Tree Houses

Tree Houses

By a stroke of luck I have had the good fortune to live in the same home for 29 years. This time frame has allowed me to plant an acorn and watch it grow into a magnificent Bur Oak tree. During this time I have nurtured it, pruned it, and watered it. I have been greatly rewarded in many ways.

Other recent rewards in my life have been grand fatherhood. This new position offers rewarding activities as well, activities that might not be as easily available to all citizens.

For instance I can (at long last) go out and buy a butterfly net, with the premise that it is for my grandchildren without any regard to what other people think. I can also build a tree house in the cherished Bur Oak Tree without to much concern about gossip. The treehouse is for the “Grand Children” and the fact that I dote over the every aspect and enjoy sitting in it, is of great satisfaction and reward.

You can ponder many things in an Oak tree. I am starting to realize that you can observe the changing of the seasons in an Oak tree. Right above my head I listen to the Cicada’s as they whirl their winged communications across time and space. They are communicating in a language that I do not understand. It is September and recently the leaves have changed on this tree. The leaves were once green and soft and the acorns were in full fruition. Tonight as the sun is setting the leaves are starting to lose their suppleness and moisture. Nearly all the acorns have been harvested by the local squirrels and the tree has a distinctly different feel. The squirrel is currently sitting directly above me and dropping acorn hulls on my computer.

As I sit in this lofty perch I realize that this tree it is living, and it has its own lifecycle. The days are shortening and it is preparing to endure the autumn and winter months. I suspect its roots are redirecting moisture preparing to retreat from the outermost reaches of its limbs. As I gaze about I see lichen growing on the bark on the northerly side of the tree. The lichen is green and brown and I need to consult an expert on this life form before I expound.

When the wind picks up, the treehouse has movement. The movement is ever so slight but it reacts to the forces in a gentle and subtle way. A robin lands two feet from me, he must disassociate me with a human because I am ten feet off the ground. He cocks his head at me…..shows no fear, a Cedar Waxwing alights four feet above me with no concern, Oh! And there is a chipping Sparrow. It is the beginning of fall migration and I suspect that if I had camouflage clothing they would land on my shoulders.

Grandparenthood has allowed me to purchase the material for this treehouse with grand delight. I entered the lumberyard and ordered clear cedar and on my receipt it even totals the weight of my purchase. My tree house weighs precisely 114 pounds excluding the screws and cables to suspend it from the tree. All due respect is given this tree and no nails or bolts will penetrate the bark or trunk. I also purchase cables to suspend it from sturdy branches that are about four inches in diameter. Each of the four cables can hold up to 850 pounds. The branch is shielded from the cable with industrial hose material to prevent any damage to the tree. It is a rather small platform of four by six feet. This is just enough room for two or three people to sit comfortably. The height of the platform is proximately ten feet off the ground and it is neatly tucked into the lower canopy of leaves and branches.

As aforementioned this tree house was built for our grandchildren and as they live in far off St. Paul we find ourselves using it more than these youngsters. It was built in the spring when the leaves were the size of squirrels ears. It stood out from afar but now that the leaves are at their maximum coverage it almost disappears in the foliage.

A mid summer picnic acclimated friends and neighbors to the treehouse and many wanted their pictures taken in the miniature arboreal abode. The upper branches can hold an additional four or five people. Bur Oak trees are accommodating and people friendly.

With these notions and observations I start to ponder a past civilization that revered trees so much that they worshipped them. The Druids in Europe recognized the importance of trees and the integral part that trees played in their lives. Consider every aspect of their lives being touched by wood. Boats, benches, houses, barns, tool handles, lance and arrows, all made only of wood. Much of this wood was not only harvested but it was also “cultivated”. Many trees were coppiced to produce a particular type of wooden branch or sprout. Coppicing, most often involves cutting a perfectly good oak tree about 10 to 15 feet off the ground. The suckers that sprout from the trunk are a valuable source of straight roof rafters for your stone age hut. The sprouts were often 3 to 4 inches in diameter and would run a perfectly good “10 feet long”. They could be harvested for many years to come. We won’t be doing that with our treehouse tree!

Winter will reveal the stark reality of the upper midwest. As the tree goes dormant, so will the tree house. Stay tuned for the second story.

Bill Keitel

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