Feed the Birds this Winter: Bird Seed Cake Tutorial

This summer my husband and I went to Le Sueur county, MN to explore my family history.  We stopped at a cute restaurant Whiskey River Emporium in St Peter, MN that was my grandparents favorite restaurant.  I could see why it was there favorite restaurant in town.  The back of the restaurant has a beautiful creek and the windows are lined with every kind of feeder you could imagine.  It attract all kinds of wild life.   I saw woodpeckers, cardinals, wild turkeys, beavers, and the expected variety of birds and squirrels.  I'm not one to usually watch nature, my grandparents were, but boy was this a show. We spent our whole lunch just watching the nature show.  I could help but think, why Mr Cat would go crazy if he could see this.  It inspired me to think of finding ways to attract wild life to our yard.  Now with winter coming I thought it would be a good time to give Mr Cat a good show and make some seed cakes for the birds. 
What kind of birds can you find in MN in the winter?  According to friends of Eloise Butler in central MN there are sparrows, chickadees, finches, cardinals, blue jays, white breasted nuthatch, pine siskin, dark-eyed junko, and woodpeckers.


It was so easy, and way cheaper than buying suet cakes already made.  I made a few extra to give to all the cats in my life for Christmas.


what you'll need (makes 3-4 seed cakes if using cookie cutters):
(recipe from 1825)
  • 1 cup birdseed (we got the seed from Chuck and Don's from an St Paul company American Wildlife premium wild blend)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 small envelope of knox gelatin
  • twine or string
  • cookie cutters, molds or mason jar lids
  • wax paper    
  • mix together the envelope of gelatin with 1/4 cup of water and bring to a simmer while stirring. continue stirring until the gelatin is dissolved.
  • remove from heat and let cool for a minute.
  • stir in 1 cup birdseed. adding a little more if there is liquid still in the bottom of the pan.
  • lay your cookie cutters out on wax paper and fill half way with the birdseed mixture.
  • press your string or twine into the mold and continue filling the mixture, covering the end of your twine and knot.
  • push the birdseed evenly into the cookie cutter until it's full and allow to dry and cool before taking out of mold.  When you do take it out of the mold flip it over to dry.  Allow it to dry completely at least 1 day turning it frequently if you plan to put it outside right away, and several days if you plan to store it inside.  I only waited a day for it to dry and put it in a plastic bag and it got moldy.

I found another recipe that uses flour and corn syrup that I plan to try next time at make your own zone.  it looks like this recipe would stretch out the bird seed and gelatin more and therefore is probably more economical.

Make sure to hang it near something the birds can perch on to eat it.

Update Dec 15 2011: Mine fell of the string and I don't know if any birds ate it at all because I never saw any that did, but something took the whole thing after it fell on the ground.  A squirrel maybe?  Next time I plan to use a straw to create a hole.  I saw a few tutorials showing that, now I know.....   I also think it might be a good ideal to try a squirrel proof suet feeder  instead of just  hanging it so the birds actually can eat it!
  
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