A sight for sore eyes, and tired dirty hands

This is by far the ugliest fort I’ve ever seen
But like my son says, “At least we have a fort.”

Since my oldest son began to walk as a baby, I’ve had this dream of building/growing a fort out of beans for him. Lack of sun and space has always stood in the way. Funny. Now that I have the space and the sun, he’s old enough to help me design the fort… and perhaps, he’s now too tall to stand inside.
Using whatever tall sticks, old wood and broken furniture the previous owners left behind at the lake house garage, we built the fort. This bothered my Father quite a bit. He would have preferred that I buy a $45 aluminum rose trellis, so that the fort would “look nice.” This would have given the structure the “curves” it needs to give the fort that cozy feel. Based on how ugly this fort turned out, I’m sure my Father may have been right. Yet, something about the pristine rose trellis didn’t feel right… too pristine? I felt compelled to use the materials that were readily available… it seemed more “green.” Still, my 9-year-old said it best, “At least we have a fort.”

I’m counting on the beauty of the beans to grow right around this lattice, hiding the fort’s humble beginnings, and turn this pile of mismatched lumber into a showpiece. And the beans! They’re actually called, Jack and the Beanstalk, and grow to 20 feet. I hope Mother Nature lets me see that.

With my son’s great eye for design, I let him decide where the lattice pieces should go, the size of the fort, and the general layout. After my Dad taught me the proper way to lift the sod, I quickly heeded the developing blisters in my hands and made the fort about half the size of my original intentions. Dad actually did most of the sod removal… he’s strong for a 68-year-old. I was no match for him. He took me to the hardware store and showed me the claw, which really helped to work in the peat moss we poured into the sandy soil to help it hold the water better. I spent more time working while my Dad was here than entertaining him. I feel a bit bad about that, but there was really no way around it. Truly, he does prefer to sit and talk while he’s here, which I did, but honestly, I think he was relieved when my brother offered a 3:00 round of golf.

Inspiration and a little more research into a garden book I bought along brought me the idea of using large plastic garden bags as mulch. Not only will these help keep the weeds down, but the black will hold in the heat to help the plants grow better, and hold the water in the soil. Perfect for the long absences I’ll have when I’m unable to water the plants.

Adding plastic to the soil created much more prep work than I anticipated. The first problem is that there was no trowel anywhere to be found. So, once the plastic was down, (I cut up contractor’s garbage bags), I used the claw end of a hammer to tear a hole in the garbage bag that was big enough to fit the developing seedlings through. The claw of the hammer had too much of a curve in it to dig the hole, so I tried a screwdriver – not enough of a curve. My fingers worked the best. Using my hands, I dug the sandy-peat soil for just about every plant. This seemed to take forever. While digging, I continually asked the boys to bring up rocks from the lake to hold down the plastic. Still, I felt like the Little Red Hen.

So now I’m 3 hours away from the fort, unable to water the seedlings. I’m counting on the black plastic to keep them from drying out. Farmers do this all the time… they can’t water their seedlings, and their crops turn out fine, usually. I know this fort is ugly; but hopefully, that’s temporary. I also know the lake neighbors are driving by saying, “What in the world….” But, they just don’t know the whole story, and it’s just too hard to explain. Still, I’m proud that it’s come this far.

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24 comments on “A sight for sore eyes, and tired dirty hands
  1. I had my first child, a son, 8 months ago and this post made me a little teary (in a good way)! I too have the same dreams of building forts for him, playing in the mud with him, getting grossed out when he catches bugs and so on. I am so excited to be the mother of a little boy and I can’t wait to see all the adventures he’ll let me go with him on.

  2. I agree with your son, and t is cool. You should post the pictures of it once the beans start growing. That would be really cool. Happy LT

  3. That looks like a perfect fort! It’s going to be so cool later this summer. He’ll be the only kid with a bean fort and all the kids will want to be in your yard!

  4. Gotta love those 9 year olds (I live with a resident 9 year old sage, too), with their wise (and oft hilarious) observations: “At least we have a fort.” Cracked me up.

  5. Didn’t you blog about this fort before? It seems familiar… but I love it all over again if you have. I’m so envious that you’re able to build this and aren’t hampered by neighborhood association rules and stuff like that.

  6. I can imagine why you are so proud =) And it’s a good thing you got pictures of the “first days” of the fort and then one day you will look back and be even prouder.

  7. this was a delightful post,, and made me remember the forts we used to make with a bedspread over the clothesline… i will be anxious to see pix of those 20 foot beans too when they do fill out!!!!

  8. You know the rest of the story, and that’s all that matters. Letting your boy have his fort is probably just the ingredient needed to make the beans grow, grow, grow.

  9. Oh I think that’s beautiful – not so much the fort, but that you love him enough to let him lead with his imagination. So many parents DON’T! Thank you for sharing! 😀

  10. There’s nothing ugly if the work is done with love and inspiration – and the most important part is that you allowed your child to explore his imagination!

  11. i love this story… spending time w/yr son, yr dad… work in the garden i find is rather labor intense… but the outcome is always glorious… i can already imagine the beauty… please do send a photo when the beans have grow… and the fort… well, it’s the best!

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