Monday, October 5, 2009

Building a Fort from Branches and Sticks

A few weeks ago during the “grey area” of boredom between camp and the start of school, my son had a playdate with an old buddy from preschool. He and this particular pal have a history of getting into trouble – the last time he was here, his friend jumped off the back of a recliner and broke his arm. So it’s amazing and wonderous to me that his mother still allows him to come here. However, his last visit was no less dramatic. The two of them (once again somehow eluding parental supervision) managed to get their hands on a saw and took down three of the smaller trees in the small “woods” behind our house. This wouldn’t be so tragic, except that one of them was a dogwood. So I felt guilty, and heartbroken – and furious.

When asked what they intended to do with the sawed-off trees, they answered “build a fort!” On some level I was pleased with this, no doubt because of my nostalgic fondness for the Little Rascals, but I felt that the only way I could make peace with the loss of the dogwood was to insist that the fort actually get built. Luckily, I had recently picked up this book at a garage sale.The purpose of the book is really to teach survival techniques to children, but one of the illustrations caught my eye. This hut is something that can be built in the woods to use as shelter and to keep warm- not a bad thing to know how to do if you’re a hiker or explorer. The idea is to build a frame by propping larger branches up on an achor (could be a rock, stump or sawed-off tree), fill in the sides by leaning smaller branches against the frame, then weave in more sticks and leaves. I saw no reason why we couldn’t apply this technique to fort-building. So I assembled the destroyers and put them to work.

It’s not hard to find big branches in our yard –especially since recent storms had done some minor damage to the trees.
We employed a few bamboo poles that were previously staking the tomatoes.

Look around your yard and see what’s available – old lumber works too.

Give the branches better stability by anchoring them a few inches into the dirt. Then just find thinner, more flexible sticks to weave in between the bigger branches. Fill in the spaces with clumps of leaves - old vines work great, too. (We'll have more supplies in a couple of weeks when more leaves are on the ground!)

Then, you can either “rough it” or ask your mom to bring you lunch.

12 comments:

mayberry said...

I'm totally charmed by the picture with the dog in it!

Glad the sticks went to good use.

tina said...

You have to be secretly pleased for sure as they were showing initiative and creativity. Other dogwoods will quickly fill in and this one was small. I think it cute indeed-glad he's doing it in your backyard:)

flowergardengirl said...

I was reading along thinking--now if I ever get lost in the woods, I can survive. You've done a grand job and something that can be a source of fun for years. Very cool.

Joanne said...

Your post brought back great memories ... I lived in New Hampshire for a couple years, around when I was 10. Robin Hood State Forest bordered our backyard, and we'd build similar lean-to forts in the woods, using huge ferns to cover the wood frame. We had a blast. Hope the boys had fun with their fort, and I'm sure they'll always remember their adventure there in your yard!

Talon said...

I like how you took a negative and turned it into a positive. Neat fort!

azplantlady said...

My son would love this fort. What a great job!

June said...

So glad you found a way to redeem the loss of the dogwood. (Oh, that hurts!) But what a beautiful adventure in the backyard. You made memories out of that lost tree...

JGH said...

Mayberry, the dog always manages to poke some part of herself into my posts.

Tina, Yes there are about 3 more small dogwoods in the yard there and you can bet I'll be nurturing any new ones I see!

Anna, this is a good thing to keep in your arsenal of survival techniques - just in case!

Joanne - what is it about kids and the instinct to build forts? I used to build them out of my dad's golf umbrella and blankets!

Talon, thanks - I'm still a little sad about the dogwood, but have to smile when I look out there and see the fort.

AZplantlady - thanks for visiting. Bring your son on over anytime!

Thanks June - I just hope it lasts long enough to do that! One big windstorm and it could be gone.

our friend Ben said...

Downed dogwood---sob!!! Laughing Miss B---ha!!! I have one of Tom Brown's books for adults and remember reading about this technique and thinking it was very sensible. Thanks for the step-by-step! And lucky you to have some woods in your own yard.

brigit said...

Well done to both you and the children. You turned that incident around in an amazing way. The children learned something, worked for it, and ended up with a cubby!

And the photo with the dog. I wonder if he was thinking " You're not building me a kennel, are you.?"

Karen said...

Hilarious! Wow, a saw... well, we keep our tools out of reach (we think) but your kids are older, they probably know how to find anything they need. Glad you turned it into a great learning experience! Have they used it again or has it been abandoned?

Anonymous said...

You did a great job on building that fort!!! You gave me some great ideas on how to build a fort! Because I am building a fort myself and I could really use some good ideas.I'm building a fort because I am having a play-date on:Saturday,november 27 2010. Sincerly, Laura Arnold P.S. You two kids did a really really really really really good job!!!!!!