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Outdoor home improvements strictly for the birds

The idea of a birdbath – the idea itself – sets my mind loose on sociology-politico judgments galore. For heaven’s sake: they just look good and help out our two-winged buddies. Still there’s a back story to birdbaths, class snobbery and our European heritage. Bah! Where I grew up in Brooklyn, the pigeons were lucky to find an open fireplug, and mind the force!

Traditional avian amenities go green

Photo by Bird Baths

Photo by Bird Baths

No wonder this is the number-one seller at Bird Baths. The traditional look of The Smart Solar Kensington Gardens 2-Tier Solar Bird Bath Fountain is paired with on-demand solar heater powered by built-in panels. The recirculation system keeps the water fresh and warm in cold climates for your beaked best friends.

Outdoor improvements with flair

Photo by Make Mine Mosaic

Photo by Make Mine Mosaic

Canadian artisans have created stained-glass decorated birdbaths. Check out other inviting designs at Make Mine Mosaic.

Terracotta be me!

Photo by The Bird Nerds

Photo by The Bird Nerds

If you’re a bird, this is the place! Part-amusement park, part-community bathhouse, this multi-tiered fountain will attract nearby daredevil fowl and hunched-up herons that, frankly, need a bath.

Everybody out!

Photo by Doughboy

Photo by Doughboy

This is the bird bath my family enjoyed during the 1960s. Birds generally detest the chemicals used in swimming pools. When we weren’t using our birdbath, we pulled over a tarp which doubled as a bombing range for the local flock. Considering the amazing inventiveness of birds (today I spied a crow carrying a plastic juice bottle in its beak), I think that we install birdbaths to benefit our own emotional hygiene.

Birdbath population planning

Photo by National Geographic

Photo by National Geographic

There is a direct connection between cats, birdbaths and tragedies (well, not for the cat.) If anyone knows how to keep Old Mouser out of a fountain, feel free to post your feedback. It seems easier to patrol the peace between in-laws.

Straw, from wheat, oats, rice and rye, may have been a flimsy construction material in the past. But today, straw bale homes are growing in popularity. The first American homes built from bales clad with mud were built during the 1890s in Louisiana. Bales are highly fire resistant and excellent insulators. The only natural enemy is moisture.

Green walls, classic designs

Photo by Michelle Kaufmann

Photo by Michelle Kaufmann

The walls for straw bale homes can go up quickly and have fewer energy requirements than conventional framing homes, with estimates of 75 percent reductions in utility costs. You’ll find a lot of straw bale construction in Canada, Australia, Europe and sprinkled from coast to coast in this country.

Sturdier than you think

Photo by Inhabitat

Photo by Inhabitat

Bale walls that are raised on a curb off the foundation are protected from damage caused by seeping water. The CO2 Insanity blog reports that a two-story bale house in Bath, England, faced 120 MPH winds and swayed but a 16th of an inch.

Straw is what you make of it

Photo by Strohhaus

Photo by Strohhaus

The Stoh Haus in Switzerland is made from bales that were covered with a composite translucent siding. It’s set on a raised platform over the damp, snowy ground. The project featured highly compressed straw bales.

Getting started

Photo by MCH

Photo by MCH

For insurers, the key requirement is that bale homes meet all building codes. Lenders, on the other hand, may be tougher to convince that building a bale home is a sound idea. You can prep for your arguments by visiting Strawbale.com, the be-all resource for people considering a straw bale project. The site has an excellent FAQ section and offers classes.

Looking good

Photo by Mother Earth News

Photo by Mother Earth News

The interiors are entirely up to you with a bale house. You can plan for clad windows, hearths, and beamed ceilings. Mother Earth News has published an online guide on building costs, dealing with moisture, and resale values for straw bale houses.

Don’t build around forests known to harbor wolves. That would be a baleful experience.

Recent Comments

  • Kid's stuff:Bedroom furniture for dreamers

    Hey Woodrow,

    You've put together a great post here. Hardwearing and long-lasting bedroom furniture is so important when you have young children, and choosing pieces which can handle the rough-and-tumble that comes with having little ones is key!

    Best wishes, Alex.

  • Awesomely Oddball Lawn and Garden Accessories

    I plan to do this. What was your process in painting the bottom...outside portion of the tub?

  • Poor staging can crush your home sale

    Woodrow, you have once again 'nailed' the essence of the issue of staging your home for sale with easy to understand pics and words. These are definitely rules to live by, oh wise one! I know I"m soaking up the knowledge you share--- now excuse me while I wring myself out. Can't wait for the next issue.

  • To everyone, a room of one's own

    We've recently bought a house which needs A LOT of work and I'm trying to convince my other half to let me build a "room of my own" for the house, one where I can put my games console and beer fridge. She's not gone for it yet though. The most I've managed to get is an office I can work out of ... not quite the same ... LoL.

    Mine would certainly be like the car boot room in the first image :)

    Ben

  • Home designs you haven’t seen before

    I wonder how far the folks in the Rock House are able to drive in their car? Maybe down to their boat? It's so true that home is where you are at the moment.