Monday, April 26, 2010

My Grown Up Hut

Ours was maybe the fourth or fifth house to be built on Littler Road in Sandy. When my family moved there in 1984, construction consumed the entire block. The lot next to our house was empty for years, and sometimes builders would toss their extra lumber and bricks over there.

I don’t remember when my sister Lisa and I first ventured to the empty lot next door, but at one point we walked over, picked up some wood and began “building” a hut. And then we decided to each build our own hut. Then we invited our cousin Liz over and she built a hut. We mapped out our territory; tapped into our inherent “gatherer” instincts and claimed lumber, rocks, bricks and whatever else we could find to make the space our own.

We created quite the community for ourselves. A common area served as an ampitheatre for town meetings and performances. The stage was made up of a large campaign sign for Steve Newton who ran for mayor or something. We might’ve even kept a piggy bank to pool our pennies to buy candy for a future occasion. We established a “rock store” where we could grab a rock or two during the construction of our huts. We called it the “Snooty Snotty Snyder Rock Store” (even at a young age we appreciated alliteration). The empty lot separated our house from the Snyders. I don’t remember why we didn’t like them. Lisa says it’s because they wouldn’t talk to us.

Our huts were designed for entertaining. We each had a central “fireplace” made of broken bricks. The bricks formed a circle surrounding twigs meant for a fire that we of course never made. And around the fireplace sat large rocks suitable for seating an appropriate number of guests.

We spent hours working on our huts. No hammering of nails took place; we just laid out boards where we wanted walls to be. We did dig and rake a lot. I remember digging in the dirt with a shovel to even out my little plot. It was hard work because that ground was chock-full of rocks. Every time one of us hit a rock we made an announcement to the others: “Wow, I hit a big one!” we’d call each other over to admire our new discovery and then to the rock store it would go.

The terrain was uneven and sagebrush sometimes got in the way of where we wanted a wall to be, but we worked with it. Once the huts were complete there wasn’t much to do besides remodel. We spent a lot of time visiting each others' hut and we held town meetings about ambitious projects that would never come to pass.

We called it “Sageville” and it was our home next door to home.

I don’t remember who it was that told me sagebrush could be brewed into tea. I had no interest in trying it, but the idea that Sageville produced a natural resource that could sustain its citizens pleased me.

Looking back I can see a quality in myself that carried through as I’ve grown older: my neurotic need to make things look pretty and establish order and cleanliness. I kept a garden rake out in my hut (much to my parent’s displeasure) because I liked the marks the rake left on the dirt when it was evened out and freshly turned. And if Dad was ever missing his little whisk broom, it’s because I had it in my hut to sweep dirt and gravel off the wood and rocks. I never kept my bedroom that clean, but my hut…that space was perfect, because even though I had the luxury of my own bedroom, somehow my hut was more…mine.

It’s interesting how kids have a need to delve into their imagination and create a world where they are independent – a world untouched by adult influence.

Years later more houses filled in empty lots, and eventually our huts were replaced by a real house. I might still have some toys or candy buried out there, who knows.

Even though my hut is gone, my desire to create personal spaces and craft something out of nothing remains. I still want some of the same things:

I want to create a beautiful space.
I want to take pride in producing something on my own.
I want to care for and tend to something that needs me.

So I built another hut:

This 4 x 4 square is not just dirt surrounded by lumber. In a few months it will be beautiful with colorful and wholesome fruits, vegetables, and herbs (now that I’m older and truly independent, I demand a return on my time and investment).

See how neat and tidy it is? The guy who came up with the square foot gardening system is even more neurotic than I am when it comes to clean lines and precision.

My plot is part of Wasatch Community Gardens, where I share a space with other gardeners.

We even have a common area where we hold important meetings about drip irrigation and stuff:

And not much different from the Snooty Snotty Snyder Rock Store, we keep a shed of tools that we share to maintain our gardens.

The produce I harvest from my new community will sustain me far better than a cup of tea from Sageville. Of course, if I want sage tea here I’ll have to grow the sage myself.


Lisa Marie Trent said...

I can't believe you didn't draw a diagram.

SRA said...

How long have you had a spot there? I know there's quite a waiting list. And thanks for the great party the other night. So nice to see you and so many other people I've missed.

Annie said...

I totally understand. When I was a kid my best friend and I would set up the family tent in the back yard and bring out cots and odds and ends of furniture to create a little house of our own.

Can't wait to see the grown up hut.

leandparkermakes3 said...

Was it hard to make? (The garden, not the hut :)) I have been wanting to build one of those in my backyard forever! You'll have to let me know how it works out for you.

Chris said...

I think we were pretty cool kids! If anything we were creative, I mean, a big pile of dirt filled with rocks and sage brush? I swear it was always hot out there and seriously there was no moisture in that dirt.

Anyway I too know the feeling of wanting to create something and keep it clean and tidy and the hopes of improving upon it. I love our tiny house and hope to one day improve another.

Thanks for bringing back all those memories! Ha! The Snooty Snotty Snyders!

Ang said...

I read your post right before I went to bed and then ended up dreaming about your garden. I hope that's not too creepy :)

Laura Lee said...

I thought I'd let my words do the illustrating.

This is my first year. And I'm sharing a plot with a friend who already had one because there is a waiting list.

So easy to make. Sara actually bought the same book I have. Give me a call and I can give you details if you want.

The creepy factor will depend on the nature of my garden in your dream. Was it pretty or was it dried up and gross?

Ilene said...

Your box looks lovely!

I just planted our garden. My favorite plants to grow are tomatoes, peppers, strawberries and herbs. Dan insists that we plant broccoli and onions. Both of which I think are a wasted effort. I couldn't resist and plucked some basil leaves off my baby basil plant yesterday. It should live because the Square Foot Garden is magic. Nothing dies.

You must do the vertical method of growing tomatoes. It is brilliant.

An amphitheater? Such ingenuity.