Friday, January 30, 2015

Going UP! And it's a Tree House, not a Deer Stand!

The Loyd place has gone a long time now without
a tree house.  But I think the adventurous grandkids
deserve one as yet another outlet for their energy
and imaginations.  The site below may be the one
perfect spot on our entire property that features four
hardwood trees in a nearly rectangular configuration.
Thus, the finished product will be called Four Corners.

The last tree house around here dates back to
the 1980's, when Jennifer and Amanda and their
friends clambered up and down a three-level
model, the remnants of which are pictured below.
The trees bear the scars, but they're still alive.
I'm sure the kids have some scars, too. But
those were good times.

Being a minimalist in all things, I first selected
some treated 2x6 boards which I would re-purpose
for my "foundation."

The first two boards go up, with an extension
on the left for a "deck."

This pallet, sturdier than most, fit neatly
between the four trees.  This is the first floor.

Next, two more 2x6's are added for the upper
level.  On this floor, the beams extend to the
east and the west.

This is how things looked after Thursday's 
work session.  I headed to Lowe's to purchase
the only items I would need to buy, some
additional nails and a 4'x8' sheet of 3/4 inch
exterior plywood.  That thing was heavy!

Friday morning, before working at the site,
I constructed a ladder, since I'm not sure I'm
going to "donate" my aluminum extension
ladder for full-time use at the tree house.
The sides of the ladder are 4"x4" treated posts
and the steps are held on by 3 inch screws.
I had to do everything that required power
tools around the garage.

The 4'x8' plywood was transformed into
three platforms.  Two of them, below, are
5'x2' decks on the uppermost level (so far).
Here's the eastern view.

Here's an identical deck with a western view.
Note: these decks do not have railings, would
not pass a county inspection, and are not for
the faint of heart!

This is looking down at the lower deck and
the central area.

Here are a couple of views of the entire project.

It doesn't look very high, does it?

Trust me, when you stand up on the top
level and take a picture looking down, it
seems much higher.  

And there was a 20 mph wind, too.  I got
down as soon as I had my pictures!

It will continue to be a work in progress, and
one play area will be at ground level, between
the trees.  We'll let the grandkids make some
suggestions.  The last change I made before
wrapping it up at lunchtime was to move my
homemade ladder so you can either get off
of it on the lower deck or proceed to the top.
At least at first, I don't think any of the kids
will go to the top unless I have a firm grip
on them.  But that will quickly change!

So, it may look more like a deer stand than
a tree house, but soon it could be a pirate
ship, a fort, a castle, or a rocket to the moon.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A New Year and a New Trail at the Loyd Place

There are a few 30-somethings that may think
this new trail at the Loyd Place looks familiar.
And it should, for Jennifer, Amanda, Taryn,
Kenneth, Elizabeth, Grace, Rachel, Sally, and Jane.
Possibly others.

Because this "new" trail was a favorite play spot
for many of these kids back in the '80's.  The funny
thing is, it never was part of our property.  But it
is now.  You see, for decades, Pinehurst owned a
wide swath on the west side of the Murdocksville
Road (in addition to the right-of-way) which was
their bridle trail.  Since 2000, we've acquired the
0.4 acre frontage that was once that trail.  And I've
been at work cleaning up the little corner where the
kids once played.

In this view from the road, you can see the drainage
ditch where water has NEVER drained!  It's odd.
There's a pipe under Murdocksville Road, but even
in heavy rain, no water comes through the pipe.  I
think it's been blocked or clogged since before we
moved here in 1978.

So the "dry" ditch makes a fun play place,
especially with a good carpet of soft leaves.
I've added this makeshift "ladder" so the 4 and
5 year-old grandkids can easily get up and
down the slippery banks.  There's also a knotted
rope to the left of the ladder by which they may
want to rappel up.  If a four-feet height qualifies
as a rapel.  

I need to do a little more cleaning of this
pipe before the explorers start crawling 
through, but I've blown out the leaves
that were in it.

It's plenty big.  Even I could crawl through
it in a pinch.  But if any kids get stuck, I'm
sure we can pull out from one end or the other.

I expanded on a narrow surveyor's path to
make a mini trail system.  Here's the way
to the "ravine."

This is a parallel "upper" path that comes
directly to the ladder and rope.

A large blackberry patch borders the trail
area.  I've begun to "tame" and prune it,
making a cut-through so we can access all
sides of the berry patch more easily.  It 
yielded some great berries for cobblers, pies,
and muffins last summer.

The blackberry patch reaches all the way
to the roadside.  And at its edge is a fine
little dogwood tree that has great possibilities.

And speaking of possibilities, I can't wait to
see ways the grandkids dream up to enjoy
this new play space.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Wrapping up the holidays

If things were busy before Christmas, they
got even busier afterwards.  After our fun
rendezvous in Concord with Charlie and
Liz (previous post), we were off to Atlanta
for good times with family and friends.

Several of us dined at Athens Pizza the night
we arrived, so we got a picture of the infamous
Loyd siblings: me, Buddy (Ellis), and Caryn.

The next morning we gathered for a long-
awaited visit at Amanda's in-laws and enjoyed
the fellowship, refreshments (even the gummy
worms) and the "grand tour."

Hunter and Kaleb have a game rolling
balls down the stairway bannister to
Oma (Leila).  Then they retrieve the
balls and start all over again.  Ingenious
way to burn up some calories (and energy).

We took turns playing with some Batman
and Ninja Turtle action figures.  This stuff
really goes in cycles, doesn't it?

And rocking horses also never go out of
style.  But these beat any I've ever seen.
Even cowboys Evan and Hunter couldn't
flip them over.  To really see them in action,
check out the video and cute anecdote on
my Facebook homepage.

That evening we had the famous Loyd Family
get-together that we've had for well over 40 
years.  We welcomed some first-time guests as
 well as many that have almost never missed it.
Here, Brianna shares a good book with Caryn.
I'm not sure who's reading.

Stephen reads a new Superman book to Hunter.

Evan is excited with new Batman pajamas.

Claire, Bri, and friend Mallory entertain
themselves with a brand new "Frozen" puzzle.

This isn't everybody-- we had at least two
dozen, but this gives a flavor of the atmosphere.

Meanwhile, the girls were still content to
stay out of the way of the grownups.  Could
they already think we're boring?

But Evan, Hunter, and friend Logan didn't
think the food table was boring.  How did
they get left in there unsupervised?!

After a festive time of caroling, including
some moving duets, Bri shared her routine
of knock knock jokes, which had everyone
cracking up.

We were home for New Year's Eve and
New Year's Day, which includes the 
traditional meal of
Hog Jowls


Black-eyed peas


Put 'em all together and what
do ya get?
A great meal, along with the
promise of good luck and prosperity
for 2015.

On January 2, we paid a short
visit to the Kirby household so I
could fulfill an obligation that went
with my gift to Claire.  But I also got
to play with Evan.  This sturdy punching
bag should hold up to his most vicious
assaults.  Until he's about 8, that is.

Here's the deal.  I promised Claire I'd build
her a customized horse ranch with the oversized
wooden blocks I gave her.  It's even big enough
for some of her dolls to sit on the sun deck.  I'm
not sure the horses can get up there.

But I think My Little Ponies can do just
about anything.

Evan says, "Meet the Caped Crusader."

Even Batman likes to build with
Lincoln Logs.

Do you think Grandpa enjoys getting to
relive Christmas morning memories?

Grandma, too?

Evan transforms Grandpa into a Ninja
Turtle with just a few costume additions.
But I'll never be a teenager again!

Wouldn't it be neat if I really got a pony,

Claire, these friendly horses are just for you.
I think they're the ones we didn't quite get
to see at Thanksgiving!

And this week, the first full week of 2015,
we'll be back on a normal routine.  And that
includes playing inside and out.  Even playing
Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, and Bullet.
And for that occasion, I've got all our toy
weapons-- quite an arsenal-- hanging on
two gun racks.

All I can say is, between Batman,
Ninja Turtles, and Roy Rogers, the
bad guys don't have a chance this year.

HAPPY 2015