Category Archives: Seasons

For the Birds

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!”

Seasonal Thoughts

Now that Samhain is over, according to retailers (as I mentioned in another post), we’re officially into the Christmas season. But not for everyone! My school, American College of Healthcare Sciences just posted on Facebook about how they use the change of seasons to refocus on goals. Naturally, they talk about health-related items like drinking eight glasses of water a day, adding two cloves of garlic to the daily diet, and eating enough servings of fresh fruits and vegetables. (They also mention drinking dandelion coffee. Healthy? Yes. Coffee? Sorry, no.)

I hadn’t thought about it but I use the change of seasons in a similar manner. As I notice the seasons turning, I take stock of what has happened versus what I wanted to accomplish; what, if anything, I need to change; and what new something I want to accomplish.

So, my goals for the quarter between Samhain and Imbolc (Candlemas for Christians, or right around Groundhog Day):

1. Get to know a new herb. I like to know herbs … not just what I can read about them but what the herbs themselves can tell me. I sit quietly by a plant (or plants if I have a bed of them) and open up all my senses. Not just sight, smell, taste and touch. I open up my “inner ear” and allow the plants to tell me about themselves. They will give you all sorts of insights into their likes, dislikes and uses if you’re open to a whisper on the wind. I have a bed of Wood Betony Stachys officinalis that doesn’t seem to mind (or perhaps even likes) the cool weather. I think I’ll see what they have to say.

2. Get at least six chapters written of the new book. Since I have a “real” job, writing has to be tucked in between and around the paying work. I think six chapters in three months is a pretty good goal, given that I have a lot of research to do, as well.

3. Try my damnedest to get two of my neighbors jobs. They’ve both been unemployed for over six months and jobs are tough to come by in our rural county. I think a whopper of an employment spell is in order.

4. Spend time with family and friends this holiday season. We live fairly isolated and don’t visit with people often. This year a couple of my long-time clients will be home from Europe (one has a new baby girl that I haven’t yet seen) and family will either be in or passing through Atlanta. My assistant and dear friend was forced out of his condo by the floods in Atlanta in September and I haven’t seen the apartment they moved into so I need to drop by there. Have to come up with a housewarming gift. (Hey wait! I make a housewarming basket that would be perfect. It’s amazing what you think of while writing!)

5. Get to know my new Tarot deck. As I mentioned in another post, I’m pretty good at reading runes but rather lousy at cards. I bought a new deck whose artwork I like and I need to schedule unbroken periods of quiet time to learn it.

And last but definitely not least:

6. Tell my loved ones that I love them. We get caught up in the day-to-day grind and this is one thing normally taken for granted that should be verbalized on a regular basis. I admit I’m guilty and will try to rectify the situation.