by Patty Lattanzio
Now that winter is upon us, our thoughts often turn to holidays, vibrant seed catalogs, and resolutions for the New Year. What better way to bring in a New Year than creating a haven for the spring nesting season with a birdhouse made from recycled parts! Old windows have many stories to tell and their charm can live on in the gift of shelter for our feathered friends. Pallet wood, often abundant and underused, can be recycled, too, into functioning artistic projects to support wildlife. While making a birdhouse from recycled materials does require some skill in planning, measuring, cutting, and using power tools, it is not beyond the scope of the resourcefulness of Master Gardeners.
My purple martin birdhouse didn't start out as a birdhouse at all. It started with a problem and found its way as a solution. The problem was that I needed immediate privacy from a neighbor's direct line of view from a kitchen window into my home (after all of their trees and shrubs had been cut down). The thought of removing my deciduous trees to plant an evergreen screen did not sit well, along with permanently closed curtains, privacy fencing, hanging bedsheets, etc. The solution was blocking the line of sight from just the correct height and width from an object that would not be intrusive, but seemed to be there with a purpose. Alas, a large martin birdhouse mounted to a pole was the solution!
After some physics, sketches, and ideas on paper, I constructed a rough plan to undertake the project. The old windows that were used served as the front and back sides of the birdhouse. They came from a 200 year-old stone farmhouse near Collegeville, PA and the owner wanted them re-purposed. I said that I had a plan! The windows' copper stripping was reused as roof edging, the metal strips were used as edge guards, old nails and screws found rejuvenated purpose, metal bars were used as interior supports, and new life was hammered and drilled into historic salvage. The sides and bottom of the birdhouse came from discarded wood cuts at my local home improvement store (with permission). The roof was made from old pallets just waiting for rebirth. Some caulk, exterior old paint and stain pulled together the finished project. Flea market finds of art deco metal added a finishing touch as exterior decor.
From old things, there are often new beginnings. Whether it is old windows, pallet wood, or dusty old metal pieces, there is purpose to what we find in hidden treasures. As we dream and plan about the tomorrows in our lives, find inspiration in where you have been and where you seek to go. Don't forget the little things of the past, whether trinkets or old windows, because their story, too, can bring new beginnings to the natural beauty around us.
PS: While purple martins are migratory birds and require large open spaces to nest, the martin birdhouse is housing the local birds in my small neck of the city.
For more information:
on purple martins purplemartin.org
beneficial birds in the garden Best birds for your garden