Country Kitchen: Fascination of a Bird Feeder

Country Kitchen: Fascination of a Bird Feeder

By Mary Emma Allen

Whenever I see birds gathering around a winter feeder nowadays, I recall the pleasure bird watching gave my mother as she descended into the depths of Alzheimer's. Jim and I had to bring her from her New York State home to ours in New Hampshire during mid-winter.

Remembering her fascination with birds, Jim set up a feeder on our deck. Mother sat in her rocking chair before the window, watching the activities of the bluejays, chickadees, and juncos, our most frequent visitors.

Their chirping was her winter music, their antics an amusement that brightened her day in the now confusing world. Watching these feathered friends midst storms and below zero temperatures brought back memories as she told stories of her childhood and the song her grandmother sang about the birds around their farm.

Birds a Memory of Childhood

Watching the birds in all seasons was a pleasure Mother introduced to us children. She called our attention to them as they built nests, raised their young, gathered around the feeders, and sang cheery songs.

I don't recall buying birdseed especially for our winter friends. Farmers had grain and ears of corn for the their animals and chickens. So we used that for the birds along with suet left from the annual pig butchering.

Mother owned several bird books, which she kept handy to identify new species and seek information about the various birds. From her I learned to appreciate and enjoy the birds that lived around our farm home, and to discover those in other parts of the country wherever Jim and I have lived and traveled.

I've written about birds in poetry and story and included them in my paintings and illustrations. One of my friends finds the poems, "Lord Baltimore Oriole" and "Red-Winged Blackbird", her favorite pieces in my anthology for children, Tales of Adventure & Discovery.

Family Fun

My daughter, as a youngster, also enjoyed winter bird feeding. One year a gift she desired for Christmas was a bird feeder. She received one from each of her grandmothers.

We put one in the front yard near the house for the chickadees and smaller birds. The other we placed in the back yard, which the bluejays and woodpeckers frequented.

Bird watching is an enjoyable activity for children and helps develop their interest in nature and the creatures of the out-of-doors. Shut-ins find much pleasure in watching bird feeder visitors outside their windows, too.

Soups for Winter

During these winter days, soups come in handy. They can be made ahead and warmed up for a quick supper. You also can freeze many soups to have for busy days.

BROCCOLI CHEESE SOUP from the Allen Family Cookbook.

In a Dutch oven, sauté 3/4 cup minced onion in 2 tablespoons butter until tender. Add 6 cups water, 6 bouillon cubes, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil.

Add 4 cups small uncooked egg noodles and cook until just tender. Add two 10-oz. packages frozen chopped broccoli and cook about 5 minutes.

Stir in 1 1/2 quarts milk and 2 cups cubed American cheese. Continue to heat until cheese is melted; do not boil.

Article (C) 2005 Mary Emma Allen

About the Author

Mary Emma Allen has been writing cooking columns for 40 years. She and her family compiled a cookbook to preserve their food heritage. She teaches workshops to show others how to do this, along with scrapbooking their family recipes. Visit her web site for more cooking articles. Contact her at

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