One of the outbuildings at Mucky Boots is a tool shed, beside the road that leads to the farming half of the property. Its walls are unfinished, weathered plywood, and one corner of the floor has sunk enough that when we put the lawnmower away, it wheels itself to the back of the shed. One of the first projects we took on was to replace the roof, and when that was done Kim got busy with hooks and hangers inside, so that every tool has its place.
It's a humble, unpretentious structure, which I think is why it's my favourite of the outbuildings. And my favourite part of this favourite shed is the rusted metal latch that lowers into a hole in the floor to keep one of the two doors shut. For some reason I find it really charming, probably because it looks like it has had a long and useful life.
I like to think about the person who put it there in the first place, who I imagine was thinking about a good, solid latch for the good, solid shed that had just been built. Maybe it was new. Maybe it was reused from an earlier shed. But someone carefully screwed it into position, measured the depth of the latch, drilled the hole in the floor, and then latched the door shut for the first time. It feels like we have inherited more than a latch - we've inherited the fruit of someone else's planning and work, and the story of how that person ended up in this place at that time, with a properly closing shed door at the top of his or her list of things to do.
There's a lot of that around here: artifacts of other people's dreams and hard work. We know a little bit about the first owners of the house - while he built the house solidly and well, she laid the bones of the perennial gardens. They eventually divorced, and sold it to the couple we bought it from. The night before the transfer took place, the man who built the house wrote a long note to the new owners, explaining about the numerous light switches in the upstairs bedroom (including a switch for the porch lights so you don't have to go all the way downstairs to turn them off when you're already in your pyjamas and realize you left them on - how clever is that?), and about the wiring and plumbing that had been done for a dishwasher that was never installed, and passing on his sad, little-bit-drunk best wishes along with tips about managing a septic system. That note was passed to us when we took possession of the property four or five years later, in a folder with instruction manuals and warranties and other important papers.
The new owners had their own dreams for the place. She was an avid gardener who constructed the greenhouse, expanded the orchard and began growing vegetables organically. I see her hand especially in the vegetable garden, in the rusted garden gates she used as whimsical backdrops for herbs and berries, in the butterfly bushes she planted all along the fence to attract beneficial insects, and in the tulips, lavender bushes and poppies she tucked into every available pocket and corner. Maybe it was for practical reasons like attracting bees, but I like to think it was because she thought a vegetable garden should be food for the eye, the heart and the soul as much as for the body.
They, too, separated and had to sell the property, which is when it came to us. Two sad endings. I hope we don't repeat the pattern.
As Kim and I slowly make our own mark on the farm, I don't want to erase the evidence of those two couples' hopes and hard work. Instead, I hope we weave our own dreams into those we have inherited. And I'm never going to replace the latch on the tool shed door.