Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Summer is gone..... : (

I apologize to my followers for disappearing this summer.  An unexpected personal/family issue happened and as I dealt with it, I was not in any condition to write anything.  I've gotten a better grip on things and I do see the light at the end of the tunnel now.  I still have my bad days, but, getting back to "normal" will help speed up the recovery process.  Thank you for your patience and loyalty.

I love Summer, but it slipped by me this year.  When you experience a traumatic event, you become numb to what's going on around you.  Life continues on while you suffer.  It's kind of disheartening, actually.  I had put a lot of effort into my flower and vegetable gardens this Spring.  As I suffered, my garden suffered, too.  Though we had plenty of rain early on, the over-abundance of water caused all of my squash plants to rot.  I was only able to enjoy one zucchini this year!  I planted giant sunflower seeds but they never germinated.  Even though the flowers are blooming, the weeds took over everywhere.  My tomatoes are the only plants that are doing well.  Next season, I hope to make up for this year.

As a follow up to my last post, here are some new photos of the puppy we adopted this Spring.  We named her Kiah.  She has a very cute personality, but we forgot how tough it is to raise a puppy!  She's keeping our older dogs on their toes!

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Ultimate Impulse "Buy"

We had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend. 
The weather was beautiful.  You couldn't have asked for a better day.  My husband and I were invited by my brother to go to an Amish auction on Saturday, so we decided to take the 200 mile trip to Soldier's Grove, WI.  I have always been intrigued by the Amish and their lifestyle.  I have several Amish cookbooks and have discovered some excellent recipes.  My brother purchased Amish furniture from this particular auction last year, so I was excited to go check it out. 

Upon arriving in town, we immediately came upon a horse drawn buggy.  This is not something you see everyday when you live in the city.  This was my first time seeing it in person and squealed with delight!  My husband was surprised that it was my first time.  He's an over-the-road truck driver and has been all over the country, so it wasn't new to him.  We then found the Amish farm where the auction was being held.  As we pulled in with our Ford pick-up truck, there was a "parking lot" full of cars, trucks, buggies and horses!  What a sight that was! 

This auction is held each year to raise money for the local Amish school, so all the items are donated by the local Amish families.  There were several bedroom and dining room sets that sold for $2,500.00 and up!  There were probably a hundred quilts, many of them sold for over $300.00 each.  Other items sold were planters, doll furniture, cutting boards, tables, chairs, gliders, gun cabinets, hope chests, etc.  And what makes this extra special to me is that they are all handmade lovingly by the Amish.  The quality surpasses most store bought furniture!

An Amish breakfast was being held prior to the auction.  We walked into a tent full of Amish ladies cooking over propane stoves, using old fashioned egg beaters to mix the pancake batter.  It was delicious!  As you left the tent, there were large tables filled with homemade pies, breads, cinnamon rolls, cookies and noodles for sale.  On the outside of the tent, there was a booth set up to sell homemade ice cream!  Now remember, they don't use electricity.  And to make enough ice cream to sell to a large crowd, they had an industrial size ice cream churn.......attached to a small gas engine to churn it!  As the day went on, they switched to selling cups of homemade noodle soup, sandwiches and slices of pie.  Needless to say, my diet was shot that day! 

As we were sitting there watching the auction, a little Amish boy came up to us carrying a puppy.  He asked us if anyone wanted a puppy.  My brother picked up the puppy and held her.  She was adorable!  The little boy said she's for free.  My heart melted and my husband and brother gave me puppy dog eyes right along with the puppy.  I could not resist!  And I said yes!  I decided to still give him some money ($10.00), but he wouldn't take it until after my third attempt.  He walked off with a big grin on his face!  As we looked at her and did some on-line research on our phones, we decided she's probably a pure bred Blue Heeler aka an Australian Cattle Dog.  After a week of contemplating, we decided to name her Kiah (pronounced K-eye-ah).  It is an Australian Aboriginal word meaning "from the beautiful place".

Monday, May 17, 2010

I was being followed.......

As I was out gardening in my backyard yesterday, everywhere I looked, this little guy was there (sorry for the bad picture quality, all I had on me was my cell phone).  He landed here on my little gardening bench. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

My Favorite Finds #13 - 1st Holiday of the Summer

The official 1st holiday of the Summer is just a few weeks away......time to plant the tomatoes, dust off the picnic table and fire up the grill!  We grill and/or barbecue just about every weekend during the summer.  We love our hamburgers, brats, ribs, chicken and steaks.  We also love to grill fresh vegetables in our special grilling pan.  This is also the time for get-togethers, picnics and potlucks with family and friends.  My daughter tasted the following dish at an office potluck and told me how delicious it was.  I made it for a Christmas party (though it's a bit more expensive to make in the winter due to the price of the grapes) and it was a big hit!  My daughter made it for our Mother's Day Brunch yesterday, and again, everyone just loved it!  Try it for your next potluck and you, too, will get many compliments and requests for the recipe!

Grape Salad

1 cup cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup sugar
1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract (to taste)
4 lbs. of grapes (2 lbs green & 2 lbs red or your choice)
3 tablespoons pecans, chopped
3 tablespoons brown sugar

Mix together first 4 ingredients. Stir into grapes. Mix together pecans and brown sugar and sprinkle on top of grapes.  Chill. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mother's Day Gift Ideas - The Kind That Doesn't Collect Dust!

I asked for some ideas in the Etsy forums for Mother's Day gifts that could be given to those moms that don't need anymore "stuff".  I have a mom that has way too much "stuff" (actually, she could be on one of those hoarder shows, but that's something I will not talk about here).  There are also moms that live in small apartments, assisted living or nursing homes, retired and travelling in an RV, etc., that just don't need more "stuff".  One year, I purchased a shepherd's hook, birdfeeder and a bag of birdseed.  My husband and I went to her home without telling her and set it up in her front yard.  She got a big kick out of it and all she had to do was fill it back up with the birdseed.  And by setting it up for her, we knew it wouldn't get stored away and lost in her home full of  "stuff".

My fellow Estians came up with some great ideas!  Some of them are still "stuff", but they are the types of gifts that would get used and not sit around, collecting dust.  Here are some of them:

eggagogo suggested houseplants!  "Everyone gives flowers but they don't last for very long. A small plant in a nice pot is lovely. AND even if you live far away, a lot of florists have live-plant options, too.  Dinner out, or a fancy dessert or other food presented nicely" is another "non-stuff" idea!

tasteslikepurple stated "I made giant caramel & chocolate covered apples last year. Each apple had a different combo of chocolate and goodies like drizzled white chocolate, chopped almonds, mini chips, etc."  She has also given her mom ergonomic gardening tools. 

swanmountainsoaps suggests handmade soap..."soap is perfect for people who don't need more stuff. It gets used up and then it's gone. And, everybody needs soap!"

hearttohearts came up with this very nice idea....."what about like a gift card to a nice restaurant. Or to the movies."

Wrapt's short and sweet idea was "a bird bath to go with the bird feeder?"  Love it!

designedwithglass came up with this good idea "There are a lot of ***** of the month products like:
fruit, desert, flowers, wine....etc."  Stuff that gets used up is always a good gift idea!
sticktoyourknittin came up with some really good ideas!  "For one of my parents' wedding anniversaries, my siblings and I went in together and got them tickets for an outdoor concert and then put together a basket of goodies for them to take to the, crackers and cheese, cookies, etc.  Another year, I think for Christmas, my brother and sister-in-law put in a tiled patio for my parents as a gift.  Offering to do something like yard work, cleaning the house, cooking dinner, is always good. My mom also likes it when I give her a day of time together, doing whatever she wants."

LonesomeRoadStudio  suggested this and it would be fun for everyone in the family!  "How about a gift certificate to take her out to a lunch at her choice of restaurant on her choice of date, with you and/or family?"

pinupchick's response:  "I second Lonesome's idea. She's probably lonely living on her own and would love a day out. Maybe take her to a movie too? Don't go shopping obviously (haha), but a walk around a park or something might be nice."

erasistible came up with these wonderful ideas:  "Restaurant gift certificates, movie rental. I used to give my mom phone cards with minutes to call long distance."

CamillaWall suggested this gift idea (we all could use this one!).....

bottlehood recommended this one, which I really love, since I love gardening!  "my favorite gifts are always for the garden... so i'd offer wild flower seeds. i threw some poppy seeds around the property five years ago, and as i write today, there are 100s times more poppy plants blooming bright orange all over the place. it's breathtaking, along with the pride of madera purple blue spikes, varieties of lavender blooms, citrus and stone fruit trees flowering..."

Thanks to all my fellow Etsians for contributing these awesome gift ideas!  Take a few minutes and check out their shops!  I bet you will be able to find some great gift ideas there, too!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

An Etsy Treasury

Over at Etsy, they have a feature where you can pick out your favorite finds and put them into a collection to share with others.  I came up with this collection that was inspired by our trip to Montana

Most of the artisans in my treasury are from Montana as well.  Enjoy!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Grandson Quip of the Week

"Grandma, are you just going to stand there and keep taking pictures of me or are you going to help me find more Easter eggs?"

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Our Montana Vacation

My husband and I enjoyed our week out west a few weeks ago.  We saw the beautiful mountains, rivers and wildlife of western Montana (Glacier National Park, Kalispell, White Fish, Hungry Horse, Coram).  We discovered huckleberry everything (pie, jam, syrup, etc.).  We truly fell in love with this part of the country! 


As we were pulled over on a frontage road next to a river, scanning the mountains for wildlife with our binoculars, we witnessed several times how they walk their dogs around here........

The dog was barking the whole time!  It was hilarious!  Dog walking Montana-style!  No leash, either!  And, if you are wondering where the "walker" is.....he's following the dog in the pick-up truck!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

REVIEW - Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage Recipe

I made the Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage recipe last Friday and I have to say it is one of the best Corned Beef and Cabbage I have ever tasted. I'm actually not the biggest fan of corned beef, but I will eat it once a year for St. Patrick's Day. I used a bottle of my husband's dark beer that we had in the fridge (from a local micro-brewery). The house had an odd "smell" all day from the beer but when we sat down to eat, it was awesome! My husband and brother love corned beef normally, but they REALLY liked this version of it! I made a pot of corned beef and cabbage without the beer, too, and everyone, including the teenagers, preferred the beer version.  YOU DO NOT TASTE THE BEER! I won't even bother making the "regular" stuff next time.  I would highly recommend this recipe!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Green Beer Recipe

Green Beer

One 12oz. Beer - any beer will do although lighter colored beers will display the green better
Green food coloring - one drop

Add one drop of green food coloring to a clear glass. Pour the beer into the glass. That's it! This works for any beer. Darker beers like stout will have a nice green head atop their normally dark bodies. Serves 1.

Can also be done by the pitcherful.........adjust green food coloring accordingly!

Courtesy of:

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage Recipe

Here's a simple recipe that you can start in the morning before work and with minimal preparation after work, have a wonderful St. Patrick's Day dinner!  Don't forget a fresh-baked loaf of rye bread from your local bakery and a cold glass of your favorite beer to go with it!

Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage

2 stalks celery, halved
4 carrots
1 medium onion, cut in 4 wedges
4 to 6 red potatoes, quartered
1 4-pound corned beef brisket
12-ounce bottle stout or dark ale
1 tablespoon corned beef spices or pickling spices (or spices that come with the brisket)
1 medium head cabbage, cut into 6 wedges

Place celery, carrots, onion and potatoes in the bottom of a large slow-cooker or crock pot. Rinse the corned beef brisket and place over vegetables. Add the bottle of stout, spices and enough water to just cover the meat. Cover and cook on LOW for eight to nine hours.

Remove the meat and vegetables from the pot and cover with foil to keep warm. Increase heat to high and cook cabbage until softened but still crispy, 20 to 30 minutes.

Slice brisket across the grain, serve with vegetables, mustard and horseradish sauce. Pass extra cooking liquid at the table.  Serves 4.
For serving: grainy mustard and horseradish sauce, recipe below.....
Creamy Horseradish Sauce
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup drained prepared horseradish
dash hot sauce
salt and pepper to taste
Whip cream to soft peaks and then fold in sour cream and horseradish, to taste. Season with salt, pepper and a dash of hot sauce.
Recipes courtesy of::

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

St. Patrick's Day in America.......Who, What, Where, When and Why continued.....

St. Patrick's Day Symbols and Traditions

There are many Irish traditions people follow to celebrate St. Patrick's Day and other Irish occasions, although not all of them are historically accurate. Some of the Irish customs people are more familiar with include wearing green, eating Irish food and drinking beer. Actually wearing green is strictly a U.S. custom, as the color green is considered unlucky in Ireland. Green is connected to the old green flag and a time when Ireland was not free. Americans have embraced their own St. Patrick's Day tradition of drinking large amounts of Irish beer or green beer, which has no real historical Irish references at all. Another new St. Patrick's Day tradition started by school children is pinching classmates who don't wear green on St. Patrick's Day. This tradition has grown with the times, and even if you aren't a school child, beware on St. Patrick's Day if you aren't wearing green!
Courtesy of:

The Shamrock
The shamrock, which was also called the "seamroy" by the Celts, was a sacred plant in ancient Ireland because it symbolized the rebirth of spring. By the seventeenth century, the shamrock had become a symbol of emerging Irish nationalism. As the English began to seize Irish land and make laws against the use of the Irish language and the practice of Catholicism, many Irish began to wear the shamrock as a symbol of their pride in their heritage and their displeasure with English rule.

The Snake
It has long been recounted that, during his mission in Ireland, St. Patrick once stood on a hilltop (which is now called Croagh Patrick), and with only a wooden staff by his side, banished all the snakes from Ireland.  In fact, the island nation was never home to any snakes. The "banishing of the snakes" was really a metaphor for the eradication of pagan ideology from Ireland and the triumph of Christianity. Within 200 years of Patrick's arrival, Ireland was completely Christianized.

Corned Beef
Each year, thousands of Irish Americans gather with their loved ones on St. Patrick's Day to share a "traditional" meal of corned beef and cabbage.  Though cabbage has long been an Irish food, corned beef only began to be associated with St. Patrick's Day at the turn of the century.  Irish immigrants living on New York City's Lower East Side substituted corned beef for their traditional dish of Irish bacon to save money. They learned about the cheaper alternative from their Jewish neighbors.

The Leprechaun
The original Irish name for these figures of folklore is "lobaircin," meaning "small-bodied fellow."  Belief in leprechauns probably stems from Celtic belief in fairies, tiny men and women who could use their magical powers to serve good or evil. In Celtic folktales, leprechauns were cranky souls, responsible for mending the shoes of the other fairies. Though only minor figures in Celtic folklore, leprechauns were known for their trickery, which they often used to protect their much-fabled treasure.  Leprechauns had nothing to do with St. Patrick or the celebration of St. Patrick's Day, a Catholic holy day. In 1959, Walt Disney released a film called Darby O'Gill & the Little People, which introduced America to a very different sort of leprechaun than the cantankerous little man of Irish folklore. This cheerful, friendly leprechaun is a purely American invention, but has quickly evolved into an easily recognizable symbol of both St. Patrick's Day and Ireland in general.
Above courtesy of:

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

St. Patrick's Day in America.......Who, What, Where, When and Why

Erin Go Bragh

Americans celebrate this holiday with the drinking of green beer, the eating of corned beef and cabbage, wearing of the green and watching parades.  But do you know who he is and why it's celebrated?  According to my paternal Grandma, I have a drop of Irish blood in me, though I am mostly of German and Dutch descent.  So, I've decided to do some research and find out the who, what, where, when and why and report it here as a series over the next couple of weeks.

"St. Patrick's Day is celebrated on March 17th.  The Irish have observed this religious holiday for over a thousand years.  St. Patrick is the the patron saint of Ireland.  St. Patrick was born in Britain to wealthy parents near the end of the fourth century. He is believed to have died on March 17, around 460 A.D.  At the age of sixteen, Patrick was taken prisoner by a group of Irish raiders who were attacking his family's estate. They transported him to Ireland where he spent six years in captivity.  During this time, he worked as a shepherd, outdoors and away from people. Lonely and afraid, he turned to his religion for solace, becoming a devout Christian.  After more than six years as a prisoner, Patrick escaped. According to his writing, a voice-which he believed to be God's-spoke to him in a dream, telling him it was time to leave Ireland.  Patrick began religious training, a course of study that lasted more than fifteen years. After his ordination as a priest, he was sent to Ireland with a dual mission-to minister to Christians already living in Ireland and to begin to convert the Irish.  Familiar with the Irish language and culture, Patrick chose to incorporate traditional ritual into his lessons of Christianity instead of attempting to eradicate native Irish beliefs. For instance, he used bonfires to celebrate Easter since the Irish were used to honoring their gods with fire. He also superimposed a sun, a powerful Irish symbol, onto the Christian cross to create what is now called a Celtic cross, so that veneration of the symbol would seem more natural to the Irish.

On St. Patrick's Day, which falls during the Christian season of Lent, Irish families would traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. Lenten prohibitions against the consumption of meat were waived and people would dance, drink, and feast—on the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage."

Information courtesy of:

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Valentine's Day Favorite Find #2

I LOVE chocolate!  And what better way to show those you love by sharing a handmade chocolate treat with them.  Hershey's website has wonderful recipes of all kinds.  This one sounds delicious and seems pretty simple to make.  You could make a handcrafted candy jar (see below) and fill it up with these!   

Rich 'n Good Chocolate Truffles


1-2/3 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
2 packages (4 oz. each) HERSHEY'S Semi-Sweet Chocolate Baking Bar, broken into pieces and chopped*
1-1/3 cups HERSHEY'S SPECIAL DARK Chocolate Chips or HERSHEY'S Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips, chopped*
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
COATING(recipe follows)

1. Combine whipping cream and butter in medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils; remove from heat. Stir in both chocolates until completely melted; continue stirring until mixture cools and thickens slightly. Stir in vanilla. Pour into shallow glass dish. Cover; refrigerate 4 to 6 hours or until firm.
2. To form truffles, with spoon, scoop mixture into 1-inch balls; roll in COATING. Cover; refrigerate until firm. Reroll before serving, if desired. Serve cold. About 4 dozen truffles.

* Food processor can be used for chopping chocolate.

COATING: Stir together 1/2 cup sifted HERSHEY'S Cocoa and 3 tablespoons sifted powdered sugar in small bowl.

This recipe was found at:

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Valentine's Day Favorite Find

Valentine's Day brings back memories of those little cards that we would pass out in class in elementary school, hoping that you'd get one from that cute boy that sat on the other side of the classroom, or maybe one with a piece of candy taped to it! Once in awhile, a mom would bring in cupcakes to celebrate. And then, there was always that Valentine's Day craft we'd make in school for our mom, usually consisting of tissue paper and paste. I now have a box full of Valentine's Day gifts from my daughters that they made when they were in school. I still have one sitting on my desk here at work from 12 years ago (a little clay pot with silk flowers)! So, in the spirit of Valentine's Day, I thought it would be fun to make a gift to give to someone special, be it your spouse, significant other, your best friend, your mom, your dad or your child!

Below you will find directions on how to decorate a glass jar to fill with your favorite candy! You can personalize it with your own colors and/or sentiments.  Make a miniature version by using a baby food jar. 



Outdoor acrylic paint (red and white)
Mod Podge ® Matte
Glass jar with lid (mason jar or recycled food jar)
Gingham red and white paper
Paper with love phrases
Red paper
Pink paper
Small sparkle heart piece
Red ribbon
Hot glue
Large craft stick

-Paint the lid Engine Red. Allow to dry.
-Cut out a large heart to go on front of jar and a small circle to fit on top of lid from the gingham paper. Glue into place with Mod Podge.
-Cut out heart shape from pink paper to go on top of the gingham heart. Glue it in place with Mod Podge.
-Cut out a smaller red heart and glue on top of the pink heart with Mod Podge.
-Cut a large craft stick to the length of the word phrase using scissors. Paint it Wicker White. Glue the phrase to the front with Mod Podge. Allow to dry. Apply a finish coat of Mod Podge to the paper only that is glued to jar and lid. Put a finish coat also on phrase. Allow to dry and then hot glue the red bow and small glitter heart in place.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Happy Anniversary to me!

Two years ago today, a few months before I turned 45 years old, I had my hip fixed (January 22, 2008)! I had my right hip "resurfaced". It basically is a hip replacement but not quite as radical. I had been suffering terrible pain for a few years prior to my surgery. I had been experiencing different levels of pain probably a good 8-10 years prior to that. When I finally went to see the doctor for the pain, I was told I have osteoarthritis and that "I was too young to get a hip replacement". Too young? I remember tearing up in the doctor's office after he left, thinking, I'm going to have to wait until I'm "old" to stop being in this kind of pain? My whole life had come to a screaching halt from the pain. I couldn't walk without extreme pain. I couldn't get enough sleep at night because of the pain. All the things I had loved to do were no longer an option. My husband and I love to take trips on our motorcycle. We love to go to craft fairs, car & motorcycle shows, flea markets. I love to garden. I sell at craft shows. All of this requires walking and stooping and lifting, etc. My grandson was born in December 2007. I was looking forward to being a Grandma for the first time, to play with him, to babysit him, to pick him up and sit on the floor with him. My hip would have none of that! Just the everyday stuff of getting in and out of the car, going up and down stairs, grocery shopping, etc. became way too painful. Over-the-counter and prescription pain meds were really not helping anymore. I had even started taking prescription sleeping pills to try to get better sleep at night. Finally, I started doing some of my own research on-line about hip arthritis and found some information about "hip resurfacing". It's been around for awhile, but the old way had been discontinued due to problems with the devices. They continued to do the procedure over-seas. About a year prior to my surgery, the U.S. finally approved a new device and doctors started performing the surgery here again. I found a wonderful website and forum specifically for hip resurfacing, which I will reference at the end of my story. It is full of information. The website administrator also had the surgery, which prompted her to start up the site.

Hip resurfacing is basically going in with a metal device and "capping" the top of the thigh bone and then putting a cup into the hip socket. In a traditional hip replacement, a part of the thigh bone is removed and a different type of device is installed. With hip resurfacing, there is more range of motion and the chance of dislocation is less. Hip resurfacing is recommended for younger, more active people. I was back to work after one month, though it was more like 2-3 months before I started walking normal again. I remember thinking what the heck did I do to myself the first few days after my surgery. But once I got past the worst of the surgery pain, I could tell my hip pain was gone.

2 years ago today, I had my surgery. The surgery gave me my life back.

For more information on this surgery, check out this website!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

My Favorite Finds #12

Tried out a new recipe was good! We had a going away luncheon for a co-worker today and I found this recipe in a new cookbook I received for Christmas. It was awesome and it was a big hit at the luncheon. If you're counting calories, don't bother with this one!

1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup milk
1 (3 1/2 oz) package vanilla instant pudding mix
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup sour cream
1 (12 oz) box vanilla wafers
3 or 4 bananas, sliced
3 tablespoons chocolate syrup

In a large mixing bowl, combine the first 3 ingredients and beat 2 minutes, or until well blended. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

In another bowl, whip the heavy cream.

Add the whipped cream and sour cream to the chilled pudding mixture. Place half the vanilla wafers in bottom of a 13x9x2 inch pan. Top with half the sliced bananas, half the pudding mixture and drizzle with chocolate syrup. Repeat each layer and decorate top with remaining chocolate syrup.

TIP: Toss the bananas with 1-2 teaspoons of lemon juice so they don't turn brown as fast.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

My Favorite Finds #11

After the Holidays - Reuse Your Christmas Tree for the Birds!

When my daughter and I were searching for birdfood recipes, we came across this idea to reuse your Christmas tree (real) after the holidays. I love the idea and what a great family project this would be!
"Before taking your Christmas tree to the recycling center this year, consider creating a backyard habitat for birds. To attract birds to your backyard, you must provide their three basic needs- food, water, and cover or shelter. Your old Christmas tree will provide excellent shelter for birds, providing protection from wind and predators. It can also serve as a feeding station, where you provide a buffet of food that our native birds love. Before taking the tree outside, remove all decorations and lights, including tinsel. To provide the most shelter possible for the birds, place the tree on the south or east side of the house, sheltered from winter's harsh north and west winds. Anchor the tree securely by setting the stump into the ground or a large bucket of damp sand, and securing the top of the tree with twine to nearby buildings or trees.
Decorate your tree with strings of popcorn, cranberries or raisins. Apples, oranges, leftover breads and pine cones covered with peanut butter then dipped in birdseed can also be added. For best results, push the edible ornaments well into the tree. Popcorn will be attractive to cardinals, finches and grosbeaks. Cranberries and raisins should attract cedar waxwings, finches and any robins wintering in the area.
Press suet into the branches or hang it in mesh bags such as those that contain onions and fruit in the supermarket. It is best to keep suet balls in the shade so they don't melt. Also, keep them high enough in the tree that dogs can't reach them. Pre-made suet mixtures, which include suet, bird seed and a variety of dried fruits, are available at most nurseries, garden centers, pet stores, or bird supply stores. To make your own suet seed balls, purchase suet from the meat department of your local grocery store. Mix birdseed and a small amount of peanut butter with suet while the suet is warm enough to be molded. One seed combination that is attractive to a wide range of desirable songbirds is: 50% sunflower seeds, 35% white proso millet and 15% finely cracked corn. Mold the mixture around a wire hook that can be used to attach the suet seed ball to the tree, or fill empty orange rind halves with the suet mixture and attach them to the tree.
Suet is especially attractive to insect-eaters such as woodpeckers, chickadees, and nuthatches and is a good winter energy source. Suet seed balls will attract juncos, chickadees, finches and native sparrows.
If you decide to start feeding the birds, be consistent with your feeding. Feeding birds in the winter results in their reliance on you for part of their diet, lack of this food during a severe cold period or storm could result in the birds starving to death before they can find another food source.
Even in winter birds need water to drink and to keep their feathers clean. A birdbath with clean water will attract many birds if the water is not frozen. Commercial immersion heaters will keep the water in birdbaths from freezing. They are available from many nurseries or bird supply stores. Providing for the winter needs of birds can result in many hours of entertainment, spent watching these beautiful creatures."


Happy New Year!