The simple How-To for the Tu B’Shevat Pine-Cone Birdfeeder is at the end of my previous post. It’s the reward for wading through the Ecology and the Rabbinics.
But this late-night post about the Materials is a bonus. Lucky you. Below, I present annotations so obsessive that even I edited them out the first time.
Notes from an overkeen Sunday School teacher:
• Pine-cone. I’m trying to restrain myself here. I want to urge everyone to get a tree field guide and run out to the woods. Cones come in range of sizes, prickliness, and stickiness. (If you find a White Pine, watch out for sticky pitch that I guarantee will never, ever come out of your child’s LLBean parka, not even with lye soap.) Aside from the woods, I’ve found stray cones everywhere: parking lots, sidewalks, other people’s yards. For school programs that require dozens, I’ve loaded up from the manicured verge of a gated community in my neighborhood. I figure if I don’t forage, the yard guys will just haul them off in plastic bags come Spring, headed straight for the landfill.
If you even think about driving to Michael’s Craft store to buy pine-cones, I weep for you.
• Nut Butter. Peanut butter is the classic, but what with allergies, I use soy. If I had a bigger budget I’d use almond and connect it to the flowering almond trees in Israel, the annual harbinger of Spring. Lots of Jewish imagery with almond trees, including the design of the first menorah (Exodus 25:31-40).
• Blunt knife. Because it’s the kid who does all the work. Hands-on. Make one for yourself, of course, but let the kid make hers. With very young children, you may need to hold the cone while she shmooshes the nutbutter onto and between the scales.
• Shallow bowl. For groups, I use Chinet platters. The broad oval shape holds a lot of birdseed and allows for any size cone to roll around with room to spare. Plus, I can mention that trees gave us the paper that made the Chinet platter.
• Birdseed. The cheap stuff is fine, but the most universally beloved bird seed is Black Oil Sunflower. (Fill a regular feeder with the cheap stuff and the birds just kick it around to get to the Black Oil.)
If you want to get fancy and utterly thematic (I love you), use bits from trees: small fruit, dried fruit, tree seeds like acorns, hackberries, beechnuts, just about any berry/fruit/drupe/cone seed you find outside. (Do stay away from poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac, which all bear tiny fruit.)
• Biodegradable yarn. I’ve seen too many straggly strands of old curling ribbon stuck to trees years after the pinecone feeders have rotted away. You know, the crimped poly kind that curls so beautifully with a bit of a squinch from a scissor blade? It’s pretty, but it’s evil. Go with wool or cotton yarn, gardening twine, or Jute. (Jute has Jewish connections, by the way: it can be made from the Jew’s Mallow plant, but that’s another story for another day.)