Growing up on a farm in country South Australia, I remember the smell of the work shed. The work shed is not where vehicles or animals were stored; it is where the welding, banging, fixing, wiring and general repairs were made. The smells of oil, grease, petrol, arc welding and seasons wafted out of the nooks and crannies also containing bolts of unknown vintage.
Out the back of the shed, engines from long decommissioned cars and trucks stood idle underneath the gum trees and galahs. In summer, the shed was a cool refuge from the 35 degree heat; and in winter a shelter from the rain and wind.
Farmers fix all their own equipment. From petrol and diesel engines to swapping the shears on ploughs. Blacksmith, engine mechanic, electronic technician, radio engineer: all bases were covered with a myriad of tools and bit logically organized in controlled chaos.
Sheds migrated to the backyards of many suburban houses at the same time as the population moved to the quarter acre block. Albeit smaller than their country cousins, the same smells of two-stroke petrol for the mower and a half-repaired washing machine from Auntie Joyce usually shared the same corner as a family of mice who immigrated from next door. The pool shed containing noxious chemicals just didnâ€™t suit the poor noses of the domestic mouse.
The shed is a place of sanctuary for the blokes of the family. A hidden esky or better yet, a small fridge, contains a collection of beers and after the barbeque is turned off â€“ the men retreat to the shed to talk about whatever men talk about. Their castle, the house, may have a spare room â€“ but the kids have taken this over with their board games, or the wife has started a home business and the racks of stock just donâ€™t mix with a good yarn and stories.
Also in the shed, are what are called â€œweekend shed projectsâ€. Apart from Auntie Joyceâ€™s washing machine â€“ there is a half-completed rocking horse â€“ promised to the kids for their 5th birthday, but never completed; a random invention for the garden that just didnâ€™t work and a bicycle or two from the various lengths of the kids. Each of the bikes has something wrong: missing seat, flat tire or a handle bar thatâ€™s found its way into the washing machine. These projects are never completed as there will always be time at retirement to potter around the shed.
Sheds, and weekend shed projects, still exist in the online age. The human imagination has taken us blokes from painting animals in a cave to sorting out the 6000 digital images we captured on our last trip to North Queensland.
What is your weekend shed project? Iâ€™ll give you a tip: start now. Retirement is just too far away.