By Brenda Hyde of Old Fashioned Living
Creating homespun ornaments and garland for the outdoors not only adds a country touch to your holiday decorating but you'll be feeding your garden wildlife friends as well.
Garlands can be made with cranberries, slices of dried apricots, oranges, apples, and pears, raisins, rose hips, berries or raw peanuts, dates, currents, dried ears of corn or plain popcorn. Use a thinner twine, ribbon or yarn and a large heavy needle, such as a one used for very heavy fabric or needlepoint. Make garlands with one of the listed fruits or nuts, or make strands of single colors, then you can hang one, then the other for a pretty look. Stringing them is a great job for older kids, and the younger ones can help hang them!
You can make wreaths out of willow branches, grapevine, straw or evergreen and interweave sprays of white proso millet, elder- berry, dried seed heads from sumac, or purple coneflower, plus you can add dried fruits as mentioned above for the garlands to the wreaths too. If you grew sunflowers this year, or can buy them whole, it's fun to put a wire through the heads and hang them from the tree branches!
Line your deck with greens that you have collected or bought and attach bare branches if other trees every so often that will become perches for the birds. Use the same ornaments we've been talking about to decorate the deck also. Make it look as natural and rustic as possible.
After Christmas be sure to put your tree out in the garden for the birds too. They won't care if it's no longer fresh. They will use it for perching and hiding from predators. You can continue to hang the bird seed ornaments and garland on it, or place it near your bird feeders. For those of you that are handy with the saw you can trim off the branches, drill fairly large holes in the stem and attach it or lean it up against your deck. You can then fill the holes each day with suet or peanut butter (use the cut off branches to line your deck railings or use them as mulch until spring.) You don't need a lot of property to feed the birds. It's a wonderful nature lesson for the kids and relaxing too!
Shaped Bird Ornaments
You will need:
day old bread
raffia, yarn or twine
bird seeds and small pieces of fruit
shaped cookie cutters
Using the cookie cutter to press/cut out your shapes. Allow them to dry overnight or bake them in a low 250 degree oven until they become dry. Poke a hole in each shape and tie a circle for hanging with the raffia, fishing line or brightly colored yarn. Place a variety of seeds and small diced pieces of fruit or nuts on a paper plate or in a pie tin. Spread your shapes thickly with peanut butter and press it into the seeds/fruit till they are sticking to the peanut butter. Repeat on the other side. Hang these in the trees and bushes in your yard and watch the birds come to eat. If you aren't already feeding the birds it may take a few days for them to find the ornaments, so be patient!
Note: Alternative to making the shapes out of bread you can use stale bagels or popcorn cakes.
Natural Bowl Birdfeeders
You will need:
orange halves or grapefruit halves (with the insides scooped out)
suet or peanut butter
Bird seed, fruit and/or raw peanuts
Cut the fruit in half, and scoop out the pulp. Gently melt your suet then mix in the seed, fruit and/or peanuts. Pour into each citrus half. Or use peanut butter, mix it and just "smush" it into the fruit. At this point you can firmly push the bowl onto a broken branch on a tree, or before placing the bird mix inside, make 3 evenly spaced holes in the fruit and tie a pieces of string or yarn as a hanger.