Shepherd Huts are part of the American west and I consider them to be one of the first tiny houses to be built. Then as with the tiny houses of today they were an example to style, creativity and efficient and simple living. They were transportable and contained everything one needed to live, work, and even enjoy the beauty of the world regardless of where they were located.
My Memories of a Shepherds Hut
I never lived in a sheep camp but my dad did and his father before him. I have, however, stayed in a shepherds hut sometimes called a sheep wagon for several days at a time as a youth. The experiences and time spent in the mountains of Idaho and the memories created are wonderful and vibrant in my mind. Drifting back in time I can feel the cool crisp breezes of the high mountains and still hear the sound of the wind rustling through the quaking aspen trees. Many of those quaking aspen trees can probably be found today with my name and initials carved in them.
I remember the sheep dogs that were often nearby and never seemed to mind my commands but were quick to respond to the sheepherder’s orders or whistle. Horses were always near with the sound of their swishing tails frequent as they tried to keep the flies away. Food was always fresh, plentiful and regardless of what was being served was delicious.
Old Fashioned Tiny House Living
The sheep camp always seemed to be a place of simplicity and efficient design. In my youthful mind someone always found whatever was needed in what seemed to be a magic secret hiding place or drawer within the camp. Meals were usually eaten outside sitting on a log. When eating inside the sheep camp the magic continued when a disappearing table suddenly appeared making for the perfect place to share a meal.
Sleeping was always good in the sheep camp. The bed was located high in the back of the camp above shelves and drawers that seemed endless in size. The bed was large with lots of room. It was comfortable and warm at night and the perfect spot for a cool afternoon nap. In my idealistic memory it always seemed to be the perfect temperature in the camp regardless of the time of day. When necessary the cool mornings were sometimes warmed by a small wood burning stove at the front left of the sheep camp as you faced the door from the inside. The stove was just the right size for warming the inside of the camp or cooking a meal typically in a cast iron skillet.
My experiences in a sheep camp are limited but my dad worked as a camp jack or tender as a youth and young man. He worked hard planning meals, cooking, cleaning, organizing and caring for the camp and helping with the sheep. His many stories and experiences for his days as a camp jack are wonderful to hear. Little did he know at the time that he was living in a historic movable structure that was a precursor to a modern day tiny house.
Historic Sheep Camps
Sheep Camps were a common site in the western united states during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Millions of head of sheep were raised and grazed at summer ranges in the mountains then moved to winter grazing locations during the fall in anticipation of cold harsh weather. In earlier years the sheep had to be herded to these locations with the sheep camp always a part of the process. In the mid 1900’s the sheep were sometimes trucked to the summer and winter ranges. Regardless of how the sheep were moved the sheep camp or the sheep herder’s “tiny house” was always there.
Sheep camps are wonderful tiny houses and are found in many forms and places. Historic sheep camps have been restored and are used or displayed by collectors. Several companies in the United States build new sheep camps recreating historic designs or will build new custom designed sheep camps for your specific needs. These “tiny houses” are enjoyed and used by many as vacation homes, guest houses, back yard retreats, hunting camps, offices and even for tiny house living. What started as a creative solution to the needs of the sheep industry has become a stepping stone for a major cultural change embraced by many as they realize the benefits of tiny house living.