(Inspired by a childhood story told by my blog partner)
My Great-Grandmother’s favorite birds were the hummingbirds that came to her southern yard every spring and summer. To attract the birds, she would ask her little great-granddaughters to make birdfeeders. Restless from being inside during the long winter months, we enjoyed heading outdoors for an adventure! My Great-Grandmother and my Great-Aunt would gather the children to go outside, and make their own bird feeders out of very simple and inexpensive materials.
Step 1: Step 1: Gather Your Supplies:
A big pine cone that has opened, A big jar of peanut butter, A piece of string about one yard long, One or two cups of birdseed, and A piece of sandpaper or a rasp.
First, we would gather pine cones from the six giant trees in our yard. Just any pine cone would not do. We had to run, and play, and find the right pine cone for our feeder. The perfect pine cone would be the largest one that we could find, with wooden petals (scales) that had fully opened. Digger pines or gray pine cones, like the ones in our yard, work best, but any decent sized pine cone will do. About this time of year, in mid-March, the pine cones would be starting to open and fall onto our grassy yard, and Great-Grandmother would be looking forward to seeing the hummingbirds which heralded spring.
Any brand of peanut butter, creamy or crunchy, will work. Unlike grandchildren, the hummingbirds do not seem to be offended by generic peanut butter brands. Just buy the cheapest peanut butter that you can find. If someone has food allergies, buy a big tub of lard instead. Don’t use the chocolate hazelnut/almond spreads. They are poisonous to many animals, including dogs and cats.
String needs to be the heavy white cotton string, which was used to tie brown paper packages before tape was invented. (Remember that “Sound of Music” song called “My Favorite Things”?)Sewing thread is much too thin, and will not support the seed loaded pine cones. Yarn might work, but it tends to be too stretchy. Jute doesn’t have much flexibility, but would be my second choice if white cotton is not available.
You will need one or two cups of birdseed, much more if your children are young and messy! Buy a small bag. You can always fill a traditional bird feeder with the rest of the bag.
Step 2: Step 2: Prepare the Pine Cones.
Since we lived in area that had high humidity and moisture, we would first let our pine cones dry for several hours.
Use sand paper to roughen the pointy ends of the pine cones, so that they don’t hurt you or the birds. Keep the woody scales, and just sand the pointy ends, so that they don’t poke you.
Add string to the top. Simply tie the string to the top of the pine cone, or an adult can use hot glue to make the string more secure. Cut your string the right length for the tree from which the pine cone will be hanging.
Step 3: Step 3: Add Peanut Butter and Seeds.
Add liberal amounts of peanut butter in between the scales of the pine cone, and all the way around the cone. We would often add so much peanut butter the pine cone became almost unrecognizable! We would cover the pine cone, our hands, our hair, the kitchen, and even an occasional stupid dog that didn’t have enough sense to hide, with lots and lots of sticky peanut butter! Some of the peanut butter never made it onto the cones, as we licked our sticky fingers. We were given dull utensils to apply the peanut butter to the pine cones, but we quickly abandoned them, since applying peanut butter with our fingers was so much more fun!
Pour birdseed onto a plate, and roll the peanut butter covered pine cone in the seeds. Sprinkling seeds onto the pinecone works well, too. Stuff a few seeds into the holes between the scales, and pat the seeds onto the peanut butter to make sure that they stick.
Step 4: Step 4: Finish Your Project.
Clean up the mess. If you were crazy enough to do this project indoors with a bunch of kids at the kitchen table, like we did several decades ago, all I have to say is “Bless your heart!”
Take your feeder outside, and get a tall adult to hang it in a tree. Pick a location that is near a window or a porch swing, so that you can enjoy the hummingbirds that drop by for a meal. Hummingbirds are tiny, tiny delicate little fairy-like creatures with shinny metallic green bodies, and long beaks. Their wings are almost translucent and nearly invisible, as they flutter so rapidly. Watch as the birds come to enjoy their new feeder. The birds will use this biodegradable feeder for several weeks!
Our hummingbirds would flock in large numbers to our yard each year. Perhaps, they knew that Great-Grandmother would feed them well!