Living rural in the city is great – you can do it, too.


Using old wood to build a birdhouse

You can find many examples of bird houses online, and here I found a decent pattern for a “one board” bird house. I had off-cuts of a bunch of old fence boards that I wanted to use, and the measurements worked.

This project shows you how to build a bird house in less than 45 minutes, but just like with pancakes, my first version is less than perfect. You’ll learn what to watch out for when starting out with perfectly good-but-used materials. If you have a slightly more meticulous approach, you will end up with a prettier result.

What you’ll need:

  • finishing nails to put it all together
  • a nail gun or hammer and nail sink,
  • two round, smooth nails or deck screws for the door hinge,
  • another deck screw to close the front (between nesting seasons, it’s your job to clean the birdhouse out – also an interesting and informative project),
  • a drill with a same-size bit for the deck screws and a spade bit ranging from 1-⅛” to 1-½,” depending on the bird you want to attract,
  • two spiral nails to fix the birdhouse to the post top,
  • and a post, either round like a fence post and implanted into the ground or held by a support, OR
  • a 4×4 fence post anchored in a cement deck block with a wood shim.

The height of the door hole and the diameter of the door influences what kind of bird might take up residence. This chart is only a part of the one I found in this Internet Wayback Machine archive from TrueValue Hardware.

Nest Box dimensions and entrance height and diameter
The rest of this chart includes nuthatches, woodpeckers, owls…oh my. Its source was from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

This birdhouse could, if I lived in a more meadowed neighbourhood, house bluebirds. Instead, I’m likely to welcome a pair of chickadees.

Also note: there’s no peg like one often sees with store-bought birdhouses. Why not? Well, unfortunately, that peg provides a nice roost for predators. So don’t add a peg to your birdhouse designs, and if you have a house that has one, research the species of bird for the birdhouse (tree swallows seem to like having a front porch on their nesting boxes…) and consider cutting it off.

Although not “perfect” according to my mistakes, it’s absolutely good enough to house a pair of birds. I’ll do a better job with the next nest box, which I might install in a public place.

Speaking of which: If you live in an apartment, you could try installing it on your balcony or your building’s rooftop, but I’d search within a sight-line of one of your windows for a municipal signpost – and hang it at a good height. As you can see from the chart, you can go up even 15 feet. Indeed, hanging bird houses is in the public interest, as people will enjoy seeing it, especially if it gets used.

A Green Driveway

Here’s a gallery of a project I dreamed about for ages: turning my boring asphalt driveway into a green driveway where plants and moss can grow.

This included creating a rainwater catchment for my front yard garden. The downspout from my roof empties on the driveway, only, now into an underground set of conduits. This sends much-needed irrigation to my southwest-facing garden, and prevents runoff to the street by letting water percolate into the green driveway. One of the benefits of this water-saving measure is that it cools down the hot and sunny south-western front of my house. This reduces the urban heat island effect by retaining moisture. More plants grow where formerly, it was very dry. The city sewers get next to no water from me, and I use less water from the city!

The project worked in five stages:

  1. Design,
  2. Excavation,
  3. Creating the rainwater catchment,
  4. Building the new driveway, and
  5. Adding the fill and finishing touches.

One happy outcome of this project was the number of comments and inquiries I received from passersby, and moreover, bees, bumblebees, and butterflies often stop by for nourishment and rest. And my pet rabbits love it, which is also a public service – people just love stopping and watching and having a chat, when the bunnies are out.

If you would like to convert your driveway in a similar way, BCLH’s Rewilding service is available during the April – June migration and planting season.

If you’re considering making your driveway a green one, converting over a portion of your yard and garden to no- or low-mow native plants, or you’d like to take practical action to save the birds, contact me.

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