Early each day to the steps of Saint Paul’s
The little old bird woman comes.
In her own special way to the people she calls,
“Come, buy my bags full of crumbs.
Come feed the little birds, show them you care
And you’ll be glad if you do.
Their young ones are hungry,
Their nests are so bare;
All it takes is tuppence from you.”
Feed the birds, tuppence a bag,
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag.
“Feed the birds,” that’s what she cries,
While overhead, her birds fill the skies.
All around the cathedral the saints and apostles
Look down as she sells her wares.
Although you can’t see it, you know they are smiling
Each time someone shows that he cares.
Though her words are simple and few,
Listen, listen, she’s calling to you:
“Feed the birds, tuppence a bag,
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag.”
These are the lyrics to the Mary Poppins song “Feed The Birds”.
It’s such a simple thing to do. Feed the birds. They are so important. They wake us in the morning with their melodious song. They eat bugs that would otherwise devastate our gardens and orchards. They provide us sustenance with their flesh and their eggs.
Some birds have even provided me with trees! My almond and my pomegranate trees are both “volunteers”, brought to me by birds.
Charles Lindbergh once said: “I realized that If I had to choose, I would rather have birds than airplanes.”
Although I don’t know exactly the worth of a tuppence, I do know that in dollars and cents, a pine cone bird feeder is a fairly inexpensive gift we can give to our feathered friends. Especially at this wintery cold time of year.
Go to the store and buy some shortening. It doesn’t have to be the good stuff, the cheap stuff will do. Then get a bag of wild bird seed. Of course, I like the organic kind. But the birds aren’t picky. They will take what you give them. You could also make up your own mix of seeds – perhaps some millet, sunflower, cracked corn and/or barley!
Now, find yourself a pine cone! Actually, any size will do! In fact, if you make several small ones, they look like Christmas ornaments hanging from the tree! I am blessed to have a few huge sugar pine trees on my future homestead. The cones from the sugar pine are huge – anywhere from 12-18 inches in length. They develop at the top of the pine tree where the pine pitch on them glistens in the sun. It’s really a beautiful sight! However, I would not like to be under the tree when it starts to release the cones! These things are so heavy that when they drop, they leave divots in the ground! They do have really big pine nuts, some of the biggest pine nuts known, that are very tasty and edible! Some day I will figure out how to harvest the nuts because I adore pine nuts and they are so expensive to buy!
Once you have your pine cone, tie a string or ribbon or wire to the top so that it can hang from a tree, with the bracts facing upwards. Tie it well because you don’t want the pine cone falling to the ground with the weight of a bird on it! Also, I tie mine with wire. Last year a bird decided that twine was delicious, and he chewed right through it! Silly bird! 😉
Hang the pine cone, positioning it just above your work surface. I hang mine on a cabinet knob, and then put waxed paper under the cone to catch the dripping shortening and seeds. I didn’t have any waxed paper today (because of all that holiday baking!), so I put a pie plate under mine this time.
Now, gently heat up the shortening. I do this in the microwave, but you can also do it on the stove or even in a hot water bath. Just be careful not to get it too hot – it could catch fire. Besides you just want it to be liquid, not molten lava! I used about 1-3/4 cups for this large pine cone. Then stir in about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of your bird seeds. As you can see, some of the seeds fall to the bottom and some seeds (especially the sunflower seeds) float on the top. It doesn’t matter.
Now, tilting the pine cone a bit with one hand and pouring the shortening/seed mixture with the other, carefully cover the pine cone bracts. Don’t worry about globs here and there or missed bracts. The birds don’t mind. 🙂 At this point, while the shortening is still fairly liquid, grab another handful of the bird seed and pour it directly onto the pine cone. Gob it on. Any of the shortening and seed mixture that dripped on your waxed paper (or whatever you put under the cone) can be scooped up with a spoon and gooped on to any bare bracts.
Now, leave it to sit for a while. Once the shortening has cooled off and re-solidified, you are essentially done. This really should only take a few minutes because shortening is solid at room temperature. If you still have a lot of shortening and/or seeds on your work surface, no worries – just scrape it up and put it back into the shortening for the next pine cone feeder you make! You can see that I made a complete mess! Warning, if you are as messy as I am, you need a BIG work surface and a lot of waxed paper! 🙂 Take it outside and hang it on a tree. I like to tie a pretty ribbon on the bottom, just to please the humans. Don’t tie it onto the top because it might get in the way of the bird seed and also just encourages the birds to peck at it. It may take a day or two for the birds to find it, but once they do, it’s amazing how fast they can devour every last seed! Then, carefully take it down and fill it up again! You can do this a couple of times, but I think once you have used the cone 3 or 4 times you should probably throw it away, simply because by now there might be some kind of bird ickies on it and you don’t want to spread disease! Therefore, when you look for your pine cones, get 3 or 4 of them, so you can feed the birds through the winter!
“I don’t ask for the meaning of the song of a bird or the rising of the sun on a misty morning. There they are, and they are beautiful.” Pete Hamill
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