Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Spring Trip - 2009

Kristen and I headed back to the farm for a long weekend toward the end of April. The rumor was that the family planned to have Christmas at the farm this winter. After nearly freezing to death last fall, I was determined to get a stove into the tree. Even with the uninsulated walls I hoped a good wood burning stove would keep the place inhabitable during the cold months.

I eventually decided on a small Jotul stove that is rated for heating 800 square feet of living area. The tree house only has a 128 square foot foot-print, so I hoped the extra heating power would make up for the uninsulated walls.

One thing I'd always wanted to add to the tree house was a swinging boom arm with a block and tackle. This would make getting large loads in and out of the tree safer and more convenient. Earlier in the year I ordered some pulleys and machined a couple of block and tackle housings. At first this seemed to be the cheaper route, but in the long run I'm not sure I saved any money.

At the farm my father and I fabricated a boom arm out of pressure treated 4X4. To allow the arm to rotate we used gate hinges we picked up at a local farm supply store. Building the boom arm took a lot longer than I expected, mostly due to my inexperience with working with wood. Luckily Dad lent his expertise to the project.

To attach the gate pegs to the wall we had to make a few additional 4X4 support blocks, and inlay them into the interior wall.

We set the pegs up so that the boom arm would swing to the midway point of the doorway. In theory this would allow us to swing loads directly into the door.

We hooked up the block and tackle, and I did a quick stress test by putting on a climbing harness and pulling myself a foot off the ground. Nothing broke or made alarming noises, so we were ready for the main event.

Although the stove is small, it weighs a lot more than you'd expect. Even with the block and tackle it was difficult to pull up its 200 pounds of cast iron. Everything worked as planned, with the stove easily swinging into the doorway once we reached the right altitude.

Unfortunately I ran out of time to get the stove pipe and chimney installed. That'll have to wait for a trip later this year. Even though I had to give up some floor space for the stove, I'm sure I'll be thankful for it come December.

Wind Storms

Southern Indiana seemed to have its share of wind and ice storms within the last year. The remnants of Hurricane Ike hit the farm, as did a big ice storm in February.

The tree damage overall was extensive. A forester estimated that 50 percent of our pine was blown down, and the hardwoods suffered as well.

Every time I'd hear reports of how bad the damage to the farm was, I'd find myself holding my breath until I heard the tree house was OK. The sycamore stood strong, protected from the worst of the elements due to its location. A few more bullets dodged.

Freezing my butt off

I'm a little behind in the updates. I made it back to the tree house in November of 2008 for a short visit.

I didn't accomplish much in terms of progress, but I did manage to spend every night in the tree house. The temperature dipped into the low teens which made for some chilly evenings.

No mice had made it in, which was a relief. There were a few dead bugs here and there, but for the most part everything was exactly as I had left it in the summer. While cleaning up, water from the washcloth I was using would freeze on the counter. It made the idea of insulating the place and installing a heat source more attractive.

Even though the Sycamore tree that the structure is in is old, it's still growing at a fairly impressive rate. It's starting to grow around the washers on the anchor points a bit. It will be interesting to watch the tree get closer to the eye of the bolt.