Create orange suet cups for feathered friends
By MARCHETA GIBSON
Our feathered friends can use all the help we can give them during the cold months. Suet is especially important because the energy from fats helps birds sustain activity levels longer. Suet is usually made with animal fat, but fats like peanut butter can be also used. There are many recipes for homemade suet, but I like my recipe for orange suet bowls best because it is quick and could not be easier. A big plus is that by putting the suet in the hollowed out orange bowls the whole feeder is completely biodegradable. Making orange-bowl suet cups is a nice activity to do with children, just be sure to keep the knife out of their reach and do the cutting yourself, for safety.
What you need:
One large orange
1/2 cup lard
2 1/2 cups birdseed (a general mix)
Jute twine or baler twine
Paring or steak knife
2 small bowls or ramekins (to support the orange shells)
Cut the orange in half and remove the fruit with a steak knife (or grapefruit spoon if you have one), leaving two orange shells or ‘bowls’. Don’t discard the fruit, of course; have it for a snack while you work or save it for later.
Using the tip of the same knife, make two holes across from each other in each ‘bowl’. Then thread the twine through the holes and tie, making handles. Set aside in small ramekins or cereal bowls, ready to fill.
Melt lard in a saucepan on low heat until it is liquid. Turn off heat and add birdseed. Fill each orange half with mixture, return them to the bowls and set them a cool place until the lard becomes solid again. You may need to put them in the refrigerator. This recipe made more than the two orange halves could hold. I simply put the extra in a plastic container and stored it in the refrigerator to use later.
When the lard is solid again, you are ready to place the finished suet cups in your favorite bird feeding area, and enjoy watching winter birds scarfing down their treat. How much do birds like these orange suet cups? I suppose that it depends on what other goodies are available. When I placed mine in the small crabapple tree in our feeder area, a chickadee watched from a lofty perch in the nearby River Birch, checking out what was being added to its country diner. It did not take long for the tiny black bird, and other birds, to begin feasting. No problem, as the recipe made enough suet for a couple of re-fills.
The neat thing about using jute or baler twine for the handles is that, come spring, birds can use it for their nests. If you don’t have twine but you have a piece of wire, pipe cleaner, or chenille stem, by all means use it instead. See? Quick and easy!
In true ‘bowl’ tradition, having 2 orange suet cups at the feeder gives home space for two teams. Who will win, the Cardinals or the Blue Jays? Oh, wait…that’s baseball, isn’t it? In that case, batter up!
(Marcheta Gibson is a photographer, writer, and blogger who lives on 30 acres in rural Galion with her husband, Jim. The Gibson’s have owned and operated Gibson Landscaping since 1973 and also have a small orchard. They have three grown children, two sons-in-law, 2 3/4 grandchildren, and a boatload of barn cats. Marcheta writes about daily country life, shares recipes and craft ideas, writes essays, and profiles country women on her blog Ohio Country Journal www.ohiocountryjournal.blogspot.com.)