My 6 year old son LOVES watching building videos. He really likes underground houses. He loves seeing debris shelters be made. His school has a natural playground with big log rounds that the students have turned into various different fort shapes. He now really wants to build an "underground fort."
It doesn't need to be tall--just big enough for them to sit in, but their standing height would be even better. My herb spiral is built on a small little hill, and I'm thinking of digging into that hill to make it partly underground. It rains a LOT here, so finding other ground that isn't a soggy mess would be really hard.
Anyone have any natural building videos that are simple and primitive and along the lines of debris shelters/wofatis/log cabins? Ideas and pictures are also welcome! I think he really wants to be the architect of this house/fort, and filling his head with lots of videos would be really wonderful for him (and me, as I'll likely be doing the heavy lifting!)
Somethings that really inspired him:
This awesome video of Justin Rhodes' 11-year old son building his own log cabin:
Oh sure, I made forts all the time when I was a kid. My go-to "forts" were ones I found in a book the Maine Game Wardens put out, and still do, and easily ordered from their website called "You Alone in the Maine Woods". It was designed to keep hunters alive until the game wardens could find them. So it had some quick shelters that could be made.
For me, as a kid, I would go down deep into the woods and build these shelters into a hillside, or along some rock outcrop, that way I had something solid behind me, and the a fir bough fort above me. All you need is some baling twine or wire to help secure the poles together. A saw or hatchet is nice to make the poles the length you need, as well as the boughs to lay atop and inside the fort.
I typically did this in the winter, and then would spend the night in them. I would make a fire, and then take cans of soup and heat them up on the fire...there being no forest fire dangers as the snow was deep. It was pretty fun over all.
But other ideas include using plastic culvert pieces to make underground forts. If you do not have any, go to your local Dept of Transportation location and just ask if they have some short pieces of culvert, or some old culvert they took out, and use that...no need to buy any.
A youtube search for "emergency shelters" or "surviving in the wild" will get you plenty of ideas. For a 6 year old, they need not be fancy, as they have plenty of imagination.
We take the kids out quite often, and a few times have built shelters. On one occasion we built a fir bough shelter, then built a fire ring with rocks, kindled a fire, and using water from a nearby stream, heated up that water to make cocoa.
On another occasion, I bought geostones, and went out early in the morning, then later Katie and I went back there with the kids, and we "discovered" them. Using a hammer, we broke apart the geostones and discovered the crystals. It got the kids outside, and they loved exploring.
So, I've started building playing around with building the fort. I really have very little idea of what to do. Structural engineering is not my forte!
I was thinking of making it have a debris-shelter like roof, with one log across the peak and it's butt pushing against the ground. It'd be lower in there toward the earthen side, and higher at the entrance, with the tip of it supported by big, strong trunks. Now I'm not sure if this is the best idea? (NOTE: the branches standing up in the last pictures are just held together with twine so I can look at the thing and figure out what in the world I'm doing!)
I have a bunch of these curvy cedar branches that I'm trying to make use of. That's why the right retaining wall is rather curvy. Is it a problem structurally because it's curvy? It's a small wall, so I'm thinking the load isn't much? But, I honestly have NO idea.
What's the best use of these curvy cedar branches for the roof? I'm thinking they make a nice arch to give more head space for my kids, and that the entrance would have a straight, thick stronger wood to hold up the ceiling pole/beam (what's the word for the beam at the top?). But, is that a really stupid idea?
I'm no structural engineer either but I think the curved walls will give it extra strength compared to straight walls. I personally would not go taller than about half height of the kids with the additional earth additions. There will be kids inside!
Yay for kid forts!!! Might be a good opportunity to learn & teach about building simple lean-tos & stick shelters. Lashing & wattling are good skills to use for those. Which advances to basic log cabins. Then man made caves (that flood every time it rains) and tree houses waaay up at top. Ask me how I know. On second thought maybe don't ask. Then my mom might find out & she STILL doesn't want to know half the things monkeyboy & I did as kids.
Awesome looking tree fort. A rock chair too. It looks like it has the potential to be quite strong. I might add a roof beam the same diameter as the wall sticks (or two thinner ones ... one above & one below) & certainly would lash that entire roof ridge & the wall sticks together. Adding some diagonal sticks would add strength. Perhaps double up on the outside corner sticks.
Argue for your limitations and they are yours forever.
My parents leveled an area of their property and have a giant mound of dirt. The grandkids have been slowly hacking away at this giant mound to make their fort. At this point they have a giant hole like area in the middle and have used boards lying about to make the roof over it. They can all sit in it and it makes them incredibly happy. Super easy, no effort fort. They also like the boards over the top as a bridge over their giant hole. Multi purpose perfection.
The beam down the center is a ridgepole. A very tighly lashed in ridgepole will help a LOT. Look up thatched roof house structure for ideas how to attach it. They CAN be lashed into place and work well.
Something that would help this is to put a heavy edge along the ground so the poles can't slide outwards and flatten. That's how your current design, would fail, assuming the roof is stable. I'm failing search engine today... Houses like this were made by Neanderthals, very early on, see the rocks holding the poles so they don't flatten? They had a lot of problems with that design, and changed to slightly sunken to hold the poles, then started sinking the poles. Those houses failed by flattening when the poles slid outward. So for your fort, HEAVY weights keeping the poles from sliding would help, but it's not a super-solid design for long term, apparently, or they would have kept doing them.
how excellent! I also have good memories of lashing branches together again to make a kiddy fort. Good times! And it sure looks like your kids are enjoying it.
If you have evergreens, cutting some boughs to put over the top/sides is pretty magical. If you don't have greenery, if you have urgent occupancy needs (kids want in NOW!) you could always use blankets as a stopgap measure til you get the walls sorted.
Nice kid fort! The curvy wall on the right would be stronger (and more spacious) if the curve bowed outward instead of inward, assuming you are going to pile dirt against the lower walls. Ditto for the curved rafter sticks. As long as the leaning sticks are distinctly taller than wide, at this size there will be no real danger of them sliding out. Dirt or stones to anchor the bases will work fine. Building the walls up enough for kids to sit and lean against, then running the curved rafters up and over the walls and anchoring the bases in the ground will likely work best.
For the front wall, and/or maybe a courtyard wall or fence, a wattle structure with thin flexible branches would look nice. Maybe they are too young yet for that... There is always the upgrade and replacement in a few years...
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