I have finished all of the holiday baking for the week and decided to take care of one additional gift. I am endlessly grateful to the people who enrich my life with love, care, and laughter. But, there is another group that brings a special sort of support to my daily life, and they arrive like clockwork each day driven by the sun and stars and moonlight.
Even though I live in a large urban area, I have an active amount of wildlife that provides entertainment and rhythm to my days. My house was built almost ten years ago in what was a very woodsy area adjacent to protected green space. I live with opossums, raccoons, a fox, various birds, reptiles, and rodents. The front of my house has very different visitors from the back of my house. In the summer, I have hummingbirds and seasonal songbirds, and in the winter, I have cardinals and towhees. I have hawks and crows and bats encouraging me to look up to appreciate their part of the world too.
Though I am a big believer in composting, it is not something I have ever been able to accomplish on this small property because my scraps feed the wildlife. I also don’t believe in enabling wild creatures (other than hummingbirds) to the point they become dependent, so I make certain to stagger the offerings of scraps and treats. In return, the fox and hawks take care of the small vermin, and the bunnies and chipmunks keep the edges of the garden trimmed. The squirrels rearrange my bulbs into more interesting patterns, and the lizards remind me to use restraint in my efforts to keep the growing things at bay around the house.
I have managed to save a fair amount of leftover fat trimmings in the freezer from the many pork and beef meals I have made this year. I have also been saving the stale small bits of nuts and seeds, and this week I decided to make some treats for my outside friends.
I combined all of my stale oats, sunflowers seeds, and raisins in the food processor. I then added some flax seeds and the partially thawed fat. I pulsed this until everything was combined and scraped it all out onto a parchment-lined sheet pan. I placed a second layer of parchment on top and used a rolling pin to spread the mixture into a flat layer covering the whole pan. The mix was about half an inch thick by the time I had an even layer.
My next step was to place the sheet pan in the freezer over night. The next day, I pulled the pan out of the freezer and cut the treats into one-inch squares. I stored them in quart-size Ziploc bags and returned them to the freezer.
I will dole these out occasionally when we have very cold or snowy weather this winter. The fun part for me is making note of who comes to eat the treats. I have a big rock in my yard where I leave some treats. I can watch through the dining room windows to see my visitors. Early in the morning and again right before dark, I can hear the call of the cardinals that monitor the woods around my house. The squirrels will show up to vacuum up anything the birds missed, and at dusk I will put out the treats for the night visitors. Around midnight, I can sometimes hear my fox yipping, and I always smile because she sends the raccoons packing and reigns supreme.
No matter how busy I am, I can mark the seasons by the wild visitors around my house. I always grin when I hear the Carolina wren scolding on the fence, the squirrels yelling in the trees, the raccoons shoving my porch chairs around. I never forget they were here first, and I show my appreciation and support especially on the days I am most grateful to be indoors cozy, warm, and protected from the elements.
- 1 cup cold pork fat trimmings
- 1 cup cold beef fat trimmings
- 3 cups oats
- 1 cup sunflower seeds/plain peanuts/pecans
- 1 cup raisins
- ½ cup flax or thistle seeds
- Place everything but the fat in a food processor and pulse to combine.
- Add the fat chopped into one inch pieces and process until everything is combined and the fat is chopped into very fine pieces.
- Remove from food processor onto a parchment covered sheet pan and cover with parchment paper.
- Use a rolling pan to spread the ingredients into a flat layer. This will be about ½ inch thick. The point is to spread this as evenly as possible to make it easier to cut into pieces.
- Place the pan in the freezer for a few hours or overnight. Remove from the freezer and cut into one inch squares.
- Store in zip lock bags in the freezer and make sure you label them as wild critter food. They look a lot like granola bars !