One of our big family projects last year was the construction of a treehouse made largely out of recycled materials, including old french doors (for the lateral windows), an old window picked up at a local antiques shop, and wood left over from our house construction and other projects. We had even inherited scrap metal and some old roof tiles when we took over our land, and these made it into the mix. The treehouse was about 90% complete and very usable by the end of the season.
For a small structure, it’s surprisingly useable, and it has been a regular destination on our land through four seasons, giving us a place to go and shelter for casual picnics, book reading, daydreaming and suchlike.
Thanks to having stairs, rather than the more typical ladder, it’s been highly accessible for our puppy, Reggie, who loves trotting up and down the steps and will spend hours lounging on the small deck outside. I never knew that a dog could love the sensation of being off the ground so much.
Whether the visits are longer and planned, or short and impromptu in nature, we find ourselves at the treehouse a lot.
Earlier this summer our older son and a friend started scouting around for somewhere on our land to site a zipline and it didn’t take too long to realize that integrating one with the treehouse would make it even more of a natural destination for the kids. The land to the west of the treehouse is on a gentle slope that is actually pretty ideal for a zipline, and there are trees a good distance away, providing a stopping point.
After finding and ordering a really great looking zipline kit online, we went back to the treehouse to consider how best to add a platform for the starting end of the line. We spent an evening trimming branches back and looking at how to place the platform at the north-western corner of the treehouse.
Before long, my husband – the big thinker and planner of projects in our family – observed that we could use the introduction of the zipline as a chance to upgrade the treehouse more generally, expanding the deck area outside the treehouse proper and resiting the stairs for improved traffic flow (now that ascending the stairs would have two purposes – visiting the treehouse itself, or making a beeline for the zipline launch zone).
So, we’re back into fairly serious construction mode with the treehouse again, including finding and hauling yet another dead tree trunk from elsewhere on our land to use as a fourth support (the original structure uses two living trees, and one reclaimed tree trunk for a tripod formation), framing an expanded wrap-around deck, and resiting the stairs.
And, I must say, that apart from the occasional disagreements or head-butting that can come when you work with
teenagers your children on big projects, it’s very satisfying and often a lot of fun. Even Reggie gets to take part, as he adores hanging around at the treehouse, regardless of what’s happening.
Our picnic frequency at the treehouse has naturally jumped, as we need regular snacks and meals to keep everyone fueled and happy. Tonight I made my way down the hill with a tray bearing all the fixings for sticky toffee pudding (the cake for which was baked in our new egg-shaped barbecue earlier in the evening), and then the youngest returned to the house to make a batch of lemonade for everyone. Reggie dined on bits of cheddar as he’s going through some serious teething.
Enthusiasm for the project is high, and my husband is now suggesting that we beautify the exterior, which seems unnecessary to me. I’d just like it to be insulated for the winter, as I have designs on it for a writing retreat at some point in the future! All joking aside, I think the commitment is there to keep adding to and improving the treehouse as a destination for everyone in the family. I love the life that it has taken on and the fact that it is becoming a special long term project for all of us.
Just looking at the pictures from last year’s early construction makes me nostalgic for a time when our oldest was still shorter than us.
When the above photo was taken he was about five foot five inches. As of this summer, he stands at five foot ten inches and wears a size 12 shoe. Oh, and he calls me ‘Shorty’ every chance he gets. Maybe I’ll just move out to the treehouse in protest!