Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Little Room and Board for Winter Animals


The second week after Christmas normally signals the end of the holiday season in our home. The decorations are taken down inside the house and packed away for their eleven-month stay in the attic. While discarded trees can be seen throughout the neighborhood, placed out for the citywide tree recycling program, we recycle our tree in a different way. It serves as a shelter for birds as they wait their turn at our feeder that hangs under the barren branches of our sugar maple on the south side of our house.

So earlier this week, I drove a metal stake into the frozen ground to support the tree. After wrangling the eight-foot fraser fir out through our front door, I attached it with zip ties to the stake. From the street and inside the house, it looks like the tree is actually growing in the yard and will continue to look this way until late winter when the needles have browned.

Once the temperatures have risen in the spring, I cut up the tree and recycle it with the rest of our spring yard cleanup waste.

A variety of birds visit our feeder in the winter, and we try to keep the feeder full at all times. In the past, storing enough seed for the winter has been a problem because mice keep eating through our storage containers in the garage.

This year, we purchased our seed from a local animal feed store, who will store the bags for us. As we need a new bag, we just pick one up. It's a good way to guarantee a price and availability through the cold months. We're using Flight Fuel -- an assortment of while millet, milo, fine cut screened corn, wheat and sunflower -- from Garver Seeds in Decatur, IL.

Although our subdivision is just entering the age where the tree canopy is large and tall enough to support a significant squirrel population, we have one or two squirrels that live near our yard. To keep them satisfied and out of the bird feeders, we'll spread sunflower seed and other food scraps on the ground below the feeders.



As our current cold snap of subzero thermometer readings reaches into its second week, we're happy to provide a small bit of room and board for the animals that spend the winter in and about our landscape.

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