We cleaned out the shed in the garden today.
This was one of those large, scary, kinda disgusting jobs that one puts off, and puts off, and puts off some more. In this case, for two years. The shed is at the far end of the back yard, and it's pretty big -- the size of a one-car garage. When we first bought the house, we walked back there, lifted up the shed door, and said "whoa damn, this is a huge thing here". And then we spent the next two years saying "you know, we really need to clean that out sometime".
Long-term readers of the blog will recall that we bought our house from a 90+ year old lady, a retired schoolteacher who lived here for nearly 40 years with her boyfriend. (Yeah, she had the same boyfriend for almost 40 years. No, they never married. There are over 1500 stories in the naked Fladungen.) And old people, they sometimes turn into packrats, you know?
Over a hundred wooden crates. Oddly shaped pieces of lumber, too big to fit in any fireplace or stove. Dozens of flower pots, all sizes. Empty paint cans, old tires. Three generations of gardening tools, ranging from "hey, this is still nice and sharp" through "wait, what the hell does this thing do?" to "metal piece promptly snaps free from wooden handle, falls to floor -- clang."
Rolls of linoleum. An extra door (because, hey, extra door). Two complete drainpipes. (We do not seem to be lacking drainpipes, though.) A carpet beater. A manual street sweeper. A one-man snow-plow. A 1960s vintage electric heater -- the huge, clunky kind with the enormous scary red hot coils inside.
A couple of dozen asbestos pads. Several metal cables. Home-made birdhouses, including the biggest birdhouse I'd ever seen -- like, big enough for a small child. For hawks? A migrating albatross? -- Leftover fake brick faces for the fake brick facing along one side of the house. A large galvanized zinc tub containing several hundred pounds of gravel.
You get the idea: it was a huge job. And it was made worse, much worse, by the fact that an abandoned garden shed attracts all sorts of inhabitants.
Let's get the bad one out of the way first: there were four dead kittens in a large cardboard box. And when I say "dead", I mean well past the "oh, poor kittens" stage. This was more like "what are all these flies HURRK".
What killed them? No idea. Cats have been in and out of that shed since we moved in, and we know at least one generation has been born and raised there -- we saw them late last autumn, slinking in and out through the not-quite-closed door. Did we seal the door too tightly one night? Did the mother abandon them? We don't know. But anyway, I disposed of the little bodies on the outside compost pile, last year's leaves and grass clippings their burial mounds.
Then there were the squirrels. I think I mentioned we have a walnut tree. Well, a squirrel, or squirrels, had lived for a long time in there. Gnawed, hollow walnut shells? There must have been a couple of hundred pounds of them, piled up in drifts. (And cherry pits. I didn't know they were edible.) How the squirrel managed with the cats, I have no idea, but he seems to have been a busy little fellow.
And then the mummies. There were several of these: a couple of mice, a rat, and a weasel. The shed is corrugated tin, and in summer it gets quite hot and dry. So, some small dead animals got turned into mummies: dry gray leather over bones. The rat and the weasel were actually pretty interesting. I called David over to look at them (David likes this sort of thing) and we hmmed and ohed over them for a couple of minutes. (Weasel teeth? Really sharp. The rat mummy just looked dead, but the weasel mummy looked seriously pissed.)
What else... oh, the biggest spider I've yet seen around here. Again, called David. He was extremely pleased. "I think it had an egg sac!"
Sorting out what to throw out wasn't too hard, because we threw out almost everything. It was a little sad, sometimes. Most of it was just packrattage and forty years of "well we might find a use for this someday". But some of it -- the birdhouses, for instance -- seemed like stuff the old lady, or the boyfriend, had put aside fully intending to repair and put back in the garden again. Never happened. I guess when you reach a certain age you take down the busted birdhouse, or whatever, and put it away thinking "I'll fix that over the winter and hang it again next spring... maybe." And then one year you don't, and the broken birdhouse sits there for the next few years, slowly succumbing to beetles and dry rot. Until the new tenants come and say, keep this? Nah.
So much the more reason to get it done, I guess. The two of them did a pretty good job with this house. I feel like... better to take the stuff out and look at it (even if only to throw it away), than to let it go on year after year with the squirrels and the mummified mice. So, not a nice job, but I'm glad we got around to it.
It took hours. We sneezed a lot. We built a large pile of trash. And then we were done, and took turns in the shower.
The shed looks... good. The floor is swept and it's airing out. You could throw down a sleeping bag and sleep, if you cared to. Claudia has plans that involve shelves and hooks and maybe a pegboard.
And that was the first sunny Friday in June.