My family loves to bird-watch. We have several feeders in our yard and one of us always watches out our front window, hoping to catch sight of a new feathered visitor to our front feeder. Although we put out seed year-round, we always make up a suet feeder (or seven) for the wild birds in the colder months. Want to be kind to your winter birds? Of course you do! So, let them eat (suet) cake!
Suet, or rendered fat, is an important supplement for most birds. In the winter, the fat helps add to the bird?s stores of energy and helps them survive the long, cold months. In the spring, the fat helps with the increased energy demands of nesting birds.
Most birds that enjoy suet feeders are clinging feeders such as nuthatches or woodpeckers. However, many birds will partake in a helping of fat every now and then when food is scarce.
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How to Make a Suet Feeder
Making a DIY suet feeder is simple and only takes a few ingredients. You probably already have most of these items at home.
- or vegetable fat (you need one that will stay solid at room temperature).
Gather your seeds, dried fruit, and nuts. I used equal portions of each. Mix them together in a large bowl.
Add the seed mix to the mini bundt pan. Fill it about half full. Melt the fat in a double boiler. I used about half a pound of lard for two mini bundt pans.
Pour the melted lard on top of the seed mixture in the mini bundt pans. You can let the fat harden at room temperature or pop the pan in the freezer for an hour or so.
Once the fat has hardened, remove the suet from the mini bundt pan. You might have to run the pan under some warm water to help loosen the suet from the pan.
Make a loop with a length of twine and tie an overhand knot at one end. Insert one end through the hole in the middle of the suet and insert one end of the twine through the opposite loop.
Hang your new DIY suet feeder and wait for some happy birds!
Suet Feeder Hanging Notes
Hang your suet feeder at least 5 feet from the ground and in some shade. The fat will stay solid at room temperature, but in warmer temps and direct sun, it can get soft or go rancid (depending on the fat you used).
A great place to hang a suet feeder is in a tree, especially for insect-eating birds like woodpeckers. An added benefit for adding a suet feeder to your yard is that the birds that visit your feeder will also reward you in the spring and summer months by eating the insects in your garden. A win, win for all!
If you?re looking for another amazing DIY suet recipe, check out this one I made in my book, . It goes to show that you can get pretty creative in how you hang and make your feeder. The birds aren?t picky so why not make it cute?
Frequently Asked Questions About Suet Feeders
Suet feeders are solid chunks of bird food made of raw beef fat, birdseed, nuts, and other favourite bird menu items. To eat, birds peck on the suet square, often in a wire cage to help hold it in place. Suet is best used in the winter as the summer sun can melt away the fat.
To keep away squirrels, place it on a . It should be in an open area where birds can easily see it and so squirrels can?t jump on it. You can also place it on a tree to attract certain birds like woodpeckers, but keep in mind that squirrels may get to it.
To keep the suet from melting and fresh, avoid sunny areas. You also want to prevent any birds from flying into windows by keeping them away from the house.
Upside down suet feeders help to keep certain birds, such as starlings and grackles, away from the suet to allow other birds the chance to eat. Woodpeckers, chickadees, and other birds will happily eat upside down, but starlings and grackles have a more difficult time doing so. While it won?t keep away all pesky birds, hanging your suet upside-down does help to reduce their numbers.
Technically, squirrels don?t like suet. That is because suet itself is rendered fat. What they do like, however, are the seeds and nuts inside the suet.
Your best bet at keeping squirrels from your suet feeder is by hanging it on a . Place it in an open area where squirrels cannot jump off and onto it and ensure the top is 4-5 ft off the ground.
If you already have rodents in the area, bird food of any kind may attract them. However, it doesn?t act as the pied piper, drawing in rats from the far reaches of your neighbourhood.
The more food that falls on the ground, the more likely rats and mice are going to scavenge for it. The good news is suet is one of the best bird feeding options for creating less waste.
More DIYs for the Garden
Bust out the craft bin because we?re making ornaments! Christmas ornaments hold such a special place in my heart as they capture the memories of Christmas past. I love displaying them on my tree year after year. Check out some of my favourite DIY Christmas ornaments that you can make for yourself or as gifts this holiday season.
The fastest most inexpensive way to add ornaments to the tree is to make them yourself! I?ve made my fair share of ornaments over the years. Every time I lug out the Christmas stuff from storage, I always dig around for the ornament box first. Unwrapping all my old ornaments always unlocks so many happy memories.
Ornament making is best done with others. My kiddo is pretty creative and loves making things alongside me. But I also think it?s a fun activity to do with the local gals or family.
Using your hands to create something acts as a grounding activity. And with Christmas being as crazy as it is, we all could use a little de-stressing.
Make a bunch to fill up a new tree, create a themed Christmas with your ornaments, or make a batch to include in your Christmas gifts. They?re some new Christmas memories in the making!
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DIY Christmas Ornaments to Craft This Season
Ready to start crafting? These ornaments have been made and well-loved through the years. They truly fill me with joy when I see them on my tree.
1. Chalk Painted Wood Ornaments
Chalk paint has such a unique look to it that looks amazing on a Christmas tree, especially if you?re going for a rustic or shabby chic look.
I made these originally to accompany my gifts as tags. You can make the simplest dollar store gift bags look personalized and adorable by adding these ornaments. They also add to the gift, becoming a special and sentimental ornament to hang on the tree the following year.
2. DIY Miniature Christmas Wreath Ornaments
is by far my favourite Christmas activity. So of course I had to make a mini version. These are made with REAL snippets of outdoor evergreens. Not only does this make them easy to source (just go to your own backyard!) but they also become one of the most unique DIY Christmas ornaments you can make and gift to others.
While you can hang them on the tree, I love to use these ornaments as napkin rings and hang on wine bottles to dress them up for gifting.
3. Miniature Twig Reindeer Ornament
Keeping up with the miniature theme, this will fit right in with your Christmas tree. This picture doesn?t do it justice how small this reindeer really is. Itty bitty, you can make it out of twigs from your own backyard.
Go out foraging for different sizes of wood or prune some branches from your tree. You can make them as simple as you like, using just wood, or dress them up a bit with tinsel and sparkle. Add an eye hook to the top of the reindeer and it?ll become the tree?s newest mascot.
4. Clay Acorn Ornaments
Did you give these a double-take? No, they?re not the real thing! These ornaments are made from modeling clay that doesn?t require any extra equipment in order to harden.
I love acorns, but it?s so rare to find one with the cap and the bottom still intact. For these ornaments, I collect the caps and make the nuts in an array of all kinds of colours. Maybe it?s the squirrel in me, but whenever I begin to see the acorns dropping, I can?t help but collect the caps for crafting. And this is a great way to use them!
5. Cinnamon Dough Ornaments
This smells like pure Christmas. Made of just 3 ingredients, you can make an afternoon crafting these ornaments and letting the smell of the baking ornaments fill the house. The next day I can still catch whiffs of cinnamon in the house!
I press mine with fresh evergreens to capture the beauty of my garden and bring it inside during the winter. You can also pack up these dough ornaments and bring them out every year because they?re nice and durable.
6. Copycat Planter Ornaments
If you?re looking for , there?s so much inspiration you can take from nature. I was amazed when I saw stores selling wood slices and pinecones with hefty gift tags. I just knew I could make them myself. Hence, copycats!
Jewelry for your planters, dress up your existing planters or use holiday-themed greens to make the outside of your home just as cozy. They?re so easy to make and cost pennies, especially when you use found treasures in your decorating.
7. Terrarium Ornaments
These terrarium ornaments are right on-trend. I LOVE how much people are loving terrariums as they?ve been one of my favourite ways to enjoy some greenery indoors. So when it comes to Christmas, I had to craft up some terrariums just for the tree.
While I always go for a real Christmas tree, would be an excellent way to add some life to an artificial tree. I use dried materials to make them low-maintenance but I have also tried them with air plants if you truly want them to be ?full? of life.
Frequently Asked Questions About DIY Christmas Ornaments
First, decide what base material you will be working with. Wood cutouts, glass ornaments, paper, clay, and fabric are all popular options and are easy to work with.
Next, you will want to decorate your ornaments. Ransack your craft bin and pull out anything that speaks to you! I like to use and , but mostly items from the garden. Like above, things like twigs, acorn caps, , and fresh greenery all make beautiful ornaments.
To finish off your ornament, you need to hang it. Use , , or to put them on the tree.
If you have glass ornaments, you can fill them will all kinds of wonders. For a Christmas theme, fill it with , tinsel, , and miniature figurines such as reindeer and evergreens.
You can also make a beach ornament with sand, seashells, and beach glass. Or, fill it with cinnamon sticks, star anise, and pinecones for a natural and rustic look. But my favourites are with rocks, dried moss, flowers, and air plants.
More Christmas Ideas
Wax melts are a popular way to fill your home with fragrance, but they are often made with artificial scents that can be irritating. Herbal melts are a natural alternative made with soy wax, essential oils, and herbs. As the scented cubes of wax are melted on the top of a wax melt warmer, they release aroma and allow for the ritual of using herbs while safely keeping the dried plant material away from a candle flame. Wax melts are easy to make at home and make a great handmade gift idea.
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What is a Wax Melt?
A wax melt is a scented square of wax that can be melted in an electric-or candle-heated ceramic vase to release the scent of the wax. Wax melts and warmers are a way to get all of the fragrance and warmth of a candle without the flame.
The beauty of warmers is that you can use botanicals and dry herbs to decorate your projects without the worry of them catching fire. The electric options also keep your home safe from flames if you have young children or pets.
How to Choose a Wax Melt Warmer
A wax melt warmer looks like a decorative ceramic vase that has a dish set on top. The base can either have an opening for a tea light or votive candle or house the electrical components to heat the upper tray.
Wax cubes are placed in the top dish and gently warmed so they melt. As they melt they release the fragrance.
A wax melt warmer is not to be confused with a , which is an electrically heated tray that you set a container candle on to warm it and release the fragrance.
Here are some great wax melt warmers you can find online:
Using Essential Oils to Scent Wax Melts
Many commercial wax melts and candles are scented with artificial fragrance which is why I choose to make my own. Candles and wax melts are often made with fragrance oils because they offer the most consistent and reliable scent, in addition to being less expensive.
They have been formulated to be heated to high temperatures and added to molten wax without evaporation. Fragrance oils also come in a wide variety of lab-created scents like strawberry and green apple that are pleasing and not available as essential oils.
But when it comes down to it, I prefer natural scents of essential oils as the artificial fragrances tend to give me headaches.
Essential oils are natural but it doesn?t mean that they also won?t cause a reaction. Essential oils are the concentrated volatile oils extracted from thousands of plants squeezed into a tiny bottle, meaning they are very powerful.
It is important to be safe when using essential oils by choosing gentle oils, oils that you and your family don?t react to, and oils that have been approved by your health care professionals.
A good way to test for scent-sensitivities, it to smell the oils. If you don?t like the smell, then you should avoid it, even if it has some benefits that you think might be good for you. Trust your senses. The nose knows.
How to Make Wax Melts
You can easily make these at home by melting , stirring in essential oils and herbs, and then pouring the wax into heat-proof molds to set. The following covers two methods for making wax melts (in the microwave and in a double boiler) and shares some recipe ideas from my book, .
Also, see this resource list for all the supplies you will need to start candle and wax melt making at home:
Microwave melting can be tricky as it is harder to control temperature. If you choose a wax that is labeled as appropriate for the microwave it will have instructions included that will help you avoid cooking and burning the wax. Here are the steps I use to melt wax in the microwave and how to avoid burning it.
- Essential oils / herbs (see recipes below)
- Paper cup
- Silicone candy/baking /soap mold ? or
- Weigh microwaveable soy wax for wax melts in a heatproof container with a pour spout.
- Weigh the scented essential oil in a paper cup. Prepare the herbs in advance of using the microwave so you are ready to add them as soon as the wax has melted.
- Melt in 20-second intervals to be sure to melt as opposed to cook the wax. The first few times you set the timer for 20 seconds, you may be tempted to set the timer for longer as you will see little change. But, after a few tries, you will see that the wax quickly turns from a solid to a liquid in the microwave. Overheating the wax can cause it to burn and it smells terrible, so set intervals and check the wax frequently.
- When the wax has fully melted, stir in the essential oil and half of the dried herbs.
- Pour the wax into a flower-shaped mold. Choose a mold used for soap making or candy making to be sure it can handle the heat of melted wax.
- Sprinkle the remaining herbs onto the top of each melt and allow the herbal wax melts to dry completely before popping them out.
Double Boiler Method
Making soy melts in a double boiler is much easier to control and will ensure that the wax melts evenly.
- Paper cup
- Set up a using a heatproof glass jar to hold the wax and a metal bread pan filled part way with water. Stir the wax frequently until it is fully melted.
- Weigh soy wax and essential oil.
- Bring the wax to the specified temperature for adding dye or scent oil (i.e.: 160?F?see the instructions that came with your wax). Add in scent and color (if using) and stir until completely mixed.
- Pour the wax into a silicone ice cube tray.
- Allow the wax melts to dry completely before popping them out of the mold for use.
Herbal Sleepy Time Wax Melts Recipe
These herbal chamomile, calendula, and lavender wax melts are the perfect way to send you to dreamland, as the calming scent of herbs will fill the room and relax you as the wax melts. Packaged with a wax melt warmer, they are a lovely self-care gift for a friend that could use a restful night.
There are some herbs that wake you up and others that quiet you down. Herbs like , , calendula, , , and passionflower are calming for the nerves and quieting for the mind. Using these herbs before bed can help to promote an easier time falling asleep as well as better quality of sleep.
Making this recipe allows the wax, oils, and herbs to melt together at a safe temperature without the risk that the herbs will catch fire.
Makes twenty-five 0.3 oz (9 g) wax melts
- 8 oz (225g)
- 0.5 oz (15 ml)
- 1 tbsp each , , and
- Make the soy wax melts according to the instructions in either the microwave or double boiler method.
- Fill a with the herbal wax melts and label it with letter stamps. Use some floral stamps to further embellish it. Move the melts around so that they show their pretty faces in the window.
Citrus Celebration Wax Melts Recipe
Citrus celebration wax melts are the perfect housewarming gift. The festive scent is both cheerful and uplifting and will give any home a refreshing, energizing feel. The bright and cheery aroma of citrus is fresh and lively, but also very calming.
Use citrus-scented melts to make your home smell fresh, clean, and welcoming. Give a pretty wax warmer along with some homemade citrus wax melts topped with lemon, lime, and orange zest.
An ice cube mold is a perfect size for these wax melts. You will want to make enough to give away and keep some for yourself, too. Pro tip: just don?t use a grapefruit scent before a dinner party, because it is said to curb the appetite!
Makes twelve 0.5 oz (15 g) wax melts
- 6 oz (170g)
- 0.4 oz (12 ml)
- One each: fresh lemon, lime, and orange
- Wax dye or orange crayon (optional for adding colour)
- Make the soy wax melts according to the instructions in either the microwave or double boiler method.
- Fill a Mason jar with citrus wax melts and pair it with a small tea light wax warmer. Wrap both the Mason jar of wax melts and the wax warmer with a tea light in a clear cellophane bag tied with a satin ribbon.
Frequently Asked Questions About Wax Melts
If the fragrance isn?t as strong as you would like it, use a reliable brand of essential oil to add more when making your melts.
Fragrance load is how much scent oil the wax will hold. A common fragrance load for soy wax is one ounce of scent per one pound of wax or a 6.25% ratio.
You can increase or decrease the ratio depending on how strong the scent is. Use 6-8% for a subtly fragrant oil and 8-10% for a strongly scented one
Be sure to check the maximum on the wax you are using if you plan to go higher than the one-ounce per pound rule. Adding more scent than the recipe calls for may end up being too much oil for the wax to bind with, leaving you with excess oil at the top and bottom of the wax melt.
It depends on how long you burn them. Typically, a cube should last between 6-12 hours depending on the size of the cube, the temperature it burns at, and the quality of the wax.
The melted wax will not evaporate but the fragrance will. You can reuse your wax melts until you no longer notice a fragrance.
As long as you?re home, you can leave your wax melts on for as long as you like. They can scent a room pretty quickly, so it?s up to you if you want to keep them burning or turn them off to make them last longer.
Whether it?s an electric wax warmer or a classic warmer, never leave the burner unattended while it?s being used.
More Candles and Handmade Gift Ideas
How to Make Herbal Wax Melts in the Microwave
Heatproof container with a pour spout
Silicone molds ? I like these flower shapes or cubes
- 8 oz
- .5 oz
Weigh out the soy wax in a microwave-safe bowl. Then weigh the essential oils in a paper cup.
Melt the wax in the microwave for 20 seconds at a time. Stir between each time.
When the wax has fully melted, stir in the essential oils and the herbs.
Pour the wax melt mixture into silicone molds and sprinkle some herbs on top. Then allow them to dry completely before using.