With Halloween fast approaching, I bet you are expecting to read something of magical herbs and potions. But, not this time. Instead, I want to acquaint you with a special room apart from the main house, reserved only for an adult woman to pursue her interests. A still or apparatus used in distillation was often found there. It is the still room.
Dating back to Medieval times, this room was often associated with witchcraft. (That’s all for the Halloween connection.) The Still Room was a very integral part of most great houses and castles in Europe. Some still rooms were very elaborate, and some very basic. Medicines, cosmetics, cleaning products for the home as well as beer and wine were prepared there. Herbs and flowers of all varieties were dried and preserved in the still room. It was here the essential oils of these plants were extracted by distillery and later used for soaps, flavorings, infusions, tinctures and hydrosols.
At first reserved only for either the woman of the house and her daughters or the still room maid, this room began to lose its importance and eventually turned into a large pantry where canning jams, jellies, fruits and vegetables took place. As more physicians and apothecaries became available, the need for preparing one’s own medicines and personal supplies became less and less important. The still room soon became more of a storage room and in time was forgotten.
The early 1990’s introduced the potting shed, which gave rise to the now popular “she-shed.” And if you are familiar with the State Farm she-shed commercial, in which Cheryl’s shed is burning down while she is on the phone to her State Farm Insurance agent, you know what I mean. All we can see are the flames and a big chandelier that come crashing down. But what did Cheryl do in her shed? The possibilities are endless. I even know of a friend’s shed where you can sip cocktails and enjoy tapas.
Yes, she-sheds and most all sheds began with the still room. Remember, still rooms were around long before man caves were ever invented. Your she-shed will be a place to relax, pursue your hobbies, invite friends or just be alone and be still.
Did you know there are even some rules for your she-shed? For instance, it should be placed on an east-west axis so that one side faces the southern sun during spring and autumn.
By Cheryl Balster