After my article was published last month, I turned my kitchen into a "birdseed ball test kitchen". The recipe I submitted was edited incorrectly and my experiments showed that the published recipe does not hold together. My tests determined that you may omit the corn syrup and your bird seed balls will hold together, however, you do need to use flour as it binds everything together.
There are many different variations of birdseed feeder recipes to be found online. The basic recipe that I submitted was from the Junior Master Gardener website and I edited how the recipe was to be formed because they called for cookie cutters to form your "ornaments" in and to save costs, we had the kids form the feeders into simple balls.
This is the recipe that is tried and tested at the Junior Master Gardener "mother ship" at Texas A & M, and it's the recipe our participants made at Douglas Hart Nature Center:
Bird Seed Ball
4 cups birdseed
3 Tbsp. corn syrup
1/2 cup water
1 packet unflavored gelatin
3/4 cup flour
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The kids used vinyl gloves to mix and form their birdseed balls. Some kids mixed the recipe in a bowl with their hands and some smoosh-mixed it inside a heavy zip-style gallon bag. We used a straw, that was cut into thirds, placed through the formed seed-ball so that yarn or raffia can be threaded through the ball after it has been set up, to be used as a hanger.
Make sure the ball is tightly compressed. Putting it in a piece of waxed paper or compressed in a lightly oiled muffin pan may also be a good idea. Allow to dry 24 hours and hang outside where you can observe the birds. The straw may be removed or may remain inside the ball after the mixture has set up. This recipe makes about six tennis ball sized feeders.
Forming the ball in a muffin pan takes longer for it to dry out, but the muffin-shaped feeders are consistent in size and shape.
This month, we worked with a great home-school co-op. We had a short series of youth educational fun. The first week we visited them, we made papercrete pots. Papercrete is recycled shredded wet newspaper that is combined with Portland cement, and vermiculite, then mixed. The students formed the oatmeal-like consistency mixture into bowls and put a drain hole in the bottom of their pots.
The second week, we did a unit on worms and their benefits to soil health and to add to the fun, we made seed bombs from worm poop. Seed bombs contain potting soil, worm poop and seeds. The seeds are traditionally native seeds but can be annual or perennial flowers depending on the theme of your planting needs.
The third and final week we made fairy gardens using the students’ papercrete pots. We took the fantastic opportunity to have class outside two of the three weeks as Mother Nature cooperated. That's my kind of school!
In other Youth Gardening news, we made some really cool bookmarks at the Douglas-Hart Nature Center's Spring pancake breakfast fundraiser. The bookmarks were made from ginormous paper clips, a scallop circle of felt and silk flowers hot glued together.
Our next gig is at Douglas-Hart Nature Center's Earth Day Celebration. I hope you will come out to see what DHNC has to offer on April 27th from 9 a.m.-noon. Our May event will also be at DHNC and we will be making plant bags and each kid will get some free garden seeds to take home and give gardening a try.
If you have other questions about your garden or landscape, feel free to contact a Master Gardener volunteer at the University of Illinois Extension office in Charleston at 217-345-7034. You can also check out the many horticulture webpages at the U of I Extension’s website by visiting http://web.extension.illinois.edu/ccdms/ . And be sure to like the Master Gardeners’ Facebook page, at www.facebook.com/ColesCountyMasterGardeners.