The kids have wanted a tree house since we first decided to buy our home. We have a maple tree in our back yard that is visible at the side of the house--it must be very old, for it is one of the biggest maples I've ever seen. It has a huge trunk that splits into four trunks about five feet from the ground. It makes a platform there that Julia has used for fairy games, but we have always wanted to put a tree house in. I was never quite sure how to broach the subject with Matt, because of course he would be the one doing all the work on it! After he built the chicken coop from his own plans, I knew he could actually do the job, but wasn't sure he'd want to. However, some time ago he promised the kids that the tree house would be the next warm weather project after painting the exterior of the house. (Privately, I think this was one of those promises that is designed to get kids off your back--but a promise to children is never forgotten, and we held him to it!)
I prepped him all winter--well, okay, nagged would be a better word for it, I guess. At least, Matt would say it was a better word! We planned a "staycation" in May, where Matt would take the week off of work, and we'd do all sorts of fun things we'd always wanted to but never had, AND he would work on the tree house. This past week was the week, and we have had all kinds of fun. Visiting family, a pool day, Fire Island, the Children's Museum of the East End, seeing "Up" in 3D, eating out...and working on the tree house. The first thing to understand about Matt and a project like this is that there is a lot of thinking involved. He is not one to dive in and build something--that is more like what I would do if left in charge--and believe me, if I built a tree house it would be very likely to fall out of the tree in a week! So his thinking is very important, very necessary, and worth it in the long run. In the short run, however, it made for a very boring "family project"....and so, it has become Matt's project. His original idea was to make a platform between the 4 trunks, about 15 feet up in the air. He was going to hem it in with railings, and a rope ladder tethered to the ground would take the kids up. No roof, no walls. Sounds simple.
Well. There was the hurdle of getting high enough to actually work in the tree. We have a wonderful ladder (ever seen the infomercials for the "Little Giant"?) but what with the root system of the tree, it was hard to get the ladder steady and close enough to the tree to work properly. He solved that by wedging a piece of scrap lumber into the tree that he could stand on. Very clever. Kind of scary, in my opinion! especially since he kind of fell a couple of times before he figured out the very safest way to wedge it! Then there was the problem of getting the supports into the tree--and don't underestimate this, because as I said it ceased to become much of a family project after a while. Simple logistics demanded this too--we can't both fit on his improvised work platform. So imagine him trying to hold the wood, the screws, and the drill all at once....I respect him very much for making it work! He rigged ropes to hold the board in place so he could drill effectively.
After hours and hours of labor, yesterday he was able to lay the platform, then climb up and drill it into the supports. Keep in mind that he also had to saw the platform to fit into the tree, with curved edges to fit the trunks into place! I get a headache just thinking of it. Once the platform was up, we realized with some dismay that it was...well... smaller than we might have hoped for. And once he made the railings it would be even smaller. I was trying not to sound disappointed, because I knew how very hard he'd been working. However, my dismay was real because I imagined only two kids fitting on that platform at one time. We have four kids. Not to mention their friends. So I was picturing the bickering about who got to go up, how long their turn was, when do I get to come up, etc. etc. etc. Something else to add stress to our days. Yay.
And then, my brilliant husband came up with a brilliant idea. He was at first going to extend the high platform, build it out from the tree to make it larger, with beams under it at an angle to the tree to hold it in place. That seemed like a great idea, and I left him to calculate how he would accomplish this. Then he called me back to the tree with his more elegant plan--two levels! I had thought about two levels myself, but my thought was to put a platform under the high platform, like bunk beds. I hadn't mentioned it to Matt because after that thought, I realized that a lower platform would be that much smaller than the higher one--because of the trunks of the tree. His idea was far better. And that was to make a platform about 6 or 8 feet lower than the original one, against the tree trunk with beams at an angle underneath to hold it up. This would make it like a pirate ship, with a deck and a crow's nest, and when we added a rope ladder from the ground to the first deck and another from the first deck to the high deck, would also solve the difficulty we've been having finding a rope ladder long enough! Did I mention brilliant?
So now, he is at Home Depot, buying some more hardware and lumber for the extra platform. He will work the rest of today and then goes back to work tomorrow--so very unfortunately, this is going to have to be relegated to a weekend (dare I hope evening??) project. Which means it will be a while before the kids can use the tree house. However, I think it will be worth the wait!