09 April 2017

Blue for Birds

This past year we moved, somewhat unexpectedly, from a lovely 1914-era flat to an only slightly more recent 1920s-era bungalow. Moving in midsummer there was no time to do much yard-wise other than add some containers of kitchen herbs just outside the back door.

In the fall, finally settled in and mostly unpacked, we assessed what might be done. The maple tree would be a centerpiece for it all. Or so we thought . . .

Because the tree hadn't been pruned in awhile and we were worried about its branches resting on the electrical wires (and possibly our neighbor's garage roof), we had an arborist some in to take a look at the situation. Much to our great disappointment, we learned that the tree--largely because it had not been pruned, likely in a very great while, had "misgrown." The trunk was twinned and was at great risk of splitting and other large branches were causing problems as well.

The arborist described it as a "Danger Tree" and recommended it be not simply pruned but removed altogether. That will happen in a few weeks and gone with it is our pleasant daydream of a Tolkien-esque Party Tree. What we'll be left with (other than a much welcome stack of firewood to season over the coming months) is a very large, very open, unshaded space.

The loss of this tree is hard, dangerous though it may be. My Beloved Spousal Unit and I both grew up in many-treed yards and, while we are largely urban dwellers, we treasure having trees always and always near us. Once it has been removed we'll be looking to possibly replace it. But for now, given a modest budget, we'll let that go until next year. In the meantime, the focus will be on creating a small herb and vegetable garden. One part of that will be a bird bath.


The store-boughten bird baths are nice but we wanted something a little less standard. Last year in our small (last second, we just moved in herb garden) we had a terracotta planter base set atop a terracotta vase. Since it wasn't meant to be permanent, the one was not attached to the other. Which worked fine for the birds, but not so fine when our resident squirrels--Harry, Twitch, and D'Artagnan--discovered it! Many mornings I would come out to find the bath in two pieces, unbroken fortunately.

This year we've decided to go a little fancier and sturdier. And is our wont, we wanted to make it ourselves by reusing materials. First up was the base from last summer's bird bath. We made occasional visit to Goodwill, where we found two possible basins.

Testing them out, though, we found that the handmade pottery basin was out of proportion and too small. We could also see that the basin really wasn't deep enough to provide sufficient bathing space.


And, following the Goldilocks routine, the second find turned out to be too large! Keeping the 3 squirrels in mind, it also looked at though it would be top heavy and likely to fall over when the beasties jumped up on to it.

The whole idea of a terracotta design went out the window, though, when we noticed that the base-vase has a long crack along its middle circumference. So, back to the hunt it was! Goodwill is always good, but Savers in Madison has been a real gold mine for many of our household or, in my case, theater and art projects. We lucked out when we found a large ceramic vase and a glazed serving bowl.

The assembly wasn't too much of a chore at all. First, the design issue: which way should the base go! 

Either way looked nice, so we went with the version on the left.  The next step was to give it some weight. We had some sand leftover from our Wisconsin winter snow-n-ice stash. That went in nearly to the brim.

We cleaned the brim of the vase and the bottom of the basin with isopropyl alcohol . . .

 . . . and then ran a line of silicone adhesive around the brim edge.

Once the basin was secured, we let it stand in our front porch area so the adhesive could cure for 24 hours.

This afternoon, taking advantage of the first truly gloriously warm day of Spring, and despite there being no pots of herbs to keep it company just yet, we placed it in our kitchen garden area and filled it with water. 

Now . . . it's just a matter of waiting for the birds to find it!

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