Every year when I was young, my brothers and I would spend a day with my Grandpa and Grandma, and decorate a tree outside with treats for the birds. It was usually on a Saturday close to Christmas, to give my parents time to do their Christmas shopping.
We would spend the morning making treats with my Grandma, and after lunch we would go outside with my Grandpa and decorate the tree.
A garland of stale popcorn and dried cranberries strung together was a treat for the sparrows and little chickadees; and peanuts, threaded through the shell and hung, were for the Blue Jays. My Grandma would mix up peanut butter, suet and cornmeal and we would coat pinecones in this mixture and roll them in birdseed. We hung these on the tree branches with red yarn so the birds would notice them. We would also hang dried apple slices and mesh bags (like lemon or orange bags) filled with suet for the other birds. As we were doing this, my Grandpa would talk about the different birds that would come eat the treats, pine siskins, grosbeaks, nuthatches and woodpeckers; he would tell us what they looked like and their funny little mannerisms.
After the tree was all decorated, we would clamor back inside and race each other to the couch, the best place to view the action outside. After the usual jostling and complaining, we would finally settle to watch with delight as the birds visited the Christmas tree we filled with treats.
This Christmas tradition is one of my favorite memories of my grandparents. I feel so fortunate that they took the time to do this with us when we were kids.
Pinecone treats for the birds:
Mix equal parts peanut butter (use the natural kind with only peanuts listed in the ingredients) and suet (or lard)
Stir in enough cornmeal to make a thick paste.
Press this mixture into the pinecone.
Roll in a wild birdseed mix.
String or tie cotton thread to the pinecone and hang from a tree in your yard.
Enjoy the birds that come visit!