Men and Sheds

The Year of the Shed

I have serious doubts about the title of this post – should it be “people and sheds” ? As I contemplated the subject matter I began to envisage a whole minefield of political correctness opening before me. If I’m going to be gender neutral do I use the term spouse or is that too elitist? Should I play safe and use partner? Definitely not “significant other”, or even “better half”, how about companion or soul mate? Perhaps not. I prevaricate and digress into whimsy.

Originally I was going to declare 2015 the “Year of Projects”, not quite as good as Scotland’s “Year of Food and Drink” but better than ” International Year of Light and Light-based Technology” or you can choose from “Strong Women”, “Mud”, “Design”, “Soils”, or “Consecrated Life” and the list goes on and on. A bit like our projects, but in the end I settled on “Year of the Shed” – a celebration of sheds in all their glorious diversity. The secret can now be revealed – this summer we have been building sheds (with a little help from our builders to do the heavy lifting and Himself as Project Manager).

Now sheds, like people, come in many guises and the island has it’s fair share of unique and innovative designs. More Hebridean character than architectural merit, but that is probably natural selection, as anything too fancy is likely to last only until the next gale.

So starting at the heritage end there are the old blackhouses, often restored with poured concrete and complete with a rusty corrugated iron roof and matching door, windows are optional but rarely glazed. Next, but now quite a rarity, are the old Nissen huts and we will gloss over the materials used as they are likely to be a health hazard. The most common form of small garden shed is the shipping container, again of various vintages (degree of rust is usually indicative) and often secured with straining ropes. Traditionally agricultural buildings, or big sheds are adjacent to, and often dwarf, the croft house. This is a development from the traditional blackhouse when the byre was integral and the central heating was provided by the kyne. Agri-sheds vary in size and design, but the modern trend is for breeze block and corrugated, coated sheets of metal. Using a redundant trailer and discarded rope to tie down the roof panels is a design feature.

Loch Boisdale Post Office
Loch Boisdale Post Office

Island sheds have a multiplicity of uses, everything from weaving to calving and storing bits of tractors, creels and lobster tanks, housing miscellaneous pieces of junk, lawn mowers and bicycles, serving as art and craft galleries and accommodating the local shop and Post Office. As well as being part of the landscape and our vernacular architecture they are also havens and places of refuge. The ability to escape to the shed to do whatever, is an essential part of being human. A shed (or an allotment, but these tend to have sheds too) has probably saved many a relationship and is now recognised as being fundamental to our well-being. In fact you can probably get one prescribed by the local community mental health team, it is more cost-effective than sectioning.

Traditionally sheds have been a male preserve, especially when the kitchen was seen as domestic territory ruled by “her in-doors” and the man of the house need a refuge from the hurly-burly of family life other than the local pub. Socially things may have changed, but the popularity of the shed remains. They are now less of a male preserve and accordingly have metamorphosed into home offices, hobby rooms, greenhouses or conservatories. I doubt if this gentrification will be the death knell of the traditional garden shed, but how long will it be before the first shed becomes a scheduled listed building, preserved for posterity and nation? Obviously you can never have too many sheds, a small shed (shipping container), big shed (workshop and produce store), a greenhouse and polytunnel should be adequate. So why build an extension to the big shed and to double the size of the study?

Fortunately we do not need multiple refuges to maintain domestic harmony or to house an excessive amount of bits of tractor; it just seemed a good idea at the time! The secrets of the big shed extension will be revealed soon. As for the study, it has metamorphosed from a cramped alcove into a laboratory suite. Not exactly mission control, but this is South Uist.

naturalists study
Hello, mission control this is South Uist

The polytunnel is my shed equivalent, as I do not have exclusive rights, I have an alternative refuge. It is mobile and is open for use anytime I desire. Like most sheds it is cluttered with junk and trivia, but it is capable of infinite expansion so that it can hold a lifetime’s memories, hopes and dreams. It is the perfect place to practice mindlessness (the opposite of mindfulness) and also houses my muse, when she’s not on holiday. The door of the shed has to be opened with care lest the thoughts escape as words or take flight as poems! We all have mind sheds, take a look inside yours, you might grow to like it.

25 thoughts on “Men and Sheds

  1. Indeed, perhaps sheds should be available on the National Health. I have a profusion of them, each messier than the rest. You have made me realise that what I need is a nice, new, shiny, uncluttered shed. One where my muse can sit enthroned and unencumbered by clutter.

    • One could wish for more extravagant things than a new shed. Elizabeth (Welsh Hills Again) has the ultimate in luxury sheds, the most beautiful sheperds hut. I think something similar would suit you and your muse.

  2. I dream of a summer house, a shed with a big door!

    • Sheds with big doors are wonderful, except when your trying to open or shut them in a gales!

  3. Serious shed! 😀

    • Himself is very serious about sheds, small just isn’t an option.

  4. ” The door of the shed has to be opened with care lest the thoughts escape as words or take flight as poems!…this is pure poetry! Lovely post. Here in the US, clever urbanites are using old shipping containers as a swimming pool, surrounded by sleek decking. Would love to see more photos in your posts.

    • The comments bar on your site is so tiny, it becomes difficult to edit my comment! The door of the shed has to be opened with care lest the thoughts escape as words or take flight as poems!

      • And again, I tried to put quotes around your sentence, and site published without me clicking “send”. ???

        • Oh dear the failings of WordPress technology strike again. How frustrating. I’ve been thinking about up-dating my blog format as it is very dated, obviously needs to be done sooner rather than later. Another note to add the to the “winter to do list”, but te weather is far to glorious to be inside and it’s time to start cutting the monster hedge!

          • I too have a monster hedge. 135 cypress trees form a hedge around the perimeter of my property, and they require annual shearing/topping. Much to my arborist’s dismay, I will force him to do a massive elevation reduction next week, as he is much too light-handed. I love his chipper, as it makes light work of the remains. 😉

          • To have one’s own arborist sounds divine. I bet you don’t have to go tound and pick up all the bits either!

          • It takes a King’s ransom to have an arborist! I have created a monster with these cypress borders and this year drastic topping will occur, with much protesting from arborist. He likes to snip here and there, and I want 6-8 feet removed from the tops this year in one swoop out of the crowns. Tune in to see who wins this debate…!

          • The smart money is backing you!

    • What an interesting idea, I don’t think that shipping container swimming pools would be a great idea this far north, although we wouldn’t have to worry about a water shortage.
      I’ll make a note to add more photos in future.

  5. The plot thickens – laboratory, mission control….whatever next? You are a tease! 🙂 ps love the ‘mind shed’ analogy (and we would all benefit from you leaving yours slightly ajar…)

    • I’m not sure the world is ready for more of my “poems”. However, I will take the hint, I’ve not written very much recently so I will have to increase my productivity.

  6. Love the study, and love the sheds – in fact love the whole post… you really made me think. (And you really made me want a shed, as opposed to the old outside loo and the old pigsty, which are what I have as alternatives.)
    Do you have any of the Shetland type of shed at all, roofed with an old boat hull? They always struck me as attractive, evocative, but nowhere near as practical as the shipping container. Here in Snowdonia those are being used as lambing huts, by the way. And we also have the old static caravan as a shed alternative. We don’t tend to do smart…

    • Hebrideans don’t do smart either, but Himself is a perfectionist so his sheds have to be immaculate (inside too!). However, the wood will age beautifully and start to fade into the landscape and there is an ever present patina of rust and golden lichens over everything – even the wheelie bins.
      Alas no boat sheds here, but a nice idea for a graden gazebo.

  7. I have a shed at my allotment where once I tapped a poem straight into my phone and pressed publish before procrastinating. No shed at home, just a double garage with eaves space which masquerades as one and contains 25 years of us.

    • I hope you don’t keep your poetic muse in the allotment shed all the time, but then it is probably a more creative environment than the double garage.

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