Wednesday, 28 November 2012

New bird seed mix, new Coeliac & Blogaversary

Would you ever believe it - gluten free bird food? I kid you not. Okay… perhaps I am slightly, however Blackbirds were feasting and fighting over pieces of gluten free breakfast health bar in my garden yesterday morning (homemade with rice flakes, apple juice, butter, soft brown sugar, eggs, nibbled almonds, sunflower seeds, chopped figs and dates).



A short time later the Starlings arrived and the early morning diners had to run away with their posh breakfast grub. Needless to say, it wasn’t long before the dish was empty! Yep, once birds like the Starlings find something to their liking they don’t forget and the food doesn’t last long.



Feeding birds is an added expense to the household budget - especially at this time of year. I absolutely appreciate this as I experiment with a variety of foods and more bird species find my garden feeders. I have been considering my choices of foods in regard to best value for bird species and money. I have been closely watching the birds feeding in my garden for six years now.

During the winter our diets change to hearty, warm meals - here in Scotland anyway. All the bird websites, books and nature programmes tell us that birds need hearty, high energy foods to keep them warm when winter takes hold too. Birds need to build up enough energy through feeding to survive a cold night.

During years of shortages in natural food sources birds can come to rely on the foods available in our gardens. I am guessing this is one of these years as we had never seen the Great Spotted Woodpecker in our garden until recently. Now we have a least one regular female visiting daily and our temperatures have yet to get proper chilly!




Wishing not to waste household food like the breakfast bar above (which I considered reasonably high energy) I guessed the birds might try it if I cut it into beak sized pieces. If they hadn’t eaten it during the day, I would have removed it as leftover foods like this has the potential to attract unwelcome visitors such as rats. I would apply the same rule to bread too.

Wishing not to waste money and energy on bird seed at my garden feeders and tables I have tended to favour sunflower hearts over mixed seed mixes over the years. Unless they become damp and stick together, I find sunflower hearts are always eaten and are popular with most of our regulars. They can be expensive so this year I am trying to supplement this with a small group of peanut feeders for when the sunflower hearts run out quickly. This is working well for now and my garden is buzzing with bird life.

Taking a good guess, more people are likely to put out food for the birds at this time of year. When the garden plants die down and bird activity is more noticeable, the idea of hanging up bird feeders or putting out a bird table can sound an attractive idea. I would absolutely recommend it too with the added incentive that the birds do need our help.

Okay, despite all that I promote here on my blog… I’m going to be completely honest and truthful here – there are some unattractive things about putting bird feeders out too!

Weeds can be classed as plants just growing in places where they aren’t wanted. What I don’t want in a bird seed is uneaten food falling or being tossed in to my borders, cracks in paving and through my shrubs. This seed usually germinates and then when your gardening back is turned a weedy wonderland grows! It’s for this reason that I have not favoured mixed bird seed mixes.

Yes, I have heard (but not tried) that by putting bird seed in an oven you can sterilize it and then uneaten seed won’t germinate. Does it work? I couldn’t tell you – has anyone tried this?

Yes, I have used the ‘no mess’ mixed seed varieties. Did they work? I think to a degree they seemed to work (it’s been a while now) but I found the birds didn’t find all the seeds to their liking. The smaller grains were left uneaten which I then had to clear away… so food energy and money was wasted.

When an email came in from the RSPB headquarters in Sandy, Bedfordshire asking me if I would be interested in testing “a new extra table mix that has 10% more energy than standard RSPB Table mix” that has recently gone on sale, I instantly thought that it might be fun to experiment with this in my garden. Could they actually convert me to a mixed seed mix?

Would the birds visiting my garden find this new mix to their liking was the question? “We added a higher proportion of smaller and husk-free seeds such as sunflower hearts, oats and millet, making it easier to eat.” Would there be any waste though? That’s what I want to know. I also want to know if this mix will attract any new birds to my garden. Lol… yes I want it all ;-)

My seed sample came last Friday (thank-you RSPB) and I have to say early indications in my seed trial suggest my bird visitors might just be approving. However, I have some experiments I wish to do to thoroughly test this seed in the variety of locations and feeders in my garden. I want to compare it against sunflower hearts too. Lol… expect a lengthy, illustrated review when I'm done :-)




The minute I opened my seed bag and spotted the black sunflower hearts I knew who my first diner would be – I was correct. Lol… it began with one Coal tit :-)

This morning the blackbirds enjoyed another gluten free breakfast option. The Starlings turned up on cue as expected too. It was eaten even quicker today! I’ve an airtight container that will provide a couple more breakfasts over the coming days. Providing tasty gluten free food for a newly diagnosed Coeliac – well that’s another matter!

Last Monday, we got the unexpected news that my youngest (training to be a chef) daughter has Coeliac disease. Having never come across this in anyone I know I’d welcome any tips anyone has to share – for others too. Please drop me an email if you are unable to leave a comment and I’ll add your comment here. We have much to learn and adapt to.

As with bird foods (added expense in household budgets) gluten free foods are on the expensive side and what is needed here is tasty food with no waste if possible. My daughter has joined the Coeliac Society UK and is now awaiting her welcome pack with food and drink directory. This directory is going to be invaluable when grocery shopping.

We’ve browsed a local health food shop for basics, browsed gluten free food isles in supermarkets to see what they have and back in the kitchen a store cupboard has been rearranged to accomodated different ingredients and instant food choices. Lots of airtight containers were involved :-)

Although we can aceess recipes online and are able to buy books cheaper there too, we have also browsed bookshops and bought a gluten free recipe book. As you will have guessed from above - the first home baking trial wasn’t to my daughter's liking. I didn’t like it either. However, I am always up for a challenge and currently focusing on finding ways to continue providing as many favourite family meals as possible by adapting them. This food trial is going to be a true labour of love for me.




My blog has also been a labour of love over the last six years. I have enjoyed storytelling, taken many photos, captured much video and have experimented with layout and content. There is always something I want to add or adapt should I have more time. Gosh… and I have a huge backlog of unseen stuff I want to share… one day :-)

Due to lots of difficult personal stuff over the last year and a bit, my posts have been unpredictable and sparse. I’d like to say A HUGE THANK-YOU to everyone who has continued to visit and comment especially when my blog visiting has been on the quiet side. I really appreciate your loyalty. I have been very fortunate to come across so many fellow enthusiastic, kind and caring people over the last six years.

My 6th Blogaversary came on the day my daughter was diagnosed as a Coeliac. Understandably, my thoughts were elsewhere and I didn’t post a blog to mark it. However, I had planned ahead the night before by buying a cake which I photographed for my post. Spookily, we ate a piece then too not knowing what the next day would bring. My family had fun with a card and I put seven candles on my cake as I saw my blogaversary as stepping into a 7th year of Blogging. I was looking forward. I still am :-)




This Gardenwatching blog has opened my eyes in many ways over the last six years. To think it all began with pictures of the little chap above :-)

Regarding feeding garden birds, I hope my enthusiasm has helped others to experiment with foods and feeders too. My ultimate two tips would be to keep bird feeders clean and to be patient - don't give up if you don’t see birds come to your feeders right away. I’d add to that, don’t be frightened to move your feeders and mix up the bird foods you put out as then you are more likely to attract a wider variety of species especially during the cold winter months.

I often remember one past post title “if you build it they will come” in relation to a new Nestcam birdbox. What will come to my garden during year seven and where will my blog take me? Now that is indeed the question… hopefully back to garden visiting as I’ve missed sharing that. Wherever we go, I’d like to invite you to join us. Lol… thinking of you and my late nights at the PC, I’ll worker harder at shorter regular posts ;-)

Year seven… here we come!


This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in November 2012.


23 comments:

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I so enjoy seeing what frequents your garden so far away from mine. I am glad you are continuing your blogging even if it is sporatic. After blogging for so long I think the slow down is normal. I hope your daughter fares better with the diagnosis. It seems there are lots of people with this gluten problem. There is so much information out there. She will feel better after getting her diet regulated. It will become natural for her to make the right choices. I read a blog that the author has the same problem and she deals with it successfully. Best of luck.

L said...

Happy Blogaversary. I do enjoy reading your blog and am often heard to say to my husband that Shirl has spotted such and such a bird in her garden, as if I know you personally.
In our area some fish and chip shops batter their stuff in coeliac acceptable batter. Always take a few coconut biscuits in your bag. Hope your daughter settles down with a suitable diet soon.

Linda Penney said...

great post and wonderful info

myhesperidesgarden said...

I always enjoy your posts, whether long or short. Lots of Italians have been diagnosed as coeliac so the shops here all have lots of suitable foods now. The Italians use a lot of different grains, more so than in the UK I think. Try to find alternative basic ingredients rather than 'fast' foods would be my recommendation, as then you can make what you (she) really likes. Chinese rice noodles make a great choice instead of wheat pasta, but the rice 'pastas' aren't always so good. Good luck and congratulations on year 7. Christina

Angie said...

First of all Happy Blogaversary!! I'm a new blogger - so have lots to learn yet.
I thoroughly enjoyed your latest and previous blog re woodpecker (I shall be back to read more when I get more time).
I whole heartedly agree with all your comments re bird feeding. I'm trying out new combinations and trying to reduce the amount of money I spend on food for the birds. I have found that the birds also enjoy cheap 'value' rolled oats (no additives). This too helps bulk out the more expensive items. I have planted many plants which should help but they are all new and have very little to offer them at the moment.
I'm sure your daughter will soon get the hang of things with her 'condition' it will be a learning curve for you all but things will soon become the norm!!

Pat @ Woodlouse House said...

I always enjoy your posts. Look forward to sharing the next six years!

Blackswamp_Girl said...

Happy Blogaversary, Shirl!!! Glad that you continue to post, even when it's sporadic. I love to see your birds and plants. :-)

As far as the Coeliac diagnosis (here in the states, it's Celiac without the "o"- she might try googling that spelling as well) a close friend of mine is a few months into her diagnosis. She's doing a lot of trial and error, and finds that she loves quinoa and a few other non-wheat grains. She said that the hardest thing is bread... it just doesn't hold together as well without the gluten, so sliced tend to be more brittle, even when they're fairly light and fluffy.

Here, the "natural foods" stores have a lot of good options for gluten-free breads and such, and many companies are putting "Gluten Free" on products that qualify. (Not sure whether that's true across the pond as well, but you can look for it around the nutrition panel and ingredients list area.)

Last but not least... I've read this blog off and on over the years. She has Celiac, and her husband is a chef. If you go to the "Are you new to gluten free?" section, you'll find her recipes for gluten-free flour mix, etc. It might be helpful:
http://glutenfreegirl.com/category/are-you-new-to-gluten-free/

Hope some of that helps!

shirl said...

Oh Kim, (Blackswamp girl to others reading this comment), THANK-YOU!!!

I had my fingers tightly crossed that some of my blogging friends would know of a coeliac blogger. I’ve only had a brief visit for now but on my first look I am thrilled with what I found. I’ve just printed off the blog post on gluten-free baking for my daughter to read when she gets back from college tonight. I believe it will be of great support to her especially after her love of baking has taken a serious hit. It is great to see that others have had similar problems here and she is not alone with what she is/will be trying to do. I cannot wait until she gets home tonight – this will give her such a boost :-)))))

Yes, we had realised that you had a different spelling in the US and that is a good tip to Google search both spellings :-)

My daughter is only into her 2nd week here and at 19, she doesn’t always want to chat/research too much and part of the time I suspect (especially when we have ‘normal’ meals at home) wants to forget about her news. That’s perfectly understandable.

Yes, bread is a big issue for my daughter too. Smelling bread cooking at college is hard for her. On her first days back at college after her news she was so worried about eating bread by accident, that she started dreaming about it! She has made her own decision not to eat bread at all for a month so she doesn’t forget.

Kim, I can’t thank-you enough for all you have added in your comment here. Yes, I really feel you’ve helped me as well as my daughter. I enjoy baking too and expect I will be doing more now. Anything that gives my daughter confidence working with food is just brilliant and the fact that you’re friend’s blog title is gluten-free girl and the chef will bring a smile to my daughter’s face too :-)

Thanks too for continuing to read my blogs after so many years. We have many similar loves when it comes to plants, colour and planting combinations :-) Lol… despite my sporadic posting here there is a part of me, at the moment, that is considering starting a coeliac blog from my prospective :-)

shirl said...

Hello everyone, thanks for taking time to leave comments after a lengthy post like this where I’ve chatted about a few topics :-)

Lisa, I’ve enjoyed seeing the plants and birds in your garden too. Yes, I guess I’ve seen many blogs slow down and I’m always impressed by those have continued at the same pace that they had at the start. That’s the biggest thing, my daughter has felt unwell for a few years with a variety of things and it looks like they may all connect to gluten – so feeling better for her will be a great result – fingers crossed. I’ve just come across a blog too (via Kim below) and read of others experiences will be a help to our whole family. Thanks :-)

L, comments like this do make my smile – thank-you :-) That’s interesting about the batter it means other places might do the same. Coconut biscs - that’s a good idea. Thanks, we are guessing this could take a while to settle down but hopefully she’ll get there :-)

Linda, thanks – I did pack a bit much in there perhaps :-)

Christina, thanks, I do enjoy my visits to your blog too. What a lovely area of Italy you live in. That’s good that there are lots of foods for Coeliac’s in Italy. Absolutely on the basic ingredients, we are collecting them now. Funnily enough someone mentioned Rice noodles to my daughter yesterday. The more options she has the better. Thanks, year 7 – gosh has it really been that long :-)

Angie, Thanks for your good wishes. I’m sure you’ll pick up blogging quickly and e-meet many friends. It’s fun to know we are seeing the same special garden visitor just now. I felt it was time I addressed the cost of bird food and the choices people have to make, especially when I see people browsing the offers of it on supermarket aisles. I have had some of the cheaper stuff wasted however mixing the rolled oats with the good stuff (based on my observations) seems a winner! You should blog on this :-) Yes, plants are good especially ones with berries and seed the birds can eat. Good luck there :-) Thanks, getting the hang of things as a Coeliac for her and me as the grocery shopper is the way forward :-)

Pat, thanks… lol….I wonder ;-)

Sue Garrett said...

Happy 6th Shirl. We started blogging around the same time with me just a month or two before you in August 06. Like yours my blog has changed beyond all recognition. Mine was vary boring to start with as I was concentrating more on what the blog could be used for and design etc rather than content.

As you mentioned in your comment on my blog post SNAP!

SNAP too to having a variety of food to attract different species, having birds that love sunflower hearts, having a bird box webcam although mine sadly this year was unused, to having a stroppy robin who prefers to turn his/her back on the camera.

Love the photo of the blackbird with his beak full. Blackbirds - especially males - can be surprisingly difficult to take a good photo of and also well done on the coal tit - they just flit around so quickly.

Midmarsh John said...

Hello Shirl.
I always find it annoying when I put out particular food for the local birds and the brat pack arrives by the dozen to devour it all in no time.

Peanuts seems to be welcome by all the species which can cling on.

A few years ago I tried the idea of microwaving cheap bird seed mixes. It does a fair job of stopping germination though it became a chore after a while and I gave up with the amount of seed they get through here.

Congratulations on six years of blogging and look forward to what the seventh will bring.

shirl said...

Comment via email:


Happy Blogaversary Shirls :)

joules

ShySongbird said...

Many congratulations on six years Shirl :-) That is quite an achievement, I know what a very time consuming hobby blogging is!

Some lovely birdy photos on this post. I find Sunflower hearts are definitely the most popular food but if the discarded bits collect under the feeders they cause the most horrible mess. I will be interested to read your eventual conclusions regarding the new mix.

So sorry to read about your daughter although I'm guessing it may be some relief to know at last what has been causing the problems after all this time. It must be all the more difficult for your daughter as considering her chosen profession she obviously takes a great interest in food. I can sympathise with that as following another recent episode like last year I have to reduce my cholesterol levels even more to minuscule proportions. Having already cut out so many tasty foods my diet has become even more boring :-( I do hope your daughter will be able to adjust her diet satisfactorily and that she soon feels much better as a result.

Anna said...

Many,many congratulations on your blogaversary Shirl - it does not seem a year since the last one :) Long may your blog continue to flourish. Mmmmmmmmmmm - that blackbird breakfast sounded most delicious. I am sorry to read about your daughter's diagnosis but hopefully she/your family will take it in her/your stride. I have a friend at the allotment who has coeliac disease - will be seeing her later this week and will ask her if she knows of any good sources of information. She is a keen cook and from what she has already told told me she has a varied diet, though has to think more carefully and plan ahead more than the rest of us.

Juliet said...

A belated happy blogaversary, Shirl!

Sorry to hear about your daughter's diagnosis, but glad that she has a diagnosis, as I know how much easier that makes life. Many people with ME are unable to tolerate gluten, so I have a lot of friends who are on gluten-free diets. I'll ask around for you and email you if I get any helpful tips, especially about bread.

Crystal said...

Happy 6th Blogaversary, Shirl.
I too prefer to feed the birds with sunflower hearts to reduce the mess. They are more expensive but worth it. And the birds just love 'em.
I've tried some mess-free seed mixes before, but the birds aren't too keen on them. They obviously like to make a mess.
Will be interested to see how your trial with the new seed mix works out.

shirl said...

Hello again, Sue :-)

Thanks for your comment and good wishes. Yes, we have similar thoughts, ideas and captures re our blogs and garden visitors. I wonder what 2013 will bring to both :-D

shirl said...

Hello again, John :-)

Yep, brat pack is a good description for the Starlings. Fast food diners is another – no sooner than they invade the feeders and they are off again… phew!

Yes, I agree on the peanuts – I am becoming a bigger fan of these simple feeders. Ah… interesting to hear you tried the microwaving of seed but it’s exactly the idea of it being extra effort on top that would put me off too. Yes, true it may save some weeding but I’d rather have no fuss seed to put out.

Thanks, can’t believe I’ve kept going for six years. Events of this last year and a bit have slowed down blog activity but my enthusiasm has never dwindled and my folders are heavy with unseen photos and video footage :-)

shirl said...

Hello again, Joules :-)

Thank-you for your wishes and returning to visit my blog with a comment :-)

shirl said...

Hello again, Jan :-)

Thank-you - yes over the years we discovered we both put the same ‘blog hours’ in ;-)

Thanks, I enjoy taking photos of my birdy visitors especially as they are a challenge to get. Yes, I’ve been taking photos and video during my trial and need to get some blog time to sort out the best to illustrate my post :-)

Thanks, it is good to now know what has been possibly making my daughter ill for so long. Yes, it is hard for her in the kitchen at the moment but perhaps when she begins to feel better she will see things differently. Aw… sorry to hear you aren’t able to enjoy your tasty fav foods. We are working on foods with taste now too. We have adjusted things at home reasonably ok for the moment but outside the home is another matter :-( She’ll get there :-)

shirl said...

Hello again, Anna :-)

Thank-you! Mmm… it’s been a strange year and I can’t decide if it has been a fast one or not. Lol… I need to get my blog flourishing with plant posts but these birds keep catching the eye of my cameras ;-)

Thanks, all we can do is get on with this new change to diet in our household. Some stuff is tricky but others we are seeing as we go and just adapting with it. We are managing reasonably ok at the varied diet but I absolutely need to plan more ahead instead of deciding on the day/night based on how my daughter is feeling - she still feels pretty rubbish :-(

shirl said...

Hello again, Juliet :-)

Thank-you for your blog wishes and taking the time to email me re gluten today. I’m a bit behind on emails at the moment but on my first read tonight you have some interesting stuff in your mail and I very much appreciate the info. I’ll share this with my daughter tomorrow. Some of the stuff we have tried and read about. Hearing about how you found the taste of things we hadn’t tried is very helpful. Thank –you :-D

shirl said...

Hello again, Crystal :-)

Thank-you :-) Yes, most would agree on the sunflower hearts. I need to edit images and video to illustrate how I found this seed went down in my garden – I need more blogging hours at the moment :-)