Growth Rings

Tree Forte

Posted on June 25, 2015 at 10:17 am

Treehouses are awesome. Up off the ground, surrounded by shade, away from everything a child wants to avoid – siblings, bullies, parents and all earthbound responsibilities. For some of those reasons, treehouses are pretty awesome for adults too and the last few years treehouses have elevated (sorry) their game. No longer scrap 2 x 4’s and some salvaged plywood devoid of handrails, treehouses have taken a turn towards the fanciful. Nationally, people can watch, or at least those with basic cable can watch complete tree makeovers on Treehouse Masters. In the NW, women and men can get away and into the trees by booking treehouse vacations.

Plum Tree House 010 (Large)

Locally, there are carpenters dedicated to tree-centric building. Schuyler Silva of Elevated Living helps Portlanders live out their dream of having a cool place to spend time in the trees. How does someone whose expertise is in technical theater, specifically, set building, end up specializing in designing and constructing treehouses? The answer, “I have yet to meet anyone who frowns at the mention of a treehouse. They are fun, exotic, and encourage play in everyone. It is primal to climb up into a tree, explore, and learn.”

Schuyler was kind enough to share his wisdom of tree carpentry with us: The most important aspect of treehouses: “Safety is #1. The tree is a close #2. It is your foundation. If you don’t treat it right, it can die and/or even rip your treehouse apart. Treat it with respect. The next word of advice is that it is more expensive than you think. There is specialty hardware, specialty tools, equipment, and materials. Many people remember the days of their fathers building a treehouse on the weekend for next to nothing. For a structure that is safe and will last for 20+ years, it takes a bit more.”

Leland Hull, member of the crew at Barefoot Builders and volunteers with Friends of Trees as a Summer Inspector, concurs about the importance of tree selection, adding, “The tree is the foundation of the treehouse. When determining if a tree is a good candidate it is important to pick a species that has good structural integrity both in it’s roots and it’s canopy.  The health of the tree plays a big part on it’s ability to hold a treehouse safely so doing a thorough inspection is always essential.”

When you build enough treehouses, you eventually develop favorites, Schuyler likes a special conifer, “I’ve designed my Classic model to be easily installed on straight trunked trees, specifically the Douglas Fir. We have so many of these massive treasures here in the PNW, so I have designed a treehouse to match. I love the Doug Fir so much, my dog’s name is Doug Fur.”


Doug Fur the Dog – Dog Fur

Treehouses generally don’t need permitting in Portland, but tree-centric building comes with it’s own set of issues that could vex the best DIY carpenter, Schuyler adds, “Also, as this is what I do, I would suggest hiring a professional. There are so many considerations when building a treehouse. If anything, bring on a professional as a consultant.”


Leland Hull/Barefoot Builders

Plum Tree House 004 (Large)

Plum Project (Elevated Living)

Plum Tree House 017 (Large)

More Plum

2 (Large)

Doug Fir

3 (Large)

Elevated Living’s Doug Fir

DSCF9324 (Large)

Stumpin’ For ADU

DSCF9333 (Large)


Thanks to Elevated Living and Leland Hull. Check out Leland’s tumblr.

Plum Tree House 017 (Large)

More plum

Summer Pruning Class

Posted on June 23, 2015 at 8:54 am
This Announcement comes from our friends at Portland Fruit Tree Project.
They do great work, join them if you can… 

June 27th 10am-1pm – SW Portland Maplewood Neighborhood

In this hands-on workshop you will learn the basics of summer pruning in order to increase the health and abundance of local fruit trees! Summer Pruning is a great time to de-invigorate an overgrown tree and encourage the continued development of fruiting laterals.This fun workshop will be an opportunity to gain a basic understanding of the different types of pruning cuts and when these cuts should be used.

This workshop has a standard workshop fee of $25. Sliding scale options are provided for those who feel unable to contribute at that level.  In addition, a limited amount of full scholarships and work-trade scholarships are available.

Further details and exact location will be provided upon registration.

For questions you can contacts us at

Volunteer Spotlight: Joanie Beldin

Posted on June 9, 2015 at 11:31 am

Joanie Beldin was volunteering with Friends of Trees within two weeks of moving to Portland, “When I moved here and found an organization devoted to trees, it was a no brainer!” FOT_12-14-13_-226

In the intervening four years, Joanie has literally done it all. She’s a Green Space Crew Leader, planting native trees to restore natural areas, a Call Star, helping homeowners to pick out the right tree for their space, and has monitored street trees in a long-term study as a Tier Omega Summer Inspector.

What is your earliest tree memory?

I wasn’t much of a tree climber or anything like that growing up in Illinois.  I picked up and moved to the Pacific NW in my twenties and let the trees make the decision of where I wanted to live. I fell in love with the Doug-fir lined Highway 101 and the old growth around the Olympic Peninsula and lived there most of my life. We had an amazing Doug-fir tree growing in the middle of our deck!

Trees are very important to my life.  I’m not sure what it is about them – their beauty, their strength, how they nurture life – but there is something about them that fills my spirit. A walk among the trees in the forest brings inner peace unlike anything else – it’s my therapy.

When you’re not doing “tree stuff” what do you enjoy doing?FOT_12-14-13_-326

These days, I am really passionate about wolves and have been spending time teaching kids with a group called Wolf Ways. I was a teacher for most of my professional life and believe strongly that our future is in educating youth.  Wolves used to live throughout the state, but by 1947, they had all been killed. Then In 2008 they began to come back and there are now 77 known wolves, most living in Northeastern Oregon. Wolves are an integral species for the entire ecosystem.

I also am a Volunteer Naturalist with Metro at Smith & Bybee Wetlands and am active with the Friends of Pier Park. I love to hike, backpack, garden; pretty much anything outdoors. I’ve also done a lot of photography – I’m sure I have more photos of trees than anything else! (more…)

An open call for Neighborhood Coordinators

Posted on June 2, 2015 at 3:37 pm

You may have heard that Friends of Trees plants thousands of street and yard trees each year in the Portland-Vancouver metro area. It’s kind of our thing. It’s cold, wet, muddy business and in the heart of winter, no less! But did you know that even before we get out our shovels and gloves, there’s an incredible team of community members that’s already been working to make these plantings a success? I’m talking about our volunteer Neighborhood Coordinators, our behind the scenes superheros, and this is an open call for new recruits!

One of our large SE Portland Neighborhood Coordinator teams making plans around the kitchen table

One of our large SE Portland Neighborhood Coordinator teams making plans around the kitchen table

Neighborhood Coordinators (NCs) are Friends of Trees liaisons in their neighborhood,  encouraging neighbors to get trees, helping them select the trees that are right for their space/interests, and then helping manage the planting day for their neighborhood. They never go it alone – our staff and other neighboring NCs are there to work alongside new NCs!

We train incoming Neighborhood Coordinators on an individual or small-group basis. Once trained by our staff on our tree-ordering system and planting event timelines, NCs bring their own personal flare to the role, encouraging their community to come together around trees. It’s a great way to gain leadership skills, build a deeper relationship with your neighborhood, and have a super fun time while bringing the benefits of trees to all. Groovy? Sign up now to join our tree team as a Neighborhood Coordinator in your area this season (sign-up deadline is Sept 1st — but don’t wait to sign-up if you’re interested!).

Read more about this important role!