By Travis Birch
Trying to be one with nature means not only learning and teaching our family, but it means that we have an obligation to assist nature as we live in and around it. Sometimes this means respecting the inhabitants of the terrain around us, and sometimes it means lending a helping hand. Something we try to instill in our boys every chance we get, is to give back. In town and at our cabin we help out those around us. Not just the humans around us, but animals and our fine feathered friends. It takes minimal effort on our behalf, but the benefits have a lasting effect on those we share the world with.
When winter hits us, and a covers our property with nice layer of fresh white snow, there is nothing better to gaze upon than a couple of bright red cardinals blessing us with their presence. They are encouraged with knowing that they can visit the Birch homestead for a consistent meal.
We keep seed on hand throughout the year, but when the mercury drops our winged friends are needing something a little more substantial. So we have a recipe for a suet that we have been improving upon over the years, and it is very popular with the bird population around our house.
The ingredients are simple, seed, cornmeal, fat, and peanut butter. You’ll prepare this in a simple bowl, and rest it in a muffin tin to set. From start to finish you can expect to spend all of 15 minutes making this work.
In your bowl prepare one cup of bird seed or bird food. Add to that two cups of cornmeal. If you have something left over from a ritual Friday night fish fry that is perfect. Mix this together with ½ cup of peanut butter. Spoon the mixture into the muffin pan. You need a fat source to keep the whole thing as one. Any type of animal fat will work. If you have just cooked chicken the night before, and you are left with a congealed mess, warm this up. Sausage grease from breakfast, a block of beef lard in your pantry are also suitable for this. In my house we go through a healthy, or unhealthy (depending on your point of view) of bacon. With each batch of bacon cooked we filter the bacon fat through a coffee filter into a mason jar, and we are left with an abundance of clean clear bacon grease to cook with, make popcorn with or, use as a fat source for homemade bird suet.
Warm your fat and add it to each tin with your suet mixture. The fat is a bird’s best friend. This is a fuel source for the bird’s energy. Is helps to keep them warm, and because they burn so many calories in such a short amount of time a fat bird, is a surviving bird. Put this in the refrigerator until it sets up, then put them out for the birds to snack on.
A good note to remember is that this cake will smell attractive to any number of critters in the middle of winter when finding food is a little harder. You don’t want to set the birds up to become the next meal for your cats, so get a suet cage to hang where other animals can’t get to it. Sometimes building a stand with leftover dowels in the middle of the yard is the safest bet. At the end of the day, you’ll be left with a happy group of birds who will have a better winter at a simple cost of some your leftovers, and a little bit of your time.