Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Tire Swing and a Tree

Curly Miss has been begging us for a tire swing. I have to admit our back yard up till now has been a pretty boring place. We normally just go play at the park. But I was determined to do something to make the back yard fun also, since playing out there meant that I would be able to keep an eye on the kids but also get some chores done at the same time rather than sitting on the bench at the park.

My friend assures me that the swing set in her back yard was totally worth the price but I didn't want to spend any money right now, since we needed a new lawn mower and we're still saving every penny for the adoption. I figured I could do things the old-fashioned way and make a few things to play on without spending an arm and a leg. So today, with the hot, sunny weather, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to make her wish a reality.

First we drove to Les Schwab where the many white-shirted guys happily dug a worn-out tire from their bin and loaded it into my van. From there it was on to Wal-Mart where 75' of stout poly rope only cost $15.88.

The trickiest part of this project and the one that kept me thinking hard for the past several days was how to get the rope over the branch. Hubby assumed he would climb the tree. But there were two problems with this idea. First of all, he was at work and I wanted to make the swing today. Secondly, the branch I wanted stuck out in a particularly inaccessible place and I doubted he would easily be able to climb there. Nor would I. This called for brains over brawn and I had been trying to figure a way to do it for a week.

Finally I remembered reading Swiss Family Robinson as a kid. This excerpt in particular where the father first builds the rope ladder into the tree came to mind:

Telling Fritz to collect all our cord, and the others to roll all the twine into a ball, I sat down and taking the reeds, speedily manufactured half a dozen arrows and feathered them... I then took a strong bamboo, bent it and strung t so as to form a bow. When the boys saw what I had done they were delighted, and begged to have the pleasure of firing the first shot.

`No, no!' said I, `I did not make this for mere pleasure, nor is it even intended as a weapon, the arrows are pointless. Elizabeth,' I continued to my wife, `can you supply me with a ball of stout thread from your wonderful bag?'

`Certainly,' replied she, `I think that a ball of thread was the first thing to enter the bag,' and diving her hand deep in, she drew out the very thing I wanted.

`Now, boys,' I said, `I am going to fire the first shot,' and I fastened one end of the thread to one of my arrows and aimed at a large branch above me. The arrow flew upwards and bore the thread over the branch and fell at our feet. Thus was the first step in our undertaking accomplished. Now for the rope ladder!

In true adventurous, Swiss Family style, I pulled the old longbow out of the rafters of the garage and hunted up one of my old target arrows. The bow had long since lost its string so I had to improvise using the dog's rope.

Like the ingenuous Swiss Father, I tied some strong cord to the end of one of the arrows I'd found. It took about three tries before the arrow flew into the tree exactly where I wanted it. Unlike the quick, happy results that Herr Robinson received, my arrow got stuck up in the branches. I pulled it down and tried again. This time with a little careful wiggling, I got it to fall back down on the opposite side of the branch!

I tied my heavy orange rope to the twine and it easily went over my 30' tall branch and down the other side. A bowline knot (courtesy of my Navy grandpa) and a loop around the other end and it slid right up and held fast around the branch.

A few more knots and the tire swing was done.

Curly Miss, who was at a friend's birthday party by this time, had to wait to try it out but as soon as she got home she was thrilled to jump on and swing. As the knots tightened, the swing sagged almost to the ground, but the knots I made are fairly easy to reposition.

While I was out there, I also screwed together some scrap wood from the garage into a ladder up the side of the old willow tree.

Now my energetic daughter can both swing and climb when she plays in the back yard. Little Mister is still too little to appreciate the swing and whined when I tried to put him on it. I am sure it won't be long until he is just as much a little monkey as his sister.


  1. LOVE your swing, and your adventurous story to go with it! Great job.