I know a lot of city dwellers think I’m nuts but I love living in the woods. As I write, there are two deer wandering & foraging on the hillside outside my office window … it looks like one mama and an almost-yearling. They are part of a herd of around a dozen that live in our “neighborhood”. If I look out the front window, the birds are helping the squirrels out by flinging seed from the feeder to the ground. Most of the trees are asleep for the winter but the pines, cedars, cypress and hemlocks provide bright spots of green against the landscape of browns. Even in autumn and winter there are wondrous things to look at each day.
The browns of the landscape are my clue that there isn’t much left for the birds but what’s in our feeders. The bugs are even leaving or dying so the woodpeckers don’t have a lot of food available. I can tell … instead of hearing their “rat-a-tat” on trees, I’m hearing “knock, knock, knock” on the house as they go after the spiders on our wood siding. It’s time to provide them with a little more sustenance to keep them going through the winter months: suet.
The birds in our neighborhood are quite spoiled: I was in a hurry one week so purchased a block of suet instead of making it. The only birds exhibiting any interest in the store-bought stuff were the crows – and they’ll eat anything. It wasn’t until I got busy in the kitchen that I could again watch more than just the crows peck at it. It’s quite amusing to watch the large pileated woodpeckers try to keep their balance as the cage turns & swings, and get a beakful of suet at the same time.
My recipe (that I got from a PBS gardening show a few years ago):
1 cup lard (not shortening)
1 cup peanut butter (I use the chunky kind)
1 cup flour
3 cups cornmeal
Melt the lard & peanut butter together. Reduce the heat to very low to keep this in a liquid state. Gradually add in the flour and cornmeal, stirring constantly. Turn out into an 8×8 baking pan and refrigerate overnight. If you cut it into 4 quarters, they fit neatly into the inexpensive cages sold specifically for suet.
You can add in other things like dried fruit. I usually use a couple of those little snack boxes of raisins but at this time of year, I have a few cranberries leftover so I put those in. The birds also like leftover bread or biscuits. If you use a bread of some kind, break it up well before mixing it in. You’ll need to reduce the amount of cornmeal … usually by about a cup but it depends on how dense your bread is and how much you use.
There’s only one problem with this recipe: not only do the birds love it but so do the deer, possum and other critters. I’ve also lost two cages when the local black bear discovered the suet, managed to break the chain and haul the cage off somewhere. I now bring the suet in every night.
For my US readers, a very Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. In the words of a friend, “I plan on a hefty food coma on Thursday!”