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Make fast feathered friends with peanut butter and pinecones

A table top with four pinecones, an opened jar of peanut butter with a spoon inside, a spool of red and white twine with scissors and a bowl of bird seed.
JulieWild/Getty Images/iStockphoto
Making nature-friendly bird feeders out of pinecones is a fun craft to try this winter. These treats are meant to be supplemental food for backyard birds, so continue to fill traditional bird feeders with plenty of fresh seed throughout the winter months.

Do-it-yourself bird feeders are fun and easy to create and you can enlist kids and grandkids to help out!

If you plan to make these handmade feeders, they would supplement your usual winter backyard bird feeder fare; think of it as a holiday treat.

And using simple ingredients that you have on hand in your cupboard and a few natural elements from your back yard, you'll be off and running.

The possibilities are endless, as you can create different combination using the same basic equation of a natural element as a base, a nut butter or other fat source and bird seed.

The natural elements act as the structural base of your birdfeeder, so find something sturdy that a small bird can land on or near it to help themselves to a treat.

Head to your own back yard to gather up small branches, opened and dried pinecones, large seed pods and even hollow, dried gourds.

Once you've got your natural element, tie a small loop of sturdy string, twine or thin wire to it to create a hanger.

The next part in the natural bird feeder equation is a nut butter or fat, like peanut butter and suet! This acts as the "glue" that the bird seed sticks to.

And once you've decided on a nut butter (it can be crunchy or smooth; the birds like both!), or suet, spread it onto your pinecone, branch or seed pod, and lastly, roll in bird seed.

Head outdoors and hang your creation on the nearest bough or branch and wait for the birds to find it and tell the rest of their flock.

You can make several of these and freeze them, then throughout the winter, pull a new birdseed feeder out every so often to hang up as a treat.

Another fun homemade birdfeeder uses more ingredients from your own cupboard. You can use sturdy ice cream cones or even those bread ends that sometimes get left uneaten from a loaf. If you're using bread, take those sturdier bread slices and toast them up, then cut them into fun holiday shapes using cookie cutters.

Once you've got your sturdy bread shape, smear with nut butter or suet and sprinkle on the birdseed and hang up for the birds to enjoy.

If you're using standard or conical ice cream cones, first create a small hole in the base to run a string through for a hanger. Then place the wide opening end down on a table or plate and spread peanut butter or suet over the outside of the cone. Lastly, add on birdseed, and hang on the nearest tree for the birds to enjoy.

Birds like woodpeckers traditionally prefer suet to peanut butter, and you can make a special birdseed treat for them, too.

Find a branch or a small log in your yard and drill some small holes in it. Add suet to the drilled holes along with some birdseed then hang up for the woodpeckers to find.

And even a snowman can get in on the bird-feeding action! Once it snows enough to make a snowman, decorate it with some arms using twigs and sticks.

Slip some gloves on the snowman's stick arms and add bird seed right into to the gloves' palms. You can even add a hat on top of the snowman's head and sprinkle some bird seed on the hat then watch the birds some and eat directly from the snowman's hat and gloves!

Q: My Mommaw used to bring in a few geraniums every year to over-winter them, and they were big and beautiful in the spring. I have brought one in this year and it is starting to look very unhappy. I know this is normal, but how do I keep it alive until spring. Mommaw also used to "shock" them by putting them in a closet for a couple of weeks. I’d appreciate any suggestion you might have. - Joni, via email

A: Geraniums are tough plants. They can take pretty much any kind of condition. Right now, if the plant is looking sad, cut it back by at least half. Keep it watered, but don't overdo it.

Then, if you have a sunny window, place the geranium there through the winter. It will begin to leaf out and grow again, and might even get a little leggy.

Come February, cut it back a little bit again, and by March, it should be flowering. Do that, and you'll have that geranium in full bloom and ready to go back outside in spring.

Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.