I woke up this morning to a very cold house. But the scene in the back yard warmed me up a little. Among the many birds flitting between the trees, I noted several cardinals, a blue jay, a white-breasted nuthatch (pictured), downy woodpecker, brown creeper, a brown-capped chipping sparrow, and numerous juncos, sparrows, and chickadees. In the neighbor's burr oak I could see the outline of a huge flock of crows.
Because of our resident blood-thirsty felines and an exploding rat population in central Peoria, I have given up filling bird feeders with cups of loose seeds that spill liberally to the ground as the birds eat. Several years ago I began buying the large cakes of seed that fit into wire cages. These work well to keep the seed up high so the cats don't have easy access to prey and the rats don't have easy access to food.
These cakes, however, cost between $5-6 each. At Lowe's the other day, I started to drop two into my basket and then wondered if I could make them myself. I had tried this last year with little success. The peanut butter and flour experiment ended in a moldy mess.
So this year I researched and experimented and came up with a recipe that seems to work.
Mix 3/4 c flour with slightly less than 1/2 c water. Add several tablespoons of Karo (light corn) syrup. Or more. To make sure everything sticks, add in a packet of Knox gelatin. (I had this on hand and am not sure how much it costs. If it's a lot I might omit it from the next batch and see what happens.)
I put this mixture in a large bowl and dumped in somewhat more than 4 cups of shelled seeds and nuts (that I had picked up at Lowe's). Patting it into an oiled square baking pan roughly the size of my wire holder, I then baked this in a hot oven for about 15 minutes. Note, to conserve energy I already had the oven on to roast vegetables for supper.
The cake had several hours to cool and set up, after which time I turned out a firm square of seeds.
That same day I made stew from a leftover rib roast we had at Thanksgiving. After trimming the fat off, I put these pieces into an empty net that had held apples.
My homemade seed and suet cakes seem to have done a fine job of attracting a flock of colorful birds — such a pleasant sight as a gentle flurry of white flakes fall down on this early winter day.