Bilsten: DIY Treehouses, Sage and (Very) Basic Woodwork

I’m in Edinburgh to pick up the next issue of Artificial Womb (#7!) and to sell some zines outside the clubs over the weekend, so last night I went to Bilsten Protest Site eight miles south of Edinburgh to crash out in one of their treehouses.

I turned up early – around 6pm – to make sure there was a spare treehouse for me. Last time I visited I brought food and was jokingly admonished for not bringing something more useful; like beer. So this time they got eight bottles of the cheapest lager and some kindling for the outdoor communal fire. I listen to feedback 😛

It being January the site was pretty cold and muddy, but I was pleased to see around ten different faces – some familiar and some new. We had a smoke and a catch-up and it was established that one of the treehouses was indeed unoccupied for the night. This is the one I slept in:



I love how these treehouses are put together, just scrap and reclaimed wood with waterproof material. It’s amazing that you can just… make a shelter for yourself out of common materials like that. No planning permission. No regulation. Just, hand tools and common sense.

I… lack the skills or knowledge to build even the most basic things out of wood. This afternoon, around the campfire eating some reclaimed sandwiches, I commented on how I couldn’t even nail two pieces of wood together – which made one of the guys splutter. I was like: “Well teach me then!” Even though it was raining he got up and I followed him to a toolshed where we found some long nails and a hammer.



Then he used a crowbar to take two planks of a nearby pallet and positioned them for me to unify. It wasn’t a very quick task, as I haven’t been building up my hammering strength and was nervous about hitting his hands, or my hand, or the hammer flying off and hitting someone or something… basically I’m just not confident with a hammer. But after a few minutes I had both nails in and had made a sort of cross.

Which got me thinking, could I turn it more into a shelf? Apparently I’d need a saw, which I promptly retrieved from another toolbox nearer the communal campfire.



Bracing it against a… brace?



I was able to saw the piece that I wanted to saw off. It was incredibly satisfying.

Here’s my finished handiwork:



I know this is embarrassingly basic stuff, but without the right tools or knowledge (or materials of course) how can you learn? Being afraid to ask or experiment with the basics has held me back from woodworking since I was a kid helping my dad out in the backgarden (my dad’s a competent amateur carpenter and made our bunkbeds, desks and treehouse when I was a preteen). It’s generally why I’m happier being taught by women, because guys seem to make such a fuss out of your ignorance. Like: “How can you not know this thing I know? Are you stupid or something?” (A guy at Faslane actually said that last sentence to me when I asked if I should hide my mobile phone during a suspected police raid. Like, if I’m asking I don’t know the answer – doesn’t mean I’m stupid. Knowledge doesn’t equal intelligence. Urgh)

Anyway, I want to go back to Bilsten sooner rather than later and learn more about woodwork and self-sufficiency. I’d particularly like to plant some seeds – maybe leeks, beetroot, kale, spinach, spring onion, that sort of thing. I’ve only found one foodstuff there so far, sage:



But there may be more. I’ve only found free parking nearby for Saturday nights/Sunday so I need to have a scout about for that if I want to stay longer.

The whole place is very inspiring though. I really want to build a shelter of my own. A nest. A home. But first I’ll help them build a little veg garden. Maybe a herb one too.

Anyway, here’s more pictures: