DURING the week, 15-year-old Adam McIntosh goes to school, comes home to a hot meal, and sleeps in a comfortable bed in an affluent part of Edinburgh. At weekends and school holidays, Adam spends his days working the land and sleeping in a tree.

Partly the green ideal taken to its logical conclusion, partly the opportunity for a real Boys Own adventure, Adam's alternative lifestyle comes after years of being taken to road protest sites by his ecology lecturer father, Alastair.

Meeting the people who lived at the sites, many of them tree-dwellers, Adam said: ''I was fascinated about them having houses in trees and I would spend hours studying the building techniques used.''

Two years ago, this interest was put to practical use when Adam built his own treehouse in a huge sycamore tree at Craigencault Farm and Ecology Centre at Kinghorn Loch in Fife. Adam's father used to live on the farm and it is where Adam learned the organic farming methods he now uses, as well as providing the perfect site for his treehouse.

''Sycamore Mansion'' is 30ft high, beside a fetching waterfall leading into a clear mill pond. It has outstanding views across Kinghorn Loch. Adam has cultivated his own organic permaculture garden, where he grows a variety of vegetables, and he plans soon to introduce trout to the pond.

A ladder against a stone wall leads to the trapdoor entrance to the treehouse and, inside Adam's bijou residence, the limited space is very well used. There is electric lighting, running water, and a kitchen area - complete with kitchen sink - a two-ring gas cooker and grill and a stereo system rigged up to a Walkman.

All the construction has been done by Adam, through a system of trial and error. Solar heating is the next big DIY project he is working on. As a safety precaution, Adam regularly abseils down the side of the treehouse to check the knots, ropes, and beams which hold the surprisingly sturdy-feeling structure together.

There is also a woodburning stove in the treehouse which Adam made from an old oildrum and although there is a mattress inside, on warm nights he ties a hammock to the branches of a tree and sleeps outside.

''It's the way all children should be able to live - to have a place of their own where they can be next to nature all the time and learn how to look after themselves,'' said Adam. But despite his Green credentials, Adam does not intend to follow his alternative lifestyle much beyond his school years.

He said: ''I want to go to university when I leave school and after I start work, I don't expect I'll still be living in a tree.'' The very idea.

Adam is a pupil at Firhill High in Edinburgh and during the week he lives with his mother in Morningside, Edinburgh. His father now lives in Kinghorn. ''My mum doesn't mind me living here at weekends and in school holidays,'' said Adam, ''but she does worry I might sleepwalk''.

Although Adam is keeping an open mind on plans for his future, he said whatever he studies and whichever career he chooses will probably be along ecological lines.

But he is keen to point out that he is no earnest ecological warrior, intent on saving the planet with no time for anything else. ''I have a lot of parties up here, we can get as many as 11 people in at one time,'' he said. ''It can get pretty wild.''

He and his friends often get pizzas delivered too, local delivery people apparently being unfazed by having to climb a ladder to knock on the door.

Partying aside, most of Adam's time in Fife is spent working on his garden or adding new refinements to the treehouse and he said: ''This is surely a better way to spend your youth than wandering around streets in gangs looking for trouble.

''I think if every child had such a magical place of their own, there would not be so many problems with young people involved with crime and drugs. Just now in the west, the basic stages in life for your average person are to make bucks, get rich, be better than everybody, get fat and have a heart attack.

''But this could all change with the way our future generations are brought up, if we start offering youngsters proper challenges.''

Craigencault Farm is the perfect setting for Adam's back-to-nature lifestyle. There are currently five people living and working there and features of the farm include woodlands, an organic market garden, and a range of animals.

The centre runs workshop programmes and about 600 children from the local area have visited over the past year for nature walks and workshops. The centre also runs classes and events for adults. Bill Warrell, one of the the farmers living and working at Craigencalt Farm, said: ''We try to teach local primary school children about nature and we also sell our produce to an organic wholesaler in Edinburgh.''

Adam said he would not have been able to build the treehouse or grow his own food if he had not had help and advice from people on the farm.

But most of his inspiration came from his father. Alastair McIntosh used to be a lecturer at Edinburgh University's Centre for Human Ecology, which closed down amid controversy in 1996 and has since been set up as an independent centre in Edinburgh.

Mr McIntosh is also a trustee of the Isle of Eigg Trust and was active in many protest movements in Scotland. He said of Adam's alternative lifestyle: ''I am amazed at what he's done. Adam said he wanted to build a treehouse and he chose quite an ambitious tree for it. He didn't want any help and I was just astonished at the way it allowed his creativity to come out.

''It has really shown me what young people can do if they are given the opportunity to relate to nature.''

He added: ''I am amazed at how Adam has come out of himself by doing this. I do worry about the safety aspects, of course - that he might fall out.

''But the bottom line is, do you want a child who is so safe that he is just sitting in front of a computer screen all day?''

Mr McIntosh, who is currently writing a book, Soil and Soul, said he was very proud of Adam's achievements and said ''people like Adam embody a sense of hope for the future.''

Both father and son see the treehouse as a learning experience. ''That treehouse is a university,'' said Mr McIntosh, explaining that the variety of visitors to the farm and to Adam's tree left prose, poems, and pictures and shared their expertise in various areas, which Adam had put to good use on his treehouse.

''I think there is a desperate need in the world for young people to come to grips with the environmental and social issues at which the older generation have failed,'' said Mr McIntosh.

The visitors book which Adam keeps inside the treehouse reflects the diversity of people interested in living closer to nature, from Adam's contemporaries enthusing at the delights of having a space away from parental interference to committed ecologists, amazed at the ingenuity of a 15-year-old schoolboy.

Adam said: ''I think a treehouse can take young people closer to nature and give them a bird's eye perspective on life.''

But the uglier side of urban life recently intruded on Adam's peaceful rural existence. He and a friend had left the treehouse briefly for a bicycle ride, without taking Adam's usual precaution of padlocking the trapdoor, as they were not going far.

When they returned, the treehouse had been broken into and goods worth around #80 stolen - a cruel reminder of the world outside Adam's idyll. Adam said: ''I think it was just kids.''

His father believes the longer Adam keeps up his tree-dwelling existence, the better his relationship will be with the rest of society. ''You can learn from people in all walks of life - you just have to find a way of relating to each other. At the M77 protest camp, we had hundreds of people coming to experience community and ecological issues whom Adam would never have normally met and he learned such a lot from them. It is similar people who are now coming and learning from Adam in his treehouse,'' said Mr McIntosh.