3 Tips You Gotta Know When Using Suet Plugs

3-tips-suet-plugs

This post contains affiliate links.

If you use suet plug bird feeders you know how incredibly messy they are to fill.

[A quick note to those who don't feed birds or use suet bird food - Suet food usually comes in either bricks or plugs. The binding agent for the bird seed is suet (animal fat or partially solidified grease.)]

I’ll say this, what suet cages lack in beauty they more than make up for in ease of use. Suet plug feeders, on the other hand, provide a certain almost rustic appeal, but, boy, oh boy. By the time you get all the feeder holes filled with suet plugs … Have you ever seen a 12-month old baby that’s been handed a HUGE slice of birthday cake – loaded with chocolate icing, of course! – and the birthday baby is encouraged to have at it?! Well, when you’re done filling suet plug feeders you end up looking a little like that. Granted, your face is clean, but your hands are unfit to touch ANYTHING.

The reason for this mess, aside from the fact that you’re dealing with “grease,” is because the plug holes are a bit snug, which requires pushing the suet plugs through the holes.

Recently, as I finished filling my suet plug feeder, I thought, “There’s GOT to be a better way to do this. The plugs are simply too soft and slimy, something that doesn’t happen with … frozen food.” :) Light bulb!


1. Freeze the Suet Plugs

Freezing them made a huge difference.

Freezing bird food suet plugs makes the job of filling the suet plug feeders a WHOLE lot easier for two reasons:

  1. Nearly everything, except water, contracts in its frozen state. This makes the plugs ever so slightly smaller; and
  2. Pushing the plugs through the plug holes doesn’t become a mushy mess when the plugs are hard.

[...Continue reading this post.]

Attracting Bats to Bat Houses

attracting-bats-1

This post contains affiliate links.

I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that probably most of you do not have a bat house. Maybe you’ve never even thought about getting a bat house. Bats might even seem a little creepy or of no personal benefit to you.

So let’s start out with a few intriguing bat facts.

Bats are Mammals and Pollinators

I remember seeing a show on Discovery, Animal Planet, National Geographic, or some nature channel about bats in the Sonoran Desert of northern Mexico. The videography was amazing in itself. In slow motion they showed a bat flying to a cactus to eat pollen. Big whoop, right? The WOW factor was that WHILE the mama bat was zooming from one cactus to the next getting her nibbles or slurps of pollen, her tiny pup was clinging to her AND, if I recall correctly, nursing!

Talk about a mama multi-tasking, not to mention the skill of that pup to hang on for dear life!

I just love watching stuff like that, but that part of the show was actually about the crucial role of bats in propagating the cardon cactus.

Because of the lesser longnosed bats (and other pollinators) the flowers are pollinated, the pollinated flowers produce fruit, the fruit provides nutritious food for the local people, and the fruit that falls to the ground becomes another cactus that feeds the bats that …

Bats are very important to the agave plant “… which relies solely on bats to pollinate its flowers and reproduce.”(5)

Click here to read more about how bats can benefit you and your family, your garden, and your back yard.

Some Bats Are Simply Adorable

[...Continue reading this post.]

12 Ways to Critter-Proof Your Garden

critter-proof-garden

This post contains affiliate links.

Back in January, I asked on Facebook which specific critters, insects, or plant diseases have been the most problematic to your garden. So many of you chimed in with responses. Most people named one or more adorable but destructive critter; quite a few people mentioned insects; and no one mentioned any plant diseases.

To keep this post from becoming a novel, destructive insects and plant diseases will be addressed as separate posts.

Here’s how I see these adorable but destructive critters:

Nearly all of them will fit into one, some as many as three, category based on how they move about: flyers, tall walkers, short walkers, climbers, and diggers. Many solutions for one animal will prevent all animals in that category from getting into your garden. Of course, that won’t always be the case, but many times it will be.

I’ve included at the end of this post a nifty little table I created of various critters and the category in which they fit.

1. Cinder Blocks

cinder-block-1
cinder-block-2

Okay. This idea is not for the faint of heart. If you consider yourself a leisure gardener, this will NOT appeal to you. It will take a one-time big investment of sweat and brawn.

If you’re bound and determined to live off your land and keep persistent diggers out of your garden, here’s an idea I had:

  1. Dig a trench 8 inches wide x 8 inches deep around the perimeter of your garden.
  2. Place cinder blocks – with openings vertically oriented!! :) – back-to-back in the trench.
  3. Bury the cinder blocks with the dug-up dirt.

If you’re up to the physical workout, you could even go two cinder blocks deep. (It only took me about 5-10 minutes to dig one hole for a cinder block, as seen in above photo.)

Don’t get in so much of a hurry that you forget the simple things, like making sure the cinder block openings are vertically oriented. Otherwise, you’ve just unwittingly constructed an elaborate underground tunnel highway INTO your garden. :D

2. Motion Detector Sprinkler System

John is an engineer and an amazing problem-solver.

The first house we lived in, we had a very nice neighbor next door who had a few cats. When our gravel driveway got wet from rain or the late night or early morning dew, the cats would walk around gathering the gravel dust onto their paws, as much as their paws could hold, – oh, yes, it was intentional – and then jump onto our cars and make these *adorable* paw prints all over them.

[...Continue reading this post.]

How You Can Help Prevent Needless Bird Deaths

needless-bird-deaths

If you’ve been reading Your Gardening Friend posts for any decent length of time, you know I love birds. Yes, I like chickens – for both their taste and cuteness – but I’m talkin’ about the little chirping birds around the house.

I’m in awe of God, that He created such a vast array of birds in size, bird calls, mannerisms, and color. Just like the brilliant colored fish found in coral reefs, sometimes I think God created what we need for sustenance and then so much more simply for our enjoyment and entertainment. Most importantly, all creation bears witness to God.

We’ve lived in this house for 6.5 years. In all those years I’ve never cleaned ALL the windows. As a matter of fact, of the 13 windows in our house, only two have been cleaned on both the inside and outside more than once. Those two windows are picture windows near our kitchen table. It’s from those windows I can see the front porch, all bird feeders, eventually that will include the bird feeder I recently made, a vintage tea kettle windchime that’s been used as a bird nest, and our bubbling boulder.

I like those two windows to be squeaky clean for the best view and enjoyment possible. The problem with the windows being THAT clean is the birds don’t realize the glass panes are there.

[...Continue reading this post.]

How to Make a Suet Plug Bird Feeder

suet-plug-feeder_collage

I often pray for ideas for posts, and that’s how this post came about.

While strolling through Rural King (a home and garden store), I noticed the simplicity of the suet plug bird feeders and thought,

“Hmmm … this just looks like a 4-by-4 with some holes drilled through it and some angled cuts. … I bet I could make this, assuming John has the right tools and can walk me through a few things.”

It took me a second, but I realized God had just given me my next post idea. :)

John made a few practice cuts, walked me through how to use the power tools for this project, and then I was set free.

I told John I had to make EVERY cut myself (to provide a DIY post). There was even a moment when he walked over to graciously show me something when I abruptly said, “Don’t do it!” After telling me to take a chill-pill, :) he assured me he was not going to do anything to the board I was working on.

If you’d like to make a feeder like this, here’s how you do it.

First, don’t be intimidated by power tools. Of course, safely operating power tools is paramount. (Be sure a knowledgeable and experienced person walks you through how to safely use the tools.) My point is, I’ve rarely used a power tool, yet I was able to make this nifty little bird feeder. If I can you can!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. Safety Goggles
  2. Safety Gloves
  3. 4″ x 4″ Board (approx. 24″ long)
  4. Tape Measure
  5. Pencil
  6. Miter Saw
  7. Folding Workbench with Clamps
  8. Power Drill
  9. Spade Drill Bit 1-1/4 inch
  10. Optional: Sander
  11. Table Saw (Alternatives are described below.)
  12. Regular Drill Bit
  13. Eye Screw
  14. Optional: Water Sealer, Stain, or Paint

Step 1: Practice Cutting, Drilling, Etc. on a Scrap Board!!!

Practice with a scrap board. I learned from mistakes I made on my scrap board, which kept me from making them on my project board.

Step 2: Cut the Board

[...Continue reading this post.]

Our Numerous Encounters With a Rather Peculiar Male Cardinal

I must preface this post by saying, I’m not sure if I was attracting a number of male cardinals, but never more than one at any given time, or the same crazy cardinal every time. If the former is true and you’d like to attract male cardinals, then you might try my suggestion mentioned in this post. If the latter is true, then hopefully crazy male cardinals are a common sighting. :)

From our front porch, or as we looked out our kitchen window, we saw a male cardinal perched on our car door ledge, facing the car door window. Both of our vehicles have tinted windows which makes it easy to see your reflection. The bird walked back and forth on the door ledge while staring at his reflection in the window. He intermittently fluttered up a couple inches and then back down onto the ledge.

Then, he became fixated on the door mirror. He would flutter back and forth between the door ledge and the top of the mirror, but mostly he was content to position himself directly in front of the mirror. He would then watch his reflection and “attack” it. This went on for months.

cardinal-on-car2cardinal-on-car1

We finally figured out what he was probably doing. He was a male cardinal, which meant our driveway was his turf. It was his lookout station for all the lady cardinals searching for a handsome mate. Then, some idiot (his reflection) thought he could share the turf with him (the real cardinal). His constant pecking attacks at the mirror were his way of trying to fend off his competition. He just didn’t expect his opponent to stick around so long. No matter how many times he attacked the intruder, the resilient bird just wouldn’t leave!

[...Continue reading this post.]