It was almost three years ago that we first saw this house. I joke now (in that joking sort of way that has more than a nugget of truth in it) that there was a spectacular porch that I adored, an amazing treehouse that enchanted Tristan from first sight, and oh yes, a very nice house in between them. About two years before that, Tristan had confided to his Granny that the dearest wish of his wee heart was a treehouse of his own.
The treehouse was in rough shape when we inherited it. The rope ladder was a little tough for Simon and impossible for then two-year-old Lucas to climb. In fact, I’m pretty Lucas never actually set foot in the treehouse. I was up there a few times, but it didn’t feel terribly safe to me. It was made of plyboard and had begun to cant at an awkward angle. For the first year or so, we encouraged the kids to go up in it only one or two kids at a time, but by last summer it was clearly not safe enough for even one 50 lbs kid, and we banned them from climbing into it entirely when the plyboard floor began to rot through.
It’s a sort of a kid paradise in the backyard, with an enormous play structure, a swinging rope and a tire swing, which took away the sting from a treehouse you could see but not use. But this spring we noticed the playstructure too had drifted away from “weathered” and toward “rotting” in more places than one. Last year we replaced the swing set portion, but it was clear that the rest of it was deteriorating quickly. Beloved and I decided to act on our idle year-old plan of getting a quote from someone to get them fixed up.
A friend of a friend, and conveniently someone from our local school community, came out in June and took a look at the treehouse and playstructure with an eye to rehabilitating one or the other. The prognosis was grim. Neither could be fixed – they’d have to be razed and rebuilt. The playstructure would have probably come in around $5k to $6k to replicate (have you seen the insane prices on these things??) and about a fifth of that to rebuild the treehouse.
If you follow me on any other social media, you might have seen some vaguebooking status updates as Beloved and I debated the merits of trying to do the job ourselves or hire a competent professional. For perhaps the 300th time since we moved into this house of love and ongoing challenges, I wished Beloved or I were handy folk. Alas, no hero stepped forth to rescue us from our treehouse dilemma (hey, sometimes you just gotta ask!) and Beloved and I were left to our own devices. I’m pretty sure we *could* have adapted the plan put together by the contractor and built something that vaguely resembled a treehouse, but the more I thought of my children, and the neighbourhood children, to say nothing of the children I am occasionally paid to photograph, being suspended five feet off the ground on something Beloved and I built? Let’s just say I lost a little bit of sleep over this one. And it seemed like a crappy thing to do, accepting a quote and then filching the plan. But oh how I agonized over it all.
The day we finally decided that we’d rather invest in the treehouse than in some of the other home repair jobs that also desperately need some attention (and money!) around the house, I actually cried a little bit. I didn’t realize until we decided to go ahead with the project how badly I wanted to do this for the boys. There’s not much of a playground culture here in Manotick, and I love the idea of having the kind of yard where neighbourhood kids can play. And Tristan is 11 years old now – his treehouse years will soon be behind him. (Although Beloved said something about future girlfriends and the treehouse which I will judiciously choose to ignore.) I imagined it as a lure away from those infernal screens they all adore – but wouldn’t you know it, the household wifi reaches all the way to the treehouse! Mostly, though, I just wanted a safe place for them to play, to climb and invent and adventure and be boys.
With a little help from Mother Nature (thank you for two dry days in a row!) and our amazing treehouse building husband-and-wife team, this happened before our very eyes:
And apparently it’s good for kids of all sizes:
We love it. LOVE it! It’s safe and built with clear attention to detail, it’s big enough to support a handful of kids, it’s easy for even wee Lucas to get up and down by himself, and I can conveniently see what shenanigans might be going on through the rails. 😉 We decided to go with independent supports so we didn’t have to rely on the weed maple for structural integrity. I can imagine things like a rod for puppet-theatre curtains on the underside or perhaps a little clubhouse with benches — after all, I’m not averse to building my handy skills on things that are not suspended five feet off the ground! The only downside is that I lost access to a favourite tree limb for posing families during porch portraits but can imagine a whole new world of possibilities for my outdoor “studio” now.
After what seems like endless dithering and angst, I can only wonder why we didn’t do this sooner. Best! Treehouse! Ever!!