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Couple’s retirement hobby is for the birds

Jim and Bev Levandosky of Strathclair create one-of-a-kind bird dwellings

A retired Strathclair couple has provided safe harbour for birds in locales as far-flung as British Columbia, Ontario and even the U.S. states of Colorado and Florida.

Jim and Bev Levandosky have been building one-of-a-kind homes for their feathered friends for the past 10 years, full of character and colour. Their vast selection includes cabins, farm buildings, and other unique elements such as workboots or running shoes. And all are the result of teamwork between the husband and wife duo.

The process goes something like this. All the pieces for a certain style of birdhouse – fronts, walls and roofs – are cut at the same time versus cutting out pieces for a single house build. The wood is then sanded, stained, embellished with stones or other design details, and then inspected. Yes, inspected!

“My lovely wife is the greatest inspector and decorator,” Jim said, taking a break from an outdoor deck project. “I could never do it without her, as she adds personality to every build.”

Although still learning how to make it easier on themselves, over the course of this past winter the couple built over 100 birdhouses and feeders in the basement of their home for the retail market.

It may seem like a large number, but at one craft show in Morden, 67 lots were sold.

The passion and creativity put into each build is obvious. The air-nailed walls, crafted from non-treated plywood, are sturdy and strong. The birdhouses are fully functioning and can be cleaned out at the end of each summer. Little maintenance is required, other than perhaps an application of Varathane as the wood shine loses its lustre.

For some customers, the pieces are just too special to leave outside and instead, they are displayed on a mantel or shelf in the home.

Heading into the fall market, the Levandoskys have sold in the neighbourhood of 2,000 birdhouses – yard or ornamental – over the past 10 years. And while there is a feeling of satisfaction when a sale is made, meeting with new and previous buyers at craft marts or at the Levandosky home is something that they really enjoy.

The couple’s detailed work captures the attention of all ages, and Jim said, “if it was up to the little kids, it would be very easy to sell out at every sale.”

Normally attending about 10 sales each year, the best times to market are between September and December, said Jim. Thanks to the Beta Sigma Phi ladies, Shoal Lake is the No. 1 market, Jim said, adding he knows other craftspeople who feel the same way.

Another local town that has been good to Jim and Bev is Sandy Lake, while other larger stops include Morden’s Corn & Apple Festival, Brandon’s Big One, and Yorkton, Sask.

“Sales vary from 175 to 250 units per year,” Jim said, adding that the “friendship of other crafters makes our hobby worthwhile.”

Putting in an honest day’s work hasn’t changed for Jim since retiring from the industries of farming, oilfields and mining in 2007. He still likes to get an early start, and enjoys building when he is fresh. For Jim, keeping busy is what “keeps one’s mind sane.”

Building birdhouses has proven to be the perfect hobby for Jim and Bev, who said, it definitely helps to shorten the winter.

However, be warned. Take it from the Levandosky family; birdhouses can turn people into birdwatchers – like themselves. They have a variety of nesting boxes scattered throughout their backyard bird centre and Jim and Bev enjoy learning all they can about the different species.

They also enjoy knowing that their creations bring pleasure to both people and birds and serve as a way for young and old to connect with nature.

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