Bad location, bad location, bad location

Columnist Shannon McKinnon discusses how picturesque dreams don't always become reality.

We have a tack shed in the middle of our sheep meadow, which is just slightly less odd than a shark tank in the middle of a desert.

It’s a healthy 200 metres from our house and a good 100 metres (and a ditch and three gates) from the horse pasture. One could say its location is a tad impractical. After all, a tack shed holds tack, horse tack — saddles, bridles and halters along with all the brushes, combs and blankets. And yet there it sits way out in the sheep meadow. We don’t ride the sheep, so why is it there? I blame calendars.

The shed is small with a hip roof making it look like a miniature barn. In what is now our sheep meadow once stood a gorgeous diamond willow. When we moved here we brought the shed from our previous property. I looked at the willow and pictured its branches draped over the roof. It would look gorgeous; a picture-perfect scene straight out of a calendar. Most likely January. I could already see the hoar frost icing the willow branches and the roof tucked under a thick frosting of snow. Can you picture it? Sure you can. And you know why? Because you have a calendar.

There were plenty of detractors that tried to reason with me but I was fixated and firm. A little walking and inconvenience never hurt anybody. I was a lot younger. Some terrain and navigational difficulties resulted in the shed being parked several feet from the tree. This was unfortunate, but if you stood at just the right angle and squinted one eye you could imagine the willow branches draped over the roof. We put the horses in the meadow, their tack in the shed and all was right with the world. And then we got the goats.

The meadow was small, barely two acres and fenced with page wire. The horses loved to lean over the page wire to see if the rumour was true; was the grass really greener? Their experimenting left impressions up and down the fence line like a ripple potato chip. We fenced in 10 acres across the road with barbwire, moved the horses over there and put the goats in the horse’s former digs. And then the goats ate the willow tree. Well they didn’t scarf it down like a hotdog, but they nibbled all the bark off around its trunk, killing it by what is known in forestry circles as “girdling.”

For a few years things still looked picturesque in the winter with the snow on the shed and frost coating the branches of the dead tree. Over time the willow trunk and branches turned dark silver and held a certain beauty and grace in its demise. And then we got some sheep. The sheep are Icelandic and have heavy curved horns, which they love to rub on everything, including dead willow trees. Last year a large portion of the tree toppled into a heap. You don’t see that kind of thing on the pages of a calendar. Not even in November. So there sits my folly in the field. They say it’s all about location, location, location. I finally admit it; the shed is in a bad location, bad location, bad location. Every once in a while we talk about moving the shed, but logistics get in the way. The skids are rotting, we’d have to take down the fence and we’d likely squash more than a few of the shrubs and trees that have been planted along the fence line since we moved here. Bad enough we killed the poor willow. And the shed is almost 15 years older than it was when we moved it here. I don’t know what that works out to in shed years, but chances are good it might not hold up to being dragged over a bumpy pasture and then what? We’d have a heap of shed next to our heap of willow branches. You definitely won’t see that in a calendar any month soon. Between my garden, animals, work, projects and other commitments I’ve been so busy I don’t know if I found a rope or lost my horse. However, this afternoon I am determined to get down to the shed to at least clean up the fallen willow and prepare to cremate its final remains. I just need to find my hiking boots … and perhaps pack a snack.

Shannon McKinnon is a humour columnist from Northern BC. You can catch up on past columns by visiting

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