Archive for July, 2010

July 29, 2010

Deek Diedricksen: Episode 1

You gotta love him. I certainly do. So for those of you who have never seen Deek here’s Episode 1 of Tiny Yellow Houses

July 22, 2010

Spencer Park Treehouse Update

They fought the law and they won!! Perhaps in a small way those of us who cared made a difference. Lord Mayor Campbell Newman has vowed to sit down with the children of Market St, in Newmarket, to help build a new treehouse. The troupe of more than a dozen friends, aged four to 14, took on Brisbane City Council, which has decided to tear down their four-level treehouse at Spencer Park.

“Brisbane City Council is more than happy to work with the parents and the kids, particularly the kids, to design, build and maintain a treehouse that is safe and that is properly maintained for the future,” Lord Mayor Campbell Newman said.
He said the council would fund the project from its Central Ward Parks Trust Fund and the children would work with council designers.

For the rest of the story…

July 18, 2010

Jay Shafer’s Tiny House Leads To Bigger Vision

The tiny size and huge concept of Jay Shafer’s home is something to behold. It’s not a treehouse but it fits the perameters of a new style of life being embraced by those few brave souls who want to go back to a more simple time and take some modern conveniences with them.

Is this really a trend or is it kitsch? Could we really downsize to a point where you roll out of bed and fall into your kitchen? Time will tell. And for those of us in California anxiously awaiting the “big one” perhaps this is a nice safety valve to have. So buy yourself a tiny house and trailer and be prepared!


July 15, 2010

The off-kiltered world of Derek “Deek” Diedricksen

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I read your book a few times and I couldn’t help asking myself “Why?” In a good way of course. So what is your motivation in writing and printing this book?

Well, its a semi-long story, but so as to condense things, my hugely-illustrated and tongue twisting children’s book “Williker Wumbly” didn’t find a home, after I tried pitching it to many, many, publishers, in what soon seemed to be a very rigid, non-flexible, closed door industry. Afterwards I more or less vowed to go it alone, both with that book, and with any others I might release (ie- A re-issue of “Harold The Goldfish Escapes!” at some point- I actually wrote and illustrated that book when I was ten years old). Fast forward to about two years ago, as the small-housing book offerings (for my own collection) seemed to be running dry, and I figured “Heck, I have a ton of designs and ideas on napkins, envelope scraps, and post-it notes, I should compile a hand drawn micro-housing book, if only for it to be one more addition to my collection/addiction.”

What do you hope to accomplish or what do you hope comes from your effort?

Money, Fame, Power, and ownership of a minor league baseball team, and an Orange Julius kiosk in a local mall! No, I’m just trying to have fun with it, although with recent coverage from NPR, Make Magazine, Readymade Magazine, and beyond, its becoming more of a real-deal job to me- while STILL being fun, thankfully! I just hope to keep churning out some indie-books, whether they sell well or not. Creatively, its just something I need to do, or my head, “Scanners”-style could very well explode! With independently releasing books, the beauty lies in the fact that I have to answer to no one. I’m the George Jetson AND Mr. Spacley of this operation- all rolled into one.

The shacks and the humble homes and funky forts are all clever and innovative. Do you have plans beyond the illustrations in the book that a builder/enthusiast can access?

Well, I do have the video/tv series now, that I host/direct/produce, which is based off the book’s designs (and some designs from what eventually will be a follow-up book). Ironically, what intially started out to be a one-episode shameless, yet-hopefully-entertaining, commercial for my book, has grown in success far beyond the book itself. Between all the “Tiny Yellow House” youtube videos I’ve realeased in the last 3-4 months, we have close to 100,000 views now. Make Magazine just hired me on to shoot instructional videos for their mag/blog too….so things keep snowballing, in a very good way…

Did you actually build all these shelters? And I assume a lot of them could be adapted to treehouse format, correct?

Many I had already built in the past, some are just daydreams, and others have since been built, or are in the process of being constructed (or will be). Most, if not, all of these could certainly be adapted to treehouse format- in fact, it was something I did keep in mind while designing some of these, since first and foremost, I’m a treehouse fanatic! I had several treehouses growing up as a kid, and more recently, my neighbor and I have talked about constructing an adult tree-guest-house for when our collective relatives visit and need a place to crash.

What were like as a young guy? You seem like a mischievous kind of guy. Did your parents take to that or discourage you?

My parents were great, patient, positive, understanding, and very creative people. My father, Glenn, is a very hands-on guy, who taught wood-working, metal-working, and automotive classes for the Guilford, CT school system. My mother, Sigrid (also a school teacher) was a craft maniac as well- especially around the holidays, when she would hand make all sorts of cool ornaments and gifts. As for the mischief, aside from occasionally being sent to the pricipal’s office for distracting classes with doodling- I’m sure you can relate Lon- I was pretty much a total nerd- honor’s student, played varsity tennis and cross country, Eagle Scout, etc.

What or who inspired you to do this? And how does you wife feel about what you’re doing?

Aside from being an average kid who loved building huts and forts, my father gifted me the book “Tiny, Tiny Houses” by Lester Walker when I was 10 years old. From there on, I was hooked. More recently, the work of Lloyd Kahn and David and Jeanie Stiles was especially inspiring for the loose background and impetus of getting this book created and out there. All in all, I think I unconsciously tried to take what some of those books had done, and go for a more organic, hand-drawn, indie-zine feel.
As for my wife, Liz, she’s incredible and very understanding, especially when it comes to all the backyard experimentations our yard now holds. Its a virtual jungle of lumber, salvaged windows, and cabins back there! My “Sanford and Son” backyard, I call it. Luckily my neighbors are fine with it too, of I’d have some trouble on my hands.

Do you have a “real job” or is this your real job?

I have about nine “fun jobs”, or “hobbies that pay” as I call them. I play in a tribute act to the band Rage Against The Machine (Age Against The Machine) which does very well, I write and sell music with another band/collaboration titled “Anklelock” (we just recorded a song with Gary Cherone from Extreme/Van Halen (on itunes!), I do alot of word-of-mouth freelance building/carpentry, have my MA state Home Inspectors License (although I’ve mostly given that up), run two blogs, have my whole book project and its sales, and sell quite a bit on ebay and amazon when I have the time. I refurbish and resell drum sets occassionally too.

I like the fact you use recycled wood and other materials. Where do you get the materials and do you have to ask anyone or pay for it?

Most of what I try to use, comes absolutely FREE and off the side of the road. Having a truck or trailer helps immensely with this sort of budget-friendly approach, and you’d be surprised as to the stuff people throw away! If I can’t use it to build with, but it has some sort of value, craigslist has been a great source of reclaimed income for me. My old boss threw out several six-panel pine doors when he was remodeling. He thought I was doing him a favor by lightening his weight-based dumpster fees. I sold the lot of doors for a very good deal of cash. I won’t specify how much, in case he find’s this interview….

You had some problems with porcupines in the past. Any other critters give you problems? And how did you deal with them?

Up in VT, the porcupines have been viscious- they do an incredible amount of damage to wood in a very short time, but aside from them, save the occasional insulation-gobbling field mouse, I haven’t had any problems- thankfully. Well, nothing a .22 couldn’t fix! Kidding….a .357!

What’s in the future Deek? Because you are sort of a renaissance man (builder, artist, writer, dissenter… Are you focused on any path in particular or are you still exploring your own inner path?

Well, I’ve slowly been working on a follow-up book to “Humble Homes, Simple Shacks…”, we plan on soon taking our “Tiny Yellow House” Tv/Youtube show to the next level, My brother, Dustin, and I recently collaborated on a short zine-like novely/kids/adult fort book titled “Who Forted?”- which’ll gain some fans/readers perhaps, and alienate others (its and ode to an upbringing on Mad Magazine, sugar cereal, and blanket-fort building), and at some point soon, I’d like to acquire a long out of print book on Turtles (the ORIGINAL small house dwellers!) from an independent author from my home-town area, and distribute it and reprint it for him. Naturally, there are about a dozen or so shacks I want to build in the next year or two as well….

Lon, thanks so much for the time and questions! I can’t wait to check out your new treeology book!

July 14, 2010

Deciduous Trees

As a follow up to the blog about evergreen trees here is a little bit about deciduous trees or branching trees. A mature branching tree with its graceful, arching, vase-like form can be beautiful to look at, reminding us of those long hot summer days resting under a thick canopy of green leaves. But the bucolic atmosphere comes at a price, as the confusion of branches can be problematic for a treehouse builder.
The typical branching tree has a trunk that splits into into major branches a few feet off the ground. As opposed to a straight, simple trunk, the potential treehouse builder must take into consideration several branches at once. Whether you build in a sturdy cradle of limbs or with a dangerous, unequal distribution of weight, the site must be chosen carefully.

Native to North America, the tulip tree is sometimes called the “tulip poplar” or “yellow poplar” although it’s unrelated to the genus They are easily recognized by their general shape, with the higher branches sweeping together in one direction. Trees from one hundred and fifty to one hun-dred and sixty-five feet in height are common.

A deciduous species, maple trees grow from thirty to a hundred forty-five feet in height. These are especially popular trees for house construction as they are fast-growing and ex-tremely cold-resistant.
Oak trees are broad-leaved and long-lived, growing up to a hundred and fifty-feet tall. With a famously strong wood, these trees can support even the largest of treehouses.

A branching tree, the banyan can spread out over two-thirds of an acre. Older banyan trees are characterized by their aerial prop roots which grow into thick woody trunks. With age, these roots can be-come indistinguishable from the main trunk.

Tulip Trees

Sturdy in structure and as much as twenty to thirty feet in circumference, the lower branches can be easily accessed.

North American tulip wood is fine-grained and stable, and commonly used for cabinets and furniture.

Moist, well-drained soils and full sun to light shade are ideal environments for this tree. It prefers a slightly acidic soil but is quite adaptable.

The Birdhouse in Longwood Gardens is built between huge tulip trees, each of which is over a hundred and fifty years old.

Maple Trees

Hearty and fast growing, maples are planted as ornamentals by homeowners, businesses, and municipalities.

There are one hundred and twenty-five species of maple, thirteen that are native to North America. The black, red, and sugar maples are the main species tapped for sap content.

Many maples have bright autumn foliage, which make for great leaf watching traditions around the world.

Maple wood carries sound waves well, and is used in numerous musical instruments. It is considered a “tone-wood” in instrument manufacturing.

Oak Trees

Combining unusual strength and hardness with branches that are easy to access makes oak a great choice for treehouse builders.

“Sudden Oak Death” is a regional water mold that can kill oaks within just a few weeks.

“Oak Wilt” is also a lethal disease of some oaks, particularly the red oaks. Other dangers include wood-boring beetles, as well as root rot in older trees.

The oak is the national tree of England, France, Germany, Lithuania, Poland, and the United States

Banyan Trees

The banyan is actually a parasitic fig that starts its life as an epiphyte, or “air plant.”

Seeds germinate in the cracks of a host tree, giving banyan the nickname, “strangler fig.”

Older banyan trees have aerial prop roots which grow into thick, woody trunks, indistinguishable from the main trunk. They can make interesting homes for treehouses.

Strangler figs extend their roots from the host branches to the ground, giving the tree the unusual appearance of being supported by pillars.

July 8, 2010

John Carberry: Peacemaker treehouses

John Carberry's Pirate treehouse

The Pirate Treehouse

Built by Peacemaker Treehouses, “Captain Jack’s Flying Pirate Ship” sails ten feet off the ground. The triangular platform is built above two low branches on the south side of the main trunk and anchored at the front of the ship by four-by-four posts. Diagonal braces provide additional support. The ship comes complete with cabin, masts, rigging, gun ports, and a retractable rope ladder.

Company founder John Carberry studied architecture but worked as a journalist until he turned to building treehouses fulltime.

Here are some of John Carberry’s tips on treehouses. For more information from John check out his website

Over the past several years, I’ve enjoyed hundreds of conversations about treehouses with everyone from professional colleagues to the passingly curious. While the topics tend to be as wide ranging as the treehouses themselves, there are some questions that seem to resurface. Here are a few that I’ve found frequently asked, and some answers to go along with them.
Remember, if you have any other questions, just drop me a note. I’ll be happy to help.

What’s possible?

As noted above, almost anything within the limits of physics, tree biology and the investment you want to make.

How much do they cost?

Prices, like trees and treehouses, vary widely. Some basic platforms can cost as little as $3,500, and some of the monster treehouses you may have seen in books or on the Web cost more than $500,000 to build. Some folks build from their imagination and don’t worry about price. Some folks set a project budget and design to make the most of it. Either way, if you have your heart set on a unique treehouse, there’ll be a way to make it a reality.

Are these for kids to play or adults to enjoy?

Treehouses can be anything you’d like. If it’s for your kids, you can add cargo nets, swings, fire poles, rope ladders, zip lines and more to create magic. If you’re the one looking for the magic or rejuvenation, treehouses can have porches, decks, sleeping lofts and about anything else you can imagine. It’s all up to you.

Why are treehouses suddenly so popular?

We all loved treehouses as kids. They inspire imagination and make us feel safe in a way that no ground space can. It’s a rare kid who didn’t want a treehouse.
For years, treehouses were only that — that thing we left behind years ago. Then a kid who wouldn’t let go of that dream named Michael Garnier decided to build a few outside his bed and breakfast in southwestern Oregon in the late 1980s. When he stepped up to a large treehouse, Michael’s creativity led him to create a unique anchoring bolt — known since as the Garnier Limb — to safely carry the greater load. When he offered to rent the treehouse to guests, local building inspectors who had no idea what to make of a tree-borne structure tried to shut Out-n-About’s Treesort down. So began a legal battle, and so began Michael’s work with his friend and engineer Charley Greenwood. The two men developed, tested, refined and proved the load-carrying capacity of the Garnier limb. They also opened up a whole new world of design and construction possibilities into which pioneers such as Pete Nelson and Jake Jacob of The Treehouse Workshop quickly stepped in. Michael, Charley, Pete, Jake and a small group of arborists and builders pioneered the craft, helping all those grown-up kids have the treehouses they always imagined and build a few for their own kids.
As word spread, so did demand, creating a second a second generation of treehouse professionals who learned from the pioneers and try to spread the joy of treehouses to a wider clientele.

Should I hire a professional?

It all depends upon who you are and what you want.
Modern treehouse construction has its unique tools, skills and hardware, and there are lots of books and Web sites that can explain them. Several builders, including Peacemaker Treehouses, offer consulting services to help you develop your project. The most popular section of the Peacemaker Treehouse blog is the entry on installing a Garnier Limb intended for the do-it-yourselfer. If you have the time, and you’re comfortable with careful carpentry and working in a tree, a DIY treehouse may be your best choice.
But some people don’t have the time to sort through all of that. Developing and exercising their own set of skills is demanding enough, without trying to learn a new craft in their sparse spare time. Other people do have some design and construction skills, but also have treehouse ambitions that extend beyond what they’re comfortable tackling on their own.
For these people, a professional treehouse design and construction services is the right answer.

Good advice from one of the finest treehouse builder and creative minds in the business of treetop building.

July 3, 2010

Trees and Treehouses

Winter in Big Bear

It’s summer and now is a great time to start planning and building your treehouse. I live in Big Bear, California which is covered with all sorts of evergreen trees. Choosing a suitable tree in my neck of the woods is simple. But it may be different where you live. So here’s a few tips and a few trees to consider if you have access to one.

The most important particpant in your treehouse is the tree itself. Remember its a living organism and in order for your treetop dream to weather time you must plan ahead and consider the tree’s health and it’s capacity for growth in the future. Choosing the right tree or trees can make or break your vision so you’ll want to make sure your choice is a good one. First and foremost, I suggest checking with a certified professional arborist, not your gardener or the local tree removal guy. You can usually find an arborist in your phone book, or can locate one in your area http:// They’ll be able to tell you the age of your tree, what kind it is, how big a treehouse structure it can support and the prospects for its future.

Trees in Pennsylvania

Certain types of trees are better suited for treehouses than others. In some cases it’s obvious and others it not so obvious. Deciduous or Evergreen is an important choice if you have it to make. The main difference being deciduous trees loose their leaves and Evergreen don’t. Most builders would probably prefer deciduous so that they can see what their doing and not worry about destroying branches with leaves on them. However, this means the construction period is limited to certain times of the year , which is something to consider if you’re doing the work yourself or with your family or friends.

If you’re building on one tree trunk the most important factor is the diameter of the tree, ten to twelve inches would be the minimum. Otherwise, a mature tree with large well established limbs that form a well formed cradle for the floor system is preferable. The larger lower core area branches are best suited for construction. Building too high in the tree is probably not a good idea for safety reasons, limbs tend to get weaker, and tree movement from the wind is greater.
If you’re using multiple trees for the structure it’s wise to choose trees that are around the same size.

Elm Trees

• Elms are deciduous trees which first appeared in the Miocene period about forty million years ago. They are among the oldest tree types on earth. Originating in what is now central Asia, the tree flourished and established itself over most of the Northern Hemisphere, traversing the Equator in Indonesia.

• In North America the species most common is the American Elm which had unique properties that made it ideal for rapid growth, adaptation to a broad range of climates and soils, strong wood, resistance to wind damage, and requires minimal pruning.

• Elm wood is valued for its interlocking grain, and consequent resistance to splitting. The wood is also resistant to decay when permanently wet.

• Dutch elm disease devastated elms throughout Europe and North America in the second half of the 20th century. It is caused by a micro-fungus transmitted by two species of elm-bark beetle. The disease affects all species of elm native to North America and Europe

Poplar Trees

• These trees are native to most of the Northern Hemisphere. The species populus include poplar, aspen, and cottonwood. They can grow from anywhere between fory-five to a hundred and fifty feet tall, with trunks of up to eight feet in diameter.

• The bark on young trees is smooth, white to greenish or dark grey; on old trees it remains smoothness in some species, but becomes rough and deeply fissured in others.

• Just a few of the problems with Poplars are borers, bark beetles, stem cankers, fungal leaf spots and vascular disease.

• Though they are a good tree to build in, Poplars are noted for their weak wood and possible limb fall. It is a good idea to get a qualified arborist out to make sure your tree is sound.

Sycamore Trees

• The American Sycamore can grow to massive proportions. Typically reaching up to ninety to a hundred thirty feet high and about five to seven feet in diameter, making it a great tree to build in.

• It’s easily recognized by its spotty shedding bark. The bark of all trees has to yield to a growing trunk, but the sycamore shows the process of exfoliation more openly than any other tree. The bark of the trunk and larger limbs flakes off in irregular masses, leaving the surface mottled, and greenish-white, gray and brown.

• The sycamore tree is often divided near the ground into several secondary trunks, very free from branches. The trunks of large trees are often hollow.

• The sycamore is able to endure a big city environment and has been extensively planted as a shade tree. It bears transplanting well and grows rapidly

Beech Trees

• This massive tree will slowly reach a height and spread of 50 or more feet. Forest grown trees reach up to 120 feet. The tree is naturally low-branched. Which makes it an ideal tree for treehouses

• The bark looks like elephant skin on older specimens. The wood is almost white and is very resistant to decay under water so it was used to make water wheels in Colonial times. The wood is also used for tool handles, chairs, cuttings boards, and for making charcoal.

• Beech grows slowly, and does not require much pruning. Because beech grows so slowly, it is a long- term project to grow a specimen beech. This is why young beech are often used in forest plantings.

• Usually disease is not a serious problem provided soil is not compacted and is well-drained. Several fungi cause leaf spots but are generally not serious to warrant chemical control.