Cheap Fort-Building 101

I take great pride in being a cheapskate.  The more I can get for nothing, the happier I am—especially when it results in something as cool as this fort for my son.  I’ll admit, I really wish it were mine.  Wish it had windows with cute little curtains. Maybe adorable window boxes with flowers, and a cute wreath on the door…My ideas were nixed by a 10 year-old before they even got off the ground.  Leave it to a little boy to shoot down my little girl daydreaming.

Whoops.  I better get back on topic.  No sense in my daydreaming about the fort/mom-cave the kid won’t let me have.

Long story short, we have a fire pit out back where many evenings are spent relaxing.  Most of the wood comes from dead trees found around our property, but occasionally one of our neighbors will drop off  clipped tree branches, or brush for us to get rid of.  I don’t mind them doing it because #1 I enjoy a good fire in the pit, and  #2 Free wood is appreciated like a gift.

I can’t even begin to describe how excited I was when I found these pieces-parts of my neighbor’s old shed out back by our woodpile.  (Yes, I thrill that easily).  The hamster in my head hopped on the wheel and started running like it does sometimes.   I couldn’t fit the pallets into the picture, too, but this stuff is gorgeous.


Astounding, eh?  Too good to burn. I enlisted the aid of Joe and his saw to help with my great idea.  He’s a good sport like that for which I’m grateful.   I went to the shed and found some odd screws and nails from the jars of odd things I might need some day.  I put the little guy to work with a crowbar.  His job was to loosen hinges from an old barn door, and…


Yep.  That’s my little guy.  His older brothers nicknamed him Gilbert as a baby.  The name stuck, but has since been shortened to either, Gil, or Bert depending on day of the week, mood, or any number of other circumstances.

Anyhow, our neighborhood Grandpa drove his riding mower down to our house with some old paint and paintbrush  so Gil could start fixing up his new place.  Of course my son was happy and eager to get started, so I thought I’d steal a bit of quiet time for mom.  This went well for a couple of minutes, until I realized I was excited by Bert’s excitement.  I managed a full half-hour  of not checking on him before I went back outside to see the progress.


Apparently Gil needed to teach Mr. Pickles how to climb a tree properly, but he did say that I could finish painting the fort for him while he supervised the cat.  The kid knows his mom’s a sucker.  We had a good afternoon.  I painted while my youngest child talked about everything from cyborgs to dead mice.  The cat did well with its tree climbing lessons, too.

Making the new fort camouflage would be the next step of the project for me to complete.  Yes,  I was given permission to do this by myself while Gil was in school, but only on the condition that I didn’t try to cut out windows, plant flowers around it, or engage in any other type of illicit Mom activity.  (I agreed to his terms, but that didn’t stop me from thinking about it.)


I felt like a mom feels on Christmas Eve.  I could hardly wait for him to get home to see how well he liked what I did.


And I wasn’t let down by his response.

At this point of Gil’s project, I had only spent about $20, and that was for the camo paint. Go me.  I like the idea of teaching my little guy things in a way where he doesn’t realize he’s learning:  re-purposing stuff you have around to make stuff you want , reclaiming stuff to make it useful again, using stuff up so it doesn’t go to waste, etc.—“Stuff”  is a favorite word to use with a kid like mine, so it’s only fitting that I find a way to use it in this blog post.—Check out the stuff  that we put on the roof:


I don’t know much about roofing materials, but my Joe does.  He was able to get what we needed at no cost.  According to him, the regional company that makes roofing paper  rejects and throws out product it deems as substandard.  The rolls he brought home looked fine to me, and with Joe’s help, I can now add fort-roofing to my resume.

I could not begin to imagine the specifics of how this fort would end up when that hamster started running on its wheel.  I didn’t anticipate that we’d have been given a small solar panel for indoor lighting, or carpet remnants that we still need to place.  There’s simply not enough gratitude I could ever express for all the good neighbors and friends who showed up offering everything from their knowledge and time, to scrap materials. And when I factor in the silly conversations between me and my boy while he was teaching the cat to climb trees, multiplied by the total of these acts of kindness added to the sum of Christmas joy experienced on an ordinary school day, the $20 I invested in paint = zero,the value of everything else = immeasurable.

I may be cheap when it comes to cash, but good people, experiences and memories are a whole different story.


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