Monday, March 10, 2014

Spring Break Project: Suet Seed Balls for Frozen Feathered and Furry Friends

I sort of feel like Anna in Frozen. After the glorious experience of finally being released into the freedom of the great, sunny, warm outdoors, she is relegated to shivering in the bitter cold and ice as her world is plunged below freezing.

Last week we were treated to temps up to 80 degrees. Shorts! Short-sleeves! Bare feet! Fabulous vitamin D for everyone (which is nice considering a drop in vitamin D is yet another in a stellar list of “getting older” replacement pills. Seriously???)!

“The Window is open, so’s that door.
I didn’t know they did that anymore…”

We were in the yard, the kids rode bikes and played basketball outside. The car got washed, plants were planted. Not tomatoes though. Nice try tomatoes. Not this time.

I knew everyone felt that irresistible pull outside, to open up the house and feel the spring-like air. Unfortunately the kittens, too, felt the pull outside and we couldn’t leave doors open.

Behind it all, though was the uneasiness that came from the forecast. The cold was “coming”. Foreboding and serious they spoke of arctic chills and a rapid cold front reminiscent of the polar vortex. A plunge from 81 degrees to 17 degrees in 24 hours.

So, even though the veggies we had in the ground were winter ones, 17 degrees with a wind chill below zero wasn’t doing them any favors. Time to cocoon the farm. 

Or residential lot…whatever!

The raised garden was covered with a double layer of plastic sheeting, stretched over low hoops made of PVC pipe. The onions were covered with wooden crates and then wrapped in burlap.

The blueberries would have been fine in the ground where the heat from the earth would have protected them, but in containers the roots were too close to the freezing air. Layers of burlap and towels went around the pots.

Our new apple trees went into the garage. I decided not to risk it. With good reason, we got our sleet and snow and sub-zero wind chills. Our school garden was a 100% loss, despite the double-burlap cover.

We have done this yo-yo weather dance for weeks now and we're over it. The oldest child and a friend camped out in the backyard this weekend in short sleeves but the next morning a near-freezing drizzle fell for a few hours!

A great project/craft we whip up occasionally to help our furry and feathered friends make it until spring is Peanut Butter Suet Balls.

Nuke 1 C. peanut butter and 1C. shortening in a microwave-safe bowl until soft enough to blend thoroughly together.

Stir in 1 C. sugar, 1 C. cornmeal, I C. birdseed and 1 C. oats. Add raisins if you feel like it.

Stir until blended or ditch the spoon and mix well with your hands.

Roll 1-2” balls and set on a plate.

Take them outside and put on a feeder, on the forks of trees, on fences. Wherever your cold little friends will find them and high enough that they won’t get eaten while trying.

These provide a lot of fat, protein and nutrients the birds lose in the winter. Some people render suet but the vegetable shortening will work. We have made them a few times over the winter. Every time the weather turns icy.

Because spring break is this week and the eldest is on a mission trip (yea, kids! being the hands and feet of God this week!) we decided to whip up a batch of these before our next freeze.

Here's how this went with the younger two:

"These are like irresistible peanut butter cookies for birds."

"Tell Daddy we're making peanut butter cookies. Hee hee, hee hee!"

"Let's guesstimate, shall we."

"Oooh, this shortening looks like ice cream. Eat some!"

"What's shortening."

I then had to delve into the nuances of rendering lard, replacing animal fats with vegetable ones and frying chicken....maybe not the best example since we were making treats to help birds...

And, for the melting of the peanut butter and shortening, a song.

"We're nuking it, we're nuking it, we're nuking it in the microwave!"

"It looks like white whipped peanut butter."

After adding in the yummy "stir-ins" they were a little surprised. I guess they missed the sugar when we made these before.

"Wait we're sugaring the birds up?"

I told them the sugar is added to winter suet to help the birds stay nice and fat and active until spring, but we don't add it in spring-fall suet balls.

"I've always wanted to see birds on a sugar high!"

Me too.

I used a cookie dough/ice cream scoop to give them the right potions to roll up in their hot little hands. 

"The birdies are going to love these."

"And the squirrels!"


"They feel really gritty from the cornmeal and sugar."

Wait for it...

"Oh! When were done we can rub this all over our hands for a sugar scrub!"

You knew the middle child would work a beauty treatment in here somewhere!

"Making all of these balls reminds me of our seed balls we made with the clay."

I told them we could go toss a few of those around over spring break. Help the world wake up a little prettier once the freezes were over. We may even lapse back into an older project and whip up a few blessing rocks to leave around. Nothing brightens a dreary day like a sweet heart painted on a random stone!

Hopefully these treats help. We have a family of woodpeckers nesting in a branch of our oak. The poor tree is in it's final days but we cant bear to pull the trigger yet.

Once we soak the last tiny bit of warmth from the next few days, we are resigned to another  cold imprisonment inside.

At least we have each other, firewood and yummy  (fattening) winter food to keep us cozy. And the birds do too...well, not the firewood.

I guess Olaf said it best:

“Winter’s a good time to sit close and cuddle…”

He was right!


Shazeel Parwaz said...
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Ashlyine Brooke said...
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