A storybook Christmas Day feast for garden animals

December 24, 2019 7:42 am Published by Leave your thoughts

The Children of Green Knowe is a story about a young boy’s visit to a flooded manor house, whose ghostly inhabitants come alive for him. It’s a book that regularly features in lists of ‘the most Christmassy of books’, without specifically being about Christmas at all.

It takes place at this time of year, so there’s midnight mass in a country church, freezing walks along icy lanes, end-of-term delirium, and a sense of time somehow standing still – or catching back up with itself again. In short, it’s the perfect antidote to any of the over-commercialised Christmases of today. It was written in 1954 and set around the author’s own house, which can still be visited (www.greenknowe.co.uk).

On Christmas Eve, the young boy (Tolly) prepares a Christmas tree for the animals of the garden:

‘Tolly did the animals’ tree last of all. Mrs Oldknow had given him several triangles of cheese that he pierced with a wire and hung up on a branch. He had burnt holes in the coconut with a red-hot poker, and that was hung up too. He puts the nuts and almonds and raisins in a hollow in the trunk; a mound of crumbs and grated cheese on the ground; another of ants’ eggs and another of pine-kernels; the truffles in a saucer near the pile of twigs where once Truepenny had disappeared; a big cabbage for the rabbit and Watt; and some oats in a wooden bucket. Then he laid trails of birdseed from the four corners of the garden to the yew tree, scattered very sparingly so that the field-mice could not have had enough before they got as far as the party.’

Does it work?

‘Did they all come? asked Tolly.

‘Oh yes, it has been a splendid breakfast party…..Even the badger came today. He ate all the raisins.’

A feast for your own garden

If you happen to have your own flooded, haunted manor house, then we can supply you with the nuts, dried fruit, oats and seeds you’ll need to recreate this very feast. If, however, you’re living a slightly more mundane life, then perhaps a simple ‘bird pudding’ might suffice – it’s still a great idea at this time of year, when it can be so difficult for birds to find food.

Greenfinch bird pudding

This ‘bird pudding’ recipe was published by us earlier this year. The pudding provides a variety of food for finches, encased in fat – but other birds will be just as keen! Exact quantities don’t matter – really, it’s just a case of using up what you have to hand. While greenfinches prefer black sunflower seeds, they (and other birds) won’t turn up their beaks at the ‘normal’ kind by any means.

Melt a cup of lard or other fat with some suet if you have some. Mix in a handful of sunflower seeds, peanuts (or peanut butter if you like) and some dried fruit. If you have any old bacon rind, you can add that. While the mixture is soft, arrange it around a bit of string to hang up in your garden, or put it in a yoghurt pot with a bit of string inside. When it has set, you can cut it out of the pot and hang it up from a tree.

It’s great fun for kids to watch the birds coming to eat the pudding. You get to see which ones like it and which don’t, which ones squabble and fight, and which ones end up getting the tasty bits.

Small kids will possibly want to eat the pudding themselves! It’s probably best not to, but you can easily make an alternative for them, with seeds and dried fruit rolled up in peanut butter, or in a mixture of oats and butter with honey.

Other great seeds and nuts for wildlife

We know we have customers who provide a feast of seeds and nuts for birds and other wildlife in their gardens all year round. While some simply shake out the ends of bags, others choose very carefully, often selecting organic options only. We’ve got a whole range of nuts here, including Brazils, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, peanuts and walnuts, and seeds here, with linseed, sesame and pumpkin popular options. We sell many of our nuts and seeds in ground or chopped form, which makes it much easier way for smaller birds and wildlife to eat them. Remember to look out for our organic options, if that’s important to you.

The RSPB also recommends making up mixes containing pinhead oatmeal, millet and flaked maize. They urge caution with wheat and barley grains, however, which can attract a disproportionate number of larger birds, and likewise, with whole nuts, dried rice and pulses, which again, can only be eaten raw by larger birds.

There’s some great advice from the RSPB here: https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/advice/how-you-can-help-birds/feeding-birds/safe-food-for-birds/.

Happy Christmas from Naturally Good Food!

Whether you’re feeding birds, ghosts or simply yourselves this Christmas, the team at Naturally Good Food wish you a very Happy Christmas!

Naturally Good Reads v2

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This post was written by Yzanne

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