The GhostShed – a retrospective on the summer’s major architectural project, and how it points to the agrarian future ahead!

This summer sped up quite a bit at the end, and so I will have to do a couple of shorter follow-up posts for summertime projects that took place over the long term.

supplies supplies

supplies supplies

Please excuse the interspersion of chronological photos of the build throughout this post.

the little car that did

the little car that did, and my friend Sarah, helper across the summer months!!

The Plan

Threefold were the problems facing me: 1) there had been bicycles in the dining room of my house for the full 2 years I had lived there and that annoyed me; 2) I had gotten a fantastic deal on a Thule cargo box for the roof of my car,  but it was 90 inches long, which made it difficult to store in the house and still have easy access to; and 3) my tools appear to be based on compound interest, as they accrue more of themselves more quickly as time goes on (and this led to an overcrowding of the shelf in the laundry room… and the basement… and my bedroom).

sizing up the walls for assembly on the ground

sizing up the side walls for assembly on the ground

Given all of these problems, and my penchant for projects and building things, there seemed to be one way I could go forward, to both solve those issues and (as I am wont to do) push myself deeper into debt: design and construct a shed in the yard!

the initial structure, prior to The Collapse

the initial structure, prior to The Collapse

The Problem, and The Solution

a pitched roof for ease of construction, I thought (not realizing how annoying the gables would be)

a pitched roof for ease of construction, I thought (not realizing how annoying the gables would be)

Unfortunately, much earlier this summer, at the very end of May, I injured myself at krav maga: while throwing an elbow, I felt something tear in my right shoulder.  After a series of tests and MRIs and the like, it turns out that 1) I tore the posterior labarum in my right shoulder (the fibers that help hold the muscles around the bone); 2) I have serious hypermobility in my shoulders, and given that the shoulder is already the most unstable joint in the body, this makes it unlikely to ever heal on its own; and 3) I apparently have a genetic abnormality in the capsule of my shoulder that makes it prone to tearing (and the capsule can never heal or be repaired, due to its extreme thinness).  All of this means that I will have to have surgery in the next few weeks (scary, to be sure), and that building a shed out of heavy timber components by myself would not be a good plan.

I am not a smart man, as it were, so I still wanted to build this shed of course.

Thankfully, however, I have some amazing friends: Sarah, Ryan, Adam, Ben, Chris, and Liam.  They all helped me at various points along the way, and in the case of my roofing-friend Sarah, multiple points!  My deepest gratitude to them all for their help!!!

roof application with the help of Ryan, my housemate at the  time (now in TX for his PhD)

roof application with the help of Ryan, my housemate at the time (now in TX for his PhD)

The Build

So, for a solid three months over the course of the summer, working alone and at times with friends, the shed took shape and was polished into its completed form.

doors installed and framed with 2x4s

doors installed and framed with 2x4s

The basic intention was to have this shed be built from scratch, the right way to last a long time to come, without breaking the bank; after all, I am hoping to purchase my own tract of land and build a paradise on it some day, and so I need to get practice starting as soon as possible.

shingles galore

shingles galore

We got, as per photos above, the side walls up and the back wall between them… and then I did a Dumb Thing.  Namely, told Ryan it would be OK to leave plywood and lumber leaning against the temporarily-installed walls as we removed a few of the rear wall panels to readjust them.

And so, the proto-shed collapsed sideways, with Ryan and I thankfully jumping out of the way, and not getting hurt.  Lesson learned: don’t be an idiot.

the problem was how to finish the walls...

the problem was how to finish the walls…

So, we got the structure upright again and permanently installed, so that we could begin to get the roof going.  At the same time, I made use of some of the very cheaply-gained “scrap” plywood (being odd sizes doesn’t make it scrap in my opinion, but I will not argue) to put floors onto the joyces at the bottom of the shed.  I also installed internal shelving on the right side, and then the mounts to hang bikes down from on the left (and indeed a bigger shelf atop that, due to the extra plywood floating about).

... so, scratch-built gables!

… so, scratch-built gables!

The Final Product

the internal contents of the shed, and the shelves built into the back

the internal contents of the shed, and the shelves built into the back

Thus, although my goal was to finish this prior to school starting, the GhostShed was actually finished at the very beginning of September.  As I was working 40 hours per week at Yale Law School, and doing a slew of other things (mostly trying to camp in different places around New England, visit friends in DC, NY, and VA, and the like), the project went from the early middle of June until the very beginning of September.

8 foot foundation timbers in place and bolted to the structure

8 foot foundation timbers in place and bolted to the structure

The most important successes from this project, I would say, are split between rekindling my intuition that I won’t be able to feel content or fulfilled if my future doesn’t directly allow me to build and repair things with my hands; and the fact that though there were some rough edges, all told I have it within me to plan and build houses both for my lizard Ike AND buildings I could one day inhabit.  Again, it is difficult to overestimate how important it is to me to feel but more importantly be able to enact a serious degree of self-sufficiency, and this project did that in a great way.

Oh, and now the bikes, tools, and rooftop cargo box are out of the house and stored properly.  Also a nice positive outcome 🙂

cutting the drip edging to size...

cutting the drip edging to size…

... so my good Lutheran roofing-friend Sarah can help install it!

… so my good Lutheran roofing-friend Sarah can help install it!

It is important, I think, to also mention that I (re)learned some vital lessons from mistakes made.  The biggest one was “don’t cut corners around heavy stacks of lumber, as that can fall” and I am thankful neither Ryan nor I got hurt.  Additionally, I took the embers of a childhood learning from my master carpenter of a father and by practice fanned them into flames anew… but also realized that without the proper tools (eg a table saw, and the ability to measure and cut angles) a project can still be done but at much greater headache and possibility of error.  Finally, I suppose I must admit, this project (a foray into the real world which I am quite, quite ready to get to, by escaping the Academy and all its works and all its ways) firmly reminded me that I do NOT have a real income at the moment, and that the educational tendency to reassure us that going further into debt to do something in the here-and-now is NOT a sustainable model.  I will try and embrace all of these lessons moving forward; thankfully, I have a large wooden monument to them, on hand, right behind my house 😀

the GhostShed begins to be painted, so named because when one combines the spare blue, grey, and white exterior paint on hand... ~GhostShed~ emerges

the GhostShed begins to be painted, so named because when one combines the spare blue, grey, and white exterior paint on hand… ~GhostShed~ emerges

Sign of the times ahead?

So, as I close this post, I would like to offer a brief preview of an amazing opportunity that has come into my life, closely related to sheds, construction, agrarianism, and wholeness.

Though this is still being planned and examined, there is a church within commuting distance of my old city, the District of Federal Overspending-mbia, which has an opportunity.   They own approximately 11 acres of farmland, which has on it a recently-restored 18th century house.  They are hoping to start a small, neo-monastic community, of people who will live and work together on the land, to teach people of the area how important it is to know what one is eating, and indeed how easy it is to save money and feel great by growing some of their own food.  This is not yet guaranteed, but I am applying to live there for a year, the first three months of which might also serve as my Master of Divinity-required internship (which, to be frank, would be a stupendous blessing – I have dreaded this internship requirement as another hoop to jump through, and being rather burned out on such jumpery).  More on this as it develops (and prayers/kind thoughts/sacrificing the proper animals towards the successful realization of this hope would be MUCH appreciated), but for now, gaze ye upon the completed GhostShed and enjoy:

the finished product, accent color and all, just as the fall begins

the finished product, accent color and all, just as the fall begins

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