Monday, October 4, 2010

Gym Ring Forestnasium Construction


Or, directions ad nausium on how to hang something really high when you have no idea how to go about it.


So we'd been trying to come up with time, a location, and a specific method for hanging Michael's gym rings.

It had been about 8 months and we still hadn't figured out how to get it done by ourselves. Then I did what I usually do; get so frustrated with making no progress that I just begin and figure that it will come to me in desperation as I get along.

So, armed with a minimum of materials and tools, come hell or high water, I was going to get those rings up in the air for him to use.

Our chosen location. The old pad where one of my older boys had hung his kickboxing bag. The trees were spaced nicely, and the ground was fairly level and cleared. Probably from air-pummeling enemy lizards and squirrels mercilessly, while protecting the world from certain doom.

How high did you say?

16 feet?

Are you crazy?

We tossed many ideas back and forth, and even began on some of them. No limbs to climb up the tree. No ladders long enough to reach. Not a lot of scrap lumber to build foot and hand holds, though we began doing it anyway, figuring we'd find something somehow.

Then a simply brilliant idea occurred to me. In fact it was so brilliant, I wondered why it had not occurred to me before. Probably some sort of blockage due to the massive amount of brain activity taking place within this skull on a daily basis. As a matter of fact, I that may be the whole problem with my inability to actually achieve thought process. I just have too much going through and it's hung up in there. Like that Bridezilla rush for discount wedding gowns. It's all hung up in the doorway.

Now where was I?

Ah, yes. The brilliant idea. We extended the ladder to beyond it's recommended length, by several feet, but then we tied it, tight enough to stop a pig from squealing, all along the length, so Michael could use the rungs as foot and hand holds, and then we used a large belt to strap him to the tree to work.

~~Voila!~~ It brought a tear to me eye...

Here he is, actually wrapping the ladder to the tree as he goes higher up.

Then you must have a bucket to bring your tools up and down.


I drilled the holes in the support board for the first tree.

And he drilled the holes in the tree to match, and ratcheted in the lag bolts, making sure the board remained level.

It's kind of high up there. His feet began to hurt pretty quickly, and he had several hours on this first tree.

I'm down below, planning the project and passing tools up and down.

I'm also still moving rounds out of the way so we can use this space again. We'd still not cleared the whole area since the tree came down.

Then it was time to come down and start all over again on the other tree.

We tied the ladder up, but Michael was wiped out, so we got a few other things done, then went for a swim after cleaning the pool.

The next day was another long one. This tree was not quite so cooperative as the other. I'm glad we did the easy one first, because if this one had been first, we might have been kicking stones instead.

This tree leaned outward, so the ladder was tipped out, making clinging to it somewhat precarious. The belt was getting to be second nature to Michael by the time he'd been using it for about 8 hours, so all was well.

A 2 by 2 with a level clamped to it

was passed up for Michael to rest the end on the first support bracket on the other tree, and then mark where the bracket would go on this tree, to make it level.

I broke a stick and used it to measure how far down the board I would drill the first hole in the board.

That was passed up to Michael, so he could use the same stick to mark down from the mark he'd made on the tree, a place to drill a matching hole. This, happily, removed one more trip to the tool shed to get a tape measure for me.

The other problem we'd not paid attention enough to foresee, was that there was a limb that stuck out in exactly the wrong place. Meaning we had to either cut it off, which would have been hard to do as the lump in produced in the trunk was pretty big; or we had raise or lower this side of the support - not acceptable; or we had to start over - definitely not acceptable; or we had to put the board on at a slight angle. We chose the angle option.

So with a slight adjustment now, for the angle of the board, Michael began drilling the hole and fastening the board. I kept myself busy pre-drilling, handing tools up and down...

and cleaning out the forest floor for easy, poison-ivy-free access.

The 4 by 4 beam that used to hold the kickboxing bag was removed,

and we used lag bolts to fasten it to a 2 by 6 board for added strenth.

Then we ran out of time, because it was time to build our Sukkah. And also because we had not yet figured out how to hoist that heavy, double beam 16 feet high in the tree.

I mentioned to my dad, who is always full of good ideas, what we were trying to do and he offered to come over and help us.

Bringing another extension ladder, best invention since sliced bread, he fastened his to the tree using another best invention since sliced bread he had at his place; rebar. I'm very familiar with rebar, as my dad was an ironworker by trade. This particular set of two 3' foot pieces were pounded into the ground on each side of the ladder base, keeping it close in, so you don't do something particularly nasty, like - I don't know, pull a Vlad, the Impaler.

Then tie the ladder securely to the rebar with wire, top and bottom.

Mom is sitting on back porch. No, that's not the porch I gave an arm and a leg for, that one is coming. This is the one I gave a finger for.

The overlapping sections of the extension ladder are lashed together on this one as well, since the ladder is being put under a lot of stress at its limits. The top is tied securely to the tree trunk.

Getting belted up for working in the canopy.

For some reason, Dad could not locate the other half of his belt chain, so he improvised with some extremely sturdy wire.

Dad brought a lot of tools we did not have, which made the whole thing go much faster and more safely. Thanks, Dad! The first thing was to position a pulley above the joist we'd fastened to the first tree, using more of that cable; the best thing since sliced bread.

And rope was run through the pulley, leaving the ends available to tie to the beam and pull it up.

Dad thought of something I had not thought of; a safety cable in case of failure. Lots of experience in his life with construction, engineering, and such. I'm proud of my dad, who has headed up the building of coliseums, nuclear power plants, bridges, houses, tree houses, and very cool hay forts. So up he went to attach a sturdy cable to the first tree trunk, by wrapping it around semi-loosely, and clamping it to itself, leaving a good 30 feet or so dangling down to work with.

The long safety cable was controlled by pounding a fence staple over it at one end of the beam. Not all the way down tightly, just enough to provide a guide for the squirrely cable. I have always called these horseshoe nails, because that's what they look like. But you have to be prepared to get some quizzical looks if you forget their real name and ask for them at a home improvement center. I can blame my dad for this. He calls them that too. It's so nice to have someone to blame when people think you are crazy.

The cable was then threaded through the eye screws that were already in the beam holding the chains for the gym rings and kickboxing bag.

And then brought to the end and controlled again with another - oh, I'm just going to say it - horseshoe nail!

Then it was time to go up the other tree and position another pulley. A sturdy nail was pounded in first to give the wire something to cling to, as there were no branches on this trunk. Tricky from this side.

Ooooh, look! Pretty moss!

Getting ready to send the rope up.

Ready to go.

And tying the rope ends to the ends of the beam.

Testing the pulleys.

This one wants to jump off the track if you don't keep it just right. Gotta go up and get the rope back in the groove. "Feelin' groovy...."

OK. Dad is in charge, and Michael and I are the lackeys. Amazingly, I am able to snap a few pictures as we begin to raise this beam.

Oh, man. Looking good over there!

Do you see any gloves on Michael's hands? There are none on mine, either. This is an important fact we have overlooked in our excitement to hurry and get this thing up there.

WooHoooooooo! It's up! My end is resting on the support! Dad is just getting the other end guided to its place of rest,



Michael's pulley jumped. It was not feeling groovy at all. His end came down, swung at my own person, which was safely back from swinging range (I did have my wits about me that much), and I got rope burn as that beam slid all 16 feet down to the ground again.

It was a side pulley. Fortunately, we found a replacement center pulley to use. And we did it all over again. With gloves.

This time with complete success! Woot!

The safety cable was pulled semi-snug and fastened to the other tree trunk. If at any time all this wood gives way, the beam will be caught by the safety cable.

Then the beam was actually semi-snugly tied to the tree with cable as well, as we'd not bought our lashing rope yet.

Ooooooh, pretty leaves!

One last day. This has been a post covering many work days. But here we are!

Michael is lashing the beam to the trunks, very snugly. This is the first and foremost fastener. The rest are for safeties. The rope in the center, pulled back and draped around a pine behind me will be for the kickboxing bag.

And we have hung the rings!

So after cleanup and some adjusting, he'll be on the road to working out in his Forestnasium. He's got trees to pole climb, gym rings to flip out on, kick bag to practice foe-vanquishing.

What more could one want?




  1. All I can say is wow!! Your brain works just like your dads and I see it in your son also! Very cool but Oh my gosh that was scary the way your dad was tied off!

    Before I forget...if you ever like "mossy things" like pots and stone growing moss like in your picture or maybe a stone wall growing is a recipe for you:

    1. dig up a hand sized chunk of moss including some dirt too
    2. put it in the blender with a can of stale beer and a beer can of buttermilk and blend well
    3. using a new paint brush brush what ever you are going to grow moss on...clay plant pots, stones walls in shade...etc. Then mist it every day while it sits in the shade. Monthly you may need to mist it with a little more beer and buttermilk.

  2. S's M,

    It was actually very secure. That's how men work on skyscrapers as they are framing them in. The wire he had to substitute for the chain was so strong, it took a lot of force to bend, so there was no way it was coming apart. However, my fear of heights is what gives me the willies about the whole thing. If not for that, I'd have been up in the trees. As it is, I seem to become strangely paralyzed above 3 feet; a very odd thing for a tomboy who spent much of her young life in trees and barn rafters!

    Thanks for the reminder! You know, I saw Martha Stewart do that on TV years ago and I still remember it. It seemed so cool. She was applying it to Terra Cotta planting pots. I wonder how snails like them?


  3. But yes. LOL WOW! I completely agree!

  4. What a cool project!!! Bet Michael will enjoy his creative!!!

  5. Dean,

    He is definitively having a good time out there already. :o)


  6. Oh, i remember the moss thing too! I wanted to get into tufa too at one point... *sigh* so many

    Yay, you got the stuff up! I know sorta how stuff like that is. Hem and haw for months and then something clicks, its now or never and just dive in... sometimes its easier to ask to be rescued once you've started than to solicit help in the beginning....

    my dad is the wonder-worker too, if i can gain myself half his know-how by the time i am his age i will be more than content.

    Your mom sure had a nice place to sit a spell while the weather looked so nice.

    This time of year can be refreshing.

  7. WOW! You do some of the most fun things! Good work.


  8. Icebear,

    That's exactly it! Except that I really did not think I would have to have Dad's rescue. I try not to ask him to do stuff that will inflame his neck problems, and looking up into trees for hours on end I'm sure did just that. What I had said was that he was only to come over and TELL us how to do it. That did not happen. LOL

    However, his help probably reduced the time involved in accomplishing it by at least 10-fold, so we were truly grateful.

    I'm with you. I want to soak up as much from my dad while he's here as I can. :o)


  9. Linda,

    It's fun visiting one another's homes and seeing what we all are doing, isn't it. I love getting ideas from everyone, and cheering on what they are doing. Everybody seems to have something fun going on.



I always enjoy hearing from others. If you become a regular commenter, I'll assume you are being friendly and pretty much comment regularly right back. :o) God bless and have a terrific day!