In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
A bit of toast, some sliced fruit, a few nuts, and peanut butter make fancy trimmings for feathered friends at holiday time.
Christmas for the Birds
The holidays are a special time. Sharing gifts with family and friends, decorating our homes for the season, and eating more than is necessary are timely tonics for getting us through the dark days of winter.
You can share the bounty of the season with wild creatures by setting up a special holiday tree just for them and decorating it with edible ornaments. The ornaments look nice and taste great. Birds and squirrels will love your gift and entertain you with their antics as they enjoy your largess.
Strings of unsalted peanuts are a favorite of blue jays and squirrels, and are very easy to make. Use a large needle to thread short strings of three or five peanuts each. If you make them any longer, the creatures won't be able to carry them away to dine in the privacy of their own homes. Popcorn can be strung the same way -- on short strings. You don't need to tie a knot at the end; you want the peanuts to easily slide off the string.
Fruit Slices and More
Slice and hang colorful pieces of fruit for robins and migrating birds to enjoy. Apples, pears, oranges, and quince can be sliced into rounds and hung with traditional wire ornament hangers or threaded with craft wire. The orange rounds look especially nice and last a long time outdoors. They are a favorite of mockingbirds, towhees, waxwings, and wrens. Round slices of apples, pears, and quince can be cut into the shape of stars with a cookie cutter, if you happen to have one on hand. You also can easily cut the sliced rounds into stars or crescents with a sharp knife.
Toasted bread is another yummy food that can be used to make ornaments. Cut stars, crescents, or circles and hang them on the tree with ribbon, yarn, or festive tinsel garland.
Sprays of millet are a favorite of every creature that flies, especially finches, juncos, mourning doves, and sparrows. Tie them to the branches with colorful bows.
Small pinecones rolled in peanut butter and then in wild birdseed are a favorite of both squirrels and birds. I like to use tinsel garland to hang these "ornaments." The trick is to attach the garland prior to the rolling and seeding process.
If you don't wish to buy a separate tree to decorate, you can simply hang these edible ornaments onto existing shrubs. Just make sure the location you select has ample cover for shy diners.
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