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In my novel, the characters live in treehouses that are practically piled on top of one another, so there is little room to climb down to pick up food, and it would be a challenge trying to take it back up.

There are bridges between treehouses and systems in the trees to travel around, just not that easily. Because of this, I was wondering if there's any systems that could make getting food from the ground a lot easier. Maybe buckets on ropes? But who would put the food in the buckets? Any system such as the pulley system involving ropes, or areas for box elevator's to take the food up an down.

The level of technology is anything you could imagine that people living in a forest with limited access to other places would use. They have the skills for mining, logging etc, but nothing involving electricity or anything similar.

The forest floor is somewhat dangerous, so if the collecting of food involves people, there would have to be a certain system, as this job would not be very popular.

My main question is how they would go about this and what people, efficient techniques are used. Any ideas would be much appreciated!

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to worldbuilding. It looks like you're looking for help generating ideas and brainstorming. Questions, such as this one, that have many valid answers aren't a good fit for this site. Can you try to edit your post to ask about the problems you're encountering with a specific idea. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Feb 25, 2022 at 17:24
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    $\begingroup$ What level of technology do your people have access to? $\endgroup$
    – Joe Kerr
    Feb 25, 2022 at 17:26
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    $\begingroup$ of course! ill edit the post now!! $\endgroup$
    – Faeology
    Feb 25, 2022 at 17:34
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    $\begingroup$ If you can have bridges why not have food elevators? If people never go down to the ground, who is providing the food? Please give us a picture of how things are done already. $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Feb 25, 2022 at 22:20
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    $\begingroup$ And who would carry the 'food' back down when they were 'done' with it? This is actually an interesting question having painted the picture of treehouse-land in my mind. How do we all live happily ever after as tree people if someone's got to do that? The moral of the story should be about why we need gardening programs in school, so kids don't think vegetables 'come from the store'. $\endgroup$
    – Mazura
    Feb 26, 2022 at 5:29

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Like any other society, there would be a division of labor where some members of the community have it as their job to go to the ground and get food and bring it back up. There might even be a caste of people who live months on end on the forest floor, constantly getting food and bringing it to the rope-and-pulley system, much like many modern day laborers and laborers of the past had to have months-long outings to do various things (eg sailing to other continents to bring back riches). That might depend on how hard it is for these guys to come back up once they're down.

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    $\begingroup$ You could also add ladders or even stairs of various kinds. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Feb 25, 2022 at 17:27
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    $\begingroup$ @Faeology maybe it's a punishment as well. Or an honor to be chosen to go to the floor... It could be a temporary or a permanent calling. Maybe it's a one-way trip even... $\endgroup$
    – TKoL
    Feb 25, 2022 at 17:29
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you! I like the idea of people having to spend months on the floor to bring up food constantly. That could also bring up other issues and conflicts with some of the characters which would be really interesting to work with! Maybe there's an organised router in groups of people to do this job. Thank you for the great ideas! $\endgroup$
    – Faeology
    Feb 25, 2022 at 17:29
  • $\begingroup$ Yess I love the idea about making it a punishment, and possibly even humiliating to be the ones chosen to work on the forest floor. This links in nicely with the religion in the novel and how the treehouses are built to be closer to their version of god, so working on the floor is a dishonour or something along those lines! $\endgroup$
    – Faeology
    Feb 25, 2022 at 17:33
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Beast of Burden

They could, in addition to sending foraging, hunting and gardening parties down to find and produce food, engage the services of partially domesticated jhiroliphants to help out.

The ground crew will simply hang a number of baskets and sacks of food on the secondary head's ossicones and the receiving crew will entice the jhiroliphaunt with its favourite fruit. Whilst it's nibbling on the delicacies, they can easily remove the baskets and sacks.

Repeat the process until all the baskets and sacks of food have been transported!

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ they can easily remove the baskets and sacks. seems a quite dangerous endeavour while this giraffe head is nibbling on the reward, it they would need the customer to be hanging from the tree reaching out for the merchandise.. Wonder if you would not be more effective to leave out this chimaera second head altogether and train an elephant for the job ? They could exchange the fruits with the elephant.. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Feb 25, 2022 at 18:49
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    $\begingroup$ Haha I love this idea!! Certainly very creative and a great way to think of an interesting and inventive method! Amazing drawing by the way, I really appreciate the idea and everything! This definitely inspired me to think of similar ways to incorporate creatures into the system to help the people with bringing food up- taking inspiration from the jhiroliphaunt!! Thank you for this idea :) $\endgroup$
    – Faeology
    Feb 25, 2022 at 19:42
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    $\begingroup$ @Goodies -- What's the point of making a world less wonderful? $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Feb 26, 2022 at 5:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Faeology -- Now, what's interesting is that's a creature from a bestiary I made something like 20 or 30 years ago. And now our paths have crossed: I've inspired you, and you're question has helped me understand this creature better! $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Feb 26, 2022 at 5:38
  • $\begingroup$ @elemtilas just joking +1 it looks great.. Just wondered how the goods would be delivered to the tree people by its little giraffe beak.. I'm a logistics guy.. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Feb 26, 2022 at 13:02
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Stairs and elevators

I happen to live in a concrete jungle. Though I don't live in a tree, I do live in an apartment building. So just like your tree dwellers, I too have my home stacked up over someone else's. That means I can't just slide down a pole to street level since my neighbour below would not appreciate having a hole in his ceiling.

The civilized approach is to have common areas which belong to no apartment and which are specially designed for vertical movement. Every tree house in your city could be connected to the tree by a part of a spiral stair set. The house would belong to someone from the inside to the door, but the part with stairs belongs to the community.

You can also have a shaft going through the common area and have a primitive elevator based on boxes or buckets and ropes. Ancient romans had such devices way before year 1 AD and even used these on theaters and arenas to lift people and large animals such as lions.

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    $\begingroup$ This is such an amazing idea, thank you!! For some reason it hadn't occurred to me to make a communal staircase/elevator type area where it's available to everyone to move from the forest floor up and down easily. I love the elevator based on boxes or buckets and ropes as that sort of technology would definitely have been available to this community. Thank you! $\endgroup$
    – Faeology
    Feb 26, 2022 at 13:50
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Ramps.

That's pretty much it. Just add some ramps to the edges of a few (or many) centrally placed trees. This would allow for the residents to go down to get supplies/food whenever they need and also be easier to climb back up than a rope ladder or stairs. (as suggested in a previous comment)

Benefits

  • It is easy to create using the supplies that are readily available and easy to maintain as well.
  • It is accessible for elderly citizens and young children who may not be able to climb other methods of transport or use the pulley system.
  • It is relatively safe, and does not require a high amount of technical ability to ensure this safety.
  • If the society has figured out other simple devices, such as a wooden wheel, it would be adaptable to the ramps.
  • It is unlikely to break or crack easily (as long as it is well-made)
  • It would be an easy and quick escape route if the people were attacked from the sky or needed to vacate quickly.

Potential Disadvantages

  • Hard to guard: If, for instance, there are creatures or other enemies that are below (maybe that's why they are in the trees in the first place) it would be easy for them to come up the ramps, as it creates mobility for the enemy as well.
  • Space: Depending on the width and general construction of the ramp, it may take up more space than is desired, which could mean that trees may need to be cut down or unrooted to install the ramps.
  • Time: Just because the citizens have to actually go down and get the stuff to bring it up the ramps would automatically increase the amount of time that is needed.
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  • $\begingroup$ That's a great idea! I hadn't even thought of this but it would actually be a very fitting system I could incorporate into the world! A combination of this idea and the pulley system would work really well. The location of the treehouses is actually in a valley which is already well protected so enemies using the ramps etc wouldn't be an issue. Thank you for this idea!! $\endgroup$
    – Faeology
    Feb 25, 2022 at 19:36
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I had the same thought as @the-square-cube-law, (+1), how is this different than a 10 story apartment building? You have a common "elevator": Some kind of central pulley system or shaft, intended to be used by one person/family at a time and restored to "starting position" when done. If somebody else is using it, you wait your turn. You can cluster 2 or more of these shafts together, if waiting is a problem. Likewise, you can use them to bring out your trash and waste, or perhaps for hygiene you want a shaft dedicated to bringing out trash and waste.

And of course your tree village folk are reasonably courteous, just like we are in boarding, riding and exiting elevators.

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    $\begingroup$ Yess this is great! I could incorporate a router- one or two selected member of each family every couple weeks- who's jobs is bringing food up and down the "elevator" shaft. And like you said, a separate one for disposal and waste would work really well. I could possibly have a whole area with multiple of these elevators dedicated for different purposes (food, drinks, hygiene etc). Thank you! $\endgroup$
    – Faeology
    Feb 26, 2022 at 13:54
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    $\begingroup$ Sure, in most families one or two people do all the grocery shopping for the family. There tends to be a division of domestic duties, at least in equal households. $\endgroup$
    – Amadeus
    Feb 26, 2022 at 14:28
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Trained dogs and/or monkeys and/or corvids

The latter two animals show remarkable levels of intelligence, and can relatively easily be trained to perform simple tasks, like finding food and returning it, or putting it in a bucket on ground level (especially suitable for dogs). To care for and reward the animals, you might need to have a shelter on or at least near ground level, but it requires less personnel than having these tasks performed by your characters themselves.
Training and possibly breeding can be done at higher levels of your complex of tree houses.

  • Dogs can be used for the 'grunt work': collecting the bulk of whatever food can be found on ground level (depending on how you as the creator fill that in).

  • Monkeys, like capuchins, can be trained (see below) to perform a multitude of tasks.
    I cannot find detailed information about their strength, but they are able to open doors and bottles, and "reposition a heavy human limb" (source). They could easily collect fruits from trees.

  • Most corvids won't be able to carry a lot of weight.
    For ravens, the largest (and most intelligent) species in the family, 1.5 pounds (750 grams) seems to be the maximum, and they only carry items with their beaks, not their claws (source).
    But the large-billed crow can even carry up to over 2 pounds (1100 grams) (source).
    These animals could be trained to find and return more specific edibles, like nuts.
    If more capacity is needed, you could train larger birds of prey, among which are species that can easily carry several kilograms of load.

Examples of what these animals can be trained to do:

  • The organization Monkey Helpers trains capuchin monkeys to aid people with "spinal cord injury or other mobility impairments".
  • The Swedish enterprise Corvid Cleaning implements a reward system for corvids like crows and magpies to clean up cigarette butts from the streets.
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    $\begingroup$ Oh wow this is amazing information!! Thank you for the sources as well. The idea of using a variety of animals to collect and forage for food is a great idea and would work really well. The monkey idea I particularly love, as I can really see them being in the story and part of this world. And, like you said, this way there will be less people needed on the ground floor, only enough to train and care for the animals, making sure they're doing the right things. $\endgroup$
    – Faeology
    Feb 26, 2022 at 13:59
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They pick it.

Why do they live in the trees? Because they're fruit trees! And they grow edible epiphytes in the branches. And they have hauled up soil from the miners in the ancient past, which now forms nice gardens in the topmost branches.

Liana vines

Before "bungee" was a thing, folks on the Solomon Islands would tie liana vines around their ankles and jump from a tall tower. You just need vines with a length matched to your trees. And maybe even more skill than on Earth.

Water slide

Periodically, water is poured down the carved hollowed trunk of the tree. Spiral round and round, great entertainment. We'll look at getting up later.

Balloons!

Those on the ground send food up tied to methane balloons. Those in the air send down, uh, fertilizer. Very important for the farmers, a great honor when a well-aimed lump hits. If you don't think the lower class can be made to believe this, you don't read much political news.

Trebuchet.

The trees are covered in nets, to prevent foolish people from falling to the ground. Those seeking to return to the air ride the trebuchet up, and try to make sure they catch in a net.

King Kong.

Sized to match the trees, naturally. Mostly friendly, somewhat overly so.

Pneumatic tube

It needs precise craftmanship, but these folks understand the idea of a blowgun. Best ride to the canopy you can get, unless you like apes.

Archimedean screw

Fortune in metal from those miners. Turn it about, and water rises from the creek on the surface. Perfect for refilling a water slide for the next day's entertainment. Riding at the top of a half-loop of water - a small half-coconut, maybe 10 feet across, with someone sitting comfortably on top. Warning: slow.

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Magic

tree people have psychokinetic power, they forage, garden, hunt, clean sewage systems... all through a naturalistic VR-like synergy of the universal energy stream.

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The people originally lived in the trees in more peaceful forests at higher elevations. It is safe to forage for food there, and they have crops and domesticated animals.

As their population increased, and some of them sought refuge from the cold winters, the population expanded to lower, more tropical elevations, where the boojums are apex predators on the jungle floor. The already existing system of walkways between trees and rope lines to move goods from one tree to another expanded with them.

The people now living at the lower elevations can harvest exotic species of wood, edible or attractive epiphytic plants and tree fungus. They trade these with the people at the higher elevations for more traditional foods. There is no reason for them to go to the jungle floor for food. The movement of food and other goods back and forth is slow but steady.

There are social conflicts sometimes between the Lows and the Highs, and the Lows have recreational but dangerous Boojum-Hunts, in which the Highs may participate for the thrill of it.

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  • $\begingroup$ Ohh wow I love this!! The idea about trading with the lower floors for exotic foods etc is really creative, and the separation with the names the Lows and the Highs works really well!! Just checking, is Boojum a name you came up with yourself? If so, I love it so much!! Great ideas! $\endgroup$
    – Faeology
    Feb 26, 2022 at 22:07
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    $\begingroup$ Glad you like it. It gives you a little history and some plot points to work with. The Boojum is a kind of Snark, a very dangerous kind, in Lewis Carroll's poem "The Hunting of the Snark." I didn't make it up. Making up names is hard. $\endgroup$
    – Wastrel
    Feb 27, 2022 at 13:53
  • $\begingroup$ Yess exactly, working on the history is definitely something I need to do, so your ideas really helped!! Ahh, I see- that's still very interesting so thanks for that info! I agree- making up names is a struggle sometimes. $\endgroup$
    – Faeology
    Feb 27, 2022 at 14:56
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the simple solutions are this:

there must be a finite forest-town/city, go to the edge, cut some trees construct transport infrastructre from the cut-down trees, then cut some more trees, plow, plant seeds and then colect the produce...

the other option is to make baskets from wood, fill'em with compost and plant seeds...

and obviously the forest has to end somewhere :))

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