• The old goat shed

    by  • February 9, 2012 • Garden art, Projects • 7 Comments

    In 2000, we found and bought 7 acres on the side of a hill in a small town south of Yosemite. In late 2005, we moved into our modest, newly built house, something we never  dreamed we’d do.

    2000-10 First look at the goat shed

    2000-10 First look at the goat shed

    Walking the place for the first time, when we wondered if the old cedar shack came with the property, the real estate agent said, “Oh, yes!” I was astonished, then later overjoyed to learn that this old shed was ours. Why, we had an outbuilding!   And considering that we had no ‘main’ building yet, it was the only sign of civilization here at all. Just think of the possibilities!

    Goat shed in Autumn

    Goat shed in Autumn

    For one who sometimes lives in a world of imaginative impracticality, this is the stuff dreams are made of. Actually made from weathered cedar construction, we guessed it was 40 or 50 years old.  No foundation, four by four posts simply sunk into the corners, it, nonetheless caught my imagination.

    A peek inside the 20’ x 20’ shed revealed two rooms, one with a low manger, bees, scorpions, which I was a bit shocked to see (I had thought they lived only in hotter climates), and a muddy dirt floor.  The corrugated metal and plastic paneled roof hovered three inches above the top of the walls, leaving a gap open to the outside.

    Wooden goat marks the shed exterior wall

    Wooden goat marks the shed exterior wall

    So many projects and plans came before any attention could be paid to the old shed. Late the next summer, I raked  it out and attached the small wooden goat I had found on eBay.  Can you see how sentimental I was already getting?  That Autumn, I measured and mapped out a diagram of the goat shed showing dimensions.

    2010-11 The goat shed covered in November snow

    2010-11 The goat shed covered in November snow

    Over the five years before we moved here, I filled a notebook with drawings, plans and clippings of what could be done to make this a big girl ‘playhouse.’ A room of my own.  Five years of monthly five-hour drives gave me plenty of time to think. And my two gardening friends in the neighborhood there only encouraged me.

    2006 March snow covers the goat shed

    2006 March snow covers the goat shed. I was high up on the driveway to take this and our small boat is covered by snow at the bottom of the photo.

    Many times we have walked up the hill from the house place and seen a deer bolt from inside the shed.  The door is too narrow for a cow so we thought it must have been built for sheep or goats. Neighbors said goats, so that’s how it got its name.

    Goat shed view

    Goat shed view over the valley

    The shed is on the hill overlooking the best view on the place.  It’s about 30 yards away from the house to the south, with our big parking and utility area between. With no trees to block the view, the land drops away steeply to the east and you can see a 180 degree vista of the mountain range. First, there’s somewhat of a road, then a steep open meadow, then the woods continuing down to the creek 100 yards below our fence.

    Oracle oak towers 30 feet over

    Oracle oak towers 30 feet over

    We reinforced the floor the last summer before we moved into the house; built an interior platform in one section so we could use the shed to store things. I dismantled the manger to reuse the old wood, some of which is used in our hall bath. I use the three square wooden troughs now as bird feeders. An odd triangular wood piece serves as a bench on one side, and old ladders, tools and my Grandma’s chair are displayed on one outside wall. Inside we have some junk and a few old motorcycle parts.

    Collection of old ladders

    Collection of old ladders lean against the old cedar planks

    Feed troughs repurposed

    Feed troughs re-purposed

    My stash of old doors, windows and shutters

    My stash of old doors, windows and shutters behind the goat shed

    2010-12 December stormy skies over shadow the shed

    2010-12 December stormy skies over shadow the shed

    After some time, many sighs, scoffs and protests from Tractor Man and his builder friends, I’ve had to come down to earth and realize that I can’t do what I thought could be done. Now I know,…it is just too decrepit to move anything of value inside.  Without major reinforcements, it would not stand, and rebuilding would ultimately destroy the aged, charming look of it.  I had dreamed of a comfy chair, a cozy daybed nap, shelves and pictures and treasures there.  I had planned a tiny woodstove and a small kitchen to make tea there.

    Old tools and Grandma's chair

    Old tools and Grandma's chair

    I realize the limitations, weakened beams and leaky, flimsy really, roof….but still appreciate very much the scenic value of this old barn. At the very least, it makes a nice garden folly of sorts. The cedar glows a youthful reddish gold in some places and has weathered silvery grey in most places.

    2010-12 December sky lights up the shed

    2010-12 December sky lights up the shed

    In the snow it is magical and deep and in the Spring the grass around it looks mowed and neat.  The Oracle oak towers over and shelters it and in Autumn we can hear the bangs and pops as acorns fall on the roof.


    Sue Langley, a passionate gardener and photographer lives and gardens with her husband and Corgi, Maggie on 7 acres just south of Yosemite, Zone 7 at 3000 feet. She also manages the Flea Market Gardening Facebook page and website.

    7 Responses to The old goat shed

    1. February 9, 2012 at 9:31 am

      My Grandma would have loved to paint your shed. She probably would have added in a few goats too! Those are some really beautiful pictures, Sue.

    2. February 9, 2012 at 9:37 am

      Tractor man needs to find a way to stabilize the structure without altering its charm so you can put this marvelous place to use. Can’t you reinforce the internal framing, put in new rafters and replace the roof with either new corrugated metal roofing or even cedar shakes to strengthen the structure. Basically, build a new structure inside the skin of the existing one.

    3. February 9, 2012 at 11:57 am

      I agree with Brian, keep the exterior barn boards, but strengthen the structure from within. Being in the midst of a goat shed build ourselves, you really probably could just reinforce the interior framing. If there’s no sheathing inside (i.e. just bare studs), you could add some blocking between the studs, and sheath the interior walls with some plywood sheets, which I guarantee will stiffen up the structure. There are also some beautiful metal roofing panels available now . We’re using a Galvalume steel roofing product on our goat barn, and although we’re going for the standard metal color, they do have colored panels too. Of course, I realize I just signed Tractor Man up for significant renovation project…sorry Tractor Man. Alternatively, you could just add goats 😛

    4. February 9, 2012 at 4:46 pm

      Hi Katie, I bet she would have needed a lot of paint for this shed! I wish I could use it,…awful dirty inside and with the dirt floor not much hope that it would be clean enough even for goats! I’ve thought of opening up the view side and making a sort of covered porch type thing…Thanks, Katie!

      Thanks, Brian, all are good ideas! Reinforcing from within would be ideal.

      Clare, I thought of you and your own goat shed project. If this rustic model lasted 50 years, can you imagine how long yours will? I’ve heard that goats are loveable pets as well as useful. I wonder if you’ll make cheese and soap?

    5. February 9, 2012 at 5:49 pm

      Real nice photo series of the Shed. It’s go the great look you can’t design ( or replace ) Could it be older than 50 years.
      Saving it. Concrete floor to hold it all (tie it) all together there. And keep the roof functional to keep out the weather.

    6. February 10, 2012 at 8:17 pm

      Sue, your first sentence made me nostalgic. We also bought our property in 2000 and, by fortuitous circumstances, managed to build a home (really modest compared to some of our neighbors’) and moved in on June 12, 2006. We never thought it would happen, but somehow we persevered and managed to pull it all together. As for your goat shed, well, it’s chock full of possibilities! I think a lot of the fun is just in the dreaming and planning, especially since you don’t have a deadline or schedule. Btw, your photos are postcard perfect and the vistas absolutely to die for!

    7. Desiree
      February 18, 2012 at 1:10 am

      This has to be one of my favourites posts, Sue! Apart from your absolutely exquisite photographs, your beautiful prose completely captured my imagination. This truly is outstanding Sue and could happily grace any glossy, upmarket coffee table book. I am going to bookmark this and come back whenever my soul needs gentle cosseting.

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