping. Sure. The neighbor’s boy liked to have campfires at night, so another pile collected burnable wood. A third pile collected trash, and another pile was for items possible to reuse. Eventually these were joined by stacks of cinder blocks and old tires.

This was dirty, buggy, hot tiring work. I spent hours at a time tearing apart the rotting roof and walls, gingerly picking up broken glass and old windows, pulling old plastic bags out of the dirt and picking up bag after bag of old plastic milk jugs and food containers. Bits and pieces of wire, car parts, bolts, added up in 5 gallon pails to go to the scrap heap. The hardest to handle was sections of rusting chicken wire still attached so strongly to old rotting wood that in many cases I could not detach it at all. After removing as much wood as I could I laid it down on the ground, folded it over and tromped it down flat several times until it was a manageable size.

Eventually a usable space was revealed. The half of the shed that still had a roof was empty and ready for rehab though still in danger of falling. It had been built from untreated wood laid directly on the ground, so much of the bottom 6-12 inches was rotting.

Now I realize that most people at this stage would have either bulldozed or burned the entire thing, and either left the site to return to woods, or built new construction. I had another idea. I decided to jack the structure up, cut off the rotten parts, put in a new sill plate built on top of cinder blocks, using as much as possible, wood from the site.

It is now September and I have been at work on this project for 3 months. People keep asking me what I am going to do with it. When I say “I don’t know” they stare at me like I have 3 ears sticking out of my head – all in the wrong places. Why would I put all this work into something I have no use for? The answer is that I can imagine way too many uses for it.

I can imagine a cozy little cottage in the woods surrounded by gardens. I have visions of that huge front area covered with wood chips and planted with a succession of tulips, daffodils, peonies, mums, dahlias, and then I think of all the work, especially shoveling wood chips.(maybe another years project?) A bench/bed with colorful pillows and an afghan. A workbench/counter/desk for writing and dining. A sweet hanging kerosene lamp. An outside kitchen and fire pit. I have redesigned the window set up several times – so it is not completed yet. Perhaps instead a little barn and barnyard with a few pigs, chickens maybe a cow. The side lot becoming a pasture. A workshop with racks on the walls for my hand tools and a sturdy workbench. A simple garden shed to store tools, pots and the garden tractor, with a little space to sit and rest. I imagine the lot becoming an extensive garden.

This just gave me a thought. I have been trying to come up with a cute name for it. ‘Grandma’s Greenhouse’ paint it green, it’s a house (sort of)….. OK maybe not. I do have visions of installing a greenhouse possibly.

Fall is creeping in and I am ready to button the project up for winter. I hate to give in but there are tasks waiting in the garden. Harvesting the last of my crops, moving the beds slightly, filling the beds with mulch from the chicken coop and compost bins, putting in posts for next spring’s fence, piling firewood, etc.

All I know for sure is that I have been enjoying myself immensely. I have been out in the fresh air getting a LOT of exercise, improving my skills and remembering many things I’ve learned over the years. I’ve become closer to my neighbors as we share ideas and tools and just having fun sitting around the campfire. I’ve cut a path through the woods so that I can meander among the trees from home to fort and back.

This summer has truly been a gift of good weather, and full of possibility.