woodland fort

On the east side of our property stand 14 towering trees.

Anyone know what kind of trees these are? I am thinking Engelmann Spruce? Or are they a kind of fir?

I barely noticed this piece of our soon-to-be land, for my attention was squarely focused on the sunny, garden-friendly aspects. It was the third or fourth visit that I imagined how IN LOVE I would have been with those trees and their footprints as a girl.


And, it turns out, my girls are IN LOVE with these trees and their footprints.


The tree tops stand stories tall. The bottom canopies gracefully give in to gravity creating magical, dappled light nooks that change by the minute. And there are 14! Lined up, standing calm guard over our home. Waiting (not so patiently) for a fence so I can begin work on our edible plot, I’ve been working among those serene, solid trees whose arms wave at me every time I visit. I’ve even been hugged.

garden shed in the background

I trimmed up the low branches to allow a bit more light to pass through, snapped off the dry, prickly, dead under-branches, mimicked the previous owners’ idea to prop low slung branches with wishbone-shaped cut branches, created a shady-sunny nook for our chicken coop and began expanding the chicken run and raked up inches of pine needles, branches and pinecones. Bobby and Will, the amazing people we bought our house from (and our neighbors), hauled 21 truck loads of the same away to our local compost company. Amazing that there was still some left!


PhotobucketAll those small-diameter vertical sticks are cut Y-shaped branches supporting heavy branches


I’ve grown to know and love this side of our new property. And while I know my daughters will create their own play under the embrace of our little forest, I wanted to carve out a surprise nook for them. I made a fort.


I bought five yards of outdoor canvas and had plans to cut apart and sew into a teepee sort of shape. Instead, after many tries at many different ideas, I wound up using the existing tree branches to create a fort. I didn’t cut the fabric at all, didn’t even hem. I wanted additional coziness and coverage so I dug through the garden shed and found an old, white vinyl window covering. And I filled holes with a few old flour sack dish linens, attached to branches and fabric with clothespins. 

The vinyl window covering creates wonderful stripedy light all day.

I seriously had so much fun creating this space. I spent hours crawling around, rearranging rocks and sticks, raking debris. I scoured the hill behind our house, finding an old stump, sticks and stones. I sat in there, cross-legged, and remembered four years-old.

the fort backs up to the hill behind our home

There were weird chunks of concrete that I uncovered at the far end. Also, I found a baby doll leg.

I stacked sticks, cut branches and rocks around the concrete chunks and random rebar, which makes nice seating for kid bums.


And I scored this giant, weirdo 70s quit at a thrift store last week for $15 (the same one shown in my last post, hanging to dry on our friends’ deck) and it is the perfect, cozy fort floor.


And there are nice little ‘windows’ with nice little views.


I have to say, in its first few weeks, I flipping adore the constant stream of kids tucked into this sun-kissed, hidden space. I smile every time they hang in there. A big part of me wants to kick of my shoes and join in, but a bigger part of me wants to just fetch them water and snacks and let them have the fun all to themselves.


But every once in a while I accept an invitation to join.


:: :: ::

In this week’s mama digs, I wrote about a conversation I had with my kids about bee stings and the inevitability of injury in our lives. In speaking that truth to them, I realized I needed to hear it too. Click to read sweet sting.

26 Responses to woodland fort

  1. Randomly came across your blog and had to say hi- what a wonderful feel this site of yours has! Happy to have found you and can’t wait to read more… off to check out some previous posts! Have a wonderful week, sugar! xo

  2. Katie says:

    What a magical space! Theo and Sully would flip over that. :)

  3. Marisa says:

    Oh my gosh, what a fabulous fort! I would have loved that as a kid!

  4. B. Holmes says:

    I loved forts as a kid and still do (I had 3 little bros). With 2 little boys of my own now I have much “fort-making” ahead… Love your blog and articles by the way.

  5. First photo is definitely Engelmann spruce. The others look to be the same, no?

    I LOVED forts as a kid…oh, man…so many forts. Inside and out. You had way too much fun making this one!

    (Are you hanging pheromone tents to protect your trees from beetles?)

  6. Lindsey says:

    That red skirt. I’m in love!

  7. What a beautiful fort and a great read! I also loved your latest Mama-lode entry…so true! I can’t wait to have conversations like that with my girls, but for now I will snuggle them and enjoy their littleness!

  8. BRH says:

    That fort is heavenly! I’d love to curl up in there for a little while. Also in love with the cat tray and jelly jar glasses. Cute stuff!

  9. Ellie says:

    Wow, how lucky your girls are to have a mama with this sort of vision, Nici. That fort is fantastic. Well-done!

  10. OMG freaking magical!! When can we come over?

  11. Lee says:

    Completely off topic, but I came across this post about botanical dyed eggs and immediately thought of you… http://rosylittlethings.typepad.com/posie_gets_cozy/2012/04/flowered-eggs.html

  12. Dee says:

    What a beautiful space!

  13. TRB Holt says:

    That is one beautiful Feng shui fort! I look forward to you serving ME drinks & snacks as I lounge in it with “my” girls! ;o}

  14. Tonya says:

    I freaking LOVE that tree “house”!!!

  15. I took one look at that fort and had the urge to grab my book and head on over! Reminds me of dreamy summer days I spent tucked into my own nook, daydreaming of all the magical places waiting to be explored just beyond my “window”. Lovely!

  16. Jenn says:

    Such a magical place! Well done! I would have loved that place as a kid. Heck, I would love it now.

  17. Kelle says:

    Love the enchanted forest fort, but love even more the words you wrote about pain and risk and adventure. I feel you, Mama. xo

  18. Kat says:

    How fun! Sunny and cozy! I’m not too familiar with the trees out west, but I do know that spruce needles are ‘spiky and spherical’ meaning that you can roll them between your fingers and they grow all the way around the twig. Fir needles are flat and just grow in one plane, not all the way around the twig.

  19. Amy says:

    I absolutely adore this fort. Much fancier and useful than the rickety one my brothers and I crafted out of sticks and electrical tape when I was a kid. I can just imagine the afternoon adventures that your girls will have out there!

  20. ctb says:

    i am excited to see how this fort is going to evolve over time. as kick ass as this one is, its only the first version.

  21. Oh that first shot up the trees. Oh, the last. A space that will grove volumes of deep memories within their childhoods. Oh that’s good.

    I simple adore this additional space. I want to come over an play too…but really, can I wait until you also install the slide off the deck?

    Funny you should be creating spaces like this. I just read the following article yesterday and shared it through FB. It’s right in line with how we are raising our girl.

    Can’t wait to see more pictures as the summer progresses.

    :) Jennifer

  22. Annie says:

    Love the wishbone cut branches idea to raise the low ones!
    I want a fort like that for me (I have fond memories from when I was a kid)! And then thinking of the fun my kids could have – now I’ll have to hunt around my yard for a great space : )

  23. Jaim says:

    I have a crazy 70’s patchwork quilt that looks almost the same as yours except my squares are a big bigger. I scored mine from my mother-in-law and we use it constantly for comfy wagon rides or to add a little coziness between the bottom of the cold sled or outside picnics or just to lay on and explore what our tight, ground-hugging flora and fauna has to offer and to see how many ants we can count.

    Oh man, to have trees like that! I love, love, love that canvas you picked out too. Nice work mama! Maybe you could create a little nook for your sewing machine? Also,love the shot of you sawing in your skirt and green gloves.

    Here’s to the sweet summer scent of spruce trees…


  24. Kelly Cach says:

    Oh, whew! I needed this sweetness today, and I was all giddy remembering I had a post of yours to catch up on :)

    When I was young (5,6,& 7 years old) we lived in Sandpoint, Idaho. At one point, we had a “forest” in our backyard, too. I can smell your pine needles and feel the bumpy tree roots under my feet :)

    And so glad you get and accept the occasioal invitation to join them……what a dream you are to them!!!

  25. katom coupon says:

    An impressive share, I just given this onto a colleague who was doing a little analysis on this. And he in fact bought me breakfast because I found it for him.. smile. So let me reword that: Thnx for the treat! But yeah Thnkx for spending the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love reading more on this topic. If possible, as you become expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more details? It is highly helpful for me. Big thumb up for this blog post!

  26. outer openings generating utilization #file=C:\baobao\keyword.txt of the Closed circuit