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Installing purple martin house was no small feat

Outdoors Columnist Blane Klemek1 / 2
Ready for the purple martins: The author's grandson helped install the new birdhouse. Submitted photo2 / 2

For the past 16 years I have been talking about purchasing a purple martin house and promptly installing it on top of a tall pole that I would also purchase. I'd then raise the whole kit and kaboodle adjacent to the little lake behind my house, Lake Assawa, and enjoy a colony of purple martins for years to come.

Easier said than done, as they say.

But at last during the final days of last winter when thoughts of spring began occupying my thoughts more and more, I finally acted upon my veiled threat of hoisting a purple martin house high in the sky.

I randomly searched various websites for purple martin house ideas, but I didn't have to search too long until I found what I wanted — an affordable martin house and a pole to boot. I settled on a company called "BestNest.com". The company sells a wide variety of backyard goodies, bird houses included.

Choosing a twelve-hole, two-story aluminum purple martin house kit that required intense assembly (I write "intense" because it took me the better part of a Sunday afternoon to put it together) I ordered it online one early morning while my head was still in a fog. I also ordered the recommended 15-foot telescoping pole and an extra purple martin decoy, too (the kit came with a decoy, but they recommend two decoys). The items were delivered in less than a week and cost me $318.97. "There. I did it", I thought, "The purple martins better like it."

According to the little purple martin booklet that came with the kit, I am now a "Landlord." And consequently being a purple martin landlord entails a healthy dose of responsibility, if not reality. There's monitoring, record keeping, cleaning, and keeping unwanted guests out of the house that includes everything from starlings to sparrows to raccoons to insect pests to weather to ... well, you name it or invent it and you'll be rest assured that a purple martin landlord will need to keep tabs on it.

I really don't know what I'm getting into I guess. I had no idea for example just how involved it would be to put up a 15-foot metal pole even if it was telescopic. I had to buy concrete, dig an eight-inch diameter 34-inch deep hole through the permafrost, which I must admit would've been made a lot easier if Mother Nature had decided to deliver springtime at the normal time.

Even so, I eventually recovered from stress fractures in my hand-bones caused by the incessant chopping through the cement-like soil (okay, I'm exaggerating about that last part). After I had dug the hole I was almost willing to call it quits right then and there, thinking that that job alone was cause for celebration and a victory lap around the lake.

The "Pole Ordeal" would've made a good segment on "America's Funniest Home Videos." I defy anyone to try pouring concrete into a hole in the ground with a pole inside it dead-center while also attempting to string four guy-ropes in the four cardinal directions and staking the ropes into the permafrost in order to secure the pole vertically as you simultaneously operate a carpenter's bubble-level on the pole ... getting the pole completely leveled ... and then adjusting various guy ropes numerous times to keep each one taut ... but not too tight or you'll break your cheap twine ... re-leveling your pole ... by YOURSELF on a WINDY day ... with any hope whatsoever of getting the job done without giving up in despair or a fit of rage or both.

Two hours later the job was done. The pole was level, the concrete was setting up nicely, and in a day or two I would mount the aluminum twelve-room condo onto the top of the pole and hoist the affair up into the wild blue yonder for all the neighborhood starlings to notice first thing the next day.

It just so happened that my 4-year-old grandson, Lincoln, helped me with the "raising" of the house and pole a day later. I made quite a show out of it for him, and I must say that having him watching and helping me made every lost nut and bolt, every bone-jarring strike digging through the permafrost, and every mishap and misstep throughout the entire fiasco worth it all.

Now, all that's left is waiting for the first purple martins to show up and their hopeful occupancy of the abode that's still painted bright-white with green trim, along with its "new house" smell permeating the surroundings from all twelve of its six-inch by six-inch nest compartments.

I'll tell you what, if I was a purple martin I'd sure want to live in it — lake view, no rent, free food, and one heck of a nice landlord.

Indeed, I'll keep you all well informed as the "Purple Martin Housing Project of Becida" unfolds, as we get out and enjoy the great outdoors.

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