Backyard forts (or: let’s not overthink this)

Make a simple backyard play fort | Clean.

Make a simple backyard play fort | Clean.

Make a simple backyard play fort | Clean.

Make a simple backyard play fort | Clean.

Make a simple backyard play fort | Clean.

Make a simple backyard play fort | Clean.

Make a simple backyard play fort | Clean.

I spent one evening this weekend searching Pinterest for the perfect backyard tent to make with my kids.

And I found some charming designs. Wooden frames, hemmed fabrics, grommets, twinkle lights – the works.

Every one was picture-perfect.

And as I closed my laptop I decided that we wouldn’t make backyard tents this weekend after all.

Because I had no bamboo poles, dowels, or 1×2’s. I only had two grommets, and no yard after yard of perfect fabric to cut and sew into a tent. And frankly, no ambition to take on a six hour craft project after weeding eighteen thousand thistle plants out of my strawberry bed.


Don’t get me wrong. I adore Pinterest. I find great inspiration there. But sometimes what I see is all a bit beyond my reach.


And then as I looked out on my kids playing in the backyard I realized what was happening.

It was the perfection myth bubbling up again.

The false idea that if it isn’t photogenic it isn’t worth doing.

That if it isn’t perfect it isn’t enough.


What nonsense.

I wasn’t going to play that game.

We were building forts, dang it.


So instead of going back to Pinterest I went to the linen closet. I pulled out some old bedsheets, blankets, and table cloths.

I went to the barn and gathered all the bailing twine we pulled off the hay bales last winter.

I grabbed my pocket knife and we set to work.

Not Pinterest-style, but old school. Like what I built when I was a kid with only my imagination to guide me.


And we did it. In one afternoon.

Two fabulous, simple – and yes – imperfect play forts.

Total cost: $0.

Total time: 5 minutes for Lupine’s, all afternoon for Sage’s as he tweaked and modified and tricked his out again and again.

And the play value? Fan-freaking-tastic.


Want to make one, too? It’s easy. Really.

You can squeeze it between the sidewalk and your garage, tuck one in the corner of your patio, or set it up in the woods. Be where you are and use what you’ve got.

Heck, you could even make one without a yard if you screwed a couple of lag bolts into your living room walls and anchored the corners with bean bags or duct tape.

And, of course, it doesn’t need to be perfect. (But you already knew that.)

So grab your kids, some old sheets, and get outside.

Here’s what to do:

Make a simple backyard play fort | Clean.

Make a simple backyard play fort | Clean.

Make a simple backyard play fort | Clean.

Make a simple backyard play fort | Clean.

Make a simple backyard play fort | Clean.


  • Large bedsheet, table cloth, or other sturdy fabric
  • Rope, twine, or clothesline
  • Knife or scissors for rope
  • Tent stakes or a few strong sticks
  • Four small rocks
  • Clothespins (optional)
  • Blanket and pillows for the ground (optional)



1. Find the biggest flat sheet you can spare for the day or the week or forever. (You can still use them for sheets as for this basic version there’s not need to cut or sew it.)

2. Run a strongish rope, clothesline, or spliced lengths of bailing twine tightly between two trees, a tree and an eye bolt on your house, or your fence and playhouse. Whatever you’ve got that will hold the weight of a sheet. Be creative! Set the height based on the size of your sheet (smaller sheet = lower line). Ours is a full sheet and set set it at waist/chest height.

3. Suspend your sheet along this rope. The sheet above is centered but you could also hang it off-center for a more one-sided shelter. If needed use spring clothespins to secure your fabric.

4. Sage suggests tucking a small rock into each sheet corner and tie a rope or piece of twine tightly around the rock. (The rock will keep the corners from slipping out.)

5. Secure to a tent stake, root, tree trunk, or stick pushed into the earth. Angle the stake back toward the tent to keep it from pulling out.

6. Trick it out with doors, windows, walls, tree branch supports – whatever inspires you or your kids. (Optional)

7. Line with a blanket or pile of pillows if you wish, and get in there and play!


There. Now aren’t you glad you didn’t get disouraged by those pretty, fancy play tents?

Me, too.

Take that, perfection.


Originally published in 2014 on CLEAN.

Easy DIY play forts (that anyone can build!)

Iced Maple Cold Press Latte Recipe


Few things taste more like summer than an ice cold maple cold press coffee. (Okay, except maybe garden tomatoes, but we’re talking beverages here.)

If you’re new to cold press coffee, allow me to let you in on summer’s best kept secret.

Also know as cold brew, this concentrated coffee is easy to make at home. Ground beans are infused in water for 12 to 24 hours, then strained and stored in the fridge for up to two weeks. At the ready to be diluted with milk, cream, or hot or cold water water for your daily coffee craving, it’s our favorite coffee for summertime.

Cold press has zero bitterness and so much flavor. Think espresso’s laid back, friendly cousin. But I don’t recommend drinking it straight. It’s legit strong, and intended to be served diluted.

If you need more convincing, let’s talk price. If you make it into a fancy coffee shop-style drink instead of hitting the cafe, your wallet will thank you. Assuming you’re buying very best quality, fair trade/organic beans, organic cow milk, and grade B maple syrup, a pint jar full still comes in under $1.25.

And unlike the ices lattes at the mainstream coffee joints, there are no questionable or excessive sweeteners hiding in here–just a splash of pure, sweet maple syrup. Made with decaf, it’s one of my kids’ favorite summertime treats.

Ready to make your own? Never mind. That was a rhetorical question. Of course you do! Today, tomorrow… all summer long. Here’s how. (Afflinks follow.)


Tools and Equipment:

You don’t need any special equipment to make cold press coffee. Zero. That said, we were gifted a Toddy Cold Brew System years ago and we love it, so that is what we use, but honestly – you can make it just as easily in your ordinary french press or a large mason jar.

Using a mason jar? Bigger = better. Go for 1/2 gallon. (Since the concentrate keeps for 2 weeks or more, making a lot at once just makes sense.) If you don’t have a cold press insert for your mason jar, just strain your finished cold press through a very fine mesh strainer or a collander lined with a flour sack towel reserved for this purpose.

Now that you’ve gathered your gear, let’s get brewing! (Do plan ahead, as cold brew coffee takes 12 to 24 hours to make.)

Make your cold brew

Make cold brew coffee in any amount. The quantity you make will be determined by the size of your jar. You can easily fit the amount below in either a Toddy or a 1/2 gallon jar. To make in an average-sized french press, reduce the amount by half.

The batch below will yield approximately 6 cups of coffee concentrate, or enough for 12 pints (6 recipes) of the iced latte below.


  • 12 oz coffee, coarsely ground (we’re partial to our friends and neighbors at local-to-us Kickapoo Coffee who just happen to also be the friends who hooked us on iced cold press in the first place, the devils)
  • 7 cups cold or room temperature water (filtered or well water preferred)


  1. Place freshly ground coffee in the brewing vessel of your choice.
  2. Slowly pour water over coffee.
  3. Stir gently to combine.
  4. Cover and fridge if desired, or allow to steep on the counter. (The latter is our normal method).
  5. 12 to 24 hours later (longer = stronger, in both caffeine amount and flavor), strain your coffee. We normally go 24 hours. To strain, either remove the the plug from your Toddy and drain through the felt filter; remove the filter basket from your filtered mason jar, allowing concentrate to drain from grounds into jar before discarding; or pouring slowly through the mesh sieve or cloth-lined colander if you’re using an ordinary mason jar.
  6. Store in a covered mason jar in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Make your iced latte

Ingredients for two pint-sized lattes

  • 1 cup cold press coffee concentrate
  • 2 1/2 cups *full-fat milk of your choice
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup, or to taste


  1. Combine all ingredients in a quart jar or pitcher.
  2. Stir to combine.
  3. Taste and adjust if desired by adding more milk, coffee, or maple syrup.
  4. Serve immediately over ice.

* Regarding milk: fat is good for us. It tastes wonderful, our bodies and brains need it, and did I mention it tastes wonderful? That said, cow milk is not required here! Use whatever full-fat milk you love. The lattes pictured above are made with whole, raw cow milk, but I’ve had many a fine cold press made with whole pasteurized milk, raw goat milk (really!), and even some with a full-fat dairy-free milk with great results. If you’re going dairy-free though, here’s a tip: add part dairy-free milk and part dairy free creamer for a tastier drink. It’s worth it. I promise.

Oh, and one more thing…


About these snazzy mason jars…

I made them. I love them. I sell them.

Grab yours here for your summer iced latte habit, while they last!

Each jar costs the same as ~3 of those corn syrup-sweetened coffee shop iced lattes that don’t taste half as good as this one, so if you refill it just four times this summer with our homemade version, you’re winning by miles. You even get to choose your closure (steel straw cup lid or Cuppow coffee lid)!


Need more incentive?

Order one or more magical mason jars, and add a note to your mason jar order of “HAPPY HEALTHY” and we’ll throw in a sample-sized (1.5 oz) bar of soap for every jar you buy, just because.

Now get busy and make that cold press! Because summer is waiting.

Iced Maple Latte Recipe. Easy to make at home, plus you control the sweetener! #coffee #coldbrew #coldpress #summer

10% off LüSa outdoor essentials

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Choose from our bestselling natural insect repellent, Shoo (for mosquitoes, ticks, and biting flies), our non-nano zinc oxide cream, Sunshine Butter, or even our new organic Nature Nurtures tees for adults and kids! web.jpgFind them all on our Outdoor Essentials page, and use coupon code “SUMMERFUN” for your discount at checkout.

Retail customers only, please. Offer expires 5/29/18.