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Donkey shed     2010
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The donkey shed

July 2010

At the front of Catslide, we have what we rather euphemistically call 'the donkey shed'. This has always been on our agenda for development but only now has work started on it. The shed as it stood, was just long enough to prevent us from parking two cars in the front of the house, this meant that mine was suffering from my inability to reverse it into the space by the side of the house without scraping it on the hedge or the wall of the house. The first priority was to reduce its footprint to so that we could park both our cars in the front.


The donkey shed in its former glory July 2010



The luxurient herbage removed



Several 'interesting' old bits turned up in the shed as the light of day shone into it for the first time in years. At some point, it had obviously been used as a chicken shed as there were the remains of chicken pooper scrapers and other chickeny bits, several nice bits of shed ironmongery, a window, probably from the cottage, made with abutting pains of wrinkly glass and a 'mystery object' of use unknown. This latter has a deal frame which has pieces of hard leather? or slate with holes of different sizes attached to it. I wondered if this was for drawing wire but it does not appear to be substantial enough.


Mystery object


Mystery object, obverse side


All the 'object trouve'

The semi-circular wrought iron piece at the top is part of the harness frame used to connect the donkey to its attachments.


The frame, chain and hooks


Other bits

From the top:
Door hinge, matching the one found in the chimney. This will be installed on the sitting room door in due course.
Long bolt, this used to be the handle for a mangle or root cutter type machine, its wooden handle riddled with woodworm fell to dust when it was picked up.
Tethering ring with spike to fix into a frame.
Cast iron coat hook.
Chicken pooper scraper.
Door latch.
All are resting on a piece of wood with an interesting rebated groove in it. Probably part of a donkey cart?


Donkey hoe

The donkey hoe was found in the garden when we moved into Catslide.


Then came on the winter snows and the project had to be put on hold until weather and time permitted again. What I did do, was to recover all the old oak beams and over the winter de-nailed them and set to with the adze to remove the worst of the decaying sap wood and generally re-furbish them.

When I first looked at the shed when we moved in, I had wondered if any of its wood had come from the original oak frame of the house but, as the beams came to light, it looked more as if they had been custom supplied for the purpose of a shed. Indeed, one beam had 'shed' written on it.


Then came on the winter snows

April 2011

Once the weather improved, the next job was to puzzle out how to transform a miscellaneous collection of bits of oak beam into a decent framed building. All were laid out on the grass and various combinations of shed designs and beam combinations tried.


Puzzle this one out!


Do a bit more puzzling



The original shed had had a painfully low ceiling and many of the already short uprights had suffered through being set directly into the earth which made them shorter still. The solution adopted was to use the two side beams from the original as the top and intermediary horizontal beams in a single side wall. This enabled the new side wall to be high enough to to clear the heads of all but the very tall.

The other side wall, or back, could be constructed from some of the more flimsy, though longer pieces, and covered with the existing ship lap, through sawn larch boards, that were still in good condition.

There were also enough pieces to construct the gable end, by using the two original cross beams and two of the longer verticals to frame the door.

New mortice and tenon joints were cut, using the traditional tools of the electric drill and the chain saw. The frame was assembled and then put away again until the foundations could be dug and low walls built to keep the frame away from the ground.


The new side wall frame

June 2011

Part of the extant construction had included old railway sleepers that had been split along their length. One of these was firmly embedded in concrete on the left hand side and another had been used as an upright for the right hand side of the front wall. It was decided to retain the left hand one, as it stood, which although not quite vertical, would have been extremely difficult to remove.

Digging a foundation proved to be quite difficult too as there were numerous bits of the remains of previous structures. Some of these were made of 1950's solid concrete, none were in quite the right place to be appropriated for current use. Some heavy work with wrecking bar, sledge hammer and cold chisel was needed. Eventually, all was readied and low walls were built from concrete blocks found elsewhere on site.

Perhaps this would be a good place to say something about the shape of the building and the naming convention for its walls. The shape has been dictated by the length of the beams available and the need for car parking space.
The result is that in conventional terms, it is broader than it is long. That is to say that the gable end is longer than the side walls. Front and back are a bit mis-leading too as somehow what I call the front, because it is the bit you see from the house and had the original access door, is really a side.

The four walls consist of:
1. The extant wall belonging to next door which is the gable end of their garage/workshop
2. The [front] right hand side wall, this is the one made from the oak beams.
3. The [back] left hand side wall, this is the one with the ship-lap boarding, its called back because it backs onto our other neighbours.
4. The gable end, this will have the access door and has only a main beam across it at the moment. Maybe this will come to be called the front as we start to use the shed.


The two uprights for the side walls in place


Part of the original shed wall remained in place


Ready to go with the first upright in place




Sort through the remaining timbers


Now just where will this one go?


The two side walls constructed

July 2011

The back side wall was made mostly of the longer, thinner pieces. Two of these had obviously had a previous existence as something else, being perforated with regularly spaced holes. Probably this had been part of a byre.

These two uprights had always been of interest to me as I could see that they could be easily be re-directed into use as a warping board. This will be useful when I set up my loom in the shed and it becomes my studio.

The blue plastic is a damp proof membrane.



The side frames in place and the cross beam fixed


Back side wall with shiplap

By the end of July 2011 the two side frames are in place, the structure braced for stability and the main cross beam for the gable end in place.

For now, this is how it will have to stay as there is a busy month of August ahead.

September 2011

Next step. the 'A' frames for the roof


'A' frames for the roo



Felted and battened

Was rather pleased with myself as just about every time I went up on the scaffolding I took up some tiles with me and stacked them ready for fixing. However, even I could see that they were far too dirty to go on as they were so all had to come off again to be pressure washed.


Before pressure washing, above. After, below

18 September 2011

Fitting in a little 'shed work' in between moving Cribbit back to her winter moorings at Willowtree Marina. About 40 lock.miles to go before we are home.


The first row, mortared in place to support the lead flashing



I'm hoping the 'pink' will fade


OK Kevin, I can see its not straight

October 2011

I've now got it to the point where it will probably be abandoned to the 'winter snows' again. Lots of other projects taking me indoors. It would be nice if I could get rid of the rubble on the floor and so have a winter cover for the trailer but how much rubble can a boy eat?


In the bright Autumn sunshine

September 2012

September and only now back to work on the donkey shed. Very little incentive to do much outside with all the rain but did manage to run the adze over pieces needed for the front of the shed back in July.

Using the adze inside, dust and chips everywhere but at least it is dry

The first bits of blocking in



Maddy, from next door, is the supervising foreman on this job and asked me the other day: "Chris, why have you put that piece of wood across the doorway?" I explained that it was to discouage her dog Daisy, from going in there. A few days after this she was back on duty and remarked: "My auntie has a very small dog, and do you know it can jump this high" indicating a height well above my barriers. Then just to make sure that I had got the message she added: "And Daisy is a much bigger dog and can jump much higher even than that."

30 September 2012

Finished off the rest of the blockwork. With many thanks to Roger who gave me enough lightweight blocks to finish the job. I really like these, they are cut with a wood saw and I can lift them.

The shed in its context


While we were on Wolf, I asked Terry if he knew suitable dimensions for a nesting box for barn owls. [He suggested that I check out the RSPB website.] What followed was some debate as to why I might want to know such a thing so I explained that I felt that my donkey shed would be much improved with a pair of resident owls. John quickly shattered my cosy dream by explaining to me that barn owls inhabit barns so they can eat the mice that are attracted there by the wealth of edible materials stored within and that unless I was planning on storing several tons of wheat straw and seeds I would wait in vain for my barn owls.

I've not been completely discouraged though and have made a small portal to the interior for bats or small birds not dependant on squeeking rodents.

Welcome small flying creatures

The first three panels rendered

10 October 2012

Finished off the rest of the rendering with rather more help from the rain than I wanted, at least two of the panels will need some remedial work.

All the rendering finished

Rain damage before the rendering set

Easier to see the bird entry now the wall is rendered

27 October 2012

To my surprise, the donkey shed has an inside! The last few days have been spent breaking up the old concrete and carefully removing the few limestone blocks that were part of the original floor. The latter will be re-layed in front of the house when I get round to breaking up the tatty concrete that is there now. They will be added to the beautiful water polished limestone slabs that remain in some places.

It has an inside



Concrete pulverised


Looks like the
Harry Potter set

1 November 2012

Blinded the hardcore with sand and got the DPM down. One cubic metre of concrete coming tomorrow. Hopefully they will be able to shoot it close, otherwise the little old man gets back-ache.

Blinded with sand


Damp proof membrane in place

2 November 2012

"What makes you think this load is for you?" the driver said

Get it a bit closer

Add a bit of water to make it easier for the old man

Levelled [well just about]



17 May 2013

One of the reasons I've been a bit quiet lately is that I have been making the doors for the donkey shed. They are laminated out of 'gravel board' and I'm rather pleased that for the moment, they fit nicely together and are in the same plane. Quite an achievement with the wobbly bits of timber that define the opening they close.

The great gate of Kiev



Donkey eye view

7 October 2013

As you can see from the pics, one door has remained straight and true and the other has tried to tie itself in a knot. Both were laminated 'back to back' so no telling why one has moved and the other has not. Made a desultory effort to straighten it with sash cramps and what not. No success so expect that I shall have to re-build it.

We have got on with the painting, or rather Rosemary has finally made good her summer long threat to paint the donkey shed.