Kids Play Structure – Part 1: Swing Set

Kids Play Structure - Part 1: Swing Set

Buy a pre-packaged play structure or custom build your own? Will your play structure be more then just a swing set? A multipurpose edifice? Will it be moveable or remain in a permanent location?

When it comes to these types of structures, I typically lean towards custom designing and building it on my own. This is due to a variety of factors, including the over inflated prices for the pre-packaged sets, the poor quality of the material you get with them, the fact you end up having to build and assemble these sets yourself anyway, and the reality that they often only serve one purpose.

Planning

As always, my first step is to discuss with Christine what we are looking to achieve with this project. In this case, we wanted a swing set that all three children could use for many years to come, and that eventually would need to consist of an elevated platform for a slide as well as a playhouse.

This was a great start, but I like to squeeze out a little more function out of the things I create. The engineer in me started to look at our available space (considering the future house addition, shop build, and entertaining area), and found that the big oak tree in the backyard was the perfect location for this multipurpose structure.

The design will consist of three phases: A four station swing set, an elevated slide platform around the oak tree with room for firewood storage underneath, and a combination storage shed with second story playhouse.

Four Station A-Frame Swing Set – The Design

Hand Drawn DesignI started the process by doing some research online, knowing ahead of time that I wanted to use 4×4 pressure treated lumber for the main legs and a laminated beam with a minimum of two – 2×6 boards for the top. The next step was to decide the overall dimensions. Based on my investigations, I decided with the custom dimensions of 9’ tall from the bottom of the 2×6 beam, 9’ wide on the inside of the legs, and 16’ long.

With the information gathered, I began the process of hand drafting half of the A-Frame, knowing the other half was going to be its mirror image. Once completed, I proceeded with generating a material list.

Lumber Shopping List:

  • (2x) 2x6x16’ Cedartone Treated
  • (3x) 2x6x8’ Cedartone Treated
  • (6x) 4x4x12’ Cedartone Treated
The Build and Assembly Process

Once the design was finalized and the materials procured, it was time to start measuring, cutting, and assembling. I found this to be challenging at times due to the length and weight of the pieces and lack of a proper cut and assembly table. (Something to think about for part 2 of the Planning the Workshop series. If you’re so inclined, you can read about part 1 here: https://tradingdesksfordirt.com/category/workshop-and-tools/.) I made it work, but because of these issues, some of the cuts weren’t as accurate as I would have liked (I am a bit of a perfectionist). However, these challenges are not insurmountable, and more importantly, I can learn from them for the next phase of the project.

Calculating

A-Frames in the GarageNotching and Assembling Carriage Bolt Hardware

Final Product – Swing Set Complete and Kids are Happy

Testing the Final ProductAfter all the long days working on the structure with many struggles and successes, the swing set was raised without too much difficulty about a week after the build started (with the help of Christine and her sister, Lee Ann).

The kids love to go out and swing, or as Hunter puts it, “wing, wing!” (albeit the two boys still need our help pushing them).

Adding to My Design Toolbox

Using Sketchup Make

After doing the design by hand, and then having a friend ask me whether I would consider using a program, this week I decided to try Sketchup Make. After a couple of days of playing around with the program, I chose to recreate my swing set design. I’ll admit that I’m pretty sure that I’ll never hand draw my designs again. This program made quick work of the planning process and provided a fancy 3D model to help with visualization.

To Summarize

Custom designing and building this swing set was a very satisfying process, but nothing beats seeing the smile on our kids faces when they’re out playing on it in the backyard. I loved how I kept learning throughout the process, and even continued to do so in preparing this week’s blog post. Once I’ve refined my designs, I look forward to making the full detailed plans available for download. We’ll keep you guys posted on that and the next phase of the play structure.


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Quite the Year for Our Family

Quite the Year for Our Family

We know that we haven’t been around lately, and while we’ve missed everyone, life has dealt us some tough blows that we’ve needed to deal with as a family.

2017 has been one heck of a year. It seems that life just gets harder as time wears on, and while we never expected it to get any easier (we have three young kids after all!), we did expect it to level off some since our year from hell back in 2015. What you’re about to read is deeply personal and probably not what you were expecting from our blog. In all honesty, however, I’m hoping that by writing this, it will help the healing process if nothing else.

Some Background

When I was pregnant with our third, I swore that this was going to be our last child. Pregnancy and the births of our children got harder and scarier with each one. I wanted to quit while we were ahead. We loved having babies, but we decided it was time to move on to another stage of life.

Getting the Itch

Gaby started to get the itch for another when Hunter was about 5 months old. Four children had been our plan from the beginning, and it felt like our family still wasn’t complete. We were just starting to plan our move to Manitoba and I knew that we were going to have a stress filled and busy second half of 2016. Just the thought of being pregnant again threw me into a state of anxiety. It was a definite no.  I was happy where we were. I was starting to get my life back, everyone was sleeping through the night, and we were in a good place together in our marriage.

When Gaby came home for good last November, things started to change. With him home, life together with our kids was fantastic. I was putting some of Hunter’s baby clothes away just before Christmas, and it dawned on me. Was this really it, was Hunter really our last child? Could I put these clothes away and know that they would never again be worn by another of our children?

The conversation we had that night was quick. We were excited at the prospect of adding another to our brood, and a month later I was pregnant with baby number 4. True to form, the illness, depression and anxiety kicked in at 5 ½ weeks, and it was the worst it had ever been. It was all I could do to just keep living day by day, knowing that this wouldn’t last forever and that the 12-week mark was just around the corner.

Confirming Our Worst Fears

My first OBGYN appointment came, and it was then that I heard the words that I’d been dreading. In my heart of hearts, I knew all along that something wasn’t quite right, but just chalked it up to anxiety and this being my first pregnancy in Manitoba, where the health system was quite different than what I was used to back in Calgary. “I’m so sorry, but I can’t find a heartbeat.” Those words were burned into my brain that day. After an emergency ultrasound to confirm the doctor’s suspicions, we found out that our little angel had stopped growing at 11 ½ weeks.

Decisions to Make

As previously mentioned, our birth experiences tended to be scary, so knowing that we opted to do surgery instead of waiting for the miscarriage to happen naturally. At the hospital the next morning we learned that if we so chose, our baby’s remains could be cremated and laid to rest with all of the other lost little ones at the hospital’s memorial. We attended the ceremony last May, and it was such a lovely way to be able to say goodbye to our little angel.

Our Family’s Healing

Before we found out that our little one was gone, we had already sworn that this would absolutely be the last pregnancy. We would not put our family through this again. However, after my body had healed, and our hearts, some time to grieve, we began to feel that we had been cheated. We had made plans, there was supposed to be a baby. So, I started to do some research, and learned that for most women who have had a miscarriage, it’s a one-time experience. Fertility is up after a miscarriage, and though the chances of a loss are still there, chances are greater that the next pregnancy will result in a healthy baby.

So, with those statistics in mind, we thought, let’s give it one more go. I didn’t want to be having babies after 37, so it had to be now. Amazingly, we got pregnant again right away. This was the first time that I was going through a first trimester in the late spring/early summer, and I found that the depression and anxiety stayed away with all the extra warmth and sunshine I was able to take in. With those gone, I found that the sickness was a lot easier to deal with. 9 weeks came along, and my OBGYN sent me for an early ultrasound. Our little rainbow baby had a heartbeat! We were so exited – the chance of a miscarriage goes down significantly if there’s a heartbeat at 9 weeks.

Getting to the Second Trimester

Everything was going according to plan. My pregnancy symptoms hadn’t diminished, so that meant that the hormones keeping our little one alive were still going strong. 12 weeks came, and two days later, I had another ultrasound to check up on how baby was doing. I knew that something was wrong as soon as I looked at the picture on the monitor. There was no flickering where the heart should be. I closed my eyes and waited for the bad news from the technician. A couple of minutes later I heard the words that I never thought I’d have to hear again. “I’m so sorry, but it looks like the baby has died.” It measured 11 weeks, 5 days.

Reliving a Bad Dream

The staff at the hospital who took care of our first little angel were the same to work with us with our second loss. We opted for surgery again, and said good bye to our little baby on July 29, 2017. The ceremony and funeral through the hospital is scheduled for September.

Feeling Lost

Our life has not turned out like we had planned. I don’t think anyone’s ever really does, but I never imagined that our plan would fall apart twice in so short a time. We’re grieving, and I’m feeling lost. All I’ve ever wanted to be is a mother, and I feel like that purpose is gone. (I do realize how ridiculous that sounds. With three kids ranging in ages from 1 to 5 years, my job as a mother is far from over.) God has answered our question as to whether our family should be expanded. As much as I pray that God will have other plans, it just doesn’t seem to be a possibility.

Thank you to our family and friends who have supported us on this rough ride. I am hopeful that the second half of the year will be one of healing, that we can move past this sorrowful time in our lives, and that we can find peace in our family as we are.

Until then, and on a bit of a lighter note… maybe it’s time we get a puppy?


Check back for weekly posts on a wide variety of topics, including country living, gardening, sustainability, homesteading, family, recipes, and more. We can’t wait to share our lives with you, hear your stories, and gain friends along the way.

Like what you’ve read? Subscribe to our blog by adding your email address to the form on the right. You’ll be the first to hear about weekly updates! Have questions or comments? Leave us a message in the comments section, and we’ll be sure to get back to you. We can’t wait to hear what you think! And as always, you can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram by clicking the links on the right.