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The Cracker Barrel: For the birds

Here's what happens when you fall behind on your Master List

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All winter we talked about building birdhouses and suddenly it was spring.

"Don't worry," I said. "There's still time. As soon as we get the garden plowed and the winter stuff put away and the summer stuff out and the grass seed planted and the firewood stacked and the garage cleaned up and the spruce trees transplanted, we'll build the birdhouses."

"But they're here," said my wife. "They're here and they're ready to nest."

Thus it was that I fell behind on my Master List. But the building of the birdhouses was fun. First a wren house (actually some mere remodeling of last year's house) and after that one for the bluebirds.

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"But what about the chickadees? I thought we were going to have a chickadee house too."

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Back to the shop.

"There. A custom–made home for the chickadees, built to DNR specs."

I mounted the chickadee house as high in the tree as my ladder would reach. When I got down I saw it was crooked.

"Look!" cried my wife. "Something's trying to get in the wren house."

The something turned out to be a tree swallow.

"Not to worry," I said. "The hole's too small for a tree swallow."

I was going to say more but instead I went back to the shop. Half an hour later the tree swallow house was done.

"It says here the chickadee house should be on a post," said my wife.

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I climbed back up the ladder and removed the chickadee house. When I got down the tree swallows were gone.

"They're going in and out of the bluebird house," said my wife.

I wandered off in search of a long pole.

"There," I said, an hour later. "It's up on a post, the way it should be."

"Did you remember to put the sawdust in the bottom?"

Ah yes. The sawdust. According to the DNR brochure, the chickadee house (now perched some 12 feet in the air atop the post) was supposed to have sawdust in the bottom. I was about to reply when my wife pointed toward the post.

"Wrens," she said. "The wrens are going into the chickadee house."

I sighed.

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"Honey, why don't you go take a nap," said my wife.

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Craig Nagel, Columnist

When I woke up, order had been restored. The bluebirds had moved into the bluebird house. The chickadees were nowhere in sight. The wrens had settled into the chickadee house, leaving the wren house unoccupied. The tree swallows were perched on the clothesline, waiting.

I climbed back up the ladder and installed the tree swallow house, taking pains to be sure it wasn't crooked.
By the time I returned from putting the ladder away, the swallows were inspecting the house.

My wife watched them, enthralled.

"Isn't it wonderful?" she said.

Collections of Craig Nagel’s columns are available at CraigNagelBooks.com.

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