Welcome, New Year…Goodbye to the Old

It’s so very easy to complain about all of the bad things that have happened to us in the past twelve months.  So easy to frown and say ‘oh it’s been a rough year’, or ‘2016 hasn’t been kind to me’ and ‘I really hope next year is better’.  I’m guilty of all of those things, year after year.  Aren’t we all?

On the radio today, I heard a message I needed to hear.  How about we flip the tables, and instead we look at all the GOOD things that have happened to us this year.  At everything we’ve accomplished – all the fun and adventures we’ve had – the friends we’ve seen – the new things we’ve tried…how about we leave the negativity behind for once?

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We, all of us, go through roller coasters of ups and downs every single year.  It’s time to focus on the good.

  • January started with champagne and o.j. with raspberries, in the company of wonderful friends, followed by high tea, a night out attempting line dancing, frigidly cold weather (to which I complained openly), and wonderful gifts from Mother Nature right in our back yard!  Oh, and I can’t forget seeing my talented daughter on stage for the first time!
  • In February, I left a job where I was miserable (they gave me flowers! I love flowers!), and started a new job with an amazing company, full of amazing people I’ve come to know as friends – 10 months later, I’m still loving it!  (I started this new job on Leap Day – I think that has to be good luck!)…February also brought me an amazing evening out with my siblings-in-law, for a dinner an paint night (where I painted more than just my canvas!)

 

  • March brought me fun and entertainment when I got to see George Canyon up close and personal at Nashville North…AND got to see one of my favorite radio personalities!!  What a night that was!
  • In April, Hubby and I had our own Paint Night date night fun!  (No I’m not taller than him – I’m standing on a step!!)  It’s also the month we got our new-to-us truck (Sherman doesn’t seem to like it at all hahaha!), and I got to spend some quality time with my girl Reese!

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  • In May, I had a wonderful time at a girl’s getaway weekend in wine country, where we spent countless hours laughing and eating and drinking copious amounts of alcohol around a camp fire, and then a fire place when the weather stopped cooperating.
  • In June, I had the pleasure to witness the wedding of my brother-in-law and sweet beautiful new sister-in-law. (I was also able to snag a shot with both of my in-laws at once – a once in a lifetime occurrence!!)  I also celebrated 9 years of having been with my husband (together-versary!) – Oh, and since nobody wanted to go with me, I went on a solo day-trip to the Burlington Sound of Music Festival and had a blast!
  • I want to put something down for July, but honestly I can’t find anything…still, something good must have happened!!! 🙂
  • In August, we celebrated Hubby’s birthday with a massive backyard BBQ party.  We also got the keys to this house we’re now living in, which is going to be the ticket to our dream (Follow my “Method & Madness” series to see how!)
  • September was my girl’s 17th birthday.  Just having her, makes every single day something to celebrate – she makes me so proud each time I look at her!  Beautiful from the inside out, she’s truly a gem!  September was also the month in which my co-founded non-profit organization was born!

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  • October came, and with it our 4th wedding anniversary.  Also, well….it IS Halloween month after all..and that alone makes it a great event!  Although I didn’t win the costume contest at work, I still had a great time creating my costume! (FYI – when applying liquid latex to eyebrows, make sure to protect them before hand…unless you don’t mind going without for a while!)  …October also brought with it an amazing weekend away with my BFF where we stayed in one of Canada’s most haunted Bed & Breakfasts…in the tower room no less!  What an amazing weekend that was!
  • In November, I created this blog! …’nuff said!
  • December has been simply wonderful.  A month in which I finally found my Christmas Spirit, which had been evading me for the last 15 years.  Even if it was here for just a little while, just the fact that I got to experience the true feeling of Christmas by being able to give it to someone else, was enough. ♥

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So lets all just stop complaining – we need to instead, start counting our blessings, and recognizing and focusing on the good moments.  Those are the ones that really count.

We can all wish each other good health, and wealth…but really, that’s overdone.  No amount of wishing good health on someone will have any actual effect on it, and wealth is relative.

So…what I wish for everyone for the new year, is to learn to how to let go of the negative, embrace the positive, be persistent when chasing your dreams, and please don’t give up on them!  Reach out to help another, and be humble enough to accept it in return.  Always offer a smile and a kind word, and expect nothing in return.  Be the best version of yourself that you can possibly be.

Happy New Year my friends, may 2017 be just as filled with wonderful moments as every year past.

 

Garden by Design ~4~

I love variety – variety of shape, of scent, of color, of texture.

Echinacea has an incredible 19 varieties – including an two endangered varieties!  Colors ranging from delicately soft whites and yellows, to lovely pinks and purples, unusual greens, and vibrant oranges and reds.

Echinacea grows quite tall, and attracts bees, butterflies and hummingbirds – and goldfinch in the fall to eat the drying seed heads that you don’t pick!  As they prefer full sun, my thoughts are to put these in the front of the house, along the front of the stairs leading from the bottom driveway up to the top one.  It’s a very steep area that will be quite difficult to cut with the lawnmower..and flowers are prettier anyway, right?

I love that they’re so easy to grow – yes, they do love full sun, but they also tolerate the shade.  And as much as they prefer regular watering, they are still drought and heat tolerant.  They’re perennials, which I love!  Like I’ve mentioned before, the less I have to re-plant every year, the better!

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With all of those amazing qualities, one would think that would be enough…but no, these beauties aren’t don’t impressing us!  This is like, a superhero of the plant world.  It has so many healing and medicinal properties that this post would go on forever if I were to list them all.  And plus – someone else already did it for me!  Read about it here!  (No, I didn’t realize the above image was from this website when I saved it off Google Images!)

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So by planting these regal beauties in my gardens, I can harvest virtually every part of the plant and make salves, tinctures, and teas (among many others) – which will help my family and I stay in good health throughout the year!  …Seems like this one’s a no-brainer…what do you think??

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The Handwriting Tag

I have been tagged by Jo, so I’m gladly participating in this little fun, lighthearted posting game.

In turn, I am tagging The Comfortable Coop, and The EcoFeminist!!  Your turn ladies! 🙂

Rules:

  1. Write your name
  2. Write your blog’s name
  3. Write your favorite word and it’s definition
  4. Write something nice
  5. Write the name of your favorite song right now
  6. What are you writing with?
  7. Write a fun fact about yourself
  8. Write/draw your favorite emoticon
  9. Write a silly message
  10. Write who you’re tagging

My Handwriting:

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Garden by Design ~3~

I’m breaking my own rule with this one I’m afraid – these plants don’t seem to have any other purpose besides being pretty.  I’m planting them simply because I love them – its delicate blooms, elegant twirling vines, and simple yet breath-taking beauty.

Morning Glories, Clematis, and Moonflowers.  No, not the poisonous Jimsonweed Moonflower, but rather Moon Vine, or ‘night-blooming Morning Glory’, if you will.

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I say these don’t have a second purpose, but I’m sort of wrong.  As pretty as they are, I can use these to create a beautiful privacy screen on our back patio, in between my herb planters (future post)… I can picture it now: Fragrant multi-tiered boxes of gorgeous herbs and flowers, interspersed with trellised Moon Vine, Morning Glories and Clematis.  Can you see it??  Or maybe an arch of some sort… I haven’t really decided – I just know they’ll be beautifully featured!

Oh Spring, please come quickly!!  How I’m looking forward to all of these planting and tending and nurturing!  My wonderful mother-in-law gave me these Moon Vine seed pods for my birthday, from her own garden.  I can’t wait to see them bloom and share with all of you!

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Happy Birthday To Me!

Another year older…well, another 24 hours older really.

It rained.  And I mean POURED.  All.  Day.  Long.

And yet, today has been simply amazing.  I slept in, and when I finally found the will to lift my body out of bed, I just transported it to my lounge chair in the living room and plunked my butt down there for a couple of hours.

I love that my friends and family know me…I mean, really know me.  Most of my day – other than an hour brunch date with my lovely daughter at the pancake factory – was spent for the most part in that chair, flipping through Christmas presents.  When I say flipping, it’s because one of them is a copy of Mother Earth Living – I mean, what better gift to give a homesteader, right??

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And then when that was done – cover to cover – I switched over to a present from Hubby’s aunt; Jamie Oliver’s Food Escapes cookbook!  Not only do I LOVE Jamie Oliver – I mean c’mon, just LOOK at him in all is blue-eyed, full lips, adorable dimple-ness – but this is going to come in extremely handy for the new blog I added on to this one: The Newbie Foodie …check it out if you’re so inclined!   (it’s just starting out, doesn’t really have anything on it yet – fair warning!)  I can’t wait to get more into that one as well!

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Well – I’m all sugar’d out from the last two days, and unfortunately it’s back to work in the morning, so I bid you all a very good night my friends!

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What Matters Most

Family.  Family – whether by blood, or selected carefully, or just by chance – family is what really matters most.  And although the Christmas Spirit did make a short appearance for me this year (finally!!!), it didn’t stay long – that being said, time spent with friends and family…well, that’s Christmas.

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Christmas Eve dinner at my mother-in-law’s is always wonderful.  It’s something I look forward to every year – the house is always filled with warmth and love and laughter…and craziness!

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Raised an only-child, I cherish my siblings-by-marriage with all of my heart!  All of their crazy antics make for never having a dull moment.  Some people fall into your life by design, and I couldn’t have hand-picked these ones better if I’d tried!

Seeing the the smiling, ever-growing and changing, beautiful faces of my nephews puts a warm fuzzy feeling in my heart each and every time.  The smallest things delight children, and they are such a delight themselves.  Mesmerized by a Christmas cracker yo-yo Hubby was showing them.  Simple pleasures!

A meal fit for kings, prepared with so much love that you can literally taste it in every single bite.  So much so that the old button-popping is almost unavoidable.  Moments that turn into memories.

At the end of it all, everyone is as stuffed as the turkey, and even Lola with her pretty Christmas bow, is ready for bed!

And on the way home, it always puts a smile on my face to see the CN Tower all decked out in her Christmas best!  I’m not a city girl, but even after all this time, I am still in awe as it’s grandeur!  (excuse the reflections, I wasn’t about to roll down the window!)

I know this is not a homesteading post, but I wanted to share a little – with my new blogging family!

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And now after two days of food and festivities, it’s time for doing nothing.  I wish you, a Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

 

Garden by Design ~2~

In keeping with the “Daisy” theme, my next choice is Chamomile (Ka-mo-meel).

There are different types of Chamomile, and what I’m looking for is the most low-maintenance garden I can possibly get while still having good variety.  I’m choosing a mix of Roman and German Chamomile.  The German Chamomile is an annual, but it will re-seed itself if you leave some of the heads untouched.  It’s also a taller and more prolific species.  The Roman Chamomile is shorter and produces less blooms, but it is a perennial and won’t need to be re-planted every year.  Win-win!

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Some of what I’ve read tells me that bees – as with feverfew – do not like Chamomile.  However a simple Google Images search put that theory to rest.  And since bees on my patio is something I’m trying to avoid, these will be planted elsewhere.  I’m thinking of putting patches of it around the perimeter of my vegetable gardens, as well as in My Secret Garden (that’s capitalized in anticipation for a future post!).

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Chamomile Tea – The second most important reason I want these little pretties in my gardens.  (The first being that I simply just love them!)  There are so many health benefits associated with this simple delicate ‘he loves me, he loves me not’ flower, and being the eco-friendly little homesteader I want to be, this is really important to me.  Home remedies are becoming a top priority in my household, whether I’m the only one who knows it or not. (Shhh!)

I found this wonderful little post about the health benefits – it’s a really good read if you want to learn more about it!  Check out the list of everything you can do with this little go-getter!

** the following list is taken directly from naturalsociety.com – I did not create or alter it in any way, and it does not belong to me.  All credit is theirs – please click on the link to see the complete post **

  • Treats Cuts and Wounds
  • Helps with Diabetes
  • Antibacterial
  • Calms Muscle Spasms
  • Soothes Stomach Ache
  • Promotes Sleep
  • Natural Hemorrhoid Treatment
  • Fights Cancer
  • Promotes Healthy Skin

…plus, it tastes really yummy with a touch of honey!  (That one’s all mine!)

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With all of these amazing qualities – and I’m sure, many more – this is one superhero I definitely want in my garden!  Talk about multi-talented!!

Garden by Design ~1~

In my post – Waitin’ Out Winter – I mentioned that I wanted all of the plants I grow to have multiple purposes.  And so I started thinking almost immediately about what I want to grow.  Seriously, my brain never stops – sometimes I have to silently yell at it to shut up so I can sleep.  I’m not the only one, am I?

I have a feeling it’s going to be a long winter, so I’m going to try and stretch these posts out as much as I can, without becoming a bore.  (Please, if I start making you yawn, TELL ME!!!!)

So….Garden by Design is going to be another series of mine.  I’m not really going to dwell on what veggies I’m going to grow – those are all pretty standard – plant, grow, eat, preserve, seed, repeat.  They don’t really require a dual purpose.  I’m going to be concentrating on herbs and flowers.  In this first one…

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They look like itty bitty baby daisies – and daisies are my favorite flowers.

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That’s not the reason I’m going to grow them – well, not the MAIN reason anyway!

I love flowers – I love pretty things, and these are just a bundle of HAPPY.  They’ll add color and sunshine to my gardens.  They will also attract pretty little hoverflies, who will in turn not only by my personal little pollinators (they’re actually right up there with bees as the most important pollinators…at least that’s what Wikipedia tells me haha!), but also keep aphids, mealybugs, and other little peskies away from my plants!  Bees don’t really enjoy the scent of feverfew, so I’ll be relying on the hoverflies wherever I plant these.  (Probably on my back patio – I just love the bees, but I’d rather avoid stings on pets and guests if I can!)

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Hoverfly on a lilac in my front yard last Summer

Feverfew’s other purpose in my garden will be probably the most important one.  In trying to be more self-sufficient and live a greener more natural life, I’m also trying to shy away from traditional medicines.  That being said, I sometimes suffer from migraines and just plain nasty headaches that won’t go away unless I either sleep them off (which is not only inconvenient, but also not always an option), or take something strong.

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This pretty little happy flower is said to have this mystical magical power that helps take those headaches away, without all the nasties found behind drug store counters!  So by adding this to my patio garden, I will in effect…

  • Add beauty
  • Invite beneficial insects
  • Remove pests
  • Protect pets and people from bee stings
  • Help eliminate drugs from my bathroom cabinet
  • Naturally help prevent (not cure) migraines and headaches

Hmmm…I’d say that’s a little more than dual-purpose!  YAY FOR FEVERFEW!!

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(I’m not an expert or a doctor and the information above is a result of internet research – please do your own research, don’t just take my word for it!)

 

Waitin’ Out Winter

Being that I’ve just begun seriously attempting to homestead, here in town – I’ve been doing a lot of thinking as to just exactly what I’m supposed to do now that it’s cold, there’s snow everywhere, and I can’t garden.

I don’t have the space for indoor gardening, whatsoever – and I have no livestock.

So besides reading and learning, and reading some more…what am I supposed to do until the snow melts and I can get a spade in the ground?  It’s not even technically winter yet, and I’m already a little sad that I have so long to wait to really get my hands dirty.

So here’s a rudimentary list of some of the things I’m hoping will make the time pass this Winter, and will (fingers crossed) help keep the cabin fever at bay!

Garden Planning:

I want to sketch out (to scale) my yard, and plan out my garden beds.  Do I want to plant right in the ground, or do I want to do raised beds?  Do I want it all together in one spot, or do I want to break it up in different parts of the yard based on sun/shade/grade?  Will I have some in pots as well?  What herbs will I grow? What vegetables do I want to grow?  How much of them do I want to grow?  How am I going to preserve and store them for next Winter?  How am I going to incorporate flower gardens into the mix?  I want everything I plant, flowers included, to have multiple purposes.  …Oh, and find the best source for organic seeds, and start ordering!!

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Scope Out My Surroundings:

Okay, I know that probably involves at least SOME outdoor time, but I’m going to save it for the milder days.  I want to scope out the wilder areas of town – trails, wooded parks, etc. – where foraging might be possible.  Find out where the right kind of pines grow to get the big pine nuts and save thousands (okay, not thousands because honestly I’ve only ever bought pine nuts once, they’re so fricken expensive!)…learn to harvest my own.  Find out what other wild things grow around here that I can forage for and cook up for the fam!

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Explore My Town:

So I’ve been living in this area for over 4 years, but never really explored this specific town since I only really worked here before.  I would drive here, put in a day’s work, maybe do some banking, go home.  Other than the immediate areas around where I’m working, I haven’t really explored all of the good things this town has to offer.  I want to know what my resources are – small towns are great for little shops, and these little shops usually have little treasures if you’re willing to take a peak inside!  Google is my best friend, and while browsing the other day, I found out we’ve got this little health/natural food/products place right near where I live – and they just so happen to carry things like cocoa butter and Shea butter…both things I’m going to need for some of the homemade natural products I want to try and make…skipping ahead…

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Make My Own Products:

Although I want to eventually be able to make all of the products my family uses, I’m going to take baby steps in this direction and try to really master one or two things before I attempt new ones.  One thing I love, is Blistex medicated lip balm…I don’t love that I don’t know all that’s in it.  I want to make my own using natural products like beeswax, coconut oil, and essential oils.  I also want to learn how to make a basic liquid castille soap base because it seems to be the main ingredient in a lot of homemade products, such as laundry and dish detergents, shampoo, and body wash.  I’d like to go one step further and MAKE my own castille bars to start it with.  …I’ll start with the lip balm I think.

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Learn To Scratch:

I know, that one sounds a little funny.  But I’ve truly got an itch… to learn to do a lot more scratch cooking!  I know how to make bread, but I never make it (laziness)…that needs to change.  I don’t use mixes for cakes and pastries, but I barely bake anymore (not really good for us anyway!)…but I want to learn the bigger stuff.  Like making my own pasta, and churning my own butter, and making my own cheese, and steeping my own vanilla (and possibly extras for gifts!) and other extracts.  My next purchases (if Santa doesn’t bring them first) are going to be a manual pasta machine, and a mason jar butter churner. (I really should set up an affiliate account with Amazon before attaching links, but this is just to show what I want to get!)

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Go Paper Free:

Just in the kitchen for now… stop buying paper towels (the hard part will be weaning off Hubby) and start using cloth napkins, towels, and rags instead.  Save the trees man!!  I know, they can go in the compost (but do you really want the bleach and chemicals in there?) – but the amount of water and energy needed to make just one roll is insane!  (Same with toilet paper, but that’s for another post!)  …my first stop will be Hubby’s t-shirt drawer for all his old stained work shirts – they’ll make the perfect rags.  Next stop will the the thrift stores – find the biggest bath towels I can find and cut them up in small hand towel sized pieces, sew up the frayed edges and voila…paper-free-towels and napkins.  Our place is too small to host dinner parties, so more formal cloth napkins are wasted on us.

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Start Getting Healthy:

I know that’s not really “homestead related” in the broad sense, but I stop and think about it, it actually is!  If I’m going be a land owner – if I’m going to tend to acres of gardens and animals, I need to be in my best possible form.  I can’t be bent over gasping for breath if a goat gets loose and I have to chase it around the yard, or if I have to make multiple trips back and forth for a multitude of reasons.  I can’t be worrying about my health when I have so many other things to think about.  So right now, BEFORE the land and the animals, is when that needs to happen.  And that’s the part of my life where I procrastinate the most.  Letting myself go is the worst thing I’ve ever done for myself, and for my family.  And I need to remedy that while I’m still young enough to.

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I’ll probably think of a million other things I want to do, but in the spirit of my new-found will to be organized, I’m going to try my best to just stick to the list above…and to master it all, perfect it all…and best myself at every turn.

Here goes….bring on the snow!

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Weekend Fun

This has been a busy weekend to say the least!  It all started Saturday morning with an hour and a half of shoveling for Hubby and I.  I told myself I would like Winter this year, but it’s not even technically Winter yet, and already we’ve had to shovel almost 10 times in as many days!  Crazy!  But at least the weather was mild, so it made the experience a bit more pleasant…and I got a really good workout out of it!

…and all our hard work was rewarded by a lunch date at Angel’s!  Hubby and I very seldom go out to eat just the two of us, so I never say no when he asks if I want to go out!  Date time, woohoo!

I had a lot of things I wanted to do this weekend, and the only way I actually DO them is to just hunker down and get to it.  I’ve had some projects in my head that were just collecting dust, so I gathered everything up and get it all done at once.

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There are actually 4 projects shown above, but the 4th only got partially completed because as it turns out I’m missing a piece of the puzzle.  I’ll have to show and tell that one on its own.

So number one: About a year ago, a co-worker from my last job gave me a long, rooted stem of umbrella tree.  Which I proceeded to keep in a vase of water, never “getting around to it”.  I meant to get it into soil since I got it, but the chronic procrastinator in me just kept putting it off.  Until when we moved at the end of September, the poor thing was mostly root rotted and yellow.  Except for the one leaf at the very top, that I had watched grow from a tiny little baby leaf.  I took that leaf, wrapped it in a wet paper towel, and when we got to the new place, put it in water…where it’s been for the last three months.  I figured if I don’t do it soon, this poor little baby is going to go the way of it’s mother.

Dollar store pot, dollar store potting mix, and voila.  Baby umbrella tree.  Project one, complete.

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Project two – I bought this plain old twig wreath, brand new with a tag still on, at a thrift store probably about three years ago.  And again, did nothing with it.  I swear, this procrastination crap has to stop!!  So again, dollar store treasures!  A bit of red berries, a bit of glittery gold leaf thingy….and ta-dah!  Ignore the fact that there is now glitter, literally, EVERYWHERE, including the dog…a few simple twists and I’ve got something pretty to display on the front door.  And the bonus, my house will probably sparkle for months!! Ha!

Project number three is my favorite.  Again, I got these little buckets LAST Autumn to make exactly this project, and AGAIN, never got around to it.   I found a bunch of recipes online for homemade suet, so I sort of just adapted it and simplified it.  Three-ingredient-wonder.

We don’t eat bacon that often, so for me to save bacon fat for this project would probably take another year.  I had this tin of vegetable shortening left from a candle project I had attempted, so used it instead.  Dollar store peanut butter – because I’m not spending $7 on the name brand stuff for the birds, they won’t care if it’s Skippy or Chippy!  And last, this giant bag of wild bird seed mix, also from the dollar store.  I’m really really hoping the birdies will come and eat it!

I measured out 2 cups of vegetable shortening and 1 cup of peanut butter.  Put the heat on low and stirred until it was melted and smooth.  And then I just dumped in enough seeds to make a thick oatmeal-y texture.  I didn’t measure, so I couldn’t tell you how much – but it just happened to be the exact perfect amount I needed to fill both of my buckets.

My perches are nothing fancy – just a couple of sticks from the trees outside.  I hot glued them to the buckets, but I’m not too trusting of hot glue on it’s own in cold weather, so I followed that up with a piece of duct tape.  I used pink just because!  Then I ladled in the suet mixture and put them in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

When they were set, I took them out and hot glued some ribbon around the rim, leaving enough to hang on the tree.  This time the hot glue should be enough because it’s bottom heavy and should still hold with the knot even if the glue decides to quit.  I think they look real purdy there, hanging in the trees!  I’ve got one in the cedar just outside my kitchen window, and the other in the pines near my compost bin.  …Here birdy birdy birdy!!!!!