Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Shepherds Hut: The Portable " BACKYARD " Outpost




Even before the garden is planted I'm daydreaming about the perfect backyard hideaway. I've long been a fan of little buildings. Cabana's, potting sheds, covered porches, glampers and grapevine covered pergola's and screened in garden rooms are all candidates for providing the perfect place to escape to on a summers day but I must admit, I'm absolutely obsessed with the idea of  gazing out my kitchen window and seeing a Shepherds Hut in my yard some day. Oh, they're easy enough to find on pinterest or the web. That's where I met Betty Grindrod. I posted a picture of one she made on my Facebook page and she messaged me with her contact info. I decided then and there that I had to introduce her to my Dandelion House friends and she agreed!  
Read on to learn more about  how these rural wheeled cabins of old England inspire today's Shepherds Huts used for garden rooms, writers retreats, guest cottages, artists studio's and more! 

   I know you'll enjoy getting to know Betty, her partners Robin Berthet and Julie Keil of 
Berkshire Shepherd Huts and the wonderful photo's of their newest outpost, I nick- named
"The Rustic Retreat". 


 Deb ~Tell me a little about your background as an Estate Gardener and how that blossomed into a business for building Shepherds Huts?

 Betty~ I was head gardener at private estates for my entire career, having studied Ornamental Horticulture at the University of Connecticut.  Aside from using my creativity to design gardens, I am also an artist and for many years dreamt of having a mobile art studio and garden retreat.  I looked into campers, but when my friend Robin Berthet talked about the shepherd huts he saw in England, I knew they were just what I was looking for.  However, there were no builders in the US, so Robin, our friend Julie Keil and I decided to rectify that situation.
Deb~ What is the role of each of your partners in your business?

Betty~ Robin is a well respected contractor known for his craftsmanship, and he researched the construction of them in England and sourced the local materials we need to craft a quality hut.  He oversees the actual building.  Julie and I split the duties of design, marketing and sales.
Deb~ Can you give me some history on Shepherds Huts? Where did they originate exactly and what was the original purpose for them?
Betty~ There was a very old English publication in the 15th century, called the Government of Cattle that mentions a wheeled "cabbin" that shepherds used to rest in or be protected from the weather while tending their flock, but that could be moved as the sheep went to fresh pastures.  Historically the huts contained a small stove, a bed over a cage where sickly lambs could be kept and a simple medicine cabinet containing the potions necessary to treat the flock...and maybe a bottle of spirits for the shepherd.  The land owners vied to have the best built huts for their shepherds over the years.  In WW2, many old huts were used as home guard outposts in England and even to temporarily house prisoners of war.  By the 1950's most were abandoned or used as storage sheds as more modern farming methods prevailed.  Recently, they have made a revival as guest accommodations and as garden additions, being featured in the Chelsea Flower Show.

Deb~ What types of materials do you use to build your huts?
Betty~ We use a variety of locally harvested, sustainable wood for the construction.  The outside is Cedar and the chassis, deck and interior are Ash from Sheffield, MA.  The doors are built by a small firm in the Adirondacks of Ash.  The shelves are natural edged Cherry from S.Egremont, MA.



Deb~ What is the average size and cost?

Betty~ We are building them in three different sizes, 12', 16' and 18' long, all 7' wide.  We can also make custom sizes depending on the buyer's wishes or needs.  The cost depends greatly on what the customer wants to have included, but it will generally be between 20k and 40k dollars.
Deb~ How long does it take to build one from scratch?
Betty~ It takes 4-6 weeks to build one.
Deb~ Where do you find those wonderful iron wheels they sit on?
  Betty~ We get the iron wheels from an Amish company in Pennsylvania.
Deb~ What are some of the unique ways you finish them inside?
Betty~ The natural edged woods make a unique and rustic look for shelving and tables.  We have also installed queen sized beds with Cherry wood storage shelves beneath, bunk beds.  Anything that can be in a camper, we can install in the huts.  Including kitchens.  For a bathroom, we can put in a composting toilet, hook up for running water and electricity.  We use a nautical wood stove called the Hobbit and have denim insulation in the walls to keep it very cozy in cold weather.

 Deb~ What are some of the uses your customers purchase a Shepherds Hut for?

Betty~ Some uses of the hut include guest room, play house, pool house, artist studio, yoga studio, garden shed, writer's retreat, fisherman or hunter's cabin, vending cart for farmer's market, farm stand, bar at events or parties.
Deb~ How many do you make in a years time?

 Betty~ That depends on the number of orders we get.
Deb~ How are they transported?
 Betty~ For short distances they can be towed by a vehicle with a tow package or a tractor (or horses...see picture)  They weigh about two thousand pounds with the metal wheels.  We move them on a flat bed truck to deliver them to our customers.  We can also put them on truck tires if a customer wanted to use them as a camper or move them more frequently.
 

 Deb~ Are there trade shows where the public can see a finished Shepherds Hut?

We are going to have a hut going to the farmer's market in Great Barrington, MA. and while it is not working there it can be viewed at Campo de' Fiori, a fine home and gardens accessory store on Rte 7 in Sheffield, MA.  On the Saturday of Memorial Day one will be in use for serving ice cream at the annual Columbia Land Conservancy BBQ in Ghent NY.  We will be updating our schedule on our Facebook and Twitter accounts.


I don't know about you, but I'm ready to move in! Just think of the fun you could have making it your own... And what a great place to " escape " too with out even starting the car! One can dream, or you could just order one to keep watch over your backyard flock of sheep! I'd be watching my " flock of flowers"  and chickens out of that little pop up window!

I hope you enjoyed this post much as I did sharing it. Wishing Betty, Robin and Julie much success with Berkshire Shepherds Huts!
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Stay tuned for more inspiring features from Dandelion House!



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