Let It All Hang Out

57952Cottage bliss is lazing away in a gently swaying hammock, so let it all hang out…. There’s a certain decadent, romantic appeal of forgotten cares and work put on hold. Only aficionados can truly appreciate a hammock’s almost mystical stress relieving and tension reducing properties. I am a believer, but getting there was a near thing…

The hammock has a lot to live down. Anyone who has been forced to use it as a bed will testify to its shortcomings. In the jungle, it separates men from bugs, but being slung between two trees overnight creates unheard of spinal configurations. Also, navy types, campers and anyone who has been trapped in a set of swings can attest to the disadvantages of hanging around all night.

Searching for the Perfect Hammock…

Buying a hammock should be simple. But they’re tough to test drive and by mid-summer may be in short supply. Also, I wanted an authentic woven one, not commercial canvas complete with self-supporting stand. Their assembly can be embarrassing for a man who’s all thumbs and besides, the self-supporters take up too much space.

No one can claim a true hammocking experience without the skin tattoos imprinted by a weave. Most of these are South American imports, intricately patterned rope, cord or mesh, in widths from single to family size. Wanting to avoid a social event, I chose narrow and prepared for bliss. It quickly became evident why the self-supporters are popular. They come with instructions, albeit foreign. Peruvian weavers offer no such luxury. Their assumption is that everyone has two trees exactly the right distance apart and who needs instructions for that?

So ensuring the success of a tree hanger hammock calls for advance planning. Like your great, great grandfather has to have planted two strong trees exactly eight and a half feet apart. Failing this, measure distances between every tree before closing on your new cottage property. Cull with precision. Otherwise, its improvise city…

Installation Woes

The first problem is attachment. Tying a rope around each trunk seemed obvious, but smooth bark slippage can plummet an unsuspecting hanger to the ground in short order. Usually just as I’m dozing off.

Hooks were plan ‘B’ and several crashes later I had a supply of industrial construction ones that would either kill the trees or suspend me for eternity. Placement is the critical consideration. Which brings us back to the distance between trees. Too close and the hooks are so high that under a person’s weight, the hammock sags into an enclosing sack. Fine for counting toes, but hard to turn pages. Too low hooks can mean derriere dragging and friction burns from trying to swing. Too far apart, and the hammock ropes are too short to reach both trees simultaneously. Rope extensions or hooks screwed in only half way both were disastrous experiments. Winching too-far-apart trees together bore the added risk of a sudden catapult into the lake if anything gave way.

After numerous flipperoonies and much eating of dirt, I was at the end of all my ropes. So I asked the wife to hold one end for the afternoon. I assumed the answer was negative when she wandered off to answer the phone and never returned. A hammock supported at only one end is indeed a sorry and useless device.

With computer assistance, I finally reached the perfect tree-width to hook-height to distance-apart to body-weight ratio. A property survey revealed six ideal tree candidates. Leaving the two in the forest for a hammocker of the future, I ignored the two that weren’t a pair and chose the ones by the lake

Poetry in Motion…

All in proper place, I ensconced myself aboard. But after all this rigmarole, something was missing. I wasn’t moving! The air was still – no wind, no sway. A hammock without swing is a boat without water. Sorting through options, I quickly abandoned the idea of asking the wife to fan me with a giant palm frond after she said no. She suggested a rope around my neck, but I said it would be tough to drink swinging that way.

Instead, she tied it around a tree and told me to pull, thereby simulating wind, an act with which I have some passing familiarity.

So I am finally a believer. As proof, I have my hammock, my bliss, my rope burns and my skin tattoos. The wife has her chaise lounge and another bed to exile me to. Now if I could only get out of this stupid thing…

This article was originally published as part of the syndicated “Intrepid Cottager” column in many Ontario newspapers. 

If you enjoyed this read, check out my other columns!