An old play set gets a new life.
By Beth Friedman-Romell
What sold my husband on our house 14 years ago was its double lot, offering ample space for our two boys for running around, snowball fights, and cookouts. Although I had no green thumb prior to moving in, I was soon obsessed with the desire to create a sustainable landscape, complete with native and edible plants, rain barrels, and composting. My eco-awareness and his inherent frugality converged in the unlikely edifice of a backyard play set, with some help from the sidewalk.
It began when Frederick’s boss offered him a behemoth play structure, complete with slide, which her children had outgrown. The catch? He had to disassemble and transport the thing from Lakewood, then resurrect it in our own yard. It took several trips in his little red station wagon, and a whole lot of labor, but the results were fantastic. In our wooded side-lot, Frederick built a charming, multi-level tree house that was the scene of secret clubs, improvised plays, and evenings of “girls night out” with my friend, Brenda, and a bottle of wine.
With the leftover wood, I got my three-section compost bin, a huge picnic table and benches and support platforms for the 17 rain barrels Frederick put up around the yard. There was even enough wood to build the SUV of “little red wagons” to haul kids, groceries, and garage sale finds.
Meanwhile, in a moment of total delusion, I had decided to install a charming sandstone path from the sidewalk to our front door, a structure I believe our home featured when it was built. I had salvaged six enormous shrubs, which had been discarded by another homeowner, and planted two of them as sentinels on either side of where I planned the walk to be. Then I collected sandstone pavers from neighbors who were replacing broken sidewalks. (Most generously gave them to me for free, one person requested a donation to his church.) Of course, “I collected” means Frederick and our friend Steve did the grunt work, with the assistance of our valiant Subaru wagon, whose shocks were beginning to protest.
One back injury and many years later, the sandstone still lay in its long wall in the back yard. I then discovered how difficult digging, tamping, graveling, and laying the stone myself would be, and how expensive hiring others to do it was. I finally let the path dream go.
But remember those backyard cookouts I mentioned? Some of the sandstone was transformed by my son Steve into a Flintstones-style fire pit. He spent two full days chiseling and hauling stones, then fitting them in the exact configuration he wanted.
And luckily it was time for the tree house to be reborn, by another of Frederick’s co-workers, Greg Johnson. It was sad to watch it come down, but our maple tree is happier now, and the material – plus some of the ^ unused sandstone – has crossed back over the Cuyahoga, this time to become really cool-looking porch furniture in Fairview Park. FYI, we’ve still got some sandstone left over, if anyone is interested. Ya just gotta haul it away yourself.