By Mary Frucelli
December is such a busy month. Most of us are preoccupied buying gifts and making arrangements for the holidays. In North Carolina the weather can be very fickle. One day it is 70 degrees and the next day it can be 30. I am still waiting to see how my winter garden of cabbage, chard and beets will react to these temperature swings. Since gardening activities are at a minimum this time of the year, I try to find other ways to spend time outdoors.
I always make it a point to think of the birds and squirrels this time of the year. My bird feeders are full of assorted seeds and sometimes it seems as though I am feeding the squirrels more than the birds, but oh well. I am surprised by how much the birds have been using the bird bath. When the water isn't frozen on warmer days the birds still seem to enjoy taking a quick bath. Because of this, I will continue to freshen the water for them throughout the winter months.
I want to do something more creative for my feathery and furry friends, so I decided to hang some assorted treats on tree branches throughout my yard. One easy treat consists of finding a few pine cones in the yard or neighborhood and tie a string on each them so they will hang. Next, make a mixture of peanut butter and corn meal and spread it in the nooks and crannies of the pine cone. Finally, sprinkle the pine cone with bird seed, hang it on a tree branch and watch the birds find it.
Another treat consists of a bagel cut in half with a string through the hole to hang it, and you can spread the bagel with the same peanut butter and cornmeal mixture and sprinkle it with seed, chopped dried fruit and unsalted peanuts. Hang the coated bagel from any tree branch or hook on your deck or porch. Birds also enjoy grapes and slices of citrus, apples and bananas. These treats can be put outside on a plate for your birds and squirrels to enjoy.
To make your own suet treat, purchase beef fat from your local supermarket and melt it in the microwave. Mix in seed, chopped fruit and peanuts, put it in a container and freeze it thoroughly. Unmold the suet mixture from the container, put it in a mesh plastic bag you have from onions or other produce and hang it outdoors.
Take notice of your kitchen scraps. Many of these can be used as outdoor treats. Oranges can be used as cups to hold treats. Birds and squirrels will enjoy munching on the peels and rinds of just about any fruit. You can help your wild friends have a better diet through the winter with just a little effort. The birds and squirrels will thank you and you will have a lot of fun watching them enjoy their nutritious treats.