a tree-mendous fortPosted: July 5, 2012
A couple years ago, at my day job, we built a tree fort. A furnituremaker helped, and the joinery made this something special; we cantilevered two platforms within an apple tree and it was quite beautiful, wrapped in blossoms during the spring flowering, hidden by leaves throughout the summer, ripe red fruit easily grabbed come autumn.
Something told me not to anchor the fort into the apple tree, and that premonition proved true a year later – last year – when we were told to move the fort to a different location. Down came the pieces (and the tree remains pristine) and the platforms were reassembled, this time surrounded by Austrian Pine trees. We added a crow’s nest, tucked high back among the pines.
But even that was not quite right. As children love a spot to hide in, we wanted to add a roof, and enclose the second level. Dimensioned lumber – your basic 4x4s or 2x4s – would not be right so off we went into the woods looking for beech and birch trees, to limb and cut down and use for the ridgepole, rafters and beams. We “beavered” the rafters and notched the cross beams. We used some pine boards for the walls and roof.
“Nice,” we were told, but “how about some old barn boards? And maybe some lobster rope to wrap some of the boards, and maybe a control panel, and maybe some driftwood, and…we need to trick this out.”
Given those marching orders, off we set looking for old barn wood. I put out a call to the network of Maine woodworkers, and found a woman whose husband dismantled a barn and has stored the wood in the loft of another barn on their farm. She wrote, “About 35 years ago, we tore down a barn in Auburn and put the wood in the loft of our barn. It has quite a few antique nails. I’d love to find a good home for this wood, but I don’t know if this is what [you’re] looking for. It is the siding of the barn, what was under the clapboard, and the wood is all different lengths much of it short. It is not “finished” in any way – may be too rough… but I’d be happy to have you take a look.”
Maybe not the wide beams used in fancy floors, but for a tree fort, with an ocean view…this may just be right. Soon I will be driving north in search of those special boards to add just the touch. In the meantime, the fort sure is a nice place from which to watch the lobster boats crossing the Saco Bay homeward with their day’s catch. As E said, as she tested out the fort, “Daddy, two thumbs up!”