Birds and Blooms Blog

Get the latest birding and gardening tips from our expert bloggers.

Make Your Own Bird Seed Ornaments

Bird seed ornaments

A few years ago, we featured these bird seed ornaments in the magazine. This is such a wonderful project and idea that I wanted to share it again. This year, when I make Christmas cookies with my kids, I’m going to sneak in a few “bird cookie ornaments” like this as well. The trick with these is using a gelatin to hold everything together. Here’s the recipe we use, though you can definitely make modifications or bigger batches as you see fit.

INGREDIENTS 

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 3 Tablespoons corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 4 cups bird seed (your choice!)

DIRECTIONS

Heat water, gelatin and corn syrup together over a low heat. No need to boil. Mix flour and seed together and then slowly add to gelatin mixture. While cooling, put out parchment paper on our counter, and choose your favorite cookie cutters. Spray those cookie cutters with cooking spray. Next, fill the cutters with the gelatin mixture, pressing in the mixture tightly. Before you remove the ornament, use a straw or toothpick to poke a hole through the ornament (for hanging). Then remove from cookie cutters and let dry for several hours. Once dry, you can attach ribbon or string and hang for the birds!

Bird Species Profile: White-throated Sparrow

Rob Ripma

One of the bird species that I always enjoy seeing as winter approaches is White-throated Sparrow. White-throated Sparrows are short distance migrants that breed in the very northern parts of the United States as well as parts of Canada (Click here to see summer reports on eBird). They travel south just a short distance and winter over a widespread area with the highest concentrations being in the southeastern US (Click here to see winter reports on eBird).

I think that White-throated Sparrows are one of our most beautiful sparrows.

I think that White-throated Sparrows are one of our most beautiful sparrows.

White-throated Sparrows have a very memorable song that they can be heard singing throughout the year and there are a couple of mnemonics that birders use to remember and describe the song. Some people hear the song as Old-Sam-Peabody-Peabody while others think this birds is longing for is summer home in Canada by singing Oh-sweet-Canada-Canada. Listen to the song here and let us know which mnemonic you prefer.

Here's another view of the White-throated Sparrow. Notice how tan the stripes are on the head, these stripes can also be bright white. These stripes do not indicate age or sex and are just different forms of the same species.

Here’s another view of the White-throated Sparrow. Notice how tan the stripes are on the head. These stripes can also be bright white. These stripes do not indicate age or sex and are just different forms of the same species.

 

Berry Ornament Place Card Holder

Jill Staake

To go along with the berry wreath napkin rings I created last week for Thanksgiving, I also decided to create some place card holders to match. I wanted these to double as favors too, so once guests remove their place cards, they can take them home and use the wire place card holder to hang this as a berry ornament on the Christmas tree!

Place Card Holder Berries

Berry Ornament Place Card Ornament Materials

  • 1.5 inch terra cotta pot
  • Styrofoam ball to fit inside pot
  • Craft paint in your choice of color (I used metallic copper)
  • Berries floral picks – 1 in red, 1 in white
  • Heavy gauge wire in color of your choice (I used copper)
  • Tacky craft glue
  • Wire snips
  • Sponge brush
  • Needle nose pliers (not shown)
  • Scrapbook paper or note card of your choice (not shown)
  • Scissors (not shown)
  • Pen (not shown)

Place Card Holder Berries Ornament Materials

Berry Ornament Place Card Ornament Assembly

  1. Paint terra cotta pot in the color of your choice. It took two coats to fully cover my pot.
  2. Glue Styrofoam ball into the pot and allow to dry.
  3. Cut 6 inch length of heavy gauge wire. Use needle nose pliers to twist one end into a spiral as shown. Leave other end straight.
  4. Poke straight end of wire into center of Styrofoam ball and glue into place.
  5. Snip individual berries from the floral picks, leaving at least one inch of wire attached to each.
  6. Insert the berries on wires into the styrofoam ball in any way you like until you achieve the desired affect. Use glue to hold in place as needed. (I also snipped a few of the curlicue pieces and added those as well.)
  7. Cut a piece of scrapbook paper to the desired size and write guest’s name on card. Insert into wire spiral as shown.

Berries Ornament

Looking for more fun DIY projects? Protect your tabletops over the holiday with this easy Ceramic Tile Holiday DIY Coaster project, or make DIY Pinecone Firestarters to make your holiday fires more festive!

A Harvest Of Apples From the Fruit Garden

harvesting apples

One of the greatest rewards in the garden is picking ripe fruit straight off the tree.  This is especially true of apple season.  While most regions in the country enjoy their apple harvest in the fall, our apples ripen during the summer in the Southwest, where I live.  Our fruit garden is filled with apple, lemon, orange and peach trees, but I think that our apple trees are our favorite.

apple harvest

My kids and I look forward to picking the apples from both our own and my mother’s apple trees.  Then we take them home and use them in a number of ways from making homemade applesauce, cake and dehydrated apple cinnamon chips – yum!

harvested apples

Of course, we eat them fresh off the tree, but it is more fun to make things from our apples.  Connecting kids by showing them where food comes from – whether you grow it yourselves or take them to a farm where they can pick their own is an important step in showing them how food makes it to their table.  We decided to take a part of our apple crop and use it to make apple pie, which is a great project to do indoors when its too cold (or hot, in our case) to venture outdoors.

Making apple pie

We all took turns peeling the apples and then I taught them how to use a melon ball scooper to take out the core.  We thinly sliced the apples so that we had 6 cups of apples and added 3/4 cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons of flour, 3/4 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. of nutmeg.  We finished it off by adding some freshly grated lemon zest using lemons from the tree, but you could substitute the lemon zest for 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.  We mixed it all together and added to our crust.  I made the crust from scratch, but you could certainly buy a pie crust from the store.

Before going into the oven, we sprinkled the top of the crust with egg wash and added some cinnamon sugar for a special touch.

fresh baked apple pie

As our apple pie began cooking, our house smelled just delicious!  It was hard to wait for the pie to cool enough for us to eat it.  The kids were so proud of their accomplishment.  They could hardly wait to show their dad what they had made from the apples that they had picked off our tree.

enjoying apple pie

I must confess that I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun the kids had making the pie.  My motivations for making it was largely due to the fact that I had a lot of apples and my kids were suffering from cabin fever.  Making apple pie was fun, educational and most of all – delicious!

As I mentioned earlier, apple pie is just one thing that you can make from apples.  Another favorite of ours is making applesauce, which we can so it lasts throughout the year when the apple harvest is but a distant memory.

How about you?  Do you have a fruit garden?  What do you make with your fruit?

Keep an Eye Out for Snowy Owls Again this Winter

Rob Ripma

For the second winter in a row, it appears that Snowy Owls are moving south. There have already been many reports with one being as far south as Oklahoma! You can see all of the current eBird reports by following this link. With so many owls already heading south, it will be a very interesting to see where Snowy Owls might show up around the country. Let us know if you find any Snowy Owls this winter by leaving a comment below! Also, check out my post from last winter to see how where the owls ended up by clicking here.

I photographed this Snowy Owl several years ago in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan which is an awesome place to see many of these owls.

I photographed this Snowy Owl several years ago in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan which is an awesome place to see many of these owls.

This map shows all of the eBird reports for Snowy Owls in October and November. Click here for an interactive map of the reports.

This map shows all of the eBird reports for Snowy Owls in October and November. Click here for an interactive map of the reports.

 

Berry Wreath Napkin Ring Ornament

Create a fast and simple berry wreath napkin ring for the Thanksgiving table. It doubles as a Christmas ornament that guests can take home and enjoy!

From Our Community

Merry Christmas to me

LOL  I should clean more often.  While cleaning out a drawer yesterday that had a few old purses and a clutch wallet in it I hit the jackpot. …
Read more >

You have got to see this…

I heard him bawling down the hallway... no idea why... but he loves to play along the wall... Whitten was laying there, like this... I was laughing so…
Read more >