The world looked beautiful, like it was all encased in glass. As the sun shone upon that ice encased world, it glittered. While beautiful to look at, many would agree that they would rather look at it in greeting cards, than to have it. I myself have taken two spills so far. Christopher's Mom and sisters who live in Halton Hills were without power for several days, and had lost a lot of branches from beloved trees.
I knew that the ice was beautiful but potentially deadly, but until Christmas morning I had not fully realized just how far reaching it was. Every Christmas Eve day the kids and I make reindeer food. Our reindeer food is made of bird seed, oatmeal, sugar sprinkles and sparkles. The kids love to go out an hour or so before bedtime and sprinkle the food in the front yard for the reindeer to snack on while Santa is in the house delivering gifts. Christmas morning I happened to look out the kitchen window and saw the front lawn littered with birds. We rarely see birds like that.
I have heard many people express an opinion about feeding birds in the winter. Some of are of the school of thought that it is a waste that just promotes pesky squirrels, that there is ample food for the birds that stay north in the winter. Others find great comfort and entertainment feeding the birds, they feel like the birds don't have food in the cold frigid Canadian winter and want to help them out. I personally have no real opinion normally. I would feed the birds, but feel it unfair. I feel it's unfair because I am not really a stick to it person. I kill all of my plants because I forget to water them. I have left out bird feeders in the past. The kids and I have taken great enjoyment in watching the birds and guessing which bird is which. The problem is that I forget to refill the feeder, or it's simply too cold for me to leave the house to fill the feeder. I don't have a feeder because I would hate for the birds to become dependent on me, only to make them suffer.
As I stood at the kitchen window Christmas morning I realized that those poor little birds would starve if more of us didn't help them. Any food that was not provided by human hands would be encased in a thick layer of ice. I wanted to help them.
My parents are avid bird feeders. They have bird feeders scattered throughout their three acres. I personally know very little about birds. I can recognize blue jays and chickadees, but that is the extent of my birding knowledge. I remembered reading somewhere that a suet feeder was a good thing to provide for the birds in the winter. The suet would help them to stay warm (I'm not sure how that works, but I don't have to). I decided that I would make some suet for the birds.
I took a pot and melted down some suet, vegetable shortening and peanut butter. I then mixed the now liquid fat into a bowl of birdseed. I then scooped the mixture onto a parchment lined cookie sheet, and spread the mixture around. I let it reform into a solid. I had this amazing idea that I had seen on Pinterest in mind. Someone had pinned an adorable suet thing that was shaped by a cookie cutter. They had further put a small hole in the top and fed ribbon through it. In my mind I saw the kids and I all smiling like those idiot families on commercials. In my self delusion I was throwing my head back laughing at something one of the kids had said. I also had this amazing mental image of how adorable it would look to see the birch tree out front strung with adorable suet cutouts (I guess if I had stopped to think about it, I would have realized how macabre it would look seeing the tree decorated with little gingerbread like men looking like something out of a Steven King novel missing parts of their bodies). As is always the case, the reality was something different. The reality was that only Elly was interested in cutting out shapes in the suet. At some point the dog had gotten into it and eaten off a bit. I'm not sure why my dog wanted to eat birdseed, but then again he is my dog. Elly pressed the cookie cutter into the solid suet. She looked very proud of herself. As I tried to take the cutout out of the pan it crumbled into my hands. New plan, I used the mesh from my Butterball turkey, and the mesh from the top of the clementine box. I put the crumbly suet mix into the meshes and then wove ribbon into the top to close it and affix it to the tree.
Elly and I put on our winter clothing and made our way out to rescue the birds from starvation. She fairly skipped across the icy crust on the front lawn. I made small tentative steps fearful of fall number three. Carefully I strung the first suet mass to the tree branch. I then walked cautiously over to the other side of the tree. As I was hanging the second suet mass, Elly called over to me. She was standing under the first suet mass, her mouth open under it. "Look at me Mommy, I'm pretending to eat it." I laughed.
The house felt so toasty and warm after being out in the frozen yard. Elly raced to take off her winter clothing and stand at the window. Every now and then she would let out a squeal of delight, "Mommy, Mommy there's a bird!" She was so delighted. For the next hour or so she would call out to me the birds that came and ate the seed we had also scattered across the lawn. "There's a big blue one." "There's a cute tiny weenie one". Her little face stayed pressed against the cold window reporting back to me about the bird activities.