This peanut-buttery holiday wreath is for the birds

As a pair of mocking birds squabbled over each other's claim to the last apples still clinging to a tree, I remembered that I hadn't yet finished preparing this year's bird-treat wreath —a homemade bird feeder that I fabricated several years ago to help fill the gullets of neighborhood birds with holiday treats.

A wreath for the birds

The wreath I turned into a bird feeder was fashioned by tightly twisting together leafless yet green, foot-long, grape vines around a wire frame. A bent coat hanger served as the frame, and I used bailing wire to hold the vines in p place.

Any wreath will do, incidentally, including a synthetic, store-bought wreath. But I wanted a natural and durable wreath that I could use year-after-year.

The bird treats I serve are made by mixing together various bird foods —such as seeds and shelled nuts —with peanut butter. The peanut-butter mixture is then spread into the crevices of pine cones attached to the wreath with twine. Finally, I hang the wreath where I can watch the birds enjoy it, but also where the neighbor's cats can't reach. Plus, the wreath has nothing attached to it that will function similar to a scarecrow.

This year, though, I've added water to the wreath's design. By suspending the wreath horizontally from a tree limb, instead of hanging it vertically, I was able to attach a small tray of water to the wreath's center. So now the wreath is also a drinking station, and birds are washing down their holiday treats with fresh water while still perched on the wreath.

The first wreaths, by the way, were fashioned from plant materials and used as headwear on special occasions. Worn by the ancient Greeks and Romans, it was popular to save them as wall-decorating souvenirs. So in keeping with this ancient tradition, and after the pine cones used in this year's wreath are thrown out, the wreath will be washed in a 10-percent, chlorine-bleach solution, before it's hung on a wall until next year's holiday season. There it will serve as a reminder to me of past holidays and holidays to come — shared with the birds.

This week in the garden

I'm saving "wood ashes" from the fireplace to help feed next year's tomato patch. Naturally high in "K" (potassium), the plants will use the extra K to build good flavor and better disease resistance. Similar to lime, wood ashes are alkaline. But unlike lime, wood ashes don't change a soils pH by sweetening it for as long a period, since they more quickly flow through soil than lime when combined with water.

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