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Nikon Monarch 7

    Do-it To-it Suet!

    Here at my home base in Boulder County Colorado snow and gusty winds are forecast tonight, with more snow tomorrow and expected highs in the twenties.  When nasty weather hits I like to make sure some suet is available for my backyard birds.  I've used lots of commercial suet blocks with success but it is kind of fun & satisfying to serve up some homemade bird treats.  This is a little cooking project I like to do with my kindergarten-aged son, making a batch of Do-it To-it Suet!!

    My recipe is derived from Mary Jo Ballator's & Julie Zickefoose's versions- click over to check out their versions.  (Thanks, Mary Jo & Julie!)  I was after a product firm enough to hold in a traditional suet cage feeder but also malleable enough to stuff into a dead log that I've drilled out for suet feeding.  This is the first time I've tried to relate cooking instructions, so forgive me & be sure to comment if something doesn't make sense…

    1. Melt a pound of lard in a large glass bowl in the microwave. (Stove top would work, too.)  I found blue 1-lb boxes of Snow Cap lard in the baking aisle near the shortening.  I don't remember the time I used but I'd go in 1-minute intervals, checking to see when you have clear, melted lard (mmmmm….)
    2. Add an equal amount (about 2 cups) of crunchy peanut butter & stir well.
    3. At this point I transferred the mixture to my wife's Cuisinart Mixer.  I guess it might not hurt to ask permission if you are using a spouse's mixer, especially when you see my last ingredient…  If you are going to use a power mixer make sure it has the horsepower- by the time the mix is done it is pretty viscous.
    4. With the mixer on its slowest setting while adding dry ingredients, start with 2 cups of flour (I used whole wheat since that's what we had on hand & maybe is healthier for birds?)
    5. Add 2 cups corn meal to the mixer.
    6. Add 2 cups Flock Raiser crumbles poultry feed (or similar antibiotic-free poultry mix.)
    7. Add 4 cups quick oats.
    8. Add about 1/2 cup of Snackworms (roasted  wax worms- I'm sure other roasted or dried wax worms or meal worms would also work!) 
    9. As soon as the worms are well distributed shut down the mixer.  Use a stout spatula to transfer the mix into two glass baking pans.  If you want thick cakes (similar to commercial dimensions), this will fill two 9×9 pans & yield 8 squares.  If you want thinner blocks try larger pans. Pop the pans in the fridge long enough to stiffen up, then cut the suet mix into the dimensions you want.

    Tips:

    • I like to dust the pans with corn meal prior to pouring the mix to facilitate easier removal after cutting the suet blocks to size.
    • If the mix in the glass pans is too stiff to easily spread flat, nuke it again in the microwave to loosen it up.
    • I freeze the blocks in sandwich bags to pull out when I'm ready.  This not only keeps the suet well but it is less sticky on the hands when doling it out if it is still frozen!!

    Enjoy!  -Bill Schmoker

    NOFL_SuetTree
    Northern Flicker on homemade woodpecker/chickadee/etc. feeder.  Metal baffle is to keep squirrels & raccoons down.  Note hole stuffed with some Do-it To-it Suet.  There are 4 other holes drilled higher up on the dead log that I salvaged from a tree-trimming project.

    NOFL_blonde
    Northern Flicker on traditional suet cage feeder.  The outer cage at least slows down pesky European Starlings.  Note the curiously pale secondaries & tertials (but outer tertial looks normal)- a case of partial leucism, I think.  Someone set me straight if I have these feather tracts wrong…

     

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    Bill Schmoker

    Bill Schmoker

    Bill is known in the birding community as a leading digital photographer of birds. Since 2001 he has built a collection of digital bird photos documenting over 640 species of North American birds. His photography has appeared in international nature publications, books, newspapers, interpretive signs, web pages, advertisements, corporate logos, and as references for art works. Also a published writer, Bill wrote a chapter for Good Birders Don't Wear White, is a past Colorado/Wyoming regional editor for North American Birds and is proud to be on the Leica Birding Team. Bill is a Colorado eBird reviewer and is especially fond of his involvement with the ABA's Institute for Field Ornithology and Young Birder Programs. Bill is a popular birding guide, speaker, and workshop instructor, and teaches middle school science in Boulder, Colorado. When he isn’t birding he enjoys family time with his wife and son.
    Bill Schmoker

    Latest posts by Bill Schmoker (see all)

    • http://profile.typepad.com/rickwright Rick Wright

      Sounds a great deal like some cookies I make–or at least through Step 7!
      Is there any advantage to this recipe over just cutting a chunk of suet and hanging it out?

    • http://profile.typepad.com/schmoker Bill Schmoker

      Hi Rick- maybe someone more knowledgeable than me can comment on plain suet vs. recipes like this or commercial suet cakes. I’ve used plain beef suet before and birds will peck at it but they won’t trip over themselves to get some the way they will with this stuff.

      Those sound like some heavy-duty cookies you’ve got going there- makes me want to try one!

    • http://profile.typepad.com/rickwright Rick Wright

      I’ll give this a try, some day when Alison is not likely to stumble across my experimenting in her kitchen!
      I wonder whether the paleness you not isn’t simply the effect of wear on retained juvenile secondaries, as on other woodpeckers.

    • http://profile.typepad.com/schmoker Bill Schmoker

      I’d buy worn secondaries- only slight concern is that they don’t look very ragged, just pale.

    • http://profile.typepad.com/schmoker Bill Schmoker

      Is that one normal one the outer tertial? If those are replaced from outside to inside then that would also support bleached vs. aberrant.

    • Dave Elwonger

      I have found this recipe to be extremely attractive to my birds here in Woodland Park Colorado.
      One “improvement” I think I have made is to use the bottom 2″ of waxed cardboard half-gallon milk cartons as molds for the suet.
      Just cut off the bottom 1.5 or 2″ of the empty milk cartons and save them for your next batch of suet.
      I spoon the warm suet into the cartons and put them in the freezer where they are ready to use!
      Happy feeder watching!
      Dave

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