I don't believe I will see my squirrel friend from last year. He stopped calling around some months ago. One of my spies informs me that my tree-dwelling chum found himself an amiable wife at the end of the spring and, together, they moved to the edge of a field at the other end of the lane (just beyond the ford, which serves as my personal bathing-pool). There is a small grove of young beech trees and two hazel hedges there, and no houses (ergo no cats) - an ideal location for a young couple to set-up a drey and raise their family. I felt a stab of pride in having played my part in the saving of this young squirrel's life - and I still smile when I think of the assault he launched on the cruel cat Peaches.
In any event, more birds seem to be around this year than previously. I don't like to see the poor fellows going beakless and hungry. My partner bought a second-hand library book earlier this year (we have done an incredible amount of reading since we parted company with the television back in March 2009) - The Patio Garden Month by Month for a mere £2. It's rather helpful for my partner, though not for me - if you are a regular reader of my barkings then you will be well acquainted with my views on gardens and domestic horticulture. As well as larger garden designs, suggestions, and monthly tips, the book also offers little projects which one may undertake for the benefit of one's garden and its wildlife. The mini-project for December is a recipe for the afore-mentioned bird-seed cakes. Despite it being only November, my partner and I thought we'd have a go. I believe we have achieved some measure of success - despite the fact that I let my partner do the stirring of the mixture.
We amended the recipe to better suit our budget and have accomplished the production of seven acceptably-sized cakes. Here's how we did it. We used:
- Some empty yoghurt pots. Any will do, but we found the best size and shape to be a Muller Light individual pot (Any flavour for me, black cherry or mandarin for my partner. I won't hear a bad word barked about yoghurt). You could also use any old plastic tub or even half an empty coconut shell.
- Two normal-sized pats of lard or dripping (you could also use suet).
- A bag of wild bird seed from the Pound Shop, one of those red-bag thingies with peanuts in (79p from Mr. Sainsbury's emporium), a small packet of sunflower seeds and the crushed-up remnants of a box of dog biscuits I decided I didn't like any more. With hindsight, we'd either have used a bit more lard or a bit less seed-mix, but our results were quite acceptable for a first attempt - and I very much doubt that the birds will complain if our first batch of cakes should chance to break apart when subject to peckage.
- In a large pan, we melted the lard down to liquid - keep the temperature low though, you don't want that stuff bubbling up and spitting burning goo onto your face and whiskers.
- We added the nuts, seeds, etc. (we could have put in a few currants as well, actually. Maybe next time.) and mixed the whole stuff together.
- When mixed, we transferred the mix to the individual yoghurt pots, ensuring an even mix of seed/lard each, and pat down firmly.
- Leave the pots to cool completely and solidify.
- When cold, either place or hang the pot as it is - or turn the cake out of its mould and place or hang it with string as desired for the birdies to feast upon.
RSPB - How to make a bird seed cake
This method was unsuitable for my partner because she has a life-threatening nut allergy. We therefore prepared our mixture in an old wok, which will no longer be used to prepare food (I knew we'd saved it for a reason), with similarly-redundant utensils).
It is a good feeling - to be able to spend time doing good deeds in order to assist one's feathered brethren.
I entreat you to keep that - and my many other charitable works - in mind as you read the following:
Once I had taken my first, faltering steps on the way of wickedness, I had neither the will nor the inclination to turn back. The bin-emptying was just the beginning of it.
I created a new, fresh, mess every day and even began to take a certain pride in my work. Each evening, the young lady would clear up the strewn-about rubbish whilst telling me, in no uncertain terms, what she thought of me. Inevitably, her parents became involved and a solution proposed. The very next day I trotted into the kitchen to find the bin placed high on a worktop surface, next to the sink. Muttering a curse, I determined that I would not be thwarted this easily. I sniffed about, trying to settle upon a fresh channel of cheekiness.
I was toying with the idea of pulling down the curtain, although lamenting that this would not also furnish me with something to eat, when my nostrils alighted on a tempting aroma issuing from the main kitchen worktop. I was very agile in those days and, using the handle on the oven-door as a half-way leverage point, managed to half jump, half climb onto the worktop. A delicious pat of butter stood there on its little dish. Wasting no more time, I stole it, retreating to my beanbag to savour my prize. That evening, I pretended to be asleep as I enjoyed the sounds of confusion and bewilderment as to the whereabouts of the butter pat. Suspicious eyes fell upon me, but I maintained an expression of the purest innocence. The mysterious butter disappearances continued without explanation for several days until, one day, I clambered up to my lofty perch and found that the butter-pat was surrounded by large empty glass bottles. I laughed disdainfully at the humans' pitiful efforts to thwart the thief. 'Is this really the best they can do?' I wondered to myself as I delicately moved one of the bottles aside, taking the utmost care not to upset it. Similarly careful nudging of the adjacent bottle created a space large enough to enable me to slide out the buttery booty. I initially planned on simply jumping down to hasten away with my prize but, on reflection, I decided that it would be far more effective if I repositioned the bottles to their original stations surrounding the butter dish. The sounds of utter astonishment and surprise which met my ears when the humans discovered the bottle circle intact but the butter missing convinced me that I had done he right thing and, throughout the evening, I found concealment of laughter well-nigh impossible.
Unfortunately, the following day, my butter adventures came to - quite literally - a sticky end. Shortly after consumption of my latest plunder, most unpleasant sensations began to develop deep within my belly. Unable to restrain the feelings, the entire pound of butter, now liquefied, gushed forth onto the carpet. It went everywhere. Happily, though, I felt much better after the outpouring. I resolved to have a little recovery nap and then clean up the mess. Alas! The young girl returned from work early, emitting a loud shriek as she saw the state of the living room carpet. I leapt up at the sound, tripping over my beanbag in the process, which revealed the collection of butter-wrappers I'd been concealing within it.
Trembling with rage, the girl just glared at me and finally muttered darkly "Get out." I had to sit in the garden whilst she cleaned up the mess and then told her parents what I had done upon their return. I was in deep disgrace.
The following morning, a guard-rail was installed between the kitchen and living-room door - preventing all but closely-supervised access for me to the kitchen.
Kicking the wretched guard with a hind-paw as I turned from it, I knew it was time to step up the pressure. No more b*gg*ring-about with bins and dairy-products. It was time to get tough.
Next time in "The Evolution of Jasper"- books, parcel tape, wool and the moment when the line of acceptability was finally crossed. Yes. It gets worse.