Clinton Hunter can finish building as many as 35 houses, on a good day. Birdhouses, that is.
Homemade signs on Lakeshore Road point potential buyers to his driveway in Sunset Acres, a lakefront subdivision in Plympton-Wyoming, where dozens of birdhouses are set up for display and sale.
Just recently, the Rotary Club of Sarnia bought 150 and donated them to Pathways Health Centre for Children, the Huron House Boys Home, the Girl Scouts, Big Brothers Big Sisters and other groups for their young members and clients to paint and decorate.
“It’s a great way to celebrate the coming of spring and to help connect youth to nature,” said organizer Rick Marsh.
The club is posting some of the decorated birdhouses on its Facebook page and will select 10 of the most interesting looking ones for prizes to be announced on Earth Day, April 22.
For Hunter, 76, building birdhouses keeps him busy and supplements his retirement income.
“It just started out really small, but the last two or three years it’s actually almost more than what I can handle,” he said.
Hunter and his wife, Linda, built their house on Lambton Lane about 35 years ago and he has a workshop in the backyard where he spends mornings turning wood scraps scrounged from building sites and lumber yards into birdhouses.
He looks out for cedar siding and boards of cedar, spruce and pine, and plywood, if he can find it.
Because of changes in homebuilding, plywood can be “tough to get” these days, he said.
Cedar is what “I really like to get a hold of,” Hunter said. “That’s really nice stuff.”
Hunter said he had no idea how many birdhouses he’s made in the last decade since the retirement project began, but he and Linda have sold more than 300 already this year, thanks to the big order from the Rotary Club.
He worked in retail, including the former Sentry Department Store, and ran some small businesses before retiring.
“I always liked woodworking,” Hunter said.
Since it’s his retirement hobby, he avoids customs jobs and requests for special projects such as bat houses, bird feeders and others.
“Someone will come along and say, ‘I want you to make a birdhouse that looks like my house,’” Hunter said. “That’s common.”
But, he said, “I try to avoid it, if I can.”
Those jobs lead to deadlines and schedules, “and I don’t care for that,” Hunter said.
Hunter said he likes to get up in the morning and get to work in his workshop around 7 a.m.
“Usually by noon, I’m done for the day” and it’s time “to watch a ball game,” he said.
“I think everybody in the family thinks I’m a fool,” particularly for selling the houses for only between $5 and $35, depending on their size, he said.
“I do them because it’s a hobby and it gives me something to do.”