I am becoming bird-obsessed.
I’ve noticed our regular visitors getting a little bit fractious in the extreme arctic conditions. There have been minor skirmishes through to full-on dive-bomb explosions. Feathers have flown. The blackbirds have been downright peevish, at times sitting on the fat-balls to stop anyone else getting a look-in. The goldfinches seem to have a ‘Pringles’ attitude to the niger seed: ‘you can’t stop, until you pop’.
So, to reassure them all that there is plenty of love to go around, we set to making some hand-crafted lardy seed-cakes, so that everyone can have their fill.
Since my obsession with birds started, I have added LARD to our weekly shop. We were running short on butter yesterday (BUTTER CRISIS! CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT BUTTER! Brave trek through snow to shop. Crisis averted). But we do have a fridge full of LARD.
The slow melting of lard in a saucepan sparked an interesting discussion with my daughters about where lard comes from (home education!) and if this is what human fat looks like.I think our fat might be more jelly-like. Like yellow jelly-bubbles. Ew.
So, back to the lard.
Making lard cakes is an excellent way to use up all those quarter packets of baking ingredients and cruddy jars of peanut butter and gummed-up tins of treacle lurking at the back of the cupboard. As well as wild bird seed-mix, this morning’s recipe consisted of ground almonds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, dried-up raisins, almond butter and molasses. We’re going for maximum calories here.
These were all squidged together. Take a moment to enjoy this. Get your hands in and squeeze.
Another aside, slightly less disgusting (but only slightly so). After uni I worked as a support worker for a year or so, which involved getting my hands into lots of bathing products. I developed what a dermatologist diagnosed as “easily irritated” skin. So now I have to peel potatoes with gloves on. I garden with gloves on, which is annoying, and in the past I had to wear cotton liners in my gardening gloves, because even the rough seams would set my hands off.
I am really happy to say that this has calmed down hugely in the last year, and I can again sink my hands into warm lard and seed mixture. This might not seem a big deal, but when you have been deprived of the carefree sinking of hands into goo, to be able to do so again is heavenly. So squeeze and squish I did.
Our last batch of lardy cakes were rather rotund, and fell off the string because they were so weighty. So this time, we experimented with slightly daintier cakes. Because of the snowy theme this week, we plumped for Christmas cookie-cutter mouldy. Oh, and a bunny. We seem to have a fairly macabre sense of humour in this household. And because we still had some mixture left over, we added a silicone ice-cube tray and a couple of plastic pots. It is amazing how far one block of lard will stretch.
So we’re hoping that this offering will calm our obstreperous garden gang. As one who also suffers from ‘hanger’ (the inability to think, talk or behave reasonably when hungry) I have every sympathy for them. Gorge freely, my little puddings. There is enough lard for everyone.
Three snow-days in a row has been rather lovely, from a family perspective. Each morning, once we have made the decision that the weather is sufficiently dastardly to batten down the hatches, we have sat down to bacon-and-eggs or pancakes for breakfast, and it’s been, well, cosy. We’ve done a little bit of bird-watching and musing, and then have all sat round the table doing our homework. It is true that we are easily distracted by flurries of snow, but we’ve set ourselves little goals before being allowed to go and have a play. This runs its natural course when fingers and toes are numb and teeth frozen to gums. Nothing that a hot chocolate can’t fix, and then back to work for a bit.
So whilst the country might be a little less productive, there is a collective benefit to just slowing down a little, watching the snow, playing, eating together, sharing odd thoughts (some odder than others), catching up with admin, catching snowflakes, following animal tracks, and soothing argumentative little birds.
NB: If the title of this post seems a little obscure, “mardy-bum” is my favourite term for when you feel a little out-of-sorts; grumpity; umpty. There is a rather fantastic song of this title by Arctic Monkeys. If you are in a bit of a mood, you only need to listen to the opening bars of this song, and the world is already a better place.
NB 2: Whilst lardy seedcake works on uppity birds, flapjack has a similar effect on humans. See Orange, apricot and almond flapjack).
Above: mardy-bum (great tit), pudding-bag (long-tailed tit), and how fat? (robin).