Feeding birds - activities for kids


Set the table for the winter birds!!!

With the arrival of cold weather and diminished garden activity, we notice that the winter birds are returning to check out bird feeders that have been empty during the food-rich summer months. Here is a fun bird/garden activity that could also turn into fun, family-made Christmas gifts. The December 2011 issue of Garden Gate magazine had an easy recipe for making bird treats.

The recipe is this: combine in a large bowl and set aside 3/4 cup white or wheat flour, 3 cups of bird seed mix, 1/2 cup any dried berry and 1/2 cup of raw peanuts. Bring 1/2 cup of water to a full boil and add 1/4 ounce of unflavored gelatin and stir until dissolved. Add 3 T. corn syrup to that and pour the liquid mix over the dry ingredients and mix well. It will be quite sticky.

That's the correct version of the recipe. I didn't have all the items on hand so here are the substitutions I made. first, I had a one ounce box of Knox unflavored gelatin and it contained four packets of gelatin. Rapid and clever thinking on my part determined that one packet was probably 1/4 of an ounce. I had no Karo syrup so I substituted honey and maple syrup.

The mixture is quite sticky. I spooned mine into the muffin tin and because I had doubled the recipe, I used several custard cups as well. I made a hole in each soon-to-be-seed ring with the end of a wooden spoon holele and found the seed rings easy to remove after waiting three hours (run a sharp knife around the edge of each seed ring and wiggle it gently). By morning, sure enough, all the seed rings were nicely hard.

I'd offer the following suggestions for this activity. First, use the hull free seeds. These are marketed as a no mess product. It is a bit more expensive but you are not paying for hulls and waste. Second, if the price of peanuts goes through the roof, substitute any dried fruit - or leave it out and use more seeds. Third, filling the muffin time created very large rings. I'd experiment around a bit with either smaller tins or filling the muffin tins about half full.

This was such fun to do that I know children, with supervision, would have a good time too. And, combined with the recipe and a hand-made card, home-made, hand-made seed rings would be spledid holiday gifts. And you know that the birds will come by for breakfast and dinner!

P.S. The seed hanger on the right (above) is half a bagel spread with peanut butter and dipped in birdseed! What could be easier and more fun!

Cathie Draine



Drowning In Tomatoes? Try Something Different This Year.


If you’re a home gardener about to drowned in tomatoes rolling in off the vines and demanding to be consumed before they go bad, hang on. Here comes a life preserver.

I chop up a small bowlful of fresh very ripe tomatoes, add chopped red onion or scallions, minced garlic, chopped fresh basil, and extra-virgin olive oil.  I sometimes add Kalamata olives. I make this dish in the morning and let it set on the kitchen table all day. By evening meal time, the flavors have melded nicely, and I serve it over hot cooked spaghetti noodles and top it with fresh grated parmesan for an easy meal on a hot summer day.

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