MATTHEW T. STALLBAUMER
If you are looking for ways to get more avian friends into your back yard, try an old-fashioned favorite: the gourd birdhouse.
Gourds are easy and fun to grow at home, and you'll usually find the seeds you need on the racks at the hardware store or home center. Or you can buy gourds at your local farmer's market, nursery or from someone who is dismantling a fall display. The classic bottleneck-shaped gourds make the best birdhouses, and they are even equipped with a natural place to tie the string.
Your gourd will be ready to carve when it is dry enough that the seeds inside rattle. With just water and a copper dish scrubber, you can rid the gourd of any dirt or mold. A keyhole saw (about $5 at crafts shops) is all you need to carve a hole big enough to allow a little bird in and the little seeds out. Make two tiny holes on either side of the top of the gourd's 'neck,' and run a cord through them. Dried gourds can be painted or stained, but they'll stand up to the elements just fine with the protection of only their hard shells.
Once your gourd birdhouse is finished, be sure to hang it in a great spot for birdwatching!
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