When I was in 8th grade, my science class focused on the life and environmental sciences. The teacher offered one opportunity for extra credit: she had packets of projects we could do at home and, once completed, we could bring in the project and (ideally) receive some extra credit points.
Thumbing through the packet, I found simple plans for a bird house. Of course, being only 13 years old, I needed some assistance. So, one spring weekend in 1989, my father and I worked in our little shed building a birdhouse.
After accruing the coveted extra credit, my dad affixed the bird house to the post, and stuck the post in our front yard, just a few feet from my bedroom window. Within a few weeks, chickadees built a nest in it. I loved watching them from my window that summer! For a few days, I even kept my blinds closed so as not to scare off the birds who hadn’t yet put down roots.
Then, that winter, we moved. A few days before we were all packed up, I asked my dad if we could take the birdhouse. Of course, he was busy with a thousand other things regarding the move, but he complied. Actually, it was tougher than you might think, because he couldn’t just pull the post out of the frozen ground. He had to saw it off near ground level.
Then we moved in with my grandparents…then we moved into a townhouse…then I moved out of the house. First, I lived in a rented duplex. Then, I lived in an apartment, then another townhome. Finally, over 14 years after moving out of the home where my birdhouse had last been set up, I was living in a place with property. Jennifer and I moved in near the end of summer, so I didn’t bother with the birdhouse that year. That winter, though, I told my mom I wanted my birdhouse. At first, she didn’t know what I meant. I assured here there was a birdhouse, affixed to a six-foot long post, laying on the floor in the back of her garage. She was surprised to discover I was correct, and she brought the birdhouse to my house the next time she visited.
I sanded the birdhouse, buffing off the blue paint, and painted it yellow. I then inserted a new perch as the original one had broken.
That spring, sparrows came and nested in it. It was the first time in 16 years that it was in use. And they came the next year, in 2006. And again in 2007.
But then Jennifer, Owen, and I moved out of that house. In March 2008, on the day we moved out, I called my mom (who was on her way to pick up Owen) and asked her to bring a long extension cord. She did and, just as my dad had done 18 years earlier, I plugged in my saw and trudged out into the snow and sawed off the post as low to the ground as I could.
Then we moved into an apartment, so I gave the birdhouse to my sister. She and her husband owned a house, and they set it up on the side of their driveway where birds frequently nested in it, even as recently as this summer.
But then my sister moved. I forgot about the birdhouse until the last minute and, unlike previous moves, this one was in the dead of summer instead of the heart of winter. The week before she moved, she told me there might be birds nesting in there. I was worried, because I wasn’t sure what to do. I didn’t want to disturb the birds, but I also didn’t want to lose the bird house. Thankfully, she called that same evening to say the birdhouse was empty.
I picked it up from her that weekend, and here’s what it looked like…
Notice that the years on my sister’s property (where it lived for 6 years), weathered away almost all of the yellow paint, even to the point of revealing the original blue paint. Notice, too, that the wood is splitting in several areas. And though it’s not very apparent in the photos, the perch is broken and the nails are all either missing or rusted.
So, for the rest of July, the birdhouse spent some time on my workbench. In between other, more pressing and larger projects, I spent a little bit of time showing the 26-year-old bird house some love.
Okay, so it’s not yet set up in my yard for birds to nest in (but that’s not terribly urgent in mid-August), but otherwise, it’s all set to go. I have, once again, replaced the perch with a secure, solid dowel. I removed every single nail and replaced them with stainless steel nails. I also replaced the two side screws that allow the front to be swung open (as you can see in the lowest picture). I sanded the wood to remove all old paint, then used wood putty to fill in the worst-worn sections. I used wood glue to firm up some of the split areas. Then I sanded again. Then I spray painted with the same blue color as our deck chairs – a color very similar to the original that my Dad and I used back in the spring of ’89. Finally, I applied a couple coats of polyurethane to keep the precipitation at bay.
Come on, little birds…there’ll be a nice nesting site for you this spring!