Saturday, November 17, 2007

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:

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