Thursday, March 1, 2012

Notes from the Mad Science Lab: Ecological Housing

Ladies and gentlemen, I must apologize. It appears that I may have made a very slight miscalculation in constructing my latest project.

My son, you see, wanted a tree house for his birthday. Well, more of a fort, really. He didn't just want a wooden room built into the big tree in the back yard. No, he wanted a house that was a tree, and would keep away all the people that he didn't want in there.

I have to say, I was rather proud of what I came up with. It's basically a tree with a massive trunk, carefully designed so that a boy-sized tunnel spirals up through the center to the chamber at the top. The chamber at the top has four windows, which open onto the outside between the two layers of the canopy: one circle of limbs below, and another set of limbs above. (If you've ever seen a White Pine, it's kind of like that.)

The people my son wants to keep out are mostly his fellow eight-year-olds, which limited what I could do: no death rays, no giant mutant Venus Fly Traps, and so forth. So I went for more gentle, organic defenses - which had the added bonus of being things that my son couldn't get blamed for. So, in addition to the branches at the top, I designed it to grow thorny vines all the way around the bottom third or so... and to produce urushiol oil into the bargain. Urushiol oil? It's the same substance the poison ivy produces, the part that makes you itch.

Naturally, all this took some time to develop. So, by the end of last week, I had only a few days to grow the tree house - or citadel tree, as I prefer to call it - if it was going to be ready on my son's birthday. It was here that I may perhaps have made the tiniest error in my design. You see, in order to speed the growth, I incorporated elements of kudzu into the design.

In my defense, it worked brilliantly. The tree was completely ready for my son's birthday, and only a few of the children went home itchy from his party. For the past week, my son has spent his every spare moment in the top of the Citadel Tree. He's even asked to sleep up there when it gets a little warmer.

Unfortunately, the tree... hasn't stopped growing yet. It now occupies most of the back yard. The oak that used to be there is completely covered by the thorny vines, which appear to be slowly strangling it. The vines have are also climbing up the side of the house... and apparently digging down under the foundation as well. It's also assimilating the privacy fence.

That isn't really the problem, though. I mean, I could set up automatic laser-trimmers to control the vines. No, the problem... is the spore pods. They showed up in the upper branches some time yesterday. And late last night, they opened. And as of this morning... well, let me put it this way: you can tell which way the wind was blowing by the way the seedlings are scattered. The neighbors' house is pretty well inundated with them. So is the front yard of the neighbor beyond them. The street isn't faring too well, either, though the next set of yards in the line only seem to have gotten a handful of seeds.

This... is going to be a bit of a problem. Especially if they reproduce again before I have chance to deal with the ones that are already growing.

Never fear, though. Science will prevail!


  1. Send some to Washington. Until they well and truly understand the importance of family planning.

  2. A minor problem; nothing a flamethrower can't handle.


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