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Potting shed proves everything is recyclable

When I see all the snow that has fallen this season, I'm grateful that our garden was put to bed early. We never finish all the tasks, but some can wait until spring. Some folks find room for pots and tools in a corner of the garage, or maybe in the basement. It's helpful to keep everything in one place. For us, it's the potting shed.

It wasn't always a potting shed. This little building started life as a two-seater outhouse more than 100 years ago. Most people celebrated the arrival of indoor plumbing by setting fire to the outhouse, so these buildings are hard to find.

While visiting my neighbor, Andy Dannels, one day, I found he still had the original outhouse from long ago. It was sunk into the ground a bit and one door hinge was loose, but it looked pretty good to me. It was being used for miscellaneous storage.

Andy told me, "I guess I'm going to clear out the junk and tear the building down."

"Don't do that," I said. "I'll buy it from you when you're ready to get rid of it."

I was in luck. He let me have it for a dollar! (I had just read "Garden Junk" by Mary Carter.)

The building is small, only 50 inches by 55 inches and 7 feet tall in the front, sloping to 6 feet in the back. The roof was covered with heavy green tar paper, and according to another neighbor, Bill Wilson, was the best part of the building. The door frame was partly broken and the door lacked the traditional crescent moon. But there were round holes cut into each side for light and air. Two original wire toilet paper hangers are rusty but still in place.

Bill agreed to move the building for me. Shortly thereafter I was sitting on the front porch with my morning coffee when Bill and his son David drove up in their big dump truck with my outhouse on board. They backed into the yard and slid that little treasure right off. Half the seat fell out, but that was going to be removed anyway.

When they tipped the outhouse over, they discovered that the bottom framework and the ends of the siding boards were rotten, so the building turned up about a foot shorter than it was originally. It doesn't matter because I'm short anyway.

The Wilsons wasted no time. They put in new framework around the bottom and sawed off the rotten ends. They repaired the door and rehung it. They set the building up on patio blocks.

It's very sturdy and looks charming. It's a nicely weathered gray, so there was no need to paint it. For a final touch, we nailed an arch from the broken toilet seat over the door. (It's called an architectural element.)

Patio blocks make a floor, a wreath hangs on the door and a vintage wheelbarrow is parked outside. The old outhouse has become my potting shed. My spouse built a new shelf for a work surface, with space underneath for tubs of soil and peat moss. It houses my hanging baskets, tools and empty pots all in one place.

When the building was hauled away, Andy said that busy squirrels had completely filled the necessary hole with pine cones. He told us that originally the building had a trellis for privacy and a wisteria bush for fragrance. Perhaps we'll get to that, too.

We also have a mouse family living there now, but hey, aren't mouse droppings good for the garden?

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