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Friday, January 15, 2010

To the tune of Mozart

The potting shed, so called, is one of the places things end up that have no place elsewhere at the moment -- a catch-all. By the time of the year -- for us, January -- that we begin taking an interest in making starts, the place is jammed with doodads, empty feed sacks, leaky hoses, bird cages (bird cages??), hamster waterers (hamster waterers??), broken hoes, and half-opened bags of whatever.

So it's time for our "spring cleaning."

The poultry barn, of which the potting shed is the western third, was, until 1993, Former Proprietor's hangout away from the house -- we gather he needed one badly -- and it was here he doctored his little fishing boat, made sinkers, and strewed beer bottles and odd magazines about. It was merely a roof and three walls of found materials, open to the north, and about as musty and rat-attracting as a shed could be.

When we moved in, the neighbors, who had been Former Proprietor's neighbors for a generation or more, came smilingly over to the fence. Mr. waved his hand at the house, and said, quite, reasonably, "You oughta remodel that place with a match." Mrs. pointed pointedly to the shed, "...but at least you'll take that thing down -- promise?"

We mumbled something appropriate, but when it came time to actually tackle the shed, we discovered that its rafters were massive eight-by-ten timbers. So instead of demolishing it, we re-roofed, pulled off the walls, framed in some recycled windows, sheathed the whole place in recycled fence boards, partitioned it into a "barn" side and a "toolshed" side, made a couple of plywood doors for it. All this took a couple of years, whenever we weren't doing something else.

We also were given a chimney (on a high and steep roof) if we would take it down, and while that was frightening to do, we got a nice truckload of antique bricks that just covered the bare tool shed floor nicely, in a traditional herringbone pattern. Then we painted the whole thing barn red with green trim.

The finished project elicited no comments from next door, and they didn't stop speaking with us, so we conclude the results were satisfactory.

Eventually we were given a set of sliding glass patio doors, and opened the south wall of the tool shed and built on a small greenhouse. So the "tool" shed became also the "potting" shed. This worked reasonably well for a decade or so, though the massive spring cleanings had already become necessary.

Meanwhile the post at the southwest corner, which had an advanced case of dry rot all along, began slacking off on its job and the whole building began to march slowly toward the creek! When the strain burst one of the double panes in one of the sliding glass doors into a thousand or more shards, it was ... time to regroup.

Using an old screw jack on the ground and a tall two-by four tucked between the jack and the top plate, we've lifted the building corner, set a stone under the rotted-off post, and then spent the last three days sorting, clearing out, and re-designing. The greenhouse is less vital than in days gone by, for we now have a starts rack in the west window of the dining room (less susceptible to mice) and we have the grow tunnel. So the south wall has been pulled back under the roof line, vertical once more, but it is still a window-wall with a sunny bench space more convenient to our old bones than the greenhouse layout, which required much bending and arms-extended lifting.

Since we don't tend flats in this location nearly as much as we once did, the temptation to throw odds-and-ends in there is as strong as ever. But it's the best place to throw dirt at pots to the tune of Mozart.

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