Some time ago my newspaper colleague Charles Seabrook wrote about the many species of ducks that overwinter at the E. L. Huie/Newman Wetlands Center in Clayton County. Bird watching enthusiasts have found that the protected aquatic habitat attracts many other species of water fowl.
I’m not a member of a birding group but recently I spent fifteen enjoyable minutes watching a woodpecker hanging from the perch of my squirrel-proof feeder, trying to get some sunflower seed. Alas, his weight was similar to a squirrel’s, so the gate swung down tight each time he landed and desperately reached for food.
In pity, I made some peanut butter suet and hung it from a nearby dogwood limb. I haven’t seen the woodpecker again but some creature has vigorously appreciated my homemade bird food since it was set out.
My friend Patricia Collins, a Horticulture educator at Callaway Gardens, first shared with me the recipe for peanut butter suet. Real suet, you see, is the dense fat found around the loins and kidneys of cows or sheep. Unless you have a friend who is a butcher, authentic suet is difficult to find and handle.
Lard and peanut butter, on the other hand, make a fine binder for corn meal, flour, raisins and sunflower seed – - – a suet substitute.
Here’s Patricia’s recipe:
•Melt 1 cup shortening (or lard) in a saucepan on very low heat.
•Add 1 cup peanut butter and stir until melted.
•To this add 1 cup plain flour and 3 cups plain cornmeal. Mix thoroughly.
•Add whole rolled oats, seeds, raisins or bread crumbs if you have any. The final consistency will be putty-like.
•Pour into a disposable 8 inch by 8 inch aluminum pan and allow to cool.
•Slice into quarters; each one should fit nicely into a suet cage, available at most garden centers.
•Store remaining squares in the refrigerator.
HOME MADE SUET FEEDER Instead of buying a suet cage that holds only a quarter of the loaf of peanut butter suet you make, why not make a feeder that holds the whole thing? I made one from scraps of wood and some one-half inch hardware cloth.
• Three pieces of wood 2 inches wide and 9 inches long. Nail them together to form a square “U” shape.
• Two nine inch squares of one-half inch hardware cloth. Staple the hardware cloth to the edges of the “U” (see photo). This provides a way for birds to get to the suet but keeps squirrels out.
• One piece of wood 2 inches wide and 12 inches long. String stiff wire through holes at either end of the wooden piece.
• The ends of the wire are wrapped to nails or screws in the sides of the original “U”. The top piece can slide up and out of the way while a brick of homemade suet is inserted, then slid down the wire to protect the suet from above.
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