Using permaculture ethics & design principles to transform an old energy guzzling bungalow into a showcase of sustainable design. It's about energy cycling, building community, self-reliance,creatively using & reusing materials... all without spending heaps of money.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A well hidden tree house

Principle 12: Creatively use and respond to change

I've been having fun transforming this 'weedy' tree into an adventure playground, a nice shady space for the kids to play in during summer. I built a platform a bit over a year ago, after prunning the tree heavily, the space evolves as the tree continues to grow. I experimented with bending the branches over to form a dome like space within the tree canopy, which would eventually grow leaves to hide the inhabitants. It has turned out better than I could have hoped.

Left to grow after heavy pruning last year, the young branches were tied down in winter to form a dome - shown here as a work in progress.

Inside, there is enough room for an adult to stand up and a few kids to cook up a storm.

Six months later, the canopy encloses the dome giving Kai and Sen a shady place to eat home grown carrots.

Sen and Kai watch the world go by from the tree house.

All aboard the treehouse! Sen uses a bicycle wheel to steer while Kai shares his observations with Mum.
  
The space is a big attraction for visiting kids. The 'clam' pool is filled nearby and is well shaded before the afternoon sun kicks in, a great relief for those really hot days. "Watch out below" is the call as the bucket is lowered using a pulley to the sandpit for refilling. The kids often cook dinner and make cups of tea for us in the treehouse using all sorts of wierd and wonderful ingredients. The chickens nearby get plenty of attention, the kids can watch them nest, collect eggs and make sure that they have plenty of food and water.


Our adventure playground with swing, tree house (now well hidden), spash pool and sand pit below. Chickens to the left.

In some related news I found out the name of the tree. I'm pretty sure it's a Box Elder, an invasive species here in Victoria (Australia). In investigation the uses for the tree I discovered that it can be tapped for maple syrup.
"Maple" syrup can also be made from the sap of boxelder, which technically is a maple (it belongs to the maple genus), but boxelder sap should not normally be combined with sap from other maples. Boxelder syrup can have a heavy, almost sorghum-like flavor that may be perceived as somewhat bitter compared to syrup made from other maples. Good boxelder syrup, however, is quite palatable, and is produced and marketed in parts of North America where other maples are not common. from Ohio State University
 This may lead to some more experimenting down the track. There are plenty of these trees in the area, none of which are being tapped.


3 comments:

Linda said...

It's the best tree house I've seen! It's a shame I'm such a worry wort because the kids love it. Can't wait to hear about your maple syrup adventures.

Anonymous said...

We have these trees in Manitoba Canada and call them Manitoba Maples, but as you say they are also known as Box Elders. Some people do tap them for the maple syrup though I believe it is not as good as the 'real' maple syrup. Being a beekeeper I much prefer honey to maple syrup so rarely taste the latter. The Box Elder/Manitoba Maple is very attractive to bees in spring for the pollen but other than that it has few uses. Here they are not very long lived - 50 years max I should guess - after which they die from old age. Like most trees here, once the vigour of youth has passed they can't take the cold winters and slowly die. Great tree house though! I'm sure the kids love it.
David

Geoff said...

Great tree house!

We've got quite a few of these trees growing here in the central west of NSW. They're very hardy and quick growing, surviving -8 through to 40+ conditions and have survived drought very well. They grow from seed easily (hence their weed status, I guess) but provide beautiful shade in a very short period of time. One of ours has exceeded 6m in 6 or 7 years.

I'm glad to read they can be tapped for syrup, I tried growing a sugar maple which keeled over the first summer...