A little birdhouse for your soul

Last year, I wrote about my half-assed attempt to mount birdhouses in my garden, on posts from the thrift store, with rebar and duct tape.
Today, I have a more fully-assed attempt, where I actually used wood and a drill, and screws to build a kind of trellis structure. No duct tape at all.

I have drilled 1/2 inch holes in the bottoms of the posts, and driven 1 foot rebar stakes into the ground, at the right distance apart from the holes. Trust me, I measured! I stepped on some plants in the meantime, but I did measure.

I laid out the pieces on the ground before screwing them together- here you can see where the hole is drilled for the rebar. Having a 2×4 on both sides of the base makes the whole structure sturdier.

I had some wood left from taking apart the playhouse (no worries- there will be a new and better shed playhouse in the future) so I used it to brace the posts. Screwing it onto both sides makes the structure stable by triangulating it. I let the length of the wood determine the size of the structure- the posts are roughly 42 inches tall, the leftover wood was roughly 50 inches long, I used three of the posts for the structure. The fourth might become  a bottle tree. Too tacky?
I painted the top cross bar and the posts bright blue, but not the base- the weathered gray wood will become kind of invisible against the ground.

I used “Surebonder Clear 9001” glue to attach the birdhouses, which we painted 5 years ago? A really long time ago, and they have been sitting around. I realize the glue won’t be permanent, but I am not too worried about it.

Larkspur, yarrow and chamomile blooming, silver buffalo berry bush and lilac in background.

I decided this space needed a structure because it is so green- shrubs, self seeded annuals, weeds, perennials. I like having a frame to make it more formal, but not in a “pinkie-up while you drink your tea” kind of way. Formal like having a frame around a picture- any structure works for this, a flowerpot, a trellis, a headboard.

There has been a forest fire to the northwest of here- we are not at any risk, other than from the smoke. The smoke has made it really unpleasant to get out and garden. It is better today, so I hope to get some stuff done.


Craptastic garden design

“Have you walked up the road to see the house on the corner yet?” my sister in law asked. We were at a family reunion in small town Idaho.

“Why,do they have, like, garden gnomes or something?”

“Well, no, I didn’t see any gnomes, but you have to go up and see it…”

“But why?”

“You just have to go see it.”

Well, we took a walk at sunset.

The shed was actually white, but glowed in the setting sun.

Wow. It was a high desert garden filled with junk- no gnomes, just farm implements turned into birds, bedframes hung with mugs and vases, a bottle tree. multiple bowling balls, a shelf of trophies. Craptastic!  Both of my brothers- in-law looked at it with dread, worried that they were going to wind up with a yard full of crap too.  DH didn’t say anything, but obligingly took a photo of the bottle tree in the setting sun.

One of the best structures was a fence around what I think is a goldfish pond- I stayed in the alley, so I couldn’t get close enough to be sure. The fence was alternating panels of sheet metal and either glass or plexi, and I bet it was designed as winter patio- not quite a greenhouse, but you would get a greenhouse effect- you could go out in the sunshine in the winter and be protected from the North wind, but still get sunshine, and since the structure was only around 6 feet tall, you wouldn’t have to get a building permit.

The family reunion was 4th of July weekend, and since then I have been evaluating the things I add to my garden- how much crap does one need? A little crap may look insecure, whereas a ton of crap inspires people from out of town to stand in your alley and peer over the fence.  I am thinking I might want a bottle tree, though…

Did those posts used to be something else?

So, like 5 years ago, I got the idea that I was going to cobble together a canopy bed for the Girl, so I bought some old staircase balusters and did nothing with them. Ideas are sometimes like that- you buy the materials, and then…the materials have to marinate a while.

Time passed, and a canopy bed no longer seemed like a good idea, but I had these 4 turned posts, so I painted them blue and put them by the apple tree, propped up in the holes of cinder blocks. When people asked me if I was going to do anything with them I couldn’t really give them the answer, “I did- look, there they are!” I would mutter something about birdhouses…

3 birdhouses and a finial. Guess which ones I painted?

So I kept thinking.  We had painted some birdhouses a couple of years ago, what if these posts were supports for birdhouses? These aren’t the kind of birdhouses that birds really want to live in- you can’t open them and clean them, they aren’t really “habitat” they are more “decoration.” And I could plant something at the base that could climb them, so they would add some color and some structure. Then the question was how to stand them upright without putting them in cinder blocks. I also didn’t want to bury the bottoms in the ground, because that would make the posts really short.

This spring, I came up with a solution. In the grand family tradition of not spending any money on anything, I used some PVC pipe pieces, some blue duct tape and some rebar (okay, I did buy the rebar, but it was for a different project, so it doesn’t count. I just didn’t want you to think I was going around stealing rebar.)  I taped the PVC to the bases of the posts, hammered the rebar into the ground and slid the pipes onto the rebar.

There's a can of blue spray paint in the garage, I may spray the PVC...

I planted them asymetrically. If I I have learnedanything from making bulletin boards, it is that if something is supposed to be straight, and it’s just a little bit crooked, it drives you crazy. However, if it is supposed to be off-center, then no problem. Unless you are already crazy.

Now, they next step will be attaching the birdhouses on top. The Girl has suggested super glue. Any thoughts?


We've added prunings from the apple tree to the original poles- the more poles in the frame, the better.

Last summer, the Girl got very stingy with the playhouse, wouldn’t let the Boy play in it, etc. He came to me and asked if we would build him his own playhouse, and I suggested a teepee, instead. He was satisfied with the idea, and made plans to camp out in it with his cousins and everything.

Then I started researching the construction of teepees. There are a lot of places online offering to sell teepees, but not very many with instructions for building. The most helpful was here : http://www.shelterpub.com/_shelter/www_teepee.html  and it appears to be a scan of an old book.

I figured out that the fabric covering is basically a half circle, with the round end on the ground, and the center of the straight side goes at the top of the cone.  The support for the cone is at least three, but preferably more, poles. The height of the cone is the radius of the half circle of fabric, and that is also roughly the diameter of the footprint of the teepee. I’ve blamed teachers before for my lack of understanding of stuff like this, but in this case, it is totally my fault for not paying attention- this all would have been easier to figure out if I’d paid attention in 9th grade math.

So, I did a lot of drawings, and estimates, and decided I would make my tripod out of 8′ long 2×2 dimensional lumber. I decided they would cross at the 6′ mark. That meant I needed to make a half circle with a 12 foot diameter.  At this point I went shopping for canvas. Ouch. If I were going to do this again, and I might someday, I would have gotten a canvas tarp, cut the corners and hemmed the cut edges. Or, contacted a friend in the awning business.

Instead, I got 7 yards of  white cotton muslin, cut it into a 4 yard section and a 3 yard section. (it suddenly strikes me that the internet is international, and if  ever get any readers who think in metric this will be the worst possible form of blog post, filled with 2×2’s, 3 yards, 4 yards, 6 feet. On the other hand, it feels awkward to put metric translations on each number…I guess if you live in Germany and want to make a teepee, build it to fit yourself, and pay attention to the ratios)

I sewed the two panels together, then laid it out on the lawn. I hammered a piece of bamboo into the ground and looped a 6 foot piece of twine on it with a marker tied to it, and drew a half circle. I cut and stitched along this line- doing a zigzag stitch along the edge to reinforce it. Then I learned how to use the buttonholer function on my sewing machine, and made a double row of holes along the diameter, about 4 feet up from the bottom. These holes overlap each other when you wrap it around the poles, and small sticks thread through the holes to hold the cover on the frame.

Anyway- love the teepee. Very sculptural. My friend in the awning business (yes, I really have one!) has suggested I let the kids paint designs on it, but honestly, I am way too much of a control freak for that- What if the designs came out horrible, then we’d have this ugly teepee in the backyard. As a white cone, it glows in the sun, and makes a cozy hangout for either kid. Actually, when the Girl saw how cool it was last summer, she insisted on playing in it as well. There hasn’t yet been a sleepover in it yet, but we’re hoping when the weather gets warm, they’ll roll out the sleeping bags.

On a lawn care note- I thought we would have to move it regularly in order to prevent the grass from going yellow, but the muslin is thin enough that it hasn’t been a problem.With heavier canvas, it might be an issue. When the kid from up the street mows, we collapse it like an umbrella and move it under the ash tree, then move it back on the grass when he’s finished.

Organizing the Piano

In order to put out Christmas decorations, we have to clean. The girl wants to be in charge of the Christmas village, which consists of two newspaper offices and a spooky castle. As we start clearing off the piano, I am realizing that one of the reasons it hasn’t been cleaned before is because of some unfinished business. There is a big basket of sheet music that dates back to when the girl took piano lessons. I mean, it dates back to when the girl quit piano lessons.
So much clutter is psychological- I had wanted piano lessons as a kid, but never got them. The girl started out liking lessons, then hated practicing, hated lessons, hated me. There was a lot of yelling. We hosted her final recital, she did a beautiful job, then she quit, and I had (still have) a lot of mixed emotions. The basket of sheet music contains her Suzuki book 1, the Suzuki book 2 that I bought, hoping she would change her mind, notebooks that I took notes in about what she needed to practice, flash cards, envelopes with prizes she could win if she practiced 2 hours, 4 hours, 6 hours…
I am tempted to put the whole pile in a box to be dealt with at some later date. No. Must deal with now. Wish me luck.

OK. It is later, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I went through the basket while the girl dusted the piano. I got rid of some bad memories, and was able to pull some Christmas music to the front of the basket. We pulled out a vintage linen tablecloth to represent snow, and she set up the buildings, plus the spooky castle on the hill. Then she actually added to it, making some houses, and an ice skating pond. In a perfect world, she would then sit down, pull out some Christmas music, and start playing piano. Needless to say, that didn’t happen. I guess I can dream.

No, there was no tornado...this is just how the living room looked before. It is much better now. At least the top of the piano is organized now...