“My religion consists of a humble admiration
of the illimitable superior spirit
who reveals himself in the slight details
we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.”
“Age has no reality except in the physical world.
The essence of a human being
is resistant to the passage of time.
Our inner lives are eternal,
which is to say that our spirits
remain as youthful and vigorous
as when we were in full bloom.
Think of love as a state of grace,
not the means to anything,
but the alpha and omega.
An end in itself.”
Gabriel García Márquez
“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression,
it must come completely undone.
The shell cracks, its insides come out
and everything changes.
To someone who doesn’t understand growth,
it would look like complete destruction.”
“You do not need to go
to any temple or church to worship God.
The whole existence is God’s temple.
Your own body is the temple of God.
Your own heart is the shrine.
You do not need to subscribe
to any religion to experience God.
The only religion you need
to experience God is love,
kindness and respect to all beings.”
This is our first snow of the winter. First forecast as rain, then as ‘a dusting,’ the weather forecast is changing yet again.
As the storm intensifies and the temperature drops, now we are hearing that we may get a few inches of snow. Nearly an inch has gathered in the grass now; and puddles on the patio, from our early morning rain, have begun to freeze over as snow landing there lingers in the slush.
Winter has finally blanketed our garden in penetrating cold. It is the way of things, and a necessary passage of rest and dormancy before the coming of spring.
My dad and I attended an opening at a local gallery in mid-December, and were interested in an eclectic collection of bird feeders made from re-purposed glassware. We purchased a few as gifts. And since then it has remained my intent to construct a few myself.
A trip last week to the Re-Store, with a good friend, yielded the odd bud vases and hollow ware needed. And so on Friday, I constructed a few glass feeders by gluing the pieces together with a special glue made to hold glass and ceramics.
I also made a batch of “Ron’s Suet Cakes” from the recipe the artist sent along to re-fill his glass ‘sculptural’ bird feeders. This easy recipe is laced with Cayenne pepper to keep squirrels, and other rodents, away from the feeders.
Here is one of the feeders I constructed on Friday.
Like many, we prefer to ‘feed the birds’ naturally through a garden planted with those berry and seed producing trees, shrubs, and perennials they prefer. Knowing that song birds need a diet rich in insects, we expect this rich habitat provides them with an abundance of tasty insects, too.
But we also provide additional food to sustain our birds during winter storms.
And so this enriched ‘suet cake’ project has proven timely.
I’ll share Ron’s recipe so you can make a batch of this special winter bird feed yourself, if you are interested. I was pleased with how quickly it set up.
After filling the three feeders I made on Friday, there was enough left to fill two small plastic cups to use as ‘re-fills’ for one of the original feeders my parents kept. Thirty seconds in the microwave was enough to let me pour the mix easily from the plastic cup into their glass feeder yesterday. I swished a little fresh birdseed in the plastic cup to clean it thoroughly, then piled that seed on top as an extra offering to their garden birds.
This feeder, made on Friday, will be shared with a friend. The vase sits over a dowel or a spike of some sort to hold it steady in the garden. Additional seeds can be added to the saucer.
This recipe yields about 4-5 cups:
1.5 cups of lard
Several good shakes of Cayenne pepper and an additional shake or two of red pepper flakes, if you have them
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 cup plain cornmeal
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup birdseed mix
Any ‘extras’ you want to add, such as shelled sunflower seeds, dried insect larvae, Niger seed, etc. I added about 1/2 cup of shelled sunflower seeds.
Melt the lard in a small pan on the stove over a medium heat. Add the pepper as the lard melts so that it is well flavored. Squirrels hate hot pepper and won’t eat seeds treated with Cayenne.
Turn off the heat, and add the peanut butter to the melted lard. Stir as the peanut butter melts. Finally, stir in the cornmeal, oats, and seeds.
Pour the mixture, before it sets up, into any glass, metal or plastic mold. You can also use this mix to coat pine cones. Attach a wire for hanging to the cone before coating it.
I like this recipe for winter feeding because of the fat content, which will help the birds survive the cold weather coming. This is a neat alternative to feeders filled with dry seed, which often gets wet and mouldy after a hard rain. It will also keep rodents away from the feeders, if that is a problem in your garden.
Our first snow of the season came quietly, almost without warning, and has left the garden transformed. So beautiful and cleansing, snow invites us to stop and take notice. We break out of the routine to simply sit and watch it accumulate. A magical winter light fills the garden, bouncing off each icy flake.
Listening carefully, we can hear it falling, piling up softly but steadily on every leaf and branch.
Winter finally has arrived in our Forest Garden.