Hey Critter fans! Here’s a quick post to say happy holidays! Over the holiday season, we often enjoy watching our wild neighbors come and go at our feeders. They offer many hours of entertainment and beauty outside of the window while we are making preparations to enjoy our own holiday celebrations. In the colder weather, if you are looking for some crafts for the kids to keep them out of the way while you are taking care of holiday baking, why not have them work on some gifts for the wild critters? On one of the nicer days, if things aren’t too hectic, why not take a walk in the woods for some peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of these holiday preparations and gather some pine cones and just take a moment to treasure the natural world. Once you get home, if you have an area that you can set up a table, spread out some newspapers, grab some peanut butter and bird seed, and make some pine cone feeders for the birds to enjoy. Take peanut butter and spread it all over the cone, then pour out some bird seed on the paper, and roll the cones over the bird seed. The seeds should stick to the peanut butter and make a nice treat for the songbirds. After decorating the cones, place some festive colored yarn through some of the open areas on the cone, and tie a knot at the top of the cone. Leave and extra bit of yarn above the pine cone, and then tie it on some branches of the bushes or trees outside and near a window and see if the little birds come out to enjoy their treats. You may see a chickadee, a tufted titmouse, a cardinal, or maybe even a squirrel raid the seed cone to get at the seeds that are stuck into the peanut butter. Another wildlife friendly holiday treat would be a garland of cranberries and popcorn, strung over a bush or tree outside the window. This makes a nice natural festive accent in front of your place that’s animal friendly. Parents, you may want to supervise this project as it involves a needle and string and popping some popcorn. Take some sewing thread or embroidery floss and string it through a needle. For the popcorn, get some plain organic popping corn without any additives and pop it up the old fashioned way…..Use a sauce pan, place some light oil in the the pan, maybe about 1/4 of a cup ( check instructions on the container of popcorn) and add a couple of Tablespoons of unpopped corn into the oil. Place a lid on the saucepan and listen for the kernels to start popping. Once they do, make sure you pay attention to sounds coming from the pan. Once the popping slows down, carefully open the lid to see the corn. You don’t want to let it go too long as it will burn and make quite a mess. Once the popcorn is done, set it aside. At the markets right now, you can sometimes find fresh cranberries. If so, that’s great! You’re ready to go. You can use dried cranberries as an alternative, but that’s not ideal, as those may have some additives to keep them fresh. If they aren’t fully organic, that may not be the greatest for our wild friends, but can be substituted in a pinch. Take the now cooled, unseasoned popcorn, the needle and thread, and start running the thread through the popped kernel, the softer part. At the end of the thread, tie a knot so that the thread will catch and not go all the way through the popcorn. Take a cranberry, run the needle and thread through the cranberry, and push it down the thread until it touches the popcorn kernel. Keep alternating popcorn and cranberry until the thread is full. Tie a knot at the end of the thread, opposite of where you started and you’ve formed a garland to place out for our wildlife friends to enjoy. As a side note, you may want to do a pretty long thread to begin with, to make sure you have plenty of space to make your garland so that it reaches around the bush or tree that it’s placed on. These are a couple of ways to treat your wild neighbors to something special over the holidays and through the winter. Have fun observing the animals that come for a holiday visit. And take time to enjoy the little things in life that mean the most, such as just taking time out to enjoy the company of your loved ones and the oasis of nature that can soothe your soul during the hectic holiday season.