The first thing I do on January 1st is to take down the Christmas tree, and put it outside, stand and all. I hate wasting a perfectly good tree. Although it is very dry, the tree is still good for many garden projects. We made ours into a bird feeder. It’s a project from my childhood. It takes a bit of time and effort, but it will attract many birds to your yard. Your kids will love it. What a great way to bird watch!
Our yard is rather lacking in trees. The poor birds don’t really have anywhere to hide. By adding a “fake” tree to the yard, it gives them a place to rest. I positioned the tree about 10 feet from our deck. Close enough to see the birds, but far enough away so they feel safe. It is also about 10 feet from a larger tree (the only one in our yard), so I am hoping it will be an easy place for them to reach. I put some water in the base of the tree stand to freeze it into place. The log at the base was necessary to keep it from tipping over in the wind.
Now for the decorations. First step was to pop some large kernel popcorn. Let it sit out for a day or so to get stale. The more stale it is, the better.
Using a large needle and some heavy thread, the popcorn can be strung while you sit by the fire. It is a labor intensive process. Fortunately, you can eat the kernels that fall apart as you go along.
After you have popped your popcorn, head to the store to pick up a piece of suet from the meat department. Sometimes you can find suet pre-packaged at the meat counter, sometimes you have to ask the butcher for it. I bought a big chunk (6 pounds). I also picked up a 5 lb. bag of bird seed, some Dixie cups, and some peanut butter (chunky is best). From my kitchen cabinet I rounded up some stale cereal, corn meal, and old flour. It’s a good way to use up just about anything, including old crackers, bread crumbs, cooked rice and pasta, dried fruit, veggie scraps, nuts, etc. Just be sure there is no meat, and nothing too salty.
I melted the suet over low heat with 2 cups of the peanut butter. It would melt faster if the suet was chopped up, mine had been frozen so it took some time.
Mix bird seed, chopped dry cereal, and other old kitchen scraps in a big bowl.
I added some dried fruit as well. Chop any big pieces in a food processor.
Add 3 cups corn meal, and 1 cup flour. Mix well.
Fill the Dixie Cups 3/4 of the way full with the bird seed mixture. Put the Dixie cups on a cookie sheet.
Ladle the hot liquid suet mixture into the Dixie cups on top of the birdseed mix. You may have to stir it a bit in the cups, and then ladle in some more suet. My batch was huge, I figured I could always re-freeze what I didn’t use right away.
Place the cups outside to cool until the suet hardens.
I had some suet leftovers so I put them in a jello mold with my leftover popcorn, and leftover birdseed mixture.
After the suet has hardened, pop the cakes out of the Dixie cups. I tied some left over yarn around them to make bell-like hanging ornaments.
You can also use raffia. It works just as well. I have also seen people use mesh bags from onions or other fruits and veggies. These work great for smaller birds, but not so well for the larger ones. By the way, the yarn and raffia are great for nesting materials for the birds.
Then decorate your tree.
I am still stringing more popcorn. Who knew it would take so long? Or that the tree would need so much? Will the birds notice it not symmetrical? Am I crazy? Don’t answer that.
I will let you know who comes for dinner.
By the way, I hung the bird seed and popcorn wreath from our gazebo, outside my kitchen window.
Let me know how it works for your birds.