I remember my grandmother making four things: delicious cottage pies, terrible, watery scrambled eggs, fudge and, every winter, fat balls for the birds.
Barbara wasn’t a cosy granny. She liked watching snooker and football on her tiny black and white television, Embassy Regal, ferocious, improvisational knitting, railing against Arthur Scargill, reciting Shakespeare and reading at least three Mills & Boon library books every week. (‘Get me the juicy ones, love.’)
Her favourite phrase, on observing in her grandchildren any signs of vanity was, ‘She needs a good floor to scrub’. So this small act of kindness towards the sparrows and tits which visited her little garden was made all the more tender in her strong, impatient hands.
It’s supposed to get cold again, possibly snow. This morning I refilled the birdfeeders and made some fat balls. Barbara packed hers into old Ski yoghurt pots. I made mine in old teacups. I can only imagine what she would think about that. I should probably go and scrub a floor.
Getting the ingredients together. To the seeds, add other things which you may already have in your cupboards, such as nuts, oats and dried fruit.
I used twigs to make the perches, but small lengths of dowel work just as well.
The finished feeders. They took about 10 minutes to put together. It’s an easy project to do with children and a finished one would make a nice present for a bird-loving friend.
How To Make Teacup Bird Feeders
I saw this idea when I was trawling the internet late one night and I’m afraid I can’t remember its source, so many apologies to the person whose idea it is for not crediting them.
If you don’t want to use teacups, you can make the bird feeders in empty coconut shells, plastic cups or small yoghurt cartons. Or simply turn them out onto the bird feeder when they’re set. I can’t do that because of our cats, so I hang them as far up as I can reach in the cherry tree, far enough so the cats can’t get near them. No doubt this is how I will die.
You will need:
A mixture of birdy treats: nuts, seeds, dry porridge oats, dried fruit
Twigs or bits of dowel
Weigh the dried food and put it in a bowl. You need about half that weight in lard. I used 400g dried food to 200g lard, which was enough for three teacups.
Melt the lard and pour most of it into the bowl – reserve about a tablespoon’s worth per cup you want to fill. Give it a good stir so that everything’s well coated and spoon the mixture into the cups. Make a perch by poking a twig or bit of dowel into the middle of each teacup while the mixture is still warm and gently press down with the back of a teaspoon to ensure it’s all nicely packed in. Pour a little more lard over the top of each cup, like sealing a nice rillettes. Place them in the fridge until they’re set.
Tie some string around the handles and hang from trees, fences, anywhere that’s out of the reach of cats.
Other diners also appreciate high tea en plein air.