Last week we shared how this treehouse journey started . You can find the post here https://www.hockinghillstreehousecabins.com/post/building-our-hocking-hills-treehouse-cabins. Today we are sharing a little more about our process of building a treehouse.
For some things in life, especially complicated projects, getting started is the hardest part. That’s definitely true for building a few treehouses on some rural acreage that had steep cliffs, no electricity (except for at the top of the property) and the only water was the naturally flowing stream and waterfalls. We quickly learned just how many variables, moving parts and skilled people that need to be involved to make this project move forward. It takes a village to build a treehouse.
The first month of owning the property was mostly trying to get know the property. We walked the 15 acres until we really got a feel for the land. Finding the areas with the most dramatic view, the boundaries, the best ways to traverse it.
Slowly the property began to reveal itself. It was like making a new friend. The deer paths were a good way to traverse tricky terrain - you would notice certain bird calls - and then catch a glimpse of that bird - before long you were figuring out your woodpecker calls from barn owls, crows, and turkeys. You would find the turkeys roosting if you were on site before dawn. Lots of little critters would be hiding under logs and in the streams - amazing salamanders, miniature tree frogs, and harmless ringneck snakes.
We then marked out where the larger specimen trees on the property that enjoyed the best views. We noted these off as potential build sites and then called in the arborist.
The arborist then checked all of the trees in our potential sites - some trees he discounted as unsuitable - the may have had weak limb joints or perhaps the roots were not sturdy - others go the green light.
His main tool was a 4-pound lump hammer he would give the tree a good thwack a listen to the noise it gave him: a solid ringing thud was good, while a soft dull response was not and usually is a sign of rot or weakness.
He also had a corer - a hand screw that took a small core sample of the tree trunk. You could see the growth rings of the tree and tell from the width of the rings which were good growth years, which were bad, and how the growth was over the most recent years.
The more we explored the trees the more character we found on the property. Various areas grew uniquely from each other. Broadleaf beech seemed to thrive on the eastern facing slopes, the tall heavy hemlocks liked the shady bottom of the hollows, the oaks wanted the better soil, and where the land was poor and had been heavily farmed 100 years prior pine trees and grown where nothing else would take - these had now begun to give over to poplars and more broadleaves again. You could see the cycle of regeneration taking place.
Many of our trees were huge specimens that had been saved from loggers simply because the gorges and hollows being too difficult to access.
The inaccessibility that saved the trees would now make it difficult for us to access them in order to build in them.
We had asked several contractors to help bring utilities down into the gorge in order to build the tree houses - the first 2 just laughed and said it could not be done. "there is no way you can get any heavy equipment down in there in order to lay electric and water lines." For about 30 seconds we considered building tree houses without power and water. But not being able to keep warm or cool, to cook, have lights, wash and have a bathroom seemed a bit of a stretch for guests that we wanted to entice into the depths of the Hocking Hills from the convenience of the city.
We persevered and if it wasn't for Jules chancing upon a local trustee who just so happened to be an expert of excavation equipment, none of this would have been possible. Robbie took one look at the gorges and hollows where we wanted to build and without hesitation said, "Oh yeah, I can do that." That man has some serious skills. He could (and did) drive his dozer along the edge of a gorge with all the precision and skill of a free climber.
Once the utilities were in place we had the option of building treehouses in certain sites. We'll share more about what goes into building the actual treehouse structure next week.