It takes the heart of a child to feel winter from the perspective of nature’s smallest critters. We adults bring in the firewood, thaw out our harvest from the deep freeze to sustain our families, and bundle up in our woolens as the snow blankets the world outside our glowing windows. But it is the children who press their warm little noses against the frosty panes of glass to watch the birds and squirrels trying to scrabble out some food from the frozen landscape.
My son was one of these sweet souls who decided in the winter of his fifth year that something had to be done to fatten the bellies of the creatures in our neighborhood. With a little birdseed and some creative touches, we made hanging, edible ornaments to place throughout the woods.
Making birdseed ornaments is just a matter of mixing up some edible (to critters) birdseed glue.
3/4 c flour
1/2 c water
1 pkg unflavored gelatin
3 T corn syrup
Mix the first four ingredients, then mix in 4 c of bird seed.
Mash the mixture together with your fingers or a wooden spoon. Then scoop the mixture into the shape of your choice. We used silicone molds and cookie cutters to make our shapes, pressing the mixture in firmly and layering a loop of twine in the middle for hanging.
Let the ornaments air dry in a warm, dry spot in your home for a full day.
While waiting you can make other edible decorations for the forest critters. A popcorn and cranberry garland is easy for children to make on their own (and fun to munch on while making too). And even some Lady apples or pomegranate slices with twine attached add a splash of color to the monochromatic winter forest and a splash of fresh flavors for the animals.
For me the best part is taking a walk in the winter woods with my boy. I try to stay quiet and let him notice and narrate and decide where the hungry critters are. I hear the snow crunching under our boots. I hear his breath as it hangs visible in the frosty air. I smell the sharp pine and wet wool.
And my sweet boy says with pride, “There you go little birds, eat up. You don’t have to be hungry now. I’ll take care of you.”
That will warm my heart all winter long.
Cindy Wallach blogs about raising her kids on board a 44-foot catamaran sailboat at zachaboard.