For the Birds: Suet Logs

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Each December, the urge to CREATE sweeps into our home. C looks forward to taking a few days off before Christmas to play in Santa’s Workshop.

This year the project idea came from a store-bought gift we’d given C’s mum this summer. It was a bird feeder – a Suet Log to be more specific. It’s just like a tree branch with holes drilled & filled with a suet mixture. The birds, especially the woodpeckers, flocked to her 3rd-floor deck. They LOVED it

The fellow at the store said many birds find their food inside the bark of trees, so these feeders attracted more birds than those looking for seeds.  Customers had reported over 110 different varieties of birds using this feeder.

bird feeder
photo by SVSeekins

C had to make some himself.  His Santa’s Workshop project plan was in place early.

All summer & fall, we put commercial  ‘bark butter’ into Mum’s feeder each time we were at her apartment.  After a while, the cost added up, so I figured it was time to try making the birdfeed from scratch, too.

A year or so ago Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary gave me instructions for pine cone bird feeders. They were stuffing homemade bird suet into open pine cones. The idea intrigued me. I figured the fat should work just as well inside the drilled holes of C’s logs as it would inside the pine cones. Although I came across those instructions this summer & put them ‘somewhere safe,’ do you think I could find them now?

In the end, I found a recipe from Garden Wise magazine that would do the trick.

suet bird feed ingredients
photo by SVSeekins

Procuring most of the ingredients was straight forward.  Peanut butter, dried fruit & breadcrumbs were already in the kitchen.   I washed eggshells & stored them frozen until needed.  The sunflower seed & millet was sourced in the bulk section at Buckerfields, a local feed store.

The rendered fat (suet) was a little tougher. I looked around for plain suet blocks that could be melted down & converted into this pliable recipe for the logs.  Even on sale, these wouldn’t be cost-effective.

It turns out, suet is available from the butcher.  I went to a butcher that specializes in British fare.  The British use suet in spotted dick – a steamed pudding.  Who knew?

Once I’d collected all of the ingredients for our bird suet, it didn’t take long to put it all together.

suet bird feed in jars
photo by SVSeekins

For packaging, it was important to me not to be wasteful. So I decided on canning jars. I had lots of them, & they can be reused or recycled.

We’re pretty happy with the finished product.    Now we’re waiting to see what kind of bird will be the first to find the new feeder in our garden.


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Winter Winner: Viburnum Pink Dawn

Viburnum bodnantense, Viburnum pink dawn garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
Just when it seems all the trees are bare & the skies will be permanently grey, these small pink flower clusters catch my attention & bring on a smile. They even offer a sweet scent!   For these 2 reasons alone the Viburnum Pink Dawn wins prime Real Estate at the edge of the shrub border of our short driveway.
Forsythia & Viburnum bodnantense in sept.
photo by SVSeekins
Right through to late summer it’s just another green shrub earning space in the garden by working as a privacy screen.   As there’s so much else urging me to explore the garden, this shrub blends right into the background. Through autumn its green leaves take on a coppery tinge offering seasonal interest.  Like many other deciduous shrubs in our garden, that’s nice…  and counts as another reason to keep it around.
fall color of Viburnum pink dawn garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
But in winter, especially at Christmas, when we come & go between the dry vehicle & the warm house, we hardly enter the garden at all.  At the driveway’s edge, Viburnum bodnantense gets all the attention & appreciation.  The rest of the garden is pretty much ignored.
Viburnum Pink Dawn in December garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
It will hold its own for several more months, sharing the spotlight with a sequence of spring bulbs: the early snowdrops in January, the crocus in February, and daffodils in March. What a winning strategy.  I’m not likely to question its value to the garden or reconsider its highly visible position near the driveway.
Viburnum bodnantense, Viburnum pink dawn garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
The first time I noticed one of these winter flowering treasures was when I moved to the property on Cedar Hill. (I’m sure the shrub is still there today)
  • It had maxed out at 10 feet tall.
  • In the summer I enjoyed the privacy it gave us as we sipped wine under the front porch.
  • In the rainy winter, I held off the blues with its promises of spring.
  • Birds nested in it, even though it was right beside the house.
  • The deer left it alone.
  • It grew slowly, so required very little maintenance.
Viburnum bodnantense, Viburnum pink dawn, Viburnum spring dawn, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwestiburnum pink dawn garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
It was definitely a keeper.   Even the Royal Horticultural Society in Britain had given it their Award of Garden Excellence. When we started our search for a new property, it was right near the top of our ‘want’ list for the new garden.   I tried taking cuttings several times with no success.
Viburnum bodnantense, Viburnum pink dawn, Viburnum spring dawn, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
After we moved to our new home with no viburnum, D.Smart gave us one as a house-warming gift.  What a wonderful way to start a Friendship Garden.


Other January gems in the Pacific Northwest:

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