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Here is a simple slideshow showing some of the construction images from Treehouse Chronicles. Just hit the View All Images button. I will add more slideshows soon.
April 13, 2007, finds us waiting for spring. We’ve already broken the all-time record for snowfall in April (we’ve had 29 inches at the treehouse since 4/1) and a huge storm is predicted for early next week. I’m sick of it. I want to hear birds and mow grass and work out in the yard. I want my wife to point and say “Right there,” so I can plunge a shovel into the ground and make a home for new flowers. I’m sick of shovelling slush. I’m sick of staring out at the treehouse and not gathering up enough energy to slog out through the snow to see how it’s holding up through the spring snows.
I went up a few weeks ago and found an ominous puddle of black goo on the second floor. My first thougth was that the roof was leaking. But wait: BLACK GOO? So I pounded on the ceiling from whence the goo dripped and there came an immediate and frantic rustling and chattering. Vinny, rogue squirrel was alive and well…and procreating. And his furry little offspring had been crapping and peeing in the same spot (obviously for some time) and the stuff had begun to leak out. Yuck.
I just don’t know what to do about Vinny. We’ve had this love-hate thing going on now for almost five years. I invade his territory (by putting a cute little house up in his forest canopy), and he moves in and begins chewing on woodwork (and peeing through the ceiling). Some days (okay, most days), I want to kill Vinny. But he’s from the Old Country and he has ties to the rodent mob. I’m afraid if I bump him off that I will find a decapitated horse head in my bed (remember the scene in the Godfather?). So I let him chew (and crap) on. But now things have gotten truly foul.
Maybe the Nor’easter that’s planned for next week will blow the treehouse over and take Vinny (and his kin) with it.
I recently got a hit from Google Alert telling me that my book, Treehouse Chronicles, had been mentioned somewhere on the Web. Typically, these alerts are meaningless–the web sites cited somehow mention the words “treehouse” and “chronicles” but it’s often just some oddball reference to Narnia.
But this time, the alert brought me to David Montie’s site, Treehouse By Design, and a wonderful online review he had written about the book. Before I get to the review, please let me shamelessly recommend David’s site to anyone interested in treehouses. It’s extensive, well layed out, friendly, and inspiring. He has a nice blog and extensive links (lots of books). The photos of his treehouse overlooking a lake in British Columbia are great, and make me a little jealous (all I can see from my treehouse is about 20 miles of rolling New England countryside–what a shame). Please visit David’s site.
Here’s David’s stellar review of Treehouse Chronicles:
Treehouse Chronicles is a book of self-reflection written by a man who comes to understand himself via the realization of his childhood dream: a treehouse. This is one particular path, and although other people will find their own way to manifest meaning in their life, most will regard the tale with awe and envy: a 300 square foot, 2 story, wooden structure weighing in at 6000 pounds suspended from a single tree. If this sounds amazing to you – and you’ve experienced your own “acute adult onset adolescence” – then reading about the challenges of building a tree house on this scale is an ideal way to inspire you to go out and discover what you’re really made of.
To the uninitiated, building a tree house seems like an undertaking for any average construction enthusiast – a couple of weekends worth of work, some wrangling, getting it all up in the tree, and voilá: a tree house. However, speaking from my own experience, a whole constellation of personal content comes into a project like this. Usually these issues are best described as disillusionment with the default reality (possibly triggered by a dull life in the monoculture suburbs) and a persistent, life-long, child-like enthusiasm for outlandish creations. And, incidentally, these motivations always conflict with the practical engineering requirements involved in a project like this. And that tension makes this story interesting and suspenseful.
This book can be viewed as a diagnostic manual and comprehensive how-to resource for building your dreams. Treehouse Chronicles provides excellent technical information and illustrated structural drawings that are an inspiration to behold. And, the book also contains an honest and compelling narrative about the personal factors related to such a project such as the intangible rewards that come from its completion. It is much, much more than just a book about saws, nails, and trees – it is about the balance of forces that define a person: Relationship with nature, other people, and the self-actualization of dreams. And, I’m glad to report, the book delivers in all these ways.
This would be a good time to introduce the author of the book, and the builder of the tree house, Peter Lewis. His tale starts with being disillusioned with life in suburbia, lost in the imposed structure of cookie-cutter homogeneity, and a pivotal moment that made him opt to move his family across the country for something unknown. Along the way he rediscovers the value of family, friends, a self-directed life, and the pursuit of dreams.
While reading this book I got the feeling that I was eves dropping in a dialogue between Henry David Thoreau and Norm Abram (from the New Yankee Workshop television show). The book philosophizes around some significant issues in our modern life and then anchors these abstract concepts with hard examples from the building process at hand that day. For Lewis, it seems that philosophy and woodwork are two pursuits that, when traveled in parallel, lead him to find his true self.
I like how optimism runs through the narrative as Lewis demonstrates that we are in a unique position in history, a very fortunate one actually, in our freedom to realize our dreams. Today’s world provides a wealth of tools, access to information, and the personal freedom to challenge the default assumptions about happiness and success. You and I are free to ditch the consumer model of material wealth and go out to create our own vision of it.
Granted, not everyone defines utopia as a tree house in Maine, but there are lessons and insights here that are universal: Self-empowerment, confidence to pursue a dream, improvisation around challenges, and how to deal with fear of the unknown. You could read this book and substitute any number of life goals and the basic recipe is the same: It is about the process, and the people you inspire along the way, that matter in achieving the end result. Chasing a dream requires one to learn how to enjoy the little rewards found in each moment, it’s not about the resale value of what’s left over when you’re done.
And, the nice thing about Lewis’s particular dream is that it’s possible for him to walk out into his backyard, crawl up a staircase, and retreat into it for a nap anytime he likes.
Early in January Treehouse Chronicles was honored with its 8th national book award (not bad for a book created by a publishing company so small that all its employees can easily fit in a Mini Cooper). This latest award was an Honorable Mention in Writer’s Digest’s International Self-Published Book Awards in the category of Life Stories. Here is an excerpt from the judge’s commentary sheet, based on the question, “What did you like best about this book?”
I suppose it would be too general, and not that helpful, to respond with “everything,” so I’ll focus on the most delightful aspects. But just so you know, “everything” was my first thought. Very witty and smart project. From the subtitle, to the Table of Contents, to the “Can I visit the Treehouse?” I devoured the linguistically interesting way of expressing ideas and philosophies. The photographs and illustrations are beautiful and refreshingly placed throughout. I like the turquoise of the font in the section titles and also the attention and adoration of detail and usually-neglected perspective. Also, the varying moods of the author were appreciated. This work truly holds gems of breezy enlightenment and I hope to catch the interview on NPR’s Fresh Air… if I haven’t missed it! I wish this wasn’t one of the works I had to give back.
A critique doesn’t get much better than that! If you would like to purchase a signed copy of this book, direct from the publisher (free shipping), please click here. Or, you can go straight to Amazon.
To see the other awards the book has won, please click here.
There’s still time to give the dreamer among your family and friends a great book for the holidays. Our book, Treehouse Chronicles: One Man’s Dream of Life Aloft, has won seven national book awards and praise from reviewers everywhere.
The most recent reviewer, Cheryl Hurst, Managing Editor for the Spencer County Leader, had this to say in late November 2006:
“Wonderfully unusual and architecturally amazing pictures and illustrations of this unique hideaway are only a tad of what makes this book one of the best I have ever read. It is artistically exciting to view and articulately insatiable reading. The humorous and poetic wording author Lewis spreads throughout the 130-page, hardback bound edition are a joy to comprehend, often left this reader laughing out loud. Combined with well chosen and cropped photos, balanced with magnificent watercolor illustrations and sketches, and iced with true-storytelling sidebars, Lewis has a winner on his hands.”
If you would like to purchase a signed and personalized copy, please visit our website, tmcbooks.com. You can also purchase the book through Amazon.com, other online booksellers everywhere, or your favorite book store.
The Uppermost House, our 300 sq. ft. timberframe treehouse in the Maine woods, is full of odd things. Perhaps the oddest, is the drawbridge—it certainly gets the most comments. Cobbled together out of timbers, lumber, cables, pulleys, boulders, and plumbing supplies, it is a contraption in the finest Rube Goldberg tradition.
The theory is simple: make a set of stairs that look like the spinal column from a Stegosaurus and that can be lifted into the air with ease because they are counterweighted with big rocks yet fall gracefully to earth (unfolding their steps as they descent amidst a cacophony of creaking, grunting, and thunking sounds) when the (hidden) catch mechanism on the counterweight is tripped by a secret latch. See, simple.
The key to this whole mess, is the catch mechanism. Here is an excerpt from the book, Treehouse Chronicles: One Man’s Dream of Life Aloft, that tells the story of the discovery of the magic gadget:
Sometimes a dashed plan is like a poor draw in poker. If the title to your house is on the table and you’re dealt just a pair of twos, you either bluff well or end up living with your in-laws. Ted came back from an expedition to the local hardware stores today with dire news: we can’t use a gate latch as the catch for the drawbridge. One store didn’t have any latches. One store had cheap flimsy things that weren’t up to the task. And the last store had so much stuff lying in the aisles that Ted gave up and waded back to his truck. I had always known that a gate latch was the key to this Rube Goldberg contraption, and now I had to face the cruel fact that it wouldn’t work. I felt like the guy who swam across the English Channel until he saw the waves breaking on the beach in Calais, France. He didn’t think he had the strength to make it, so he turned around and swam back to England. Things suddenly looked so hopeless I feared we might have to start the whole treehouse over. “If we can’t make the stairs work, how are we ever going to get up into the treehouse?” I moaned.
Ted, always the optimist, yelled “Don’t give up yet,” and then bolted downstairs and out to the sprawling garages. A half an hour later he returned from what he calls “the land of archaic hardware” with his hands full. “There,” he said proudly, spilling a jumble of oddball widgets onto the table. Among the treasures was a spring-loaded door catch with no apparent way to attach it to anything, a neat little thing milled from a block of aluminum with a perpendicular pair of what appeared to be thumb screws, another door catch that had “Push” stamped boldly on the side of it but no moving parts, and, lastly, an odd, cylindrical, aluminum, ball-bearing-equipped, spring-loaded, something-or-other. This last item turned out to be the pearl. (Our other business partner, Frank, has a collection of outbuildings that are the equivalent of giant oysters. A tiny little annoyance-a metal thingy of unknown purpose-gets stuck inside one of these buildings and over time it is transformed-at least in the human mind-into something wonderful, and sometimes even useful.)
You can see where this is leading. To read the whole story, and see a detailed drawing of the catch and the drawbridge itself, please click these links:
And, to see the whole story of the building of this whimsical treehouse, please buy our award-winning book, Treehouse Chronicles. If you buy it from our website, TMC Books.com, we will sign the book and include a personal message (if you wish). You can also purchase the book from all online and retail booksellers.
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Last night I found my daughter staring out the kitchen window. “Oh, no,” she said, hands on her hips. “Dad, wears the snow shovel?” I looked out and saw just a dusting on the lawn. “I don’t think there is enough, Mandy,” I said. “Oh, there will be,” she said, confidently.
This morning at 5:30 I was shovelling six inches. Welcome, winter.
For the next four months, we will hibernate, coming out only to shovel off the skating pond, scrape a windshield, or go for a quiet ski across the fields. But, every once in a while, we will trudge out to the forest, climb three stories into a tree, light a fire in the stove, and just sit and watch the world go by.
If you want to find out more about the treehouse, and the award-winning book that tells its story, please visit our extensive pages, or our website, tmcbooks.com. You can order a signed copy of the book directly from our website and get it in time for the holidays!
With the holidays coming, I thought I would give you a sneak peak at our book Treehouse Chronicles: One Man’s Dream of Life Aloft.
Please see the links to sample pages at the end of this post.
The book, published in 2005 by TMC Books (Too Many Cats), a micropublisher made up of three guys working out of an old barn in New Hampshire, has gone on to win 7 (seven!) national book awards. It will make a wonderful gift for anyone interested in treehouses, family, relationships, natural history, and dreaming big dreams.
Yes, this is shameless self-promotion, but don’t just take my word for it. Here is just a (small) sampling of the outstanding coverage this story has recieved:
- The story of this amazing treehouse and the book that tells it’s tale has been featured in over 30 newspapers across the US including USA Today, the the Boston Globe, the Dallas Morning News, and the St. Petersburg Times.
- The treehouse has been featured on local TV as well as on the Home & Garden cable channel, on the Hallmark channel, and on New Hampshire Public Radio.
- The book has been praised by dozens of reviewers including the chair of the National Outdoor Book awards, Garrison Keillor (of NPR’s Prairie Home Companion and Writer’s Almanac fame), Bill McKibben, author of the classic book The End of Nature, Judson Hale, Editor-In-Chief of Yankee Magazine, and Michael Collier, the director of the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference.
- The story has been told in magazines such as Popular Mechanics, Maine Boats Homes & Harbors, Portland Monthly, and Accent Home & Garden.
- If you want even more, check out our endorsements and review pages.
And now for the fun part
SAMPLE PAGES FROM THE BOOK
(just click the embedded links)
“The story of what happens when big people decide
to be kids again and they have tools and lumber.”
Read the introduction by Tedd Benson, renowned timberframe builder and author.
Read the opening essay.
Things didn’t always go smoothly; read about a couple of close calls.
This book is all about family; read about the author’s Mom.
Full of natural history essays; read about a brush with hurricane.
Read about a touching father and son moment (sort of).
A three-year lesson in problem-solving; read about a clever solution.
Hooked? If you would like to buy a signed copy of the book (personalized by the author), please visit tmcbooks.com. Alternately, you can visit your favorite online bookseller, such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
It was 11 degrees this morning. The earth is setting up like concrete and I sleep a little better each night—with each new inch of frost the treehouse is tied more firmly to the ground. I met a friend at a coffee shop this morning at 6:15 and as we walked out together he pulled up his collar and shuddered. “I haven’t hardened off yet,” he said. I like that.
This time of year each night gets darker and colder and the frost seeps deeper into the earth. In a few short weeks the ground will be clamped solid four feet down. I can’t wait.
In the meantime, I worry. November was wet, very wet, we nearly set a record for rain. Walking in my yard was like walking on a gigantic sponge. You could dig for clams in my yard, it was so wet. When the ground is this saturated, it has no strength, no holding power; the trees of my forest just stand there–floating more or less. And November means wind; usually the first big blows (50 mph+) of the year. And that means that I worry about the treehouse. Soggy ground, huge tree floating, enormous treehouse to catch the wind–a recipe for apprehension.
I hope it goes below zero and stays there for a week.