11 January, 2013

NO SUET BIRDSEED ORNAMENTS

University semester has began and all of a sudden I am super busy with work. Day time teaching and researching leave little time for creating and blog posting. Looks like I will have to adapt to the new schedule ... so please bear with my sporadic posts over the next couple of weeks.
Today, thought, I want to share something I've created last week:

I've been seeing birdseed ornaments tutorials popping up on Pinterest and Craftgawker and wanted to make some for a while.
The simplest version of ornaments involves covering a pine cone with peanut butter and rolling it in birdseed mix.  I did a bit of Google searching and read several discussion about feeding peanut butter to birds.  Seems like at a certain point it was considered unsafe (birds don't have salivary glans and it was thought that they can choke on peanut butter).  Today, more and more sources reassure that peanut butter is safe for birds.
Safe or not, peanut butter ornaments were out of the question for me - I've used most of my pine cones for Christmas decor and with snowfalls we've been having I wasn't ready to go forage for more.

The second type of ornaments involves birdseed mix with suet.  Warmed up fat gets mixed with seeds to make "dough" that could be shaped into forms.  It is then cooled down to form ready-to-hang ornaments.  I absolutely loved the idea of hanging shapes but being a vegetarian I rarely have suet at home.
Finally I found this recipe at FolkLifeStyle : no suet, no gelatin (another popular non vegetarian ingredient in homemade bird ornaments).  Just flour, water, and a bit of corn syrup!  YEY!!!
Last problem was finding out what seeds would be tasty for birds.  Luckily my father-in-law has several books on bird watching.  In one of his resources I found a table showing that birds that frequent our backyard (sparrows, finches, blue jays and others) greatly enjoy millet, sunflower seeds, and shelled nuts.  I had all the ingredients in my pantry and the rest of the process was super easy, fun, and not as messy as I've expected it to be.  Here is the recipe (slightly adapted from FolkLifeStyle) with a step-by-step process.



What you need

  • 2 cups of mixed shelled and chopped nuts, sunflower seeds, and millet (could be replaced with ready-made birdseed mix)
  • 2 tbsp breadcrumbs - I've used leftover crusts from sandwiches, dried and crumbled (optional)
  • 1/4 cup flour (add 2 extra tbsp if not using any breadcumbs)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp corn syrup

What to do

  • In a medium bowl mix all ingredients to form thick "dough"
  • Line a cookie sheet with wax paper and press the mixture to form a uniform layer, about 1/4 inch thick
  • Using cookie cutters press shapes and remove excess seed mixture (reuse it to make more cookies).  If you do not have cookie cutters you can use a glass rim, or even shape ornaments with your hands
  • With a drinking straw make holes in each ornament.  Try not to make holes too close to the edge of the ornament
  • Let ornaments dry overnight, turn them in the morning, and let dry some more, until firm
  • Use ribbons or twine to hang ornaments on tree branches.  Try to hang them next to thicker branches so that birds have a place to sit while savouring a snack. 
  • The recipe makes 8-9 ornaments.
 

I hung 4 ornaments outside the other day. Can't wait to see some visitors in our backyard.  I will keep you posted about the birdwatching!
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A year ago: JANUARY PLAYLIST
Two years ago: HOLIDAY CARDS (CLEAN AND SIMPLE)


13 comments:

  1. Would you say they are sturdy enough to ship overseas? I have friends I'd like to send these to as an inexpensive gift, but am not sure they'd hold up without gelatin.

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    1. Hi Speddie!

      My ornaments turned out to be quite sturdy but unintentionally they ended up drying for over 48 hours. I've also noticed that big pieces of nuts were "chipping off" quite easy so try to grind/cut peanuts before adding them to the mix. For extra sturdiness I would also suggest packing your mix very tight without any air pockets (this would help nuts and seeds "glue" together a little bit better).

      One more advice, if I may: smaller and simpler figurines hold better than big, elaboration ones.

      Let me know how your arrangements turn out!

      P.S. Your friends (and their birds) are lucky to have you! ;)

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    2. Thanks, Anya!

      I don't mind giving the ornaments 48 hours of drying time if it will make them that much sturdier. I actually bought a bag of 'Fruitful Harvest' wild bird food which has peanut (as well as other nuts and bits of fruit) pieces in it, so I should be good with size.

      I'll make sure to press it down real well. Unfortunately, I only have the one cookie cutter (heart-shaped for Valentine's Day) and it's relatively big, so we'll see how that works out. I'll wrap them in bubble wrap before I send them and keep my fingers crossed. :)

      I will let you know how it all turns out. Thanks for getting back to me so quickly!

      P. S. I have lovely friends. It's a pleasure to send them gifties! :)

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  2. The ornaments came out very well. So far all the overseas friends who've received their ornament have NOT reported breakage. :)

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/spedbug/8463732420/

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    1. Thank you so much for getting back to me with an update. The other day I was actually wondering whether you managed to ship your gifts without any problems.

      Your ornaments came out really nice and I am happy to know they did not break (even with pieces of fruits in them). BTW I love your idea of Valentine gifts!

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    2. There are still a couple recipients who haven't received their package, but it seems they are sturdier than one would expect. I *did* wrap them in bubble wrap which helped I'm sure.
      Yes, it was a Valentine's Day theme, but I'd love to make all different shapes eventually! Thanks again for all your feedback!

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  3. Anya, I live in Canada and I was one of the very lucky recipients of Speddie's Valentine's gift boxes. The lovely heart shaped birdseed ornament she sent me shipped very well and is quite sturdy. I haven't waded through the snow yet to hang it but will do so soon. I'm sure our birds will appreciate it as much as the delicious jellybeans she sent me! I'm keeping the recipe so I can make more for the birds. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Actually, I didn't give the jellybeans to the birds even though it looks like I did. I meant to say that the birds will appreciate the heart as much as I appreciated the jellybeans! LOL

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    2. Hi Cheryl!
      So nice of you to let me know about the ornaments. Thank you!
      I hear you about all the snow - we had quite a bit of it this winter here in Montreal.

      And your jellybean comment made me laugh. I am sure birds (and even squirrels) wouldn't mind giving jellybeans a try. Not sure it will be good for them, thought ;)

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  4. I'm wondering if these mold after time? I made 120 using a gelatin recipe and they all grew mold. I'm making these for wedding favors and need to make a couple hundred ahead of time. Can anyone here please tell me if you've experienced any mold growth with these? I'd hate to make another batch and lose them all to mold !

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    1. I had mine stored in a fridge for quite some time and there was no mold growing on them.

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  5. What do you mean, YeY! Have you googled whether corn syrup for birds is safe? I have and I'm appalled at all the recipes out there for ornaments made with corn syrup. I've decided I'm not going for cute or easy. I will make my first ornaments out of pine cones, peanut butter and seeds.

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    1. Hi Emily,

      It would be really great if you can let my readers and me know where you got your information about corn syrup. I did some research before making this project and was more concerned about peanut butter (the urban myth of it not being safe scared me a bit) than the overly sweet stuff.
      I read that it's not OK to give corn syrup to hummingbirds instead of sweet water and that it's not good to feed it to baby birds.
      This project uses 1tbsp of syrup so each ornament will have less than half a teaspoon of it ... but, if you do not feel comfortable with syrup you can try omitting it. I am sure the ornaments will hold since flour and water would act like a natural "glue"

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