2016-11-23 / From The Garden

Gifts for Our Feathered Friends

In Memory of Jack Kelly
By Cynthia Gibson

Our gardens give us many gifts, and this time of year the weather forces them to slow down to revitalize. The flowers are gone, as are the buckets of zucchini and sweet cherry tomatoes. What is left are the seeds.

For those of you who grow sunflowers for their seeds, you are very clever: Not only are they a delicious snack for humans; they are manna to birds.

Flowers leave behind many seeds – as do tomatoes or apple trees – that have fallen on the ground. Seeds from weeds abound as well, but they are quickly eaten by many hungry birds with the arrival of the first frost or snow.

Hanging large sunflower heads from trees is a great way to not only attract birds to your yard, but to feed them as well. Sunflower, mustard, and flax seeds are the favorites of our feathered friends. If you want to get fancy, you can toss some nuts into the mix as well. Thanksgiving week is the time I traditionally get my bird feeders out for the winter. The rationale is easy: If I am having a small feast to give thanks, the birds also deserve some seeds and care.

If you are not into craft-work, you can buy seed bells and suet squares at the hardware store and hang them from trees or trellises to feed the birds. But I have found an easy recipe for making seed treats to keep our birds healthy during the winter. It is also a terrific project for children.

Birdseed ornaments are decorative and pretty, and are easy and fun to make. What you need to make them might already be in your cupboard.

Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport.

Birdseed Ornament Recipe

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup water
3 tbsp. light corn syrup
One package unflavored Knox
4 cups of birdseed of your
choice (sunflower seeds are the
Large cookie cutters
Plastic straws

Place the gelatin and water in a large bowl. When the gelatin becomes transparent, add the corn syrup, then the flour, and mix well. Add the birdseed and mix well, until all the seeds are coated and easily stick together.

Place wax paper on a large cookie sheet. Put the cookie cutters on the wax paper and fill them with the seed mixture. Press into a half-inch thickness, filling the cookie cutter shape. Carefully remove the cookie cutter and start again. Stars, hearts, and wreaths work the best; the wreaths do not need a hole for hanging, but the stars and hearts will.

To make a hole, cut the plastic straws into 1 1/2-inch pieces and insert into the hearts and stars. After the cookies dry, remove the straw, and thread the hole with a string. The straws should be upright in the seed mixture for the first drying period. You should be able to make at least 20 or more, depending upon the size of your cookie cutters.

Remove the straws after 4 hours and carefully flip the ornaments over. Let the ornaments dry overnight. They should be hard by morning and ready for a festive ribbon or old-fashioned kitchen string.

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