Creativity in the Time of Covid

What did you do during lockdown? I spent a lot of time hibernating in the basement where I tried to design and create some new products. You will be seeing some of these ideas come to life in our Etsy shop in the next few weeks. I hope you like them.

One thing I have been asked for several times at craft shows and on Etsy messages is if I make birdhouses for smaller birds. I’ve also had a lot of enquiries about installing my birdhouses on a post.

Well, I’ve listened and have come up with several options that should suit most needs.

First, the birdhouses…

I’ve designed and created these following the specifications and recommendations of the Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.

I targeted nuthatch, chickadee and wren houses because I love it when chickadees come to our yard. They might be the friendliest bird around. They let you know they are there by their peep sound, and they will get close to you if you are statue still. Some folks (not me yet) have had them eating straight out of their hand.

So, I have come up with two different houses to suit these smaller birds.

Our chickadee house has a depth of approximately 6″ down from the entry hole, which is 1 1/8″.

Our nuthatch house has a depth of approximately 8″ down from the entry hole, which is 1 1/4″.

They also have different mounting abilities.

In our Etsy shop, you’ll find:

  1. A chickadee house that sits on top of a 4” PVC post.
  2. A chickadee house that can be mounted to a tree/wall or flat surface.
  3. A nuthatch house that sits on top of a 4” PVC post.
  4. A nuthatch house that can be mounted to a tree/wall or flat surface.

Pictured below is the full range of styles and colors available.

Image: The full collection of new PVC birdhouses…and our mascot Polly in the front. These are unique, in that they are all made with PVC.
Back row left: Post mount nuthatch houses.
Back row right: Post mount chickadee houses (post mount back row center).
Middle row: All hanging nuthatch houses.
Front row: All hanging chickadee houses.

Image: Chickadee (left) and Nuthatch (right).

My material of choice is PVC, or Poly Vinyl Chloride. I have worked with this material since the early 1980s. I am also a woodworker who loves to work with soft woods such as cedar, pine and fir. Some of my products on Etsy have a combination of both PVC and wood, or as I like to call it: PVCedar!

PVC may be a little more expensive than wood, which is typically used for birdhouses, but wood prices have gone way up since the pandemic began, and there has also been a shortage of western red cedar boards.

All of these new bird houses are made completely of PVC, no wood at all!

I use a mixture of hollow PVC shapes as well as cellular PVC trim boards. Both are weatherable, and have been designed and made specifically for outdoor construction.

The PVC Birdhouse Collection

The Post Mount Birdhouses

The Nuthatch house has an entry hole of 1 1/4” and is approximately 8” deep from the hole down to the base.

The Chickadee house has an entry hole of 1 1/8″and is approximately 6″ deep from the hole to the base.

There is a ladder on the inside to help the fledglings get to the entry hole to be fed.

The decorative base is fused to the base of the house, and can sleeve over a 4” x 4” PVC post.

The PVC roof is our signature design shaped to mimic a country thatched roof. We paint the roof with three coats of latex paint, and a coat of varnish.

For cleaning, the roof can be removed by releasing three screws. 

Tip: Gluing a small piece of 4” x 4” PVC into the base will also allow you to sleeve the bird house over a wood post.   

Flat/Wall Mount Birdhouses

These entry holes and depth are the same as the post mount models

There is a ladder on the inside to help the fledglings get to the entry hole to be fed.

The PVC roof is our signature design shaped to mimic a country thatched roof. We paint the roof with three coats of latex paint, and a coat of varnish. See the picture above for the roof color choices. Or let us know if you would like a specific color.

The house has a trap door on the bottom for cleaning, held in place by a long pin, and hinges with two stainless steel screws. An eye bolt on the bottom will help to open the door.

The trap door may also be screwed to the top of a wood post. On the back of the hanging birdhouse there is a length of chain that is riveted to the body that can be used with a hook, to hang the house on a tree or a flat vertical surface.

Features of the Chickadee and Nuthatch Birdhouses

Top Left: Back View of hanging house, same for both chickadee and nuthatch houses.
Top Middle: Inside view of ladder, same in all houses.
Top Right: Base of PVC post mount on both the chickadee and nuthatch houses. This slides over a PVC post. You can use a little silicone around the inside edges if the base feels lose. A PVC shim can also be glued inside the base that would allow it to slide over a nominal 4” x 4” wood post.

Image Left: Trap door, same for chickadee and nuthatch houses. Pull the side pin and open the trap door for occasional cleaning.

Remove the bottom eye screw and set the trap door on a wood surface. Drive two screws into the top of the wood to mount on top of a wood post.

Mounting your birdhouse (our post and pipe)

Images: Post mount chickadee birdhouse, shown with burgundy roof, sitting on top of a PVC 4” x 4” post (left); Flat/wall mount nuthatch birdhouse, shown with trap door pin location, eye screw on trap door base, hanging from a hook in a tree, plus our Sadler seal of approval (right).

We are developing a full line of PVC feeders and planters that will sit on top of a PVC post. Don’t have a post? No worries, you can get one locally at a Home Depot or Lowes or your local fence company.

We also supply a pipe and post system, where you pound a steel pipe (supplied) in the ground that has aluminum brackets attached (also supplied) and the PVC post will slide over the top of the pipe.

Images: Step 1 (left) – Pound steel pipe in ground; Step 2 (middle) – Slide PVC post over pipe; Step 3 (right) – Mount bird house on post.

This is a great system if you (A) don’t like to dig holes, (B) don’t like to mix concrete, and (C) want the ability to move the unit to a different location any time.

If you have any questions about our new products, please contact us.

Find these products, and much more, in our Etsy shop: MyRetirementGig.etsy.com.

The Custom Customer: A Backyard Bird Paradise

I was sitting at home one day when there was a knock on the door. I answered and saw two women standing before me.

“Do you make bird houses?” one of them asked.
“Yes,” I said and tried to direct them to my website.

Unfortunately, or fortunately for me, they didn’t have computer knowledge or even access to one.

I have quite a few products in my garden being weathered and tested over the years to make sure they work well. I led the visitors out to the garden and they were amazed at what they saw. One of them was a prior customer who purchased a house number sign and sign holder a few years ago. It was still in great shape. Apparently, that was the connection between us from a prior craft show.

Part of the history to this story was that one of the women had had a multi-story, wooden birdhouse that had deteriorated over time. The birds were so used to using it that when the house was gone, she feared she would lose her enjoyment of watching them. She loved the idea of PVC, and knew all about the low maintenance aspect of it. She was really excited to build her “bird paradise” back up again.

Choosing a custom collection

So, it turned out they didn’t just want a birdhouse.

They also needed something to hang it on. They spied one of my PVC trees and decided that it wasn’t tall enough, so I would have to customize the length as well as the internal pipe and brackets. They wanted four birdhouses to hang on the PVC tree, so I had to customize the chain for hanging. They decided that they didn’t want the customary post cap on top of the PVC tree, so I sold them our new post toppers.

It was quite a day where I went from relaxing in my chair to full-on product customization. But, you know, that’s what I thrive on, giving people what they want, whatever makes them happy.

Delivery and installation

By the end of the week I was ready to deliver the goods, when I thought, Who is going to install them? Well, I am the designer and I know all about my products, so why not install them myself this time?

Before I could start installing, we had to determine the location. I held the post in place while she went to the kitchen window to see if she could see the bird activity clearly from the window. She gave me the thumbs up to begin.

First, I installed the steel pipe. I drove it approximately 24” in the ground. I attached three brackets to hold the PVC post plumb. Normally, I use two brackets, but because of the extended length of the PVC tree, three added more stability.

Once the steel pipe was in the ground, the PVC tree simply slides over the pipe and sits on the ground.

As my customers wanted to hang the houses, I had to run hooks and chains from the front to the back of each roof. To stop the chain from slipping on the hook, I cut the chain in half and put a key ring in the center to join the chain. Now the key ring can be hooked to the PVC tree arm.

Birdhouses, bird feeders and post toppers

All of the birdhouses they selected are from my PVCedar collection on Etsy. The body of each birdhouse is made from PVC, the base is cellular PVC and is hinged to open for occasional cleaning. Our signature roof finishes off each house. 

Some of the other features of the birdhouses include a ladder on the inside for the small birds to grip while they wait for mama to bring their food. The hanging chain on the back is riveted to the body for strength. 

The roof mimics the shape of an English thatched cottage. We also have small gaps under the eaves for air flow.

Instead of a post cap my customer wanted one of our topper bird houses that fits on top of any PVC 4” x 4” post. The decorative base slides over the post and sits firmly on top.

The finished product

So the finished product holds four hanging bird houses and a stationary one on top. The reason for the extra height was that the woods in the back house racoons and squirrels that find it tough to climb a PVC post. At least they haven’t figured it out yet.

I ended up installing four PVC trees. Three contained a total of 15 birdhouses, all customized. The fourth tree contains four bird feeders, one conventional tube feeder and three of my designs, which were two open tray feeders for the blue jays and cardinals, and one new tube feeder made using our PVC woodgrain material and a different cut-out. The Chickadees, nuthatches and wrens really like dining from this one. And the crowning glory on the PVC tree was another bird house topper.

We have seen straw poking out of the bottom of the houses and the entry holes, so we know the birds are planning their winter habitats.

Photo: Our newest Canterbury tube feeder with the Taj cut-out. The material is our unique textured and variegated woodgrain PVC body with a 2” acrylic tube running the full length. This is great for the smaller birds.

Back for one more

Well, I thought my mission was complete until the customer returned and saw what we call the feeding station. This normally sticks 66” out of the ground, but that didn’t work because of the racoons and squirrels. So, I made it longer and also modified the steel pipe for stability.

The modified feeding station uses a 5” x 5” post with a 3” acrylic tube running the full length of the cut-outs.

There are 16 feeding windows and the seed spills out on each tier. There is plenty of room at this table. To Refill, simply lift off the top cap and pour the seed into the tube. The tube certainly keeps the seed protected here with our Buffalo, New York weather that can be quite extreme. 

A happy customer

So, at the end of the day, it’s a bird’s paradise and the homeowner loves it. 

Here she is with a big thumbs up!

She says she gained a lot of her birding knowledge from her now departed Grandma, and she told me she wished her grandma was around to see this backyard display.

All the houses, and feeders, and the toppers can be found in our Etsy shop, My Retirement Gig. If you live in or around the Buffalo, NY area and are interested in a similar customized project, you can contact me here.

Retirement: Looking Back & Looking Ahead

After 33 years with the same company, and 35 years with the same product; it was time to move on to the next phase of my life.

Recounting a long, fulfilling career

I retired on October 15th, 2019 ending my working career with CertainTeed, a good company to work for where I met some great people; fellow employees as well as customers.

Back in 1984, I started working for another company experimenting with ideas using PVC shapes. We designed many lawn and garden products and eventually, around 1996, became one of the original PVC fence manufacturers in the USA.

I have had a wonderful, fulfilling career, working in various positions including customer service, product design, sales and marketing, and installation training. I implemented various fence training programs throughout the US and Canada.

My work took me to every state in the US several times with the exception of Alaska. Most times I was a stranger, going to a strange town to work with people I had never met before. Our one connection was that we were all involved in the fence industry.

One of the things I admired about the industry was that a large percentage of the companies I visited were family run businesses. I envied the entrepreneurial spirit of the people involved. I visited large and small companies to run training sessions and give presentations. I enjoyed learning about the history of the companies and their vision for the future. One of my favorite questions to ask was: “Where do you see your company in 5 years?” The answer was a good guide to how the company saw their future growth.

I promoted our product line and trained installers on some of the more challenging aspects of using PVC in various applications. I also worked in the field with our salesmen on the in-depth features of the products.

My work with the industry led me to become an installation trainer for the American Fence Association and the North American Fence Contractors Association. This I did for over 18 years, including volunteering to replace fence at Arlington National Cemetery each year (see my Arlington National Cemetery blog post) with some proud fence men and women that wanted to give back to their country.

Life as a small business owner

Around 1993, I started my own craft business called Across the Miles, making garden products with wood and PVC. I sold them through craft shows and mail order catalogs. I was doing well and enjoying the creativity. My day job became more demanding of my time and I ended up putting my other business on a temporary hold, eventually closing it down.

But, as they say, “you can’t keep a good man down” and my creative juices kept flowing.

I re-opened my business in 2011, this time calling it Sadler Garden Collections. I had no fear of getting bored in retirement because I knew this would keep me very active and allow me to still interact with people.

Retirement days

So, how does retirement feel? Fast forward to April of 2020, and I have been retired for six months. I got off to a good start with some pleasure trips, including fishing on the west coast with my son, visits to England and to Greece. I had not really “stopped to smell the roses”. I was still in full steam ahead mode when suddenly the coronavirus hit and I was grounded like never before.

All the plans I had made for the upcoming year were crushed, along with everyone else’s plans. Initially, I was lost in the fog of news reports, speculation and predictions that would scare the heck out of everybody. We sat back, glad that we didn’t have to leave the house except for the weekly food shop. We grounded ourselves to be isolated until further notice. 

However, even in isolation I have disciplined myself to keep working on my craft projects. All my upcoming crafts shows have been canceled until 2021. The only place you could see and purchase my products until now was on Etsy. 

ETSY SHOP: www.myretirementgig.etsy.com

Launching our new website

But my daughter has been working on developing this website for my business and we’re very excited to have launched.

As we are currently situated, my Etsy site carries all of my small products such as bird feeders, birdhouses, lanterns and planters. These are items that are easy to ship via USPS.

This new website shows all of my larger creations such as mailbox posts, patio planters, feeding stations, and lawn sign holders, plus many other customizable options. These can be purchased by phone or email.

I am excited to have released our new website and hope you will enjoy the way it’s mapped out to allow you to follow along and find what you like. There are also multiple links to the Etsy site and you can purchase products from there or contact us for the larger products. 

Our points of distinction

The one thing that makes us different is our use of low to no maintenance materials. In other words, the products that we make and sell should last you for a very long time, with no maintenance necessary except for the occasional cleaning.

Another aspect of our business is a CNC machine that allows us to create custom and stock engraved signs, and of course the material we use for these is also maintenance free. You will see many examples of the engraving on our sites. Currently, because of social distancing restrictions, our custom engraved products will take on a longer lead time.

While we wait until life returns to normal (or as close to it as it can get), I am still enjoying producing products and trying to be creative in these uncertain times.

Plant Suggestions for our Planters

If you’ve purchased one of our products that allow you to plant inside, you might be wondering which flowers or plants to choose. Over the years we’ve experimented with many different types of plants. Below is a list of those we love and have used to display our products.

For any of the larger planters like the New England collection

Photo: Supertunia

Large Supertunias like:

Cascadias “Indian Summer”
Sweetunia “Pink touch”
Amore “Queen of hearts”
Crazytunia “Citrus twist”

For our 4” or 5” planters

Photo: Calibrachoa Superbells ‘Coralberry Punch’

Calibrachoas:

Mini Famous Neo pink strike
Superbells “Lemon Slice”
Pomegranate slice
Strawberry punch
Coralberry punch
Grape punch
Tropical sunrise
Aloha nani Dark red
Cancan Terracotta

For any of our planters

Photo: Luscious citrus blend Lantana

Verbena such as:

Superbena “Royal peach keen”
Empress “Flair cherry”

Lantana such as:

“Little lucky” pots of gold
Bandana pink
Luscious citrus blend

For our 3-way and 4-way lattice planters

Photo: Portulaca Rio Grande magenta

Portulaca such as:

Rio Grande magenta
Archangel raspberry
Mojave red

*In the side pockets, I usually use an upright flower and a hanging one in front.

For fairy gardens in small 4” planters:

Photo: String of pearls (senecio rowleyanus)

String of pearls (senecio rowleyanus)
Tiny hens and chicks (Sempervivum tectorum)
Small Kalanchoe
Mexican heather (Cuphea hyssopfolia)
Creeping thyme (thymus serpyllum)
(Or Dwarf varieties of other herbs)
Violas

For small 4” shallow planters

Photo: Ageratum Artist Blue

Echeveria “Rosie”
Sedums
Haworthia ‘Galbrata concolor’
Ageratum ‘Artist blue’
Nemesia ‘Sunsatia lemon’
Nemesia ‘Juicy fruits papaya’
Nemesia ‘Sunsatia blood orange’

For our Herb and Flower Towers 

Photo: Oregano

Herbs that will work well in the cut-out areas:                        

Sage: purple or variegated
Oregano: Variegated golden or Greek
Thyme: any kind including Silver and English
Parsley

In the base:

 I usually plant a mix of basils, coleus and some upright herbs such as:

Lavenders (Lavandula, Lavandula stoechas)
Lemon basil
African blue basil
Sweet basil 
Amethyst basil
Salvia farinacea is a nice spiky purple flower.

Lots of coleus in beautiful colors and textures such as:

Flame thrower
Ruby slipper
Terra nova ‘spell’
Wizard red

For our Ivy Tower

Photo: Ivy

Ivy, of course! (we prefer the small leaf outdoor ivy – it will change color in the fall)

If flowers are preferred, any cascading ones used in hanging baskets will work.

More for the 4” and 5” planters

Photo: Pansy

Scaevola 
Mexican heather (Cuphea Allyson Hyssopfilia)

More unusual: 

Gomphrena ‘pinball purple’ (attracts butterflies)

Especially for spring:

Pansies and violas

Especially for fall:

Ornamental peppers and orange Kalanchoe

Use our suggestions above or experiment with your favorites. You can plant directly in our planters or leave your plants in their pots! Be sure to tag us on Instagram @SadlerGardenCollections.

Craft Show Schedule 2019

We’re thrilled to announce our craft show schedule for 2019!

We’ll be doing 9 shows again this year, including several new places, showcasing a range of brand new products and designs and, of course, our classics.

Our craft shows will all be in Western New York, but if you’re not in the area, pop over to our Etsy shop instead or browse the rest of our site here for larger products.

For more detailed information about each show, including our booth numbers, follow us on Facebook. We’ll be sharing updates closer to each event.

If you come to see us, keep an eye open for Polly, the famous traveling birdhouse who is known to make an appearance occasionally. Catch her on our Instagram every Friday!

Craft Show Schedule 2018

We’re excited to announce our craft show schedule for 2018!

We’ll be doing 9 shows this year, including some new ones, showcasing a range of brand new products and designs and, of course, our classics.

Our craft shows will all be in Western New York, so if you’re not in the area, pop over to our Etsy shop instead or browse the rest of our site here for larger products.

For more detailed information about each show, including our booth numbers, follow us on Facebook. We’ll be sharing updates closer to each event.

If you come to see us, keep an eye open for Polly, the famous traveling birdhouse who is known to make an appearance occasionally. Catch her on our Instagram every Friday!

The Craft Collaboration Project: A Mosaic Bird House

Have you ever wondered what another artist or crafts person might do to one of your pieces if you let them loose on it?

I had never given it a second (or first) thought until Betty Ackerman, a complete stranger, contacted me through my Etsy shop.

Apparently, mosaic artist Betty had been thinking of, and had actually already sold, a project using one of my birdhouses.

 Photos: A Sadler Garden Collections PVCedar bird house before and after a collaboration with artist Betty Ackerman

She had researched the item and knew what changes she wanted me to make for her idea to work.

The item in question was one of my PVCedar bird houses. Betty didn’t want the wooden roof; instead, she wanted me to replace it with PVC, and also change the hanging chain from the back to the center of the roof. These were easy changes to make so I went ahead and made them. She also wanted the entire product to be white.

Photos: Our bird house re-invented to Betty’s specifications – all PVC, the second photo showing the clean-out door

We agreed on a price, she put in a special order through Etsy and I shipped it out to her. This had really piqued my interest and now I was very curious to know what the end result was going to be.

Betty Ackerman from Dancing Light Mosaics worked her magic and turned the bird house into a one of a kind piece of art.

Photo: The finished product

I was totally impressed. Betty had transformed it into a piece of art.

The roof is my signature design. I love the shapes on the old English thatched cottages so I cut and sand my wood to simulate an English thatched cottage. Below is a thatched roof on a building in Dartmoor, Devon in England. You can see the resemblance on Betty’s creation.

I was so impressed with Betty’s work that I asked her to put her process into words and pictures so that I could share it on my blog.

Betty’s work is explained below in her own words:

The Mosaic Art Bird House & Process Told by Betty Ackerman

My collaboration with Pat Sadler of Sadler Garden Collections started with a custom request from a buyer on Etsy who suggested I create a mosaic bird house for her. So I began searching for someone who made weatherproof birdhouses and found Pat.

With mosaics, you don’t want to create something on wood for outdoors as it will not hold up under rain and cold. I liked Pat’s design, especially the English style thatched roof look and the sound construction, so I bought one and asked for a PVC roof instead of wood as I would be covering the entire bird house with stained glass tesserae, or cut pieces that are applied to a substrate. Pat’s service was fast and efficient and he accommodated me with the roof constructed of PVC instead of wood.

I began working on the bird house, creating different motifs of the customer’s liking. I researched English thatched roof images and came up with a design for the front, making it look like an English cottage. I also decorated the roof to look like thatch and it came out so beautiful.

I have been making mosaics for eight years. I learned from an adult school course in run by Fairfax County schools in Virginia. Over the years, I have adapted methods for my own unique designs. I learned a lot from different books as well, and just by experimenting. I work using a double indirect method in which I create the entire motif at once. I like working with stained glass because of its brilliant colors, textures and iridescence. I also use mosaic tiles. The iridescent ones are my favorite.

The process:

STEP 1: I start with the image or design taped onto a piece of cardboard. Then I put a piece of clear Contact™ paper over it, sticky side up, and tape the edges with masking tape. I then have a Contact™ paper covered design that I can see through.

STEP 2: I begin cutting and shaping the stained glass to create tesserae – the term used for the pieces of glass or tile that make up a mosaic (In the below photo on left, it’s a simple butterfly made of eight pieces) – over the image and it sticks onto the Contact™ paper and covers the image. I can change my mind if I want, and this gives me flexibility in my creation. I cover that motif with clear Contact™ paper, making a sandwich (left photo below).

STEP 3: I remove the initial contact paper masking tape so it is free to slide around on the cardboard. Then I use another piece of same size cardboard and, holding the entire design like a sandwich, I flip it over (bottom right photo).

Photos: Removing the cardboard (top left), I am looking at the back of the design. After removal of the clear Contact™ paper it looks like the photo above right.

STEP 4: I can glue the entire motif at once using 30-minute epoxy glue. The glue is very strong and waterproof. It’s a little tricky with a 3D substrate, but the motifs are small enough (like on the bird house) that I can hold the whole completed design in one hand and place onto the prepared glued surface. In the illustrated case, I am using a garden stone and am placing the stone with glue on it over the back of the motif.

Photos: Glue is placed onto the substrate (left). Then the substrate is held over the motif upside down (right).

STEP 5: I hold the stone and flip it over again and remove the cardboard (bottom left photo).

STEP 6: As the glue begins to set, I can slowly remove the other layer of Contact™ paper and move the pieces around as necessary (top right photo). I use a pencil to hold down the glass as I pull off the Contact™ paper (right top and bottom left photos). Once the glue sets overnight, it is ready to be grouted (bottom right photo). I use charcoal grout because the colors pop with darker colored grout. I also seal the grout with a standard grout sealer found in a hardware store.


A huge thanks to Betty for sharing her story and process with us!

See more of her work in her Etsy shop, Dancing Light Mosaics where you can also request one of your own custom made mosaic bird houses from our collaboration.

Craft Show Schedule 2017

We’re excited to announce our craft show schedule for 2017!

We’ll be doing 10 shows this year, the most we’ve ever done, showcasing a range of new products and designs. They will be in Western New York, so if you’re not in the area, pop over to our Etsy shop instead.

For more detailed information about each show, including our booth numbers, follow us on Facebook. We’ll be sharing updates closer to each event.

If you come to see us, keep an eye open for Polly, the famous traveling birdhouse who is known to make an appearance occasionally!

Craft Show Schedule 2016

We’re excited to announce the dates and locations for the craft shows we’re exhibiting at this year! If you’re in New York, mark your calendars:

THE (1)

We bring some of our larger products like mailbox posts, flower towers and a few others that you won’t find in our etsy shop (or anywhere else).

Closer to each show, we’ll be announcing exact times and locations as well as our booth number so you can find us easily. This information will be available on our Facebook page so be sure to follow us there too.

If you come to see us, keep an eye open for Polly, the famous traveling birdhouse who is known to make an appearance occasionally!

Arlington National Cemetery

Around the end of March each year, a group of about 30 people dressed in work boots and work clothes converge on Arlington National Cemetery.

Arlington National Cemetery & NAFCA
The sign at the visitors center sets the tone.

Along with these folks come some heavy machinery, work trucks, materials, a mobile home and a ton of passion for the work.

Arlington National Cemetery & NAFCA
One of the crews ready and willing to put in a hard days work.

The group in question are all volunteers who belong to the North American Fence Contractors Association or NAFCA. I was proud to have been a part of the event.

Their mission is to tear down and replace the fencing around the cemetery with new fence to help with the up-keep of the grounds. I believe this is the 6th year for the event and I have been fortunate enough to have attended four of them.

Arlington National Cemetery & NAFCA
This patriotic display has become the symbol for NAFCA. The wood is part of a cherry tree that the fence was embedded in. The tree had to be carefully sliced to allow the fence to be installed. The display was made with the Flag, some of the fence, a couple of medallions from the administration and the shell casings from a 21 gun salute. The display is on show every year.

 

Arlington National Cemetery & NAFCA
The medallion for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Once everything is set up and everyone has been briefed on their activities for the day, the work to install 300 feet of aluminum and iron fence between two teams begins.

Arlington National Cemetery & NAFCA
The old chain link fence will be replaced with a donated aluminum fence and iron fence. The roots of the tree have grown around the post, and the trunk has lifted the top rail.

 

IMG_7343
The old fence is removed, sparks fly, Ron keeps his back to us, cherry trees bloom, tour groups pass by at a distance and the headstones seem to go on forever.

NAFCA Arlington
Bill operates the machine from inside while Jim gets soaked from the brief rain shower as he augers the new post holes.

Arlington National Cemetery & NAFCA
Not all holes are dug with a machine; the back-breaking task still has to be done by hand around some of the old trees.

Arlington National Cemetery & NAFCA
Cody, Tyler and Michelle made sure we had supplies, and the motorized wheelbarrow from Shane made life a bit easier.

 

Arlington National Cemetery & NAFCA
Measuring for the new post holes and cutting out the old post.

 

Arlington National Cemetery & NAFCA
Mark and Marge connecting the panels. Marge had to crack the whip a few times to keep Mark in line!

 

Arlington National Cemetery & NAFCA
Out in the parking lot its time for lunch. Judy and Mary put on a great spread as we all stop for a well-deserved break. Mart got first dibs on the ever popular baked beans casserole.

 

Arlington National Cemetery & NAFCA
After lunch it’s back to work. Scott, the Project Organizer oversees the work while others catch up on each other’s news.

The fun and fellowship is wonderful, but all the time we are working there are solemn reminders of where we are. The Cemetery conducts between 27 and 30 services each weekday and between six and eight each Saturday.

As we work, we often hear the bugler playing Taps as the wind drifts his notes towards us. The 21 gun salute sounded several times while we were there, and of course the headstones run in straight uniform lines in every direction.

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The fence is finished, the film crew is wrapping it up and all that’s left it the clean up.

 

Dennis and Angela start the clean up!

Arlington National Cemetery & NAFCA
The finished product, along with Washington’s famous Cherry Blossoms.

When the work is finished and we clean up a little, it’s time for a tour of the Cemetery.

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Each headstone is 48″ long and weighs around 250 pounds. The total count the guide gave us was an astounding 400,000 headstones, on a 200 acre property

A little bit of Arlington National Cemetery history:

The land once belonged to George Washington Parke Curtis, grandson of Martha Washington and step-grandson of George Washington. In 1857, Curtis willed the 1,100 acre property to his daughter Mary Anna Randolph Curtis, who was married to Robert E. Lee.

After the Lee family vacated the estate in 1861 at the onset of the Civil War, federal troops occupied the property as a camp and headquarters.

In 1863, the government established Freedman’s Village on a portion of the estate as a way to assist slaves transitioning to freedom. The Village provided housing, education, training, and medical care.

As the number of Civil War casualties was outpacing other local Washington D.C.-based cemeteries , the property became a burial location,

The first military burial took place on May 13th, 1864 for Private William Christian.

On June 15th, 1864 the War Department officially set aside approximately 200 acres of the property to use as a cemetery.

 

NAFCA and Arlington National Cemetery

NAFCA and Arlington National Cemetery

NAFCA and Arlington National Cemetery

NAFCA and Arlington National Cemetery
Nurses Memorial.

 

NAFCA and Arlington National Cemetery
A 150 year old Himalayan cedar tree

 

NAFCA and Arlington National Cemetery

It was a perfect day of fellowship and working to give something back to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Arlington National Cemetery is steeped in history and well worth a visit. For more information on NAFCA, visit their website and become a part of this proud group.