Twelve feet by sixteen feet, leaning slightly to one side, no heat or AC, but it has electricity. Originally, it was built as a shed for hogs to sleep in at night. On one wall there is a cutout large enough for a healthy-sized hog to come through. Along the floorboards and some of the walls are evidence of where the hogs would scratch their backs or paw at the floor. There are still old fence posts and hooks for the barbed wire that encircled their pen. Now I spend my time rooting around, pawing away at projects and slowly realizing my dream of having a home workshop.
When we first moved into our house, the hog hutch was filled with the previous owner’s stuff. A hog hadn’t lived there in about 30 years and the previous owner used the hutch for storage and occasional tasks. A lot had amassed in that shop over those years and the previous owner opted to leave much of the contents behind when he left. If you read our previous post or have ever seen our house, you know we don’t shy away from a collection of stuff that may possibly hold some treasures. Once we took ownership I began the slow process of cleaning out the space. The yard is continually spotted with piles of junk thrown out from the shop as I work my way through all of the various boxes and tins. Each nook and cranny was stuffed with jars of nails, boxes of paints, or old electrical equipment that is in a half-state of repair.
In the past few months I have finally cleared the space enough to start working. I have learned a great deal about working in a small space by maximizing space usage. There is still a lot to be done before this old hog hutch can be a proper workshop, but it’s definitely a one-of-a-kind shop. I hope to use this space not only to help with my never ending home renovation projects, but also for the creation of sculptures and furniture.
Like a goldfish, my husband and I will expand to fill the space we are given. Four years ago, James arrived on a cold January evening to move into my one-bedroom apartment with all of his belongings packed comfortably in the back of his pickup truck. Now that we live in a house with more than three times the amount of space as that apartment and one acre of land around it, we have amassed a surprising amount of things. Maybe it’s our artist mentality. Every little thing, even unidentifiable junk, could potentially be used for a piece of art. Yet, realistically, very little of that junk ever does actually get put to use, unless you count our various piles as pieces of modern assemblage art.
Thank goodness that my husband can build furniture because my worst collecting offense is books. Despite the space saving options of ebooks and audiobooks, I can’t resist the appeal of a printed book. Every few years, James has to build another bookcase to keep up with the never-ending stacks of books that take over the surfaces in our house. Most of these books I’ve already read, but I find it difficult to get rid of a book. Sometimes, when rereading a book at a later time, I find a very different story.
For James, his collecting habit is focused around tools, especially hammers. I had no idea there were so many different kinds of hammers until I met this guy. In his own words, it’s a fundamental tool that has existed since we first discovered tools and has been developed over the years into the plethora of options we have today. They are the purest extensions of a laborer. Each hammer tells its own story with the marks it has collected from the jobs it has done.
Together, we also collect odd and unusual objects that catch our eye. These little pieces are what make our house a home. Recently, a college friend of ours came to visit our house for the first time and said “Yeah, this looks like a place y’all would live.” We are two weird people in a weird house full of weird things.
Our kind and patient realtor probably thought we were a little crazy when we asked her to help us buy this house. It's old, worn, and needs a lot of work. But we loved it immediately. This place started as a two room farmhouse at some point in the late 1800s. In the 1940s they added the rest of the rooms, including a second floor loft with ceilings just over six feet high. Then in the 70s, when the acreage around it was to become Jordan Lake, the whole house was picked up and moved to its current location. As the story goes, it was a rainy, muddy day when the truck brought the house here and it pulled up with the house parallel to the road. Instead of waiting for conditions to dry up and the house to be properly oriented, the owners just set it down and the house has been crooked every since.
When I first stepped through the door two years ago, I was struck by a comforting, familiar smell that felt like home. Logically, I know that the smell is most likely dust or mildew, but at that moment it smelled exactly like my great-aunt's pantry and I was reminded of summers in rural South Carolina. The whole house is wooden floors, wooden walls, wooden ceilings. To my husband the sculptor and carpenter, he sees this house as his lifelong work of art. Almost every weekend he's at the hardware store early in the morning to get whatever he needs for his current project. Last year, he replaced one of our aging exterior doors and discovered that the framing had been made with a rough-hewn piece of pine and handmade nails. I wonder about the people who built this house almost 150 years ago, who sat in the room I am sitting in now. Sometimes, on the second floor, the lights will flicker or music will turn on or off by itself. I like to think there's a ghost living up there, one of the original owners of this house. I'd like to think that they are proud of what this little place has become and all the love that has been put into it and that will continue to pour in.