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Cheap pallets can make an ideal DIY shed

Continuing our series on becoming self-sufficient one step at a time, we look at one of the best-known features of most gardens... the shed

As your garden progresses, the collection of garden tools and equipment inevitably expands, and sooner or later you need to look at the delicious possibility of building a garden shed.

More than a mere tool store, a shed can also be a handy place to take a break or even brew a cuppa – they can be as large and fancy as you please. Up to a point.

However, sheds with a ground area of more than 5m2 or higher than 12m tall may need a building permit and payment of a one-off ‘shed tax’ taxe d’aménagement.

Councils vary, so if you hanker after a palatial shed, complete with sun lounger and mini fridge, it is best to consult the mairie before making a down payment as taxes can be high – with an 8m2 shed probably facing a one-off €250 payment.

If your desires are more modest and 5m2 will suffice, there are no formalities - unless you live in a protected or listed area, in which case you must inform the mairie of the proposed build before you begin.

It is, of course, entirely possible, given that your bank balance is feeling healthy, to buy a brand new shed in kit form from any of the large DIY or gardening chains, or you could get a local builder to make you one. But making one yourself is far more fun, and if you use second hand or recovered materials, it is greener too.

Old pallets make wonderful construction modules as they are very solid. They are becoming sought-after, but you may find some at the déchetterie, or Emmaüs, or by asking around.

Also keep your eyes open for scrap wood, old planks, shelves from wardrobes, etc. You may even find a sheet of corrugated iron or plastic on your travels, which you can use for roofing (but bear in mind rain noise if the shed is close to the house).

The internet is awash with free plans for constructing a garden shed, and there are even how-to videos on YouTube. Why not have a go? There is nothing to lose and you could save a fortune. 

EACH month we follow Connexion readers David and Teresa Clay in becoming  self-sufficient at their B&B in Gascony.

Foraging for elderflowers, David Clay said: “We steep them in water, add lemon juice and sugar so airborne yeasts ferment the sugar, to get a golden, sparkling, slight­ly alcoholic but very refreshing drink.”

It is an enormous hit with their French neighbours. “We also make elderflower cordial which gets used in ice creams and sorbets, but that’s much less fun!”

The long grass near the hedge is now full of wild flowers which David and Teresa are picking. Mixed with cultivated flowers including rosemary, thyme and calendula they make a flower-scented syrup a bit like honey in colour, texture and flavour. It is another way of preserving spring flavours for use in the autumn and winter months. 

They are also hoping to harvest cherries. “We have two large trees, but in some years, late spring storms can knock all the blossom off them, diminishing the harvest.

“However, we had a very bountiful crop last year, some of which we preserved in Armagnac, so one way or another cherries will be on the menu this month!”

The herbs, thyme, savory, rosemary, sage and mint, are flowering, attracting bees and swallowtail butterflies – to the delight of visitors – and first peas and broad beans will be picked to be eaten fresh, or frozen.

“It may seem a shame to freeze vegetables this fresh, but we know how welcome they will be during the winter.”

The couple are sowing squashes and melons which will be fruiting by early August. “Once butternut squash is ripe, it can be left in the sun to cure for a few days and stored  for months. We grate the flesh into a cake to serve for breakfast in our B&B.”

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