Pret and I are headed to the trees…
and, err, bringing some trees to where we are headed.
One of the happiest things about building a deluxe tree-house–other than beholding the breathtakingly original ways in which Pret ties down a load–is that the work itself is a mix of standard carpentry and whimsy. More about that as our story unfolds.
First off, we needed materials. The violent winds of a February blizzard left many local trees reeling and damaged, particularly the shallow-rooted and snow-laden red cedars. Hard for the trees, but helpful for our whimsy. There are rails and ladders in these damaged trunks and limbs. We calibrated our eyes to look for certain shapes and forms. A bend where limb and trunk meet might become a strong-grained brace; a subtly arching branch of the right diameter might be the perfect handrail for a ladder. And cedar, rightfully heralded for its decay-resistant properties, is ideal for an outdoor build.
So wandering out into a fickle New England March, before the peepers had yet to begin their spring peeping, we loosened the ties of our winter array as well as our imaginations and began to gather the pieces for the whimsical side of our tree-house.
But a tree-house wants a sturdy deck upon which to build. For that, we went to Gurney’s Sawmill in East Freetown to get our sawn stock.
There will never be a better sawmill than Gurney’s. Peter Follansbee has blogged about them, The Riven Word has sung their praises. Quite simply, they’re the best around. Today, Michael and I went to pick up cedar and some pine which Paul had sawn out for us. But this wasn’t just any cedar. Our stock was cut from 80 yr-old telephone poles! That’s totally worth repeating: The material for our deluxe tree house frame was sawn from local telephone poles which were already 80 years old!! In other words, these poles were stood up around the same time as the repeal of prohibition! And the thing is, they were in great shape. The butts alone were 24 inches across, dead straight, and very possibly shingle-worthy. That will be another project, no doubt. So thank you, 1933! Sorry about the depression and all. And cheers!
Sawing timbers from 80 yr-old telephone poles is challenging, even for Paul, who needed to sharpen his saw much more frequently than he normally does. All those open cracks in the outer grain of the western red cedar, standing four-score years along the sandy by-ways, lets a bunch of grit into the grain. Paul was his typical good-humored self about it, though: It’s like putting 10 lbs of shit into a 5 lb bag.
So, whimsy fastened to truck racks and re-purposed telephone poles at our disposal, it was time to do work.
Here is our blank slate:
The trees are Norway maples, an invasive species, though one with much character. This is a charming property nestled against The Atlantic in the south shore town of Duxbury, MA. We are protected from the indifferent spring winds by an estate, several sculptures, and the promise of 50,000 daffodils’ precipitous blooming.
Join us next time as we broker peace (and pieces) between eastern and western red cedar!
This blue acorn provided by the talented designer and author, Cynda Warren Joyce: http://www.cwjdesigns.com/
And here’s a big plug for The Miller’s Tale, the story of the Plimoth Grist Mill and their quest to share some great history while milling the best organic cornmeal you’ve ever tasted! Kim Van Wormer and company, are uncovering some amazing things there as they go about their daily grind. Check out her blog and stop in for a visit if you’re out Plymouth way!