When I first began building this website, I chose not to post any personal photos or stories. I am a very private man and I saw the website solely as a portal for information about the ranch resources that we were willing to share or rent. As time passed though I came to appreciate that the vast majority of the projects and activities that take place on the property are for, and about, family and friends. Most notably, my daughter Faith. Because after all, first and foremost, the ranch is our home.
With that in mind I have decided to tell the story of one of my latest projects that like so many here, took on a life and personality of its own. This story begins with the arrival of my baby girl. Moments after her birth in 2003, I looked at my tiny little princess and said aloud, “she’s no bigger than a peanut”. Well, the moniker stuck. I have called her Peanut since that day. I know that I am not the first, nor the last, father to call his little girl Peanut, nevertheless, she is the only Peanut in the world to me.
Faith had a playhouse on the property for years. But like children tend to do, my daughter outgrew the little structure. By eleven years old she was having to duck to get through the door and there was scarcely room for her and a friend to play inside. By twelve it was time to discard the little house as it was too small for her to use as well as worn out from years of wear.
Faith was sad to see it go, but oddly, I think not as sad as I. I suppose it was a reminder that my Peanut was not a baby girl anymore. So, in what may have been a misguided attempt to prolong my daughter’s childhood, I had an idea of how to make it right again. I would build her a bigger playhouse. It was the ideal solution. A place big enough for her to use but small enough for me to still call a playhouse. After all, only little girls have playhouses. Therefore, if she is in it, then she is still my little girl no matter the size. It was brilliant, I’ll put a stop to this growing up thing.
Shortly after Faith’s 12th birthday I announced my brilliant idea.
Me: “Peanut, how would you like it if I built you a new playhouse?”
Peanut: “Oh yes Papa, I would love that”
Me: “Where should I build it?”
Peanut: “If you put near the house then it will be convenient and close to my room and stuff, but I would like to use it for overnight parties near the pond”
Seeing that she had a point about how it might be difficult to decide where the best location was on the property, I had my next bright idea.
Me: “How about I build it on a trailer frame and then we can move it around the property when you want.”
Faith’s face lit up with a massive smile. She hugged me tightly and said:
“Oh yes Papa, that would be wonderful. And can you have it ready for my thirteenth birthday party so I can have a sleepover in it with my friends!?”
Me: “Of course I can sweetheart”
Peanut: “Do you promise Papa, do you promise?”
Me: “Yes, yes I promise”
I mean, I had nearly a year. How hard could this be? Right? I had seen those tiny houses on trailers on TV like everyone else. Piece of cake!
And so began my design and construction odyssey for Peanut’s Place.
I began by cruising Craigslist for used flat-bed trailers. A few weeks into the search I happened on a 1967 29 foot RV trailer frame that had been converted into a flat-bed by demolishing the camper part. I drove 45 minutes to a rural area in East San Diego County to look at it. It was pretty beat up but the structural frame seemed sound so I paid a few hundred dollars for it and hooked up to my truck. No lights or functional brakes on the thing and I was a little concerned that it might literally lose a tire but I made it home. I parked it on the lower part of the property behind some trees and got back to my regular schedule. My brother was visiting with his family not long after and I took him to see my new acquisition. He looked at the nearly 50 year old rusty trailer frame and said “I hope you didn’t pay much for that”. Where I saw the foundation for an awesome new toy, he saw a rusty old piece of junk. I suppose we were both right.
A few months passed and I figured I better get started while I still had plenty of time. I pulled the trailer up near my barn and tools and began the process of a thorough inspection. The trailer still had the old holding tanks, plumbing, and electrical from its RV days on the undercarriage. All of it was useless for my application and frankly it was all trash anyway. Including all the hydraulic lines and cables from the old drum brakes on the tandem axles. I had no plan to ever take the finished trailer back out on the road so I decided just to remove everything, including the useless and broken brake lines and related. It took some effort and involved cutting through some framing mounts but I got all of it off. The waste storage tank was made of steel and it alone eliminated a significant amount of unnecessary weight. I took another break from this project and got back to my busy regular schedule.
A few months later I looked at the trailer and thought we are under three months from Faith’s birthday and I have only done demo. No upward construction had occurred. I started to panic, to question whether I could get this ready in time. At this point my bright idea was not seeming so brilliant so I decided to approach Faith with an alternative.
Me: “Faith, I was thinking we could do something else for your birthday this year. Something other than the sleep over. We could take you and your friends to Disneyland or something. What do you think?
Peanut: “But Papa, I want to have my sleepover in my new house. I already told my friends about it. And look at the ideas I have sketched for decorating it. You promised, and you never break a promise Papa.”
I dove into the project in earnest. I promised. And she was right, I have never broken a promise to her. I began the build. Designing around problems and details as I went. The pictures on the accompanying page give a thumbnail of the design structure. Lot of work but a lot of fun in the process. I did not have it completely finished by her 13th birthday, but finished enough for her sleepover and party. The children loved it. I’ll get it painted soon. Maybe by her 14th.
And one other thing. She told me it is her Club House because play houses are for little girls. Okay, I’ll play along and refer to it however she prefers. But just between you and me, as long as my Peanut is in it, it will always be her play house to me.