Saturday, December 31, 2016

BUCKET LIST UPDATE No. 311: Build the kids a tree house

When I was a kid, I can remember having a couple of tree houses, one at my grandparents’ house and another just a short walk from the back of my parents’ house. I have fond memories of playing in those tree houses and vividly remember reading for hours in the tree house at my grandparents. With that in mind, I’ve been telling myself for years that I’d build my kids a tree house once they got big enough to safely enjoy it.

I didn’t want to go to any great expense to build this tree house, so I bided my time until I could find an old wooden pallet that someone was about to throw away. A month or so ago, I found just what I was looking for, discarded on the sidewalk outside the newspaper office in downtown Evergreen. After getting permission to take the pallet home, I loaded it up on the back of my truck and drove it to the house. I’d say this pallet was maybe four feet square and made of rough wood.

At my house, we have many trees, but really only one suitable for a tree house, a relatively young water oak with its main branches starting about six feet off the ground. My son and I used a claw-toothed hammer to knock a few boards loose, just enough to wedge the pallet into the trees around the main trunk. This made the pallet the “floor” of the tree house, and we shored it into place, but nailing the boards we’d removed back onto the pallet, but snuggly against the tree to keep it from tilting and rocking.

The “floor” of the tree house still wasn’t as stable as I’d like, so we added a ladder to one side. We also used a couple of rubber tie-downs to secure it to branches further up the trunk. In all, I feel like it’s generally stable and safe.

Even though we did build a small, basic, but functional, tree house, my son and I have been discussing ways to improve it. Top of the list is a short “rail” at least along two sides. This will not only improve the looks of the tree house, but it’ll also make it a little safer. We’ve put this part of the project on hold until I can find another discarded pallet.

Another interesting aspect of this little project was that it provided me with an opportunity to explain the “three points of contact” safety rule to my son. Before I would let him climb the ladder the first time, I made sure that he understood that he’d always be pretty safe in the tree house as long as he maintained three points of contact. I don’t think I’d even heard of this safety guideline until I was in my twenties, so my son’s a little ahead of the game on this one.

In the end, how many of you have ever built a tree house? What did you make it out of? How much time did it take? How big was it? Let us know in the comments section below.

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