From Educator to Avian Caretaker
February 25th, 2016 by Cris Ellingson
Joe Brown of Ellensburg Washington, retired from teaching industrial arts before taking up his current hobby.

Joe Brown of Ellensburg Washington, retired from teaching industrial arts before taking up his current hobby.

Joe Brown does not let age or retirement slow him down. He celebrated his 80th birthday last December, and already plans to invite family and friends to join him at Safeco Field for his 100th birthday.

“When you retire, don’t forget there are things still to do,” he says.

Joe’s current hobby—and one he has honed through many years of practice—is crafting birdhouses.

These are not just any birdhouses. They are art.

“Figuring out just the right color scheme to paint the houses can be the hardest part, with somewhere around 90 different colors of paint,” Joe says.

Debbie, his wife of 25 years, often suggests a finishing touch or two when Joe needs a fresh set of eyes.

“The last house was almost completed, and I felt it needed something, but wasn’t quite sure of what,” he says. “Debbie is a great finish person, suggesting, ‘How about some freckles,’ and she was right. It finished the house.”

Thirty-five birdhouses stand along Joe’s fence. After the birds fly away at year’s end, he removes the old nests. Many of the birds come back for two or three years. Sometimes their offspring return to nest.

“We have bluebirds, a variety of sparrows, goldfinch and other birds in the houses,” he says. “We have learned there is a certain pecking order to the. Top of the order is the Harris hawk pair, which are rather owl-face looking. They are followed by ravens, partridges, a few dozen magpies, swallows, gold finch and sparrows.”

Joe plans to continue building the birdhouses in his own style. He does it for the birds, himself and anyone needing a bright spot in their day.

“I enjoy building the houses and hope they will bring a smile or laugh to people as they go by,” he says.