Saturday, November 17, 2007

Christmas at Tinker Park

Saturday & Sunday
December 1 & 2, 2007
Noon - 3 pm

Tinker Homestead
Victorian Christmas Decorations
Musicians in the Museum
Vintage Doll Display
Louise Tinker, 5th generation, collected dolls from
her many travels around the world.
Come see the collection on display in the cobblestone!
Decorations and Display will be up through January 2008

Hansen Nature Center
Meet Santa and make an ornament keepsake!

Tinker Nature Park's
New Intern

Tinker Nature Park would like to welcome our new intern Liz Hudson. She will be with us for the next year while Dave Oliver is serving in Afghanistan. Liz is a Rush-Henrietta graduate and has earned her BA in Wildlife Conservation at the University of Delaware. Liz has worked at the Delaware Nature Society and Helmer Nature Center and is a welcome addition to the park.

Also new to the Hansen Nature Center is our Bird Identification Center. If you are interested in birding or are having trouble identifying a bird at your feeder, stop in and this software can help you key out your bird.

Tim Pratt
Hansen Nature Center

Please note new email address
Feeding Our Feathered Friends
Last week I had the pleasure to teach a class on making some rather creative bird feeders. Each year I make a dozen or so each of a variety of goodies to put outside on the Christmas tree after the New Year. Cranberry and popcorn garlands, wheat ginger
bread cutouts, orange suet cups, seed wreaths, suet balls and twiggy stars covered in seed make for a awesome display even if it is for the birds! They are also the perfect gift for the Birder in your life.

Plain gelatin, mixed with a variety of seeds then shaped into wreaths and set to dry creates lovely feeders like the pricey ones in catalogs.

Fresh squeezed orange juice anyone?

Liz, our new intern, created some beautiful feeders

No fighting over the peanut butter ladies!

Store bought suet cakes melted down over heat then mixed with a variety of seed and peanut butter can be poured into molds or made into balls to decorate the trees with or you can make your own suet using lard.

photo credit:
Pileated Woodpecker enjoying suet

Homemade Suet
Here is a recipe that I like because it is easy to prepare. Make it when the weather is at or near freezing here in the North.
1 lb lard (not Crisco or shortening)*
1/2 - 1 Cup peanut butter
Approx 1/2 loaf of bread, or equivalent bread products such
as donuts, plain cake, buns, rolls etc.
1/2 Cup flour
1/2 Cup cornmeal
1 Cup sugar
1 finely diced apple, or other fruit **
(raisins, blueberries, etc)
1/2 Cup pecans (optional
*beef fat can also be used, of course but the lard doesn't smell up the kitchen so badly.
*I gather wild cherries and elderberries in season, freeze and use in the recipe later.
*Melt the lard and peanut butter over low heat. Mix flour, cornmeal and sugar and stir in.
*Add enough bread crumbs to absorb all liquid. Add fruit and nuts as desired.
*Pour into a 9 x 5" bread pan and keep refrigerated.
*Put out a slice every day; woodpeckers, titmice, nuthatches, chickadees, wrens, warblers and others love it.
*I put it in an "upside down" feeder so only clinging birds can get it, otherwise the sparrows and mockingbirds would run all others off.

Seed Cakes

To make a batch, bring 6 tablespoons of water to a boil. Empty one 1/4-ounce package of unflavored gelatin (we used Knox brand) into 2 tablespoons of cold water in a large bowl. Let the gelatin sit for 1 minute, then add the boiling water and stir for 2 to 3 minutes or until the gelatin has dissolved.


• 1/4-ounce package of unflavored gelatin
• 2 cups of your favorite wild birdseed
• Three 4-inch mini bundt or fluted pans
• Colorful ribbon

Next, stir 2 cups of your favorite wild birdseed into the gelatin, mixing thoroughly. Let the mixture set for a few minutes, then stir again. Repeat this process a few times, if necessary, allowing the seed to absorb the liquid. Spoon the seed mixture into three 4-inch mini bundt or fluted pans (available at many housewares stores--we got ours at Linens 'n Things--or online cooking supply sites, such as Place the pans in the refrigerator or a cool room and let them set for at least 3 hours. Remove the wreaths from the molds by inverting the pans and tapping along the bottoms. Allow the wreaths to air-dry overnight

Finally, tie colorful ribbon around your wreaths and hang them outside in a protected spot, such as under an awning or eaves, where the rain won't melt them.

Check out this website for some inspiration:

Friday, November 09, 2007

Global Warming?
Last week as I walked outside by my office, to my surprise, there were lilacs blooming. Although it was just along the tips and not a full bloom, it was a rather strange site for November. I looked around and noticed the butterfly bush had a whole new flush of growth as well. Had it stayed warm a bit longer there may have been blooms to photograph in December!

The butterfly bush
Diverting the Squirrels
If your a gardener like me, then you have experienced the wrath of the backyard squirrel. I have learned after many failed attempts, if you can't beat them, then feed them!
Here at the Tinker Park each year we do just that. Boy Scouts gather corn from the field to fill the corn crib, hopefully diverting from the herb garden!

When the Tinker family first arrived here in what was formerly the Town of Boyle, or the West Woods as it was also called, they came and moved into a log cabin avoiding the first stage of the pioneer, cutting trees and living in a little one room shack. Their land had just to be cleared of stumps and the log cabin ready to be moved into for James and Rebbecca Tinker and their 6 children.

Corn was the staple of the pioneer family. It was prepared in a variety of ways from a breakfast corn cake to corn mush at dinner. Here are a few Pioneer recipes to try your hand at:

Jonnycakes Recipe:
Makes 10-12 cakes
3 handfuls of cornmeal
1 handful of sugar
pinch of salt
enough boiling water to make a smooth batter (less than a cup)
1.Combine all the ingredients.
2.Add enough boiling water to make a smooth batter.
3.Bake on a hot greased skillet until browned on both sides. Enjoy!

Corn Soup
1/2 lb salt pork
2 big onions, sliced
3 cups diced boiled potatoes
2 cups boiling water
2 cups cooked corn, fresh or canned
4 cups hot milk
1/2 tsp salt, pepper to taste
chopped parsley garnish
Cut pork into 1/2-inch dice, try out. Add onion, cook slowly 5-10 minutes, stirring, until transparent but not browned. Add potatoes, corn, boiling water, hnot milk. Season to taste, serve with garnish. Other things to throw into this soup: cooked carrots, rutabagas, turnips, leftover beans, canned tomatoes. Leftover ham, chopped. Use a broth made from any bones instead of water. To make a thicker chowder, make a roux of 2 Tbs butter and 2 of flour, frizzled, stir this into 1 cup of the milk, cook and stir until thickened. Stir this white sauce into the rest of the liquid as you add it to the vegetables. Like most soups and stews, corn soup is mostly an idea rather than a recipe. What you put in it depends on what you have.

Filling up the truck

Hashed Hominy
Hominy is whole kernels of dried corn prepared by removing the hulls-by soaking in baking soda or other mediums then boiling.
Here is a delicious hominy recipe. You can get canned hominy in the vegetable aisle of your local grocery store. This was a common meal for many pioneers.
2 cups hominy, drained
butter as needed
4 well beaten eggs
salt & pepper
1. Brown hominy in skillet over medium heat. Use about one tablespoon butter or cooking oil.
2. Put in beaten eggs with hominy.
3. Season with salt and pepper then stir.
4. When hominy gets a nice golden brown look, remove and serve.

2 c. roasted corn meal
7 c. water
1 tbsp. salt
Mix the corn meal in 2 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil the remaining water and salt. Add the corn meal slurry to the boiling water. Cook slowly until thick, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve as a hot cereal with brown sugar, butter and milk. Cool the leftovers in a loaf pan and save for slicing to fry in fat. Serve fried mush with molasses topping.

The view from the corn field
Smack Down at the Bird Feeder

This Downy Woodpecker was quietly minding his own business and enjoying a suet lunch when the Sparrows started heckling him.

He didn't go down without giving a good fight....

Sadly he was outnumbered!