A house in a tree. A place to go to get away from the world; to be above everything. I built many a treehouse as a kid. In fact, a large portion of my childhood allowance was spent on nails and lumber for tree houses. My mom used to take us to the lumberyard to get the scraps they were throwing away. At various points in time I built an elevator, a fireman's pole, running water, and lights into my treehouses(we had a lot of trees, so there were a lot of treehouses).

I miss my treehouses. I miss being able to climb up in a tree and forget about the world. It's one of the down sides to living in New York City.

Treehouses aren't just for kids. Grownups build treehouses too, but sometimes have problems getting building permits for them. I think everyone should live in a tree.

One weekend when I was 8 and my brother Lark was 10, our father got a heap of wood and started building us a treehouse. We had a big old tree in our yard with low branches spreading thick, shooting fans of broad dark green leaves which were cool in summer and fell in winter. I never found out what sort of tree it was.

He spent that weekend making a strong floor and shoring up the platform with thick crossed beams, so we could climb up easily on any side. He smelt of fresh sap and sawdust as we bounced around him trying to help. I remember picking sawdust out of his black curly hair as he picked me up. He laughed, and wiped mud off my face. Next weekend, he was gone.

The half-finished treehouse sat in our yard for over a year, while we set about trying to fix ourselves. Then one day by silent agreement my brother and me set about fixing the treehouse. Our mother said nothing but she seemed to approve, and we found useful pieces of wood in the yard when we needed them. My arms ached from sawing. lark had black nails from slipped hammer blows. The fat kid from down the street, who was helping us, fell off and bruised his ass, and boy did he yell. But we made that treehouse, and we made it ours. Though we were sad that he never got to see it, sometimes.

"Treehouse" was also an concept of Tad Williams' in his Otherland series of books. The Treehouse idea was a sparsely connected series of nodes on the 'Net' (Williams' high-tech Virtual Reality version of the Internet) which formed the basis for an underground organisation of the same name.

It could be disassembled and rearranged regularly so as to avoid being stumbed upon by commercial operators or an inquisitive g-man. It was populated by hackers and retired programmers and while not necessarily a bad place, was frowned upon by commercial operators, in much the same way commercial monopolies like Microsoft view the Open Source Community.

In the Otherland series, the main characters must contact a hacker who resides in Treehouse to obtain access to the Otherland Network, a huge Virutual Reality network hidden from public view where technocrats planned to live for ever as gods. They need to access this network in order to rescue friends who are in comas that they suspect are the network's sentient operating system's fault.

Have you ever wanted to live in a tree?

Maybe the kid down the street had a sky shack, or you read about them in a book, or saw them in a movie. You could have learned of treehouses from almost any source. One of the most famous treehouses is the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse, which has appeared in numerous books and film adaptations. And no one could miss Tarzan's or Winnie the Pooh's arboreal dwellings. Not to mention J.R.R. Tolkien's Elves.

Historical examples of treehouses.

Your ancestors may have lived in trees, high above the forest floor, safe from most predators. Living in trees made their homes safe from floods, and easier to defend against rivals. Large trees provided a more permanent and erosion resistant foundation to help make their homes last. Some tribes in Indonesia , the Korowai tribe for example, still live in small villages of treehouses. Some of these residences can reach heights as as high as 100 feet above ground level during times of tribal disputes.

    Excerpt from Treehouses by Peter Nelson:

    'Treehouses seem to have been most common in the South Pacific and Southeast Asia. When Captain Cook sailed into Tasmania in the late 1700's he discovered the inhabitants living in the treetops, and some South Pacific Islanders lived in thatched nests, transporting themselves up and down in large baskets.'

    'In inland New Guinea, treehouses called dobbos were used as fortresses. When a village was under attack, the people would climb into the treehouse and pull the ladders up behind them. If the attackers attempted to chop down the tree, they would be pelted with stones and spears from above. Treehouses were also built as resting places for the dead in New Guinea.'

The Roman Emperor Caligula was said to greatly enjoy banquets in his treehouse constructed in a giant plane tree. And during the Italian Renaissance, the Medici were also known for their extravegant treehouses furnished with marble tables, benches and fountains. The works of Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Brueghel, both of the Netherlands, during the 16th and 17th centuries often featured treehouses. And Queen Elizabeth once attended a social function in a three-story house in Kent that was built in a huge linden tree.

Go ahead, indulge yourself.

Have you ever wanted to live in a tree? Maybe you just want to get away from it all, get above the crawling masses, get back to nature, relive your childhood, or build the ultimate party pad. Maybe you just want to be a little closer to Middle Earth.

Whatever the reasons for your fascination, treehouses are a wonderful retreat for adults and children. You are not the first person to be caught up in this magic. And I pray that you will not be the last.


Sources:
Treehouses: The Art and Craft of Living Out on a Limb by Peter Nelson
http://www.treehouseworkshop.com
http://www.treehouses.com/
http://www.harald-melcher.de/haupt_eng/korowai_eng.htm
http://www.btinternet.com/~fulton/treehous.htm
http://www.treehouse-company.com

A quick and light "boardless board game" sold by Looney Labs. It's played by arranging and rearranging colorful, stackable plastic pyramids called Icehouse pieces. Here's how:

Each player gets 3 pyramids: 1 Small, 1 Medium & 1 Large. You stack the Medium on top of the Large, and the Small on the Medium. This is your "tree".

In the middle of the table, there's another trio of pieces: a Small standing upright and a Medium and a Large on opposites sides of the Small, lying down and pointing away from each other. This is "the House".

The goal of the game is to arrange your trio of pyramids to match the House.

On your turn, you roll a six-sided die (there's one included in the tube, along with the pyramids & the rules). Each face of the die has a word written on it: "Tip", "Swap", "Hop", "Dig", "Aim" or "Wild". The word indicates the kind of action that you're allowed to take that turn. (For instance, "Tip" allows you to knock over any upright piece or stack and lay it flat.) If you can do this action to your own trio, you must. If not, you may do the action to the House. If you cannot do anything, roll again.

That's it! It's a refreshingly simple game, with a good mix of randomness & strategy. Anyone who's played Looney Labs' flagship card game, Fluxx, will see some similarities. (I tend to describe Treehouse as "like Fluxx in 3D"). I busted out my Treehouse set at Children of the Corny 2 and everyone seemed to enjoy it-- from total nerds like passport & me to more casual players like oakling & ammie.

A single Treehouse set-- 15 pyramids in 5 colors, enough pieces for 4 players-- costs about 10 bucks. Buying a second Treehouse set nets you enough pieces for 9 people to play at once.


But here's where it gets really weird... If you buy three Treehouse sets and a small booklet called "3House", you can then play 3 other, completely different games using the same game pieces: Black Ice, Martian Chess, and Binary Homeworlds.

Pick up 4 or 5 sets, and point a web browser at IcehouseGames.org, and you may quickly find yourself descending down the rabbit hole that is Icehouse, the "open-source board game"-- dozens upon dozens of games that can be played with the same plastic pyramids, some of them very clever indeed... Zendo (a Buddhism-theme mindfuck of inductive logic)... Homeworlds (the game of intergalactic space conquest that fits on a coffee table)... Gnostica (a Catanesque territory game that uses tarot cards as the board)... IceTowers (a bizarre, turnless stacking game)... I could go on and on.

In effect, Treehouse is a fun and simple game that can-- if you're interested-- be expanded into an entire game system, like a deck of playing cards, and used as a springboard for almost anything you can imagine. If that appeals to you, cool. If not, just play the basic game. It's definitely worth the $10 price tag.

Just be careful not to step on them. The pyramids are very pointy and do aggravated damage. Eye-loss is remotely possible. Not for very young kids.

I've been helping a friend to build a house (a regular one, on the ground), which has been an arduous effort marked by disagreement, but I had the most remarkable thought while working on it. Suppose we could use genetic engineering to create a seed which would grow into a house. A natural house, as it were. DNA is after all simply a roadmap, telling cells when and where and how much to divide, and nature is filled with complex structures, some generating sturdy open spaces. Every texture one could wish to possess in a home is reflected in nature. I believe we can learn to program genes to become whatever we want, and do so without needing to rape the Earth for materials.

The treehouse of my vision would grow from the ground, large and round, vaulted on the inside. At pre-planned intervals, the solid wood of its structure would be substituted by translucent panes, such as those which make up the lens of the eye; but the exterior surface would have a thin layer like the color-changing cells of the chameleon or the octopus, able to become opaque with the introduction of the right stimulus. Perhaps large gossamer leaves would hang by these windows, to be pulled over them and held there with vines when darkness was desired. And when, in the night, light was needed, brightly bioluminescent spots could be made to light up. The whole of the house remaining rooted in the ground, water would be brought up through its roots, some to retained in basins spaced for the use of the occupants. In the eating area, fresh fruits and vegetables of every variety which might be desired would grow from the walls, or on boughs extending from them. Tender leaves, crispy cruciferous treats, along with fragrant flowers for parading in one's hair, and bulbous ornaments from which nectarlike juices could perpetually be squeezed. In the areas used for washing up, pods would generate a naturally forming foaming antimicrobial sap, suitable for washing skin, hair, clothes (if clothes are to be worn).

If ever the house should be damaged by storm or wildfire, it would with appropriate care given grow back just as it was. And, as we know, some trees grow four or five hundred feet up from the ground; surely a treehouse could be made to grow forty or fifty, with a spiral staircase growing at the center by which occupants could rise from one level to the next. And all the world could live in such houses, their green canopy roofs gathering up the power of the sun all throughout the day, to provide in harmony for the needs of people day and night. Such a world is, actually, not so far removed from the realm of the possibility-- indeed, it could be ours, if we want it badly enough for science to be turned towards providing it.


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For THE IRON NODER CHALLENGE 5: THE FERROUS FRONTIER

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