It was about 10 years ago when Will and Peggy Line purchased acreage on the eastern fringe of the city of Wadena. They looked at the three large trees centered on their property and thought, “perfect spot for a tree house for the kids.” This is the story of how that thought took root and grew, and grew, and grew… As owner of Will’s Saw Mills, Will had a lot of experience with and access to varied woods. But neither he nor Peggy had built a house, so it’s understandable that the kids expressed doubts about their parents’ ability to “build a small place for the kids and grandkids to enjoy.” As logs came in to the mill that didn’t meet a customer’s needs, Will set them aside for their personal project. Crooked logs came home with him. He chose soft maple for the exterior because he knew it held its bark for a long time. They collected Lake Superior driftwood, black walnut, white oak, pine. As the materials accumulated, so did their plans. In fact, their plans became so elaborate that rather than build in the trees, they decided the house should be built on supports among the trees. (Looking back, this was a good choice, because those initial three trees sustained substantial damage in the windstorm that blew through in 2005). On winter evenings the two of them dreamed and planned. Peggy drew plans for a kitchen and bathroom on graph paper. “Those two rooms had to be an adequate size and design to meet my needs,” said Peggy. “Over the winter months Will would come up with basic plans and I would tweak them. Good ideas became really good ideas.” Sometimes they would come up with ideas but weren’t sure how to implement them. Then they’d realize they’d seen something similar in someone else’s building project. They’d jump in the truck and take a look, analyze, and figure a way to make their plan work. “We were like kids, couldn’t sleep, thinking about this fun project,” said Peggy. Will added, “It became an obsession. We still had the sawmill, but we got it built in a year and nine months.” They admit that it was hard and sometimes dangerous work, especially handling the huge logs. The tree house became a labor of love and it wasn’t long before they recognized that this project had grown into their tree home. They realized, too, that a deck would be needed to extend the square footage of their home among the trees. The deck weaves among the trees and wraps around the house. A hot tub occupies one corner of the deck. “The tub gets used year round; the least is in the summer when it’s too hot,” says Peggy. Many suppers are eaten at the dining table on the deck. Besides the deck, Will pointed out the cement reinforcements, steel bracing, and additional beams that have been added to support the house. “With all the storms, we became more nervous and decided our little house needed more reinforcement,” he says. The final floor plans incorporated the kitchen, living area, and bathroom on the main floor. A log ladder connects to the loft of two bedrooms. Cedar-lined wooden benches along the wall serve as storage. The bedrooms are joined by a wide plank of varnished pine suspended from the rafter. “The grandkids love to watch TV, legs dangling from the suspended plank,” said Peggy. Along with the various woods, the Lines painted the sheet-rocked walls white to really accent the wood. Electric cove heaters were installed to keep the home cozy year round. Yes, the home is supplied with city water and electric services! “Breeze and shade from the trees provide natural cooling in the summer,” said Will. “And the mosquitoes don’t congregate this high,” said Peggy. The Lines lived in their dream home for two and a half years. Peggy and Will shared some of the lessons learned from their life 14 feet above ground. Peggy: “There is such a freedom in simplicity.” “It was like camping with all the luxuries of home; only thing missing were the washer and dryer.” “There’s that saying, ‘If you want to get away from it all, don’t take it all with you.,’” said Will. “You have to be like minded to live in such small quarters,” Peggy commented. “You have to get along,” Will added. Almost in unison, they concluded, “That after all the dreaming and building, we were still friends at the end.” Life is about changes. When their family situation changed, they built a cottage on the ground, and the tree house became the guesthouse for the growing families of their kids and grandkids. (By January, they’ll have 20 grandchildren) After 10 years, has the novelty of the tree house worn off? “Not at all. As soon as someone pulls up to see our home in the trees, I can’t help but smile,” she said. “I just know they’ll love it. There’s a peace that seems to come over visitors, along with a sparkle in their eyes. I always tell young kids, ‘If you can dream it, you can do it.’” Speaking of visitors, Will notes that the biggest surprise of their project was all the publicity they got by just word of mouth, without any advertising. Their home has been featured in numerous newspaper and magazine articles, including the New York Times Sunday Magazine. They’ve been interviewed by Jason Davis for “On the Road”, HGTV, and by Bob Woodward from CBS. If you are looking for inspiration, peace, or simply a concert from the birds, call the Lines at 218-631-7051 for a tour or availability for rental of their home in the trees. It’s guaranteed to make you feel like a kid again.
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