This One’s for the Birds

One of my favourite parts of Winter is quiet morning coffees as the sun rises on snow covered branches, woodland backyards full of busy little birds as the world wakes. This is most definitely where you’ll find me most mornings for the rest of Winter, perched at my kitchen table, coffee in one hand and my camera in the other.

Bird watching has quickly become one of my greatest Winter hobbies, especially now that I am home each morning with not much more to do than watch the world come alive with the sunrise. I’d like to consider myself an amateur Birder here on the farm. I could sit for hours watching the comings and goings of all the busy birds. Thanks to my husbands collection of encyclopedias and nature books from his childhood I am learning so much about each and every species I spot.

Each Winter we make up batches of our own suet cakes to feed the birds. Placing them around the backyard trees and hanging them by our kitchen windows for the best views. It was the best decision ever when we started this little seasonal tradition and it’s one we’ll continue for some time. Not only do I get to be up close and personal to these flighty little creatures, they get free food out of the deal all Winter long, despite the cold harsh weather we sometimes see here on the farm.

Wanting to make your own suet cakes? It’s super easy and you only need a few items to put them together!

What You Need:

  • Rendered fat. Personally we use pig fat that we keep each year after butchering our hogs. We melt it down outside in the garage using an old turkey deep fryer because this Momma cannot stand that smell in her house at the moment. You could use any kind of fat from a local butcher shop or the drippings you save from bacon or hamburger as well.
  • Peanut Butter
  • Bird Seed
  • Containers. We used old solo cups we had from the greenhouse for seed starting. Placing a wire in each making sure to get right to the bottom of the cup to hold it together at the birds eat it down. We also used old pie plates and drilled holes in them to hang them up. Lastly I had silicone trays for soap making that we used and then cut into squares for the feeders we had hanging in the trees left from the previous owners of the property.

Now to put it all together…

  1. Melt down the fat you are using. I suggest doing this outside of the house if you are using fat from a butcher as it will take some time and the smell isn’t the most pleasant.
  2. Stir in peanut butter. I don’t measure, just wing it. Sometimes we use a whole jar depending on how much fat we’ve got.
  3. Stir in your bird seed. You’ll want enough seed to make the mixture into cakes in your containers without overpowering the fat mixture which will harden and act as the glue to hold it all together.
  4. Let your containers harden overnight. This is best done in a cool spot for best results.
  5. Hang and use right away, or freeze for later. We use baler twine because we have a lot of that kicking around the farm, but any string or wire will work.

Now grab your favourite mug and a hot coffee, and be prepared to twiddle away the morning hours watching your own backyard birds.

Here on the farm our most common visitors include :

  • Grey Jays ( Canadian Jay or Whiskey jack)
  • Blue Jays
  • Woodpeckers (Downy and Hairy)
  • Chickadees (Black Capped and Boreal)

My dream would be to catch a Pileated Woodpecker at one of the feeders. They are the largest of the woodpecker family native to our area here in Alberta and are absolutely gorgeous. I think if we keep up our Winter feeding my patience will be rewarded!

One day, not so far away now, I cannot wait to share in all the splendors of Nature right here on our very own piece of land with our children. To sit and peruse through nature books and scientific encyclopedias, learning and teaching them about the land we are blessed to call home. Because in the end, that’s really why we are here doing all of this in the first place, to one day have something amazing and beautiful to leave behind us for our children.

I’d love to see your suet cake creations or bird photos, so please tag or mention us on Instagram or Facebook with your pictures!

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