Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Merry Christmas, Birdies!

Just like you, we've been busy little elves this month.  Planning Christmas gifts, making treats, getting ready to visit family for the holidays.  I've been away so long, too many things rattling in my head that are just bursting to be shared with you.  Thinking i've found a place to start here.

Aside from the knitting projects i've been working on, the coolest craft we've made so far is homemade birdseed and suet.  Cookie loved this project so much we've made two batches. This is what we call "school" now.  We learn so much about real life things, and the experiences keep it exciting and enjoyable for my poor child who is suffering the ill effects of "boredom" anytime she is asked to complete rote work on her own.  It's best for all those involved who wish to maintain their sanity.  :)

We learned that many of the toxins that are in food sources and fields now are affecting the birds tremendously--everything from shell strength to genetics informities to immunity and lifespan can be effected.  With this realisation, we have come to learn that we should focus on what we grow in our gardens, rather than what we put in our feeders.

But today, we are just going to tackle one thing at a time. :)

First off, BIRD SEED we needed to source organic seed ingredients.  We used our food co-op, which has a huge selection of many different kinds of seeds and grains.  Cookie picked millet, sunflower seeds, oats, pumpkin seed, lentils and peanuts.  We added the wheat berries we feed our chickens to this too for their protein content. 

Now it was time to source organic lard.  This wasn't an easy task, but we found a farm down the road from us that raises pigs.  We asked if they sell the fat, and sure enough they did.  Not only did we come home with a bag o' fat, but also our milkshare.  :)

A quick search of The Google resulted in a bazillion ways to render pork fat into lard.
I chose to use the crockpot from the blog NWEdible, because she explained the process so well, however am not certain that method is the best for me.  It seemed to take a really long time (3 days?!??!  Really?) and i never got cracklins?!?!?  The fat that melted out never really solidified.  Is it the fat?  Or is it me?  Erica is a seasoned pro at this, so it can't be the method.
More research is needed. :)

Hot Piggety!

Once we got our lard, we headed over to the blog Chiot's Run.
Susy has an easy recipe for suet there.
We used our homemade bird seed, our home-rendered lard, and because the lard was a little soupier than what i expected, we used a little more wheat flour. :)
We placed the first batch in square muffin tins lined with paper.
I stuck them out on the deck to firm up in the cold.
The Juncos, perched in the branches of the Red Osier dogwood next to our house, decided they couldn't wait and started devouring right away.
So we took the little blocks of birdie goodness and lined our deck rail with them.
The birds must think they're in Heaven...perched in the braches of Oregon Grape, Red Osier dogwood and a cedar type columnar tree, hopping down for a little sustainance within a tail-feather's reach.
Susy also had a wonderfully snazzy idea of molding the suet into a wreath shape with a bundt pan.  Our's didn't look as pretty as her's, so we just molded them back into suet cakes for your typical
 wire cage.  Maybe if we had tried the angel food cake pan with a removable bottom, we would have had better success.  We might just try that next.
Over all, i really liked the muffin tin.  Wouldn't they be cute in a sweet little cupcake box with a cellophane pane??  And if someone mistakened them for a human treat, at least it would be wholesome and organic. :)

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Thanks for taking the time to read my silly lil musings. Hope you have a wonderful day!