Gayle and Susan are at it again – Charming bird houses made near the Quaboag River

Our friends, Susan and Gayle have been busy making something useful and crafty. If you find they interest you, email us at and we’ll let them know.

How Susan and Gayle’s bird houses came into being

Many in our region have come on difficult times due to the economic downturn. Maybe you know someone? It might be a wage earner freed from a commute by layoff or a skilled worker who receives less business. They are out there and they are our friends and neighbors. Two of them are Susan Sears and Gayle Hashey.

Originally from Uxbridge, Gayle joined the Air Force out of High School. She left a sargent after five years. Then it was two years at Framingham State College. While there, she worked for a real estate management company painting interiors and exteriors. In one of our economy’s periodic trips south, she weathered it by crashing with a cousin on a farm in Brookfield where she met Susan Sears.

Gayle Hashey has had many jobs, mostly blue collar. No one would ever accuse her of being a “company” woman. She is mechanically adept and I refer to her as an engineer without diploma as there is little she cannot figure out. Amongst her many jobs have been assembly work, shipping and receiving, landscaping, and line cook. She has also done farming and is a beekeeper.

Susan Sears, seems more to like a steady position. She is one of the first people I met when we moved to West Brookfield. At that time, she had a working mini farm on a few hilltop acres off Lake Shore Drive. She was milking goats and selling eggs and raising all sorts of poultry. Also part of the ongoing project was the creation of a habitat of wildflowers and birds. The farm economics were not in her favor, and she had to seek other employment.

For seven years she did factory work for a company in Southbridge that was constantly sending business out of Massachusetts and downsizing the local operation. Eventually, a change in the terms of employment made her position untenable. While unemployed, Susan threw herself into upgrading skills. She studied, took courses, and became expert in in all the software that makes one valuable in an office environment. Thus armed she was able to win out in competition for a position at an employee-owned company in Worcester.

Unfortunately, she arrived there as things started to unravel in the world financial system. She was too junior in the organization to be vested and knew that if things did not improve, she would be the one to go. Things did not improve.

Not having a job did not mean having nothing to do. Gayle and Susan drove each other crazy rebuilding. The greenhouse attached to the side was redone with the wainscoting replaced. Susan built a stonewall at the edge of the small orchard.

The fence around the property had weathered many a storm not to mention cars driven by some who had impaired judgment due to a beverage. That was repaired. Concrete and stone steps were put in leading to the basement. A white elephant of an inherited metal shed was finished. The path through the property was extended down to the swamp.

Other than all that, they spent their days in idleness.

Gayle, who had been employed for a couple of short term operations by the US Census was called back in November. She commutes to Springfield and supervises the store room. The pay is at a clerk’s level, which though not much, is better than nothing.

Before returning to work, Gayle, the engineer, had built a workshop in the cellar. Now, Susan, the artist, went to work. The lack of steady employment would mean that there would be little to spend on Christmas presents. That did not mean it had to be a bleak season for gifts.

A couple of years ago, Susan and Gayle had redone the roof. When younger, Susan had worked professionally with her dad as a roofer. Left over from that adventure was a plentiful supply of shingles. From all of their other projects, there was wood of all types in abundance. As part of the nature preserve aspect of the land, a number of miniature houses had been put up to attract birds.

They were good, but not good enough for Susan. She started researching what made a home for a bird. From that she sought out designs. The structure had to fit each type.

For example, the chickadee, our state bird, requires floors be four inches square with a depth of six to eight inches. The entrance should be four inches from the bottom and the hole one and an eighth inches in diameter. there was much variation in decoration. some had an artificial leaf camouflage. Another, a little fence around the entrance to keep out the competition. There was a double decker style as well.

I can attest to the oohs and aahs that greeted the sight of each unique present. Everyone asked if they were going to start selling their creations. They have made no commitment as of yet.

When our family exchanged presents with Susan and Gayle, we had nothing to equal their gift, even though it was made only of scrap. I can’t say the real estate crisis is over for humans after the sub prime debacle. However, many of our avian friends will be well housed come this spring. Their homes will be aesthetically pleasing, not to mention, the roofs will be perfect.

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