Shed

So what has become of your New Year’s resolutions? Are you still basking in the glow of an intention fulfilled, or wondering how that good idea never quite took flight? I have seldom made any resolutions that survive. What is it about them, or me? They are often too ambitious, and more importantly don’t reflect my life as it is lived. Resolutions are automatically made because we are not already doing something we feel we really should. They involve a change of direction, and a change of heart, and these are tricky. The chance meeting of an old acquaintance, the seismic shudder of the bathroom scales, or the sins of omission or commission as the church would have it, can all prick our inner self into life, however briefly. So I have given up on resolutions.

Well… not entirely. I do still believe in the “Big Picture”, the “Grand Design”; I am thinking about it, working on it; it will happen one day. What most concerns me now are the little things, and how they might become part of my normal daily patterns. After all if what I am seeking to do becomes a habit it won’t be an effort, and it will happen. Take plastic bags for example.

We have become habituated to the idea of going to town and coming back with all our new purchases bulging from bags freely given. What happens next? But just throwing them away is not the end of this chain of action and consequence. In the end we pay through the costs of manufacture and disposal of these products. Perhaps the consequences are too far removed from our actions, and the costs so apparently miniscule? Maybe that is why so many of our resolutions fail? So I reuse those bags I have, and go to town with a rucksack. It’s easier on the neck and back, you see.

And what about all those skips? On closer inspection, you will find all manner of interesting and useful items discarded. I can’t be the only one in Girton who slows down to pass these yellow tubs with an eye on their contents, and a thought for the sheer amount of stuff being thrown away? Thus an idea was born.

Our shed was leaning like the Tower of Pisa. Twenty or so years of elemental wear and tear was taking its toll and it needed to be replaced. Since the structural timbers were themselves rotting a patch up would not suffice. Could it be possible that a new shed be built from the remains of other people’s throw away items? It was difficult to surmise at a glance, but inspired by the Turner Prize winning “Shed-Boat-Shed”, the idea that I could make my own construction look the way I wanted it to, and a cursory look at the cost of prefabricated alternatives made my mind up to start collecting materials.

Due to the flurry of building work around the village last year these were not too hard to find, but readers beware – this does take some effort and commitment to the cause. Soon the skips of Girton were yielding up (with permission) plywood sheets, old doors, a kitchen worktop and lengths of useable timber. Wimpy also graciously provided the main structural wood I needed from their large store of mis-supplied items (items ultimately destined for the chipper as they could not be used in house construction). The rest of the timber, together with nails, screws, bolts, hinges, glass, brackets, and shelving, was recovered from the demolition of the existing shed. Other bits and pieces, such as an old dustbin and guttering left by the previous occupants were also put to good use harvesting rainwater.

Although I had a design in mind, the scale of the structure had to be dictated by the dimensions of the materials I had stored. The result is a 2.5m square block, with a single pitch roof extending past the walls to create generous eaves (good for dry storage). The “Leaning Tower of Pisa” has been replaced by a wedge of cheese with a slice taken out of its narrowest end. Windows on three sides make the best of available light. The “Shed-Skip-Shed” has come to life.

And what of the cost? It is hard to put a price on the time it has taken me, but then so would it be to put a value on the pleasure and satisfaction given by doing it myself. Because I love my garden (near neighbours may find this hard to believe at the moment) the shed will have a green roof. The pond-liner was £34. Further costs included: a sheet of glass for the largest window – £25, good quality barn paint to ensure the shed lasts – £70, light-weight expanded clay granules to form a drainage layer on the roof – £100, horticultural fleece to retain the growing medium – £15, peat free compost – £35, extra nails and joist hangers – £25. Total – £304.

The observant reader will notice that most of this cost is in the roof, and therefore the whole project could have been much cheaper with a conventional design. I would also have re-used polystyrene packing instead of the expanded clay granules if I could have found it in sufficient quantity, as this was the single largest expense. In the final analysis of cost vs benefit I reckon I have saved myself several hundreds of pounds, and have the satisfaction that some materials destined for a hole in the ground have found a better use. So what of this year’s resolutions? Perhaps it is time to dust off the grand plan, or maybe push a little harder on the re-used door of community recycling? After all it’s become a habit now, and I am a creature of habit, and one that likes a bargain to boot! I would have found it much easier last year if there was somewhere I could go locally where all these items could be found. Now there’s an idea!